Miles on the Mic
LSU Head Coach Les Miles was not afraid to speak his mind at SEC Media Days
By Trey MongruePosted Jul 24, 2013
Outside of Baton Rouge, LSU head coach Les Miles is almost exclusively known for his goofy exploits and mannerisms, such as rappelling down One American Place, tasting turf, and uniquely clapping on the sidelines.
So when the Miles approached the podium in Hoover, AL for his eighth Southeastern Conference Media appearance, many reporters expected a fun-filled twenty minutes of humor and double talk. What they got – besides a dodgy attempt at an Australian accent – was probably one of the better speaking performances of the entire week.
In the past, quotes from Miles’ mouth have needed professional translators to decipher their meaning. But this time, despite knowing he would face tough questioning regarding his stance on conference scheduling and the legal issues of running back Jeremy Hill, Miles quickly commanded the attention of the room.
“I’m looking forward to football, in case you wondered,” said Miles after giving his version of what-I-did-on-my-offseason-vacation. “I love watching my kids, but there’s an itch that happens. It’s one of those things that you, as a football coach, can’t wait to get to, because it’s why you’re here.”
It has been quite an offseason for Miles and LSU.
After another season ended with pedestrian numbers on offense, Miles brought in former NFL head coach and known quarterback guru, Cam Cameron, as offensive coordinator in hopes of squeezing out any and all of the potential of senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
“I think we have always wanted to be a balanced team,” Miles explained. “I think that Cam has certainly allowed us to do that more. I think he throws the ball down the field extremely well. Those are things you’ll see in this offense as we go forward.”
Last season, under offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa (who has since moved back to his role as offensive line coach), the LSU passing offense finished eleventh in the SEC, with Mettenberger barely averaging over 200 yards a game.
The offense still found its way, though, with a staunch rushing attack led by Hill and his team-best 755 rushing years and 12 touchdowns. As of now, though, Hill remains suspended following his guilty plea to simple battery charges from an April bar fight.
“We’ve visited with Jeremy Hill on a routine basis,” said Miles. “He’s not been in any team meetings, not been in any workouts. We’ve not allowed him in our facility. It’s been hard on him, I know. We recognize that there is an ongoing process that’s going to be fulfilled. We’re going to sit on the perimeter and watch.”
Should Hill’s troubles continue, Miles feels that senior running back Alfred Blue, along with junior Kenny Hilliard and sophomore Terrence Magee, will be able to carry the load.
Even with the likes of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford on the team last year, Blue entered the 2012 season as the starting tailback and, at one point, was the leading SEC rusher with 224 yards.
All that came to a halt in the Tigers’ week three win over Idaho, when Blue suffered an ACL injury, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
“Alfred Blue was off to one of the finest years that a back has started a season with at LSU, but got injured in the third game,” Miles said of Blue. “His health now? He could have played all spring. He did play all spring; we just didn’t allow anybody to tackle him. We’d expect he will start the season fast.
“Kenny Hilliard is a big and physical back and has been really tested in some of the biggest games against some of the biggest opponents. Terrence Magee, in my opinion, is a very talented back. They will handle the chores.”
One of the big questions of the offseason came as Miles lost defensemen Eric Reid, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Tharold Simon to the NFL Draft. However, Miles maintains that with defensive coordinator John Chavis back for his fifth season, along with other veteran talent like linebacker Lamin Barrow and defensive tackle Anthony “Freak” Johnson, the defense should be able to continue its record of intimidation.
“Defensively, John Chavis will have his advantages,” said Miles. “I like what he does with our defense, period. Maybe as talented a coach as I’ve been around.”
With Mingo and Montgomery leaving openings on both ends of the defensive line, Miles says he expects junior Jermauria Rasco and sophomore Danielle Hunter to step up to those roles, but that does not mean they won’t have to fight for the jobs.
“There’s a number of guys behind them that will really compete,” he said. “I like some of the talented freshmen that we have. Tashawn Bowers, Lewis Neal, those guys have the opportunity to step in there and really provide some competition. The good news is that we’ll be talented, but youthful.”
While the rundown of the team’s prospects was energetic, what really seemed to fire Coach Miles up was a question near the end of the session. He was asked about the unbalanced SEC scheduling
Two days prior, SEC Commisioner Mike Slive announced that the conference will keep the scheduling the same for 2014 – meaning all teams will play their six other divisional opponents, one permanent cross-divisional opponent, and one rotating cross-divisional opponent.
For LSU, that means they will continue to play Florida from the East Division as its permanent opponent while also having to travel to Athens, GA to take on Georgia this year.
“Now scheduling,” Miles started, with a wry smile. “A key piece to every conference is that we’d be able to describe the path to a championship in an equal and direct manner.
“We play Georgia and Florida this year, for the seventh time since 2000. I’d have to say there’s some other schools that have not played Georgia and Florida in the same year in my entire time [at LSU] or since 2000.”
Last season, Georgia and Florida combined for a 14-2 record in conference. Alabama’s two cross-division opponents on the schedule for this season, Tennessee and Kentucky, went for a combined record of 1-15 in 2012.
“I’d have to say there’s a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference, based on tradition and traditional matchups,” Miles explained. “I think that scheduling is a tremendously important piece.”
Still, Miles accepts that he has to play the hand he has been dealt.
He feels as though he has a championship-caliber team on his hands and cannot wait to finally hit the football field, starting with next month’s trip to Cowboy Stadium, to take on TCU in the Cowboys Classic.
“I can hardly wait to play them,” he said. “We think at LSU that maybe we’re the only team that can have that schedule year after year, and play as well as we do.”