An interview with: COACH MILES
COACH MILES: Afternoon. I think we're a football team that is developing, and I like the position that we're in. We've had a quality week. We went five acclimatization days, and four of which we split the team and we took what we had really maximum reps, if you will. The fact that the first team would play in the a.m., and the second team would play in the p.m. against each other, and really, we took the time to introduce our football and really to get maximum reps and maximum repetition on our offense, defense, and special teams.
So, again, I like where we're at. I think we're improving. We've had seven really, really good weeks. So I should say seven really good practices. So, questions?
Q. If you would, could you elaborate a little bit on Josh Williford's injury, and what happened to him?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think it's wise for me not to talk about injuries at this time, And Mike will prepare something and release it all at once. But if you have an injury question, just hold it.
Q. But just how it happened in practice?
COACH MILES: It's football. Coincidentally contact, and we were in shoulder pads and helmets, so...
Q. On Vadal Alexander
COACH MILES: Yeah, we've moved Vadal over to right side from the right side to the left guard. Really, it's really benefited us. We really think that Hawkins has had as quality a camp to this point as anybody. He may well be one of those very, very talented offensive linemen that can really play. So the advantage then, if you take Vadal and you move him into the left guard spot where Williford was, it will really give us some real power at that left side with he and La'el Collins.
Q. Some of the new guys, new arrivals, that have kind of asserted themselves that are pushing for the second, third unit or any position?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I want you to know something, I think Duke Riley is coming here really with speed and enthusiasm. I think he's going to have a great career further. I think there's been a number of guys. I think Jeryl Brazil with his speed has some real ability there. I like Rickey Jefferson. I think Rickey Jefferson's going to be a real quality addition to the secondary.
Melvin Jones, a talented guy and Kendell Beckwith, I think ‑‑ I think our line backing core, generally, is just much improved.
Q. On Lamin Barrow getting No. 18 jersey.
COACH MILES: You know what? He's paid a tremendous price in his preparation, you can tell. He's hard working, he's big, strong, physical, and yet he's a quiet leader. He's a guy who leads by example and really when he talks everybody listens.
He's had a very, very quality opinion on everything that we've done here really since I've been here. He's been a leader that was many times not overtly vocal, but kind of in the back of the scenes going this is what's right. I think he's really earned the spot. 18 is a chemistry. It's a program guy that's kind of developed and kind of reflects on how he treats other people and really what kind of person he is. I just think it was a great pick.
Q. Coach, in the middle. You mentioned Rickey Jefferson, what characteristics have you seen from him that will lead to some early playing time?
COACH MILES: Well, he can really cover. He's a very physical player. So he's going to have to get comfortable in the secondary and understand his responsibilities as it fits into the scheme and the call. But we think he'll have real success.
Q. Just talk about the offense and the changes that you've seen just in the short time that Coach Cameron's been here? We've talked to the guys and they said it's harder to figure out for the opposing defense, but your defense understands after seeing it in practice every day what's going on.
COACH MILES: There is an opportunity for us to call multiple plays from different, as you say, a select group of plays from many, what would be variant personnel groups and implementations. So what appears to be something new for our opponent will not necessarily be new for our guys. That is really the major piece.
The fact that Cam has real understanding of different aspects and places on the field and where and how to attack, we're not there yet. Certainly we're not ready to play, but his influence, we're going to be better.
Q. How much competition has Anthony Jennings provided to Stephen Rivers, and where does that No. 2 quarterback position shake out as of right now?
COACH MILES: Anthony Jennings is really improving. I like how he's coming. Really, Stephen Rivers is also really improving as well. I think Anthony Jennings has certainly a leg‑up on that second spot, but they continue to compete.
Q. How did you do in the Michigan version of the big cat drill?
COACH MILES: Oh, I'd be in trouble, I think. The one thing that we did at Michigan was that we came out of chutes every day I had respect for that. It was pretty routine. I certainly would have enjoyed the competition.
Q. I was wondering how the place kicking battle was coming together between number 30 and number 30 and number 30?
COACH MILES: We're going to have to change those numbers, you know? The problem with it is the NCAA has come up with a new rule that the people at the same position can't share the same number, so we're going to have to come up with 3, 0, and 30, and just kind of put tape over the appropriate number so that we can send them on to the field.
I think Colby Delahoussaye is certainly in front there as our field goal guy and really is kicking well. He had a really nice camp. Though I think James Hairston as well and Trent Dominique are really providing competition. Trent gives us not only a back‑up with a long field goal, but also a really quality punter if he can step in and punt the ball. So he's going to give us that.
James is still our kickoff guy and can be a long field goal guy. So I think Colby is certainly the advantage at this point just simply at field goal.
Q. Can you talk about the defensive end who jumped out at you this week? Did Lewis Neal improve his chances of starting after the first week?
COACH MILES: I think the veterans have really jumped out at me. I think Jordan Allen is a guy that really has two years left to play and he's really prepared. He's having a nice start. I think Danielle Hunter is going to be a guy that's going to play a lot of football. I think Lewis Neal as well as Tashawn Bower, as well as Frank Herron are guys that can really step in and play. I think we're going to have real quality end play.
M.J. Patterson, for that matter, there are some real fast, athletic, big men there at the end for us. So we'll look forward to putting them on the field.
Q. In light of the rules being more clearly defined, I guess, in terms of launching and high hits, et cetera, and defenseless players and the penalties being much more costly, has that factored into coaching at all?
COACH MILES: Absolutely. I think every defensive coach will have the opportunity to teach a little lower framework on his tackle. You're really looking at places where they're defenseless players. In other words, a receiver that's going up for a ball who is really defenseless except that he's receiving the ball. They also pointed at what would be a kicker after the kick.
They also pointed at a quarterback after change of possession. So, defenseless player is a big deal. Give you an example ‑ on a punt return, a guy that's running to make the tackle who doesn't see the blocker, that blocker cannot just waylay the guy.
Now all of those spots being discussed, here's the key piece: Launch with intent to be above the shoulders, whether it's your helmet, your shoulder pad, your forearm, period. From the shoulders or above, if you launch, then, in fact, this is going to be a 15‑yard penalty and a game suspension.
Now, if given that opportunity, you're wrapping and you stay low and if it becomes incidental, it's much different. In other words, you can say it was not by intent. And in a tight scrimmage in the in‑line play, that's not going to be called.
But it's those defenseless players that you cannot target with the helmet. You can't target above the shoulders. Yes, at this think it's going to be coached well. I think the guys that coach it well and coach it best will have an advantage come game day.
Those plays that were described as real impacting hits have to be removed from the game. That's really what's happening. So we can be tough, and they're going to be great hits and it's going to be a physical game. But it's not going to be intentional above the shoulders.
Q. Over these next few weeks getting closer and closer to the start of the season, what are your greatest points of emphasis overall in terms of getting this team game ready?
COACH MILES: What we're doing is going through all of the situations that we go through yearly at this time. We're talking red zone, tight zone now. We'll talk coming out, backed up. We'll talk four‑minute, four‑minute is kind of a sore point for me. I want to practice it significantly in these next couple of weeks.
Other than that it will be offense, defense and special teams, and really getting the guys in the right spots. There are a number of very talented guys that have just arrived. We want to make sure we get them in the right spots to get them on the field.
Q. Can you reference four-minutes?
COACH MILES: Four-minute is the back end of the game where you have the lead and/or defensively you don't have the lead and you have to get the ball back. It's a piece of time where the defense is more likely to take chances, be zero, all coverage, down low. It's a place too if we're good at it, we win two more ballgames, so that's the emphasis.
Q. Other than kind of forcing TCU to have to prepare for the possibility of Jeremy Hill playing, what is not telling us and not announcing it, what else does that accomplish? Are there other benefits to it and how does the team respond not knowing if he'll be there or not?
COACH MILES: The idea that you have a discipline that is reflective of in‑house, it's team in nature, and it doesn't reflect outside opinion. Outside opinion can be self‑serving, depending on the location that you live in. It's really egregious or it's not that bad at all.
So what we're going to do is talk about our culture, and punishment will be dealt in an appropriate fashion.
Q. You guys are a little bit of an underdog as far as outside expectations in this room, but you have thrived from that in years past. Next question, your large group of juniors made their foray onto the field this weekend, many of them having an impact, and specifically what Tyrann was able to do after a year away from the game?
COACH MILES: Tyrann is obviously playing very well at Arizona, Peterson also and Minter so Arizona might be LSU West. So we'll look forward to kind of following guys. Telling me that Bennie Logan had a sack and really that Matt Flynn played pretty well at Oakland. Yeah, it's fun. I don't watch Sunday football because I don't have the opportunity, but when I get to the channels or the news comes on and I'm about ready to close my eyes, it's nice to see a Tiger playing in a professional league and having success.
Q. If you would, Coach, maybe some impressions of Travin Dural so far in camp, and what's he bring this year that you didn't have a year ago?
COACH MILES: Travin's playing better, he's got great speed and the ability to go up and get the ball. He's developing really well, and I would expect to see him on the field in the game.
Q. Where's your chain that used to be over there?
COACH MILES: The chain?
Q. Yeah, the big chain.
COACH MILES: It's coming. It's being prepared. What happens is it's claimed and a new coat of paint is put over the top. So this year's team, once they recommit to this room, this team will sign on top. So every year that we sign, there is that signature still on that chain within the layer, if you will.
Q. Coach, would you talk about Kenny Hilliard and what kind of year he's having?
COACH MILES: Kenny is coming lighter, faster. Looking for an opportunity to play significant football with four tailbacks. He's certainly going to be a guy that's carried and will be relied on to carry his share of the balls.
Q. What makes Dallas an attractive destination for you to keep coming back to?
COACH MILES: It's a place that I'm comfortable with. I used to live over there in Hackberry Creek. It's always fun to go by the Anatole, and certainly the place that we're playing. It's spectacular. We have enough people in the Dallas area that we're recruiting, it's close enough so that the LSU faithful can get there. We enjoy that neck of the woods.
Q. If Josh Williford is not able to play at some point in this season, you'll have potentially an offensive starting unit without a senior for the first time in a long time, if my memory's correct. How's that unit coming together?
COACH MILES: I really kind of like what our offensive line is. I think Hawkins may be an undersung, very dominant player at the right side. I think you're looking at a center spot with both Porter and Ethan Pocic that will give you what you want. Trai Turner at the right guard, and then side, Vadal over there has given us real power besides La'el Collins. I think they're coming together really well.
First of all, the knowledge that Alexander brings to the left side, you play as much football as he has, even as a young player, he brings over a lot of knowledge, and those two men beside each other, you know, they're going to give us a real push.
I like the center combination, Ethan Pocic is coming. He showed up here in spring of the year, and he's played and competed. Elliott Porter, to me, is in position to have a great fall, so I like us.
Q. My question was exactly about the battle between Porter and Pocic. If Pocic does start, and I know you can't make a determination, I think he'll be the first true freshman to start at LSU on the offensive line since Alan Faneca did many years ago. Is that still too close to call on who will start at center?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think both guys will play significant football. It would be hard for me to say in every game, but I would have to say routinely throughout the season.
I can't tell you who exactly is going to be the guy. I wouldn't be surprised if Elliott Porter held it down the entire year. We'll have to see how it goes.
Q. Not a question, but an observation. Last year I did an analysis of the players from the different schools in the NFL. LSU was third behind USC and Ohio State this year. I haven't done a complete analysis, but LSU was up three players with 48 on the pre ‑‑ season rosters and Alabama had 32. Care to comment on that?
COACH MILES: Well, I can tell you that we're doing a great job evaluating our players as we recruit them. It's a very honest opportunity at the end of play here. Our guys successfully go on to the NFL.
Spencer Wares looked like he had about five yards a carry and several receptions. It's going to be nice to watch games on Sunday as well, won't it?
Q. Coach, we just talked about Pocic and Jefferson and Beckwith. Can you, as a whole, generalize this group of true freshmen and what kind of an impact they're going to have on this football team?
COACH MILES: We've counted on them to have real strong impact considering we've graduated 11 of our juniors on to the NFL early. Our guys leave this room to the NFL and we have to have impact from our young team. That freshman class, those newcomers that arrive in this room. I think we recruited to that. I think it was an opportunity that these guys saw and seized.
I think that they look forward to coming into this room and being like others that have played here and had impact as really as true freshmen or as newcomers.
Q. Can you kind of speak to what's been the trademark of your offense, the power running game, and the backs you have combined with the offensive line this year? Your confidence to be able to lineup and run it like you have in the past?
COACH MILES: Well, I think our fullbacks, our offensive line, I think Dillon Gordon at the tight end spot is a big, strong, powerful man. I think that the opportunity to rush the football as we have in the past is certainly there now. Combine that with play action and the things that Cam would bring.
I think the advantages are to keep the strength that we've had, but build on it with the ability to throw the football in like situations, in like formations, so the defense cannot determine whether it's run or pass.