Media gathered at LSU's Football Ops building for the annual media day event. Les Miles addressed reporters below:
Transcript as follows from LSU SID:
COACH MILES: Thank you very much. My goodness. I guess I'm expected to give a quality overview. We're into camp, and many times you get the view of what needs to be done, but I'll step back away for a second and kind of go through how I see it.
I like this team's attitude. They're in shape. They're competitive. It's been ‑‑ there's leadership on the field. Our culture's intact. They work hard. They compete against each other. They're physical. There's different focus. There's competition at a number of places.
And I can just tell you that, after the first major scrimmage and 12 practices in, I like where we're at. We went into Tiger stadium in the evening. It was a beautiful night, about 80 degrees. We had an afternoon shower. And our football team enjoyed it very much.
Again, the 12th practice, red zone, tight zone, a very physical scrimmage. Scored five touchdowns, and when you're really down in there, that's considering eight possessions and two other possessions with guys that ‑‑ that's really a pretty strong showing for the defense overall.
I felt like there was some real bright spots. I think the backs, that backfield is going to be a quality backfield. I think the youth on our team is very talented there.
Offensive line, we're augmenting the veterans with some of these freshmen, and there's some very talented guys there. We think that that offensive line will play even better.
Our linebacking corps, Beckwith was the leading tackler and is a fast, physical mike backer. Showed big last night. The defensive line and offensive line squared off, and it was very competitive.
Quarterbacks came out of green when they operated with the first team versus the first team defense. Both guys performed well, scrambled out of the backfield, made big plays, made some plays with their arm. Really had one turnover, and it was a ‑‑ almost a forward ‑‑ it was just a two‑minute play that stopped the drive.
But the defense played very well. There were a couple guys that missed some tackles. Again, I think that that was having to do with the fact that our backfield set is so talented.
If I had to eliminate some things from practice, from our team's characteristic, in a first scrimmage, it would be pre‑snap penalties. I don't think we got lined up right. We had some young wide receivers that cost us five yards. And those things happen too regularly. Occasionally, you have to hone in those players into doing what the play is called to do. I think we find at times that that's not how it was designed, and we have to get them on the same page.
The things that we need to be, consistent with both run and pass in our execution. Ball security was very good for the offense. Defense got one, but I saw several strips, and we are a physical football team. I suspect that that will stay that way.
Q. Scheme‑wise and personnel‑wise, why should this defense be better than last year? What do you see that makes this defense better than last year?
COACH MILES: I think our linebacking corps is more comfortable and more understanding of calls and more technical. I think it allows them to play even faster. I mean, they had great speed and ability to get to the ball, but now when they're comfortable in the call and understand what their responsibility is, you find that they're showing up sideline to sideline. I think that that's one of the reason the defense is playing better.
The interior guys are tough to block, LaCouture and Godchaux are horses. So we're not getting up on the linebackers very easily. So they're getting to plays.
Q. You mentioned your quarterbacks came out of the green for scrimmage yesterday. Is it more important this year that they're kind of ready to take that running load on than maybe last year?
COACH MILES: Well, here's the ‑‑ it was more for the passing game than it was for anything. You wanted them to understand that you just couldn't sit back in that pocket and throw the ball. So they felt what was actual pressure, and they made adjustments in the pocket, which I enjoyed and we needed to see. Then they scrambled out and went and made some big plays, both Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings both.
Q. How were the first string snaps split between the quarterbacks? Did somebody take the majority of them?
COACH MILES: Well, Brandon Harris had the advantage there in number of snaps, by half a dozen or so. Statistically, we were 20 for 34 with five drops. So 25 for 34 would have been certainly a lot better, but five drops, I think our guys will catch the ball better beyond our first scrimmage. We rushed the ball 42 times for 193.
So we're basically 200 yards apiece, both run and pass. That kind of balance is really what we were kind of looking for.
Q. Are your quarterbacks that different in that you can maybe utilize a different offensive game plan for each of them? Or do you think they're kind of to the point now where they're very similar in what they can do?
COACH MILES: I think there's more similarities than there are differences. I would not hesitate to make a call if it there was a real advantage to one over the other in a situation. Again, I think they're both competing towards that ‑‑ for that first game. Again, I think they're very similar.
I think Brandon is obviously a little bit more explosive, but Anthony is a little bit more veteran.
Q. Each of the last three years, your sack totals have decreased. How much of an emphasis has pressure been in this camp? And is there a reason that you see to believe that that number's going to come back up?
COACH MILES: First of all, I think the awareness of our defense of that specific is very acute. I think our guys want in that backfield. I think there's an immediate pass rush that's taking place. I think it was addressed certainly early in practices, and it continues to be a point of focus and emphasis.
I think they'll be in that backfield a little bit more regularly, and I think they have several ways to do that.
Q. Back to the quarterbacks, have you guys been able to identify who would be considered a No. 3 guy?
COACH MILES: Justin McMillan has really had a nice camp to this point. He was 2 for 3, and I think threw a 50‑yard touchdown. He's in no way out of consideration. He's participating. We're just not giving him the equal snaps, and he's got a nice arm and making plays.
Q. Can you tell us how it's gone so far with both Coach Steele and Coach O and what these guys have brought to this defense?
COACH MILES: I think Kevin Steele has done a great job in orchestrating the step‑by‑step approach to bringing the defense together, and I think that we're really in good shape at this point. I think he has a pretty clear plan for implementing for the first game and thereafter.
And, of course, Ed is full bore. He's got great enthusiasm. I think it rubs off on his players, and his players are playing at a high level.
Q. Over the summer, Cam said that maybe he wasn't as relatable with the quarterbacks as he maybe could have been as far as teaching. He came in more at a pro level than a college level. Have you seen him alter that, or has just another year under the quarterbacks' belt helped them understand better what you all want to do?
COACH MILES: I think the NCAA rules prohibit too much aggressive coaching, if any at all, in the summertime. So it's hard to have hands on a guy in a drill you're not watching. Basically, a meeting that would occur that was orchestrated by the player. Again, I see his frustration. I'm sure that most of our coaches have that.
But I think there's more ‑‑ again, we're going to stay with the things that we've brought into the game plan. These quarterbacks now are starting to feel real comfortable with it, and they understand reads and where they're going to go with the ball, and their mechanics are better. So I think that we're seeing just some real quality improvement.
Q. Les, did any projected starter not scrimmage yesterday?
COACH MILES: Yes, absolutely. Travin Dural did not scrimmage. He's got a nick that we don't think will be serious in any way. And Trey Quinn, who was off to a nice start, got nicked, and we took him out. Again, it's not ‑‑ these are not serious, long‑term injuries, but required the opportunity to stop them from playing.
So I wouldn't be surprised if both played on Monday, but if they didn't, Tuesday would probably be the last time ‑‑ I guess we wouldn't hold them out any further than that.
Q. In reviewing the ‑‑ everybody talks about improved play at quarterback, but in reviewing the passing game from last year, what did you all find? As much as improved play from quarterback, how much different will what you all do offensively look than it did last year?
COACH MILES: I think there will be some differences if you sit there and watch it. I think you'll be able to see different scheme and different attack. But I think you'll see some similarities too. We don't want to lose the things that we do well.
Q. Looking back, Brandon Harris started Auburn. How much of a different player is he today? What do you think he learned by that? Do you think it humbled him? What are your thoughts from that day till now?
COACH MILES: I think it's night and day, to be honest with you. His experience, the things he's done thereafter, played a little bit in the Alabama game, came in and understands much more of what's required of a quarterback than he possibly could have known going into the Auburn game.
There's no similarity with how he'll play as a quarterback and how he played against Auburn.
Q. How has Dwyane Thomas handled his discipline, his disciplinary measures?
COACH MILES: Dwyane Thomas has come humbly to the team and has always given great effort and energy. He is back in place in position to play, and we're excited about it.
Q. In your time at LSU, you never had a back who averaged more than 20 carries per game. Would you like to see Leonard Fournette ideally be that kind of back? If he was, would that mean you need to scale him back as a kickoff returner?
COACH MILES: If that was the case, then we might think about scaling somebody back. The thing that we've always tried to do is have our backs be fresh, guys that could give their greatest effort on every play that they're in.
There's reason to say that Leonard could be that 20‑carry back, but I think there's a point in time too where you don't want to wear him out, and you do not want an injury. You don't want to keep pressing the line of scrimmage when he's tired. So we're very fortunate to have guys that can step in and play and play very big roles behind him.
Q. How comfortable do you feel that you found and identified your starting five on the offensive line?
COACH MILES: I want you to know I think that there's still some progress being made there with that. I'm looking at a couple young offensive linemen that are standing in the backdrop that don't necessarily know what to do, but when they do, they're pretty talented. So we're going to continue. We have a number of guys there that will vie for that who are the best five, and we're excited about it.
Q. And one more. With Tashawn Bower back at defensive end, how does that change what Arden Key and Isaiah Washington have been doing, and how much are they factoring in at practice?
COACH MILES: I think those guys will always factor in because of their ability. They're very quick twitch, very fast guys, good length, long arms, good pass rushers. I think both of those guys will stay in a close to the field position that allows us to get them in games.
Q. Because Trey and Travin were nicked, did it give you opportunity to see some stuff from guys like Tyron Johnson and D.J. Chark, and what did you think of their performance in scrimmage?
COACH MILES: Both of those guys played in scrimmage, Chark more, obviously, and then Tyron. So many times a freshman in a system can become overloaded. I'm not really ready to say that those guys are in position to ‑‑ now, D.J. knows exactly what's going on and is having a nice camp. Tyron is a freshman. Sometimes it takes some time for a freshman to understand exactly what he's doing. So first scrimmage, I think he did very well.
Q. With all the defensive coaching shuffles, Will going to Auburn, you getting Kevin, and John going, does it make it easier or harder to coach and maybe disguise what you want to do?
COACH MILES: I think any time you move quality coordinators in the conference, you know somewhat what to expect, but, again, you'll also expect that they'll be very quality defenses and guys that can coach and understand when the offense has an advantage and how to align properly. It just says get ready to play a very, very quality defense, and when you line up against those guys, that's what you're going to see.
Q. Coach, your media guide talks about fullbacks still being a prominent position. How much do you see this offense using a fullback, and what other combinations of backs do you think we could see in there, like with William?
COACH MILES: I think there's a likelihood that there will be a two‑tailback set, an opportunity to get not only Leonard, but some other guys in the game in the backfield.
And I think there's at fullback, J.D. Moore is a great receiver and a great blocker and a guy that really we can use.
I think behind that, David Ducre and Bry'Kiethon Mouton are both big, strong, physical guys, and when you want to go downhill at the line of scrimmage, it's nice to have a lead back that can step in there and get you some room.
Q. Your 11th season, Coach. Do you feel like ‑‑ are you always trying to mold a team to fit your style? Does every team kind of take on its own identity and you allow that to take shape through the fall camp?
COACH MILES: I think what you do is you look at the talent that you have and you want to really make that talent productive for you. So by formation, by play call, you want to do those things that your players can do first and foremost. And then what are the things that augment those things?
What is the ‑‑ if there's five base plays or five base play actions, what are the ‑‑ and you operate that way. And then you say, what is your best personnel group? What is? And what are you going to do in that personnel group? Is it a throw first? Is it a run first? Where's your priority? Five wide receivers? I think frankly we'd like to look at a five wide receiver set because I think we have some talented guys. Get them all on the field at the same time healthy and in position, it's something that we're looking to.
Q. And to that end, you ran the ball 69 percent of the time last year, the most in your tenure. Does that feel like too much? Would you run it more if you could win the ball game?
COACH MILES: If the situation in the game called for a strong running attack, it will benefit us. If we have to win the game in two‑minute, that will benefit us. The key piece is to make sure that your team has a variety of skills and abilities that you finish with and you win the game.
Thank you very much.
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele are below:
Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele
On how the depth along the defensive line is looking ...
"Defensive line depth is always a concern when you're a defensive coach. It's been every place whether you have eight or nine (players). Arden (Key) and Isaiah (Washington) have come in as rookies and really added to it. They've shown really good adaptability to college football. We knew they had the ability, but they played with really good strength, and they played with really good technique.
They have picked up the scheme, and they're making progress. Quentin Thomas is healthy now. (Greg) Gilmore has really grown from the first part of spring until now. He's really blossomed, so that's added some things for us."
On if the defense is comparable to what a good defense in the SEC is ...
"This is a fun group to coach. They are very athletic; they're very tuned in to football IQ in terms of knowledge of the game, and they want more of that. The big thing they do is they play with such a competitive spirit, and with that competitive spirit we have to emphasize effort, tackling and turnovers because at the end of the day that's what's going to get it done."
On what stands out about the linebacking corps ...
"First of all, they're fast. There are three guys there that can run as fast as any three I've ever been around in terms of sheer speed. They're physical, and they come to work every day. They're not up and down, and if you correct them they take care of it right then because they are mature. They've been around, and they've been well coached. In terms of the linebacking group, probably the thing that has been the most encouraging has been (the emergence of) Duke Riley and Donnie Alexander. They have not been in the same sentence with those other three guys. When you start talking about playing guys, it comes down to trust. Do you trust the job to get done when you put somebody out there? You could put those two out there tomorrow and trust them. They've progressed that much."
On increasing the number of turnovers this year compared to last year...
"You increase turnovers by getting them and just being ball hawks. It's a mentality; we emphasize effort, tackling and turnovers. If you do those three things, you're going have a chance. We emphasize it every day. We start the meeting with it every day. We have a video with the turnovers from the day before. We're teaching a turnover circuit every day in practice that teaches different elements of turnovers, and it's just a mindset."
On the possibility of Duke Riley taking on a bigger role on defense ...
"First of all, he is very, very football smart. He is a natural quarterback on the field. You give him something, and he'll get everybody lined up. He sees things; it's just easy to him in that regard, so he plays comfortably. He gets himself lined up right, and he knows what is coming. That comes to him naturally, but he's really fast and he's got a high motor, and he is tough. He's a really tough guy. You put that together, and you got a pretty good package."
On how he can compare the overall talent on this defense to other places he has coached ...
"This is a very fast group of guys. They're extremely competitive. You just got to open the door of the cage, and they'll go hunt. You don't have to get them riled up or tell them a story. All you have to do is snap it, and they'll go play. They are extremely competitive in everything they do, and they play with great effort, and they are physical. When you have that to start with, it gives you a chance."
On how much enjoyment he gets from coming back to the defensive coordinator position after serving as a positions coach the past few years ...
"It's really not that different in football anymore. It's one room with everyone working together. There's so much to do now, and someone has to say we're going to do this and get together at 7:30 in the morning, but you have to give things to other people. We have a very capable staff with Ed (Orgeron), Bradley Dale (Peveto) and Corey (Raymond). We've got good young guys, so (the title of defensive coordinator) is really kind of overrated. At the end of the day, whatever happens, you have to stand up and take the bullet, and that's OK too. Other than that, coaching is coaching."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
On Saturday's scrimmage ...
"There's so much riding on every game, and the way college football is set up, as we all know, the playoffs start week one. Nobody is going 9-3 and getting into the playoffs. Every game counts. I think that puts a lot on young quarterbacks, but I think our guys are more ready to handle it this year than in the past. Based on last night, I was most pleased with how comfortable they were and their body language. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but for a first scrimmage, it rivaled the first scrimmage we had two years ago. That one was a pretty special one in most people's minds. I thought last night was a huge plus."
On Brandon Harris' maturation throughout camp ...
"I think a lot of lights went on in the spring. When you can sit back and reflect on any season, especially a season that has some ups and downs, if you're the right kind of kid and the right kind of person, you're going to reflect, take it personally to a degree and you're going to let that help you grow. I think both of those guys shouldered everything that took place. That's part of every quarterback's maturation—the good ones at least. I think some lights started to come on last spring. Again, last night was a great indication of where we are headed, but it's still a work in progress."
On being comfortable calling certain plays ...
"Practice tells you that. It's easier now to go to a young guy and say ‘Of these 15 things, give me the five you like the most, give me the next five and then, we can do without the other five.' Of 15 things, you're not going to need all 15. When they are first coming in to any system, there are things they just have to learn. There's no way around it. You have to give some things a chance. You may take some lumps in practice, learning a scheme that ultimately leads to something helping us in a game. Now, it's asking them, getting more feedback from them and trying to help them get into the right play against the right coverage and the right front. Then, it's getting the ball distributed throughout the offense. I think that's the thing you'll see more than anything this year. You're going to see our quarterbacks with the ability to spread the ball to backs, tight ends, receivers and not so much driven in one direction in any particular game."
On the glimpses of the offense from Saturday night's scrimmage ...
"Pleased. Not satisfied. Pleased. These guys are maturing probably more normally than would matter to a lot of people. Reality is, the opening game is coming, and they all count. Our sense of urgency is beyond whether the guy is a sophomore, a junior or Justin McMillan, a freshman. Our urgency here is completely different than in a lot of places. What we are playing for, we have to be hitting on all cylinders in week one and carry that in to week two, no matter who the quarterback is. Pleased. Not satisfied. They aren't satisfied. I was just in a quarterback meeting, and you could see the look in their eyes. They were excited about the things they did and excited about the things they can improve on because we could have easily had one of the better first scrimmages, at least since I've been here, with another six or eight plays made."
On carrying the use of tight ends toward the end of last season into 2015 ...
"I think DeSean Smith was a big part of that. He had gotten banged up early in the season as young players tend to. He came back, stayed healthy and then, got banged up in the first play of the game. Colin Jeter made progress. Dillon (Gordon) brings a unique role for us as a true point anchor blocker, which those guys are like a lost art today. We feel like we have that guy and some guys who can do both. Jacory Washington got banged up in the spring, but he's come to life. He caught a touchdown last night. He ran right out of the stadium, and nobody caught him. This is going to be a really good year for our tight ends. In a lot of cases, people will tell you other than a running game, a good tight end is any quarterback's best friend."
On making in-game adjustments and using teaching moments to progress ...
"I think when they are young, they're critical. I think you have to be careful. There are a couple of things; number one you have to be careful. You have to be careful about planting. You're trying to teach a lesson but you plant too many seeds in a guy's head, and now he starts chasing ghosts. I tell the QBs I'm the ghost chaser. I'm the guy who plays the scenario game. You cover one thing with a young player, and then they fixate on it. Now, they become blind to other things. You have to be smart. With veteran quarterbacks, I got this from Peyton Manning, I said, ‘Give me your take on information in between series.' For him, what worked for him is less is best. Why? Because he is so prepared, and sometimes quarterbacks that are really prepared, all you have to do is say one thing and ‘I got you, Coach.' It triggers the brain and the thought process, so less is best.
"For young guys you have to know right when you look in their eye and you can tell they aren't absorbing any more of what you are saying. You have to be able to get to the point quickly and get it solved because here's what happens: a guy comes to the sideline and you think you have this timeline to get the problem solved. The defense gets a turnover, you haven't solved the problem or communicated with the QB, and it can get you again. Those moments are critical. It's how you go about them that I think is the most important thing. Every QB is a little bit different. An example, Zach (Mettenberger) and me: Zach walked up, Zach looked at me and he goes, ‘Hey, I got you.' Philip Rivers would also say, ‘OK, I got you.' OK, we are good. Then I'd give them a little jab or something. Some of them, you can tell when they come off the field, they don't know what just happened to them, which is not that uncommon, so I say, ‘Hey, come here. Take a deep breath. You good?' ‘Yeah, I'm good, Coach.' You watch their eyes clear. Then you have to have an art. Les has really helped me several times. He goes, ‘Cam, he's got a good look in his eye.' Les will tell me so I know right now the guy has a clear picture, so I get him on a headset. I say, ‘Give me a little heads up on what happened.' He says, ‘Hey, that's my fault. It was this, this or this.' Or, Les will say, ‘you might want to check with him on that one, he has a bad look on his face.' I'll come over, and I'll ask him ‘What did you see there?' He will say, ‘Coach I..." I'll say, ‘Easy there, now, tell me what you saw, OK? That's what you saw, but here's what happened.' I'll have Jeff Grimes draw something up for me real quick. There's no manual to the deal. These are living, breathing human beings. Every situation to a lot of those guys is new, so you have to draw on their experience. Based on their level of experience and their maturity level, they're all different."
Media Day is the last chance most reporters will have to talk to the freshmen, so they always fill up the notebooks.
- 'Last year is over with' -- Ross Dellenger on the QB battle
- Fournette stays grounded -- Scott Rabalais on No. 7
- Four Downs -- Rabalais' big takeaways from the day
- Derrius Guice on his exhaustion spell
- They Said It -- best quotes of the day
- Video interview w/Harris
- Nick Brossette discusses difficult offseason
- Donte Jackson on the first impression he's made
Couple of local TV reports here and here. Additionally, Culotta & the Prince had some live spots with Ed Orgeron and Arden Key. Provided you don't mind the lovely buzzing of the indoor facility lights.
In other news, the team had it's first full scrimmage on Saturday. Things were pretty tight, but NOLA.com's James Smith had this report. It's always really hard to know what to take away from scrimmages without your own eyes, because when things are situational, which this scrimmage reportedly was, that can affect things like stats, etc...For example, red zone work can skew touchdown and yardage figures, two-minute or third-and-long situations can skew passing numbers, etc...
LSU did publish this photo gallery as well
In a bit of bad recruiting news, 2016 wide receiver commit Stephen Sullivan announced the following via his twitter account last night:
Sullivan committed to LSU very early on in the process, and there's been a lot of talk about him warming on TCU. Still, you can bet the staff will work hard to bring this kid back into the fold. Also on the Class of '16, wide receiver Dee Anderson lost his appeal to play for DeSoto (Texas) High School in 2016 after being removed from his original team, West Mesquite.
Finally, the Tiger hoops team dropped game two of their Australian trip to the Sydney Kings, 97-95.