Les Miles stepped up to the podium at SEC Media Days and did his thing. Look, I've made no secret that I absolutely hate Media Days, as it is really just a fake news story to get us through the summer months. Nothing important ever happens at Media Days, and there are only two reasons to pay any attention: Steve Spurrier and Les Miles.
Spurrier brought down the house earlier in the week, so now it was Miles' turn to turn on the charm and give the assembled media a glance at the 2015 LSU football team and his own family's summer vacation. He seems pretty pumped about Smacker's swim career at Texas, but now he's threatening to hold Macy out of high school and refuse to let her go to college so he can "keep her around and continue to be a father, just like I've always been."
Seriously, someone call Child Protective Services.
After the fun stuff about summer vacation, Miles dutifully told the assembled media that he indeed has a football team, and guys who play every position. He did admit that eight wins is "certainly not enough," which is good to hear. He did list off the team's accomplishments, and he's rightly proud that LSU has won 103 games in the past 10 years, the most of any other program. But he led off with disappointment and needing to compete for championships. So you know that's on his mind.
He's right to tell his critics not so subtly to back off, as he's been more successful than just about anyone in the country, but he's also not ducking the criticism that this team needs to be better. The goal is the SEC championship, not eight wins.
The stunning part of his opening is when he detailed just how many true freshmen have played in the past few seasons:
In the last three years, we've had 46 true freshmen play. In 2012, 15. 2013, we had 14. And in 2014, we had 17 true freshmen play. We expect that that will happen again.
I mean... geez. There's your built-in excuse, but he also brought up playing for titles on his own while also saying we're gonna play a ton of freshmen. He plans on doing both, as one of the reasons we play a ton of freshmen is that Miles and his staff are killing it on the recruiting trail recently. Talent finds the field.
Then he made every LSU fan nervous by right after telling all of us that Brandon Harris got the majority of summer work, he believes "competition will end up making the call there who will start." Stop that, Les. We all want to move on from the Anthony Jennings Experience. Hopefully, that's just coachspeak for "Of course Brandon Harris is the starter. The only other guy on the roster with any experience is busy making court appearances right now, and if you didn't notice, he sort of sucked up the joint last year. I'd be insane not to give the job to Harris."
Then again, he is the Mad Hatter.
For some reason, he listed the height, weight, and 40 time of each of his starting linebackers. I'm going to take that as excitement. Because that is not rational behavior.
On to question time!
This is where I helpfully translate Les Miles press conference answers into normal human English. The full transcript is here.
Q. Do you think last year's was a kind of a culmination of losing so many juniors to the draft and maybe kind of caught up with you guys a little bit?
COACH MILES: I think we're in a spot there where maybe the youth at quarterback and some of the juniors that we lost may well have given us a little bit of -- gave us a difficult season. But I think those things, the loss of junior play is very significant. I don't know how you correct it. I've worked hard against it. If you look at the junior class that you could return, you'd argue that you might not be the most talented team in the country. But what we've done and tried to do is we lose juniors, we're going to recruit to that void, and we've been pretty successful in the fact that we've brought some of those guys in and they've played and played well.
TRANSLATION: Duh. But have you noticed how awesome of a recruiter I am?
Q. Les, you don't see many running backs in the Heisman conversation as much at the end of the year. The position has been devalued in the NFL draft. You have a really good one. Nick Chubb is a good one. Is the day of the featured back in college football just about over?
COACH MILES: I think the Heisman Trophy winner is an exceptional guy. I think he's a guy that has leadership, comes from a great team. Understands team position. In other words, where he actually fits. And they have a really tremendous season. I think at some point in time there might be a number of guys on our team that should be worthy of conversation. Certainly, Leonard Fournette might well be worthy of what conversation. That's not my focus. Certainly, I hope it's not his focus because the whole piece is putting the team together and having him do his part. If he just does his part, he'll be in the mix.
TRANSLATION: You are #suspect.
Q. Les, what's the status of your suspended players? Will they be available for preseason practice and the first game?
COACH MILES: I don't know at this point. Some guys are no longer with the team, and that would be Tra Valentine and Trey Lealaimataf, whose name I can't pronounce. I've tried for a year, I swear. But those two guys are no longer with our team. But the other guys are going through a legal process, and that legal process will take time. When we get information, we'll make a decision then. I'm very optimistic that a number of those guys will return, only because I know the information. Again, that's not me. This is all about what's going on in the legal process.
TRANSLATION: I lost a guy so unimportant to our success that I never learned his name. As for the other morons who broke into an apartment while a guy was still in it... I'm letting the legal system give them the standard slap on the wrist for being a dumb college kid. Then I'll suspend them for the McNeese game and we'll all move on, except for the fans on internet forums, who will continue to bring it up for the next decade just to make fun of LSU fans. Which... well, fair play.
Q. Coach, do you still have an amicable relationship with John Chavis, and what kind of impact do you think he'll have at Texas A&M?
COACH MILES: John has been a great guy for us, and I have great respect for him, just a tremendous person. You suspect that he will coach great defense at A&M.
Q. Last season the quarterback play was probably not where you wanted it to be. What are some things that you have done, as well as your offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, of making sure the quarterback takes a step in the right direction to be more competitive this year?
COACH MILES: Well, experience isn't something that you can just will on a guy. The good news is we have a guy who's started eight games or so and we have a guy that's been around it now and played through two springs and been through a fall. So our quarterback play will be better, legitimately better. There's been some things that we've done to kind of script and hone to make their skills and abilities more evident. So I think we'll get really improved quarterback play.
TRANSLATION: I improved the QB position by benching last year's starter. The rest is just hope and prayer. Next question.
Q. Top recruits get more hype each and every year. You've certainly dealt with this over the years, certainly with Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre, how do you go about handling the noise around the true freshmen before they even play and do you have to treat them differently given all the attention they're receiving?
COACH MILES: I don't know we need to treat them any differently at all. This is a team concept, and the opinion and the issues are addressed in that building. So if he comes to -- and what I insisted he does is come to that building for his information and how he needs to see it, and I think we effectively push some of that distraction to the outside. I think he's a mature guy. I think he understands that I would never have brought him here in this instance if I didn't think it was something that he could handle. I think that he can handle the spotlight and understand it's really all about team and it's his contribution to that offense.
TRANSLATION: You do notice that no one hangs around the program for their senior year, right? I have to play these freshman. Luckily, I'm sort of awesome at recruiting. I'm #notsuspect. I plan on letting Fournette take Mike for walks if he wants. He's that good.
Q. Coach Miles, you just talked about John Chavis and what a great job he did. Definitely has a storied career in the future in the SEC. He's moved often to A&M. You bring on Kevin Steele and also Ed Orgeron. Do you think your defense is in a better place now than it was under John Chavis?
COACH MILES: I think better is speculative. I really don't know. I can tell you that we've had some really talented teams in the last seven years or so and guys that have gone on to the NFL and played great. The idea that, if you look at the number of guys that we've had on our defense that were drafted -- simply put, we had eight players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, all coming from the first five rounds. It's the only time in modern day history that an NFL -- that one school had eight defensive players taken in the first five rounds. We've had 24 defensive players since 2010, which ties the most in the SEC during that span. We've had at least one defensive lineman taken in every NFL draft for the last 12 years. The five defensive players selected in the first round since NFL draft since 2010. So our talent pool has been pretty special. What I'm saying is that we would expect that that talent would continue and that we would have great defense, period.
TRANSLATION: Our defense has more talent than the Jacksonville Jaguars. I could let Clay Travis coach our defense, and they'd still rank in the top half of the league. And it's not like the players left. You know who recruited all that talent? Not Chavis.
Q. With the pieces you have on this team this year, do you anticipate asking whoever emerges as a quarterback, the starting quarterback, to be more of a game manager, or will you kind of take the handcuffs off?
COACH MILES: Every time that a quarterback steps under center, he is a game manager. The game manager has to handle the play called, has to get the ball to the right guy, has to make sure that this is not a -- we're not taking a chance to turn it over. We're not just slinging it around the yard. We're not just tossing it around the yard. We're doing those things that we've coached and expected, and should he do that, he will have a greater opportunity to be the starting quarterback at any school, certainly LSU.
TRANSLATION: Woah, slow down there, Speed Racer. I'd settle for "not awful." Have you seen our running backs? Our QB's job is to hand the ball off to the guy with all the hashtags and then throw the ball to our ridiculously talented receivers every once in a while without looking like this is the first time he's ever played football. OF COURSE I don't trust my quarterbacks. Would you?
Meanwhile, at Media Day...
Here's a roundup of video/photos of LSU's day in Hoover.
Miles' opening remarks:
He tried to warn you, Camera Dude...
Talking about the three currently suspended players:
Hitting the road...
Players on hand...