LES MILES: Good afternoon, nice to see y’all. Football season is about to start. Ted Castillo is not here. He should be here. Apparently in Tulsa with his family. Look forward to game week. Our guys are sick and tired of playing against each other.
They’re looking forward to playing a very quality opponent. We recognize the issues of our surroundings, the number of people that have been affected by the flood. Recovery is still undergoing, and it’s a process that will take some time. But proud to call Baton Rouge home and proud to be a part of this community.
I thought we had a great fall camp. The young guys really improved. I felt like, you know, improvement is always the mark by which you see a team. If the team is the same and it comes out of two-a-days or out of fall camp you don’t have a very good team because you have a lot of opportunities to improve.
We improved greatly and certainly that needs to continue going into game week. Our offense has got a veteran signal caller now, a more poised and ready for situations. We will have maybe the finest tailback group that I’ve been around with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams and just a number of guys that can really run the football. And Leonard Fournette is fine. There is no issue with his health. He practiced extremely well last week and we would expect him to not miss a beat.
Veteran group at wide receivers and some young guys that are going to be counted to make some big plays in key situations, I like the offense and the way they’ve come.
Dave Aranda has done a very nice job with the defense, and, you know, playing a real physical style, fast, speed to the ball performing extremely well during scrimmages, so it was extremely difficult for us to move the football.
It will be interesting. I know he cares very much for the place he used to work and to lineup against them and players he’s coached. I’m not speaking for him, but I know that he respects Wisconsin extremely well. The special teams, we have Josh Growden that will be the third Aussie in a row for me and if the guy can’t speak Australian, then frankly I’m not interested!
Colby Delahoussaye who had a scare this summer is back to kick and handle our place kicks. We will have Cam Gamble or Connor Culp handle our kickoffs, and we will have good returners with Tre’Davious White back and we had No. 7, Leonard Fournette back and taking coughs as well.
We’re coming out of camp with a quality opponent on the horizon. We recognize how well they play and we played them in Houston down in the third quarter 24-7. They’re a hard-nosed, physical team, run the football, quality Big Ten unit. Paul Chryst is in his second year in Wisconsin done a great job. They were 10-3 last year. They beat a quality Southern California team in the Holiday Bowl. He was at the head coach spot at Pittsburgh for three years and was an alumnist of Wisconsin. So they will be well prepared, and, again, Coach will do a great job there. They have special teams, a quarterback in Bart Houston, senior named most recently the starter. I think he’s also — they have another quarterback certainly is a quality guy that competes in that spot. We would not be surprised if both quarterbacks played, but they have a big, strong offensive line. They always have and this is no exception.
Defensively they led the nation in scoring with a 13-point, 7 points, ranked second in the nation in total defense, allowed 268 yards, so they have playmakers. They have skilled guys that have played in that defense for time and they’re really very talented. An example would be Vince Biegel, a top linebacker in college, 147 career tackles, special player and very competitive.
We will go to Lambeau Field. I have not been there, only heard of, and I am hearing from professionals what a wonderful place it is to play and what a great venue and how much it will be enjoyed. I can tell you I’m looking forward to seeing Jimmy Taylor’s name in the Ring of Honor that surrounds the field and we would expect that 30,000 of the LSU faithful will be there. We’ve sold 22,000 tickets and certainly it’s going to be 8,000 LSU faithful that found tickets in another way.
It’s been an eventful summer and one that turns very quickly to football and we’re excited about it. Questions?
Q. (No microphone.)
LES MILES: You’ve got to learn not to raise your hand in the center of the room.
Q. Coach, having not seen much of Bart Houston, Wisconsin’s quarterback on film, how do you scout Wisconsin’s offense and particularly their quarterback?
LES MILES: Well, here is what you know. He’s a big, strong, very talented thrower, and he can run the football. So he extends plays and runs with the ball, and we would expect that the things that they have done there in the past, what has been their best stuff will continue to be, and we’ll just anticipate that he would be the signal caller.
Q. Coach, could you talk about what you’ve seen from Michael Divinity in the fall, what you like about him?
LES MILES: Michael Divinity is a big, strong, naturally gifted guy that can flat run and play hard. He’s really a conscientious guy. He learns assignments very well and, again, works hard to maintain his abilities and improve. So we would expect him to see a lot of football.
Q. Coach, last year Alabama did a number on Wisconsin. I’m curious if your staff watched that game, if you might try and implement some of what Alabama did to this Wisconsin team.
LES MILES: We watched the Wisconsin/Alabama game and I don’t know that there’s a lot that we picked up there. I think we’re kind of two different teams that way, but, yeah, we watched.
Q. In what ways did Dave Aranda help you scout Wisconsin? What areas has he contributed in as far as scouting has been?
LES MILES: More of a personnel, what kind of personnel and what kind of — and really more the strengths than anything. He knows that he left a very talented defense, he knows that on offense they have two very talented tailbacks that can run the football and a big offensive line.
He basically gave the thumbnail sketch of a guy that just came from there that really didn’t feel like, you know, was all that professional to give too much. So he kind of gave me the overview and that’s all I asked for.
Q. Coach, when a poll comes out and you’re ranked fifth and Wisconsin is unranked, is that something that you have to talk to your team about, have to guard up against when those things happen?
LES MILES: I think polls can be misleading. I think the key piece to my team is seeing how the last time we played this team how it played out. How competitive the game was. They’ve watched this film, they’ve seen a quality Wisconsin team beat USC so we’re — we recognize that we’re playing a quality team and it makes no difference that they’re — what their rank is.
Q. You’re working with a new radio host this year. Is building rapport with Chris much like building rapport with any other staff member? What’s your take on the magnitude of the job that he’s inheriting?
LES MILES: I think he will do a great job. I think Chris is tremendously professional. The one show that he did with me, his questions were point on in terms of what a listener would want to hear and he had humor and he picked up, in my opinion, right where the spirit of the show is. Our first callers called in and he’s glad to meet them and, you know, you can tell that he’s a people person and that he will enjoy this job. I think the scope of this job is — I think he’s going to enjoy being busy and it’s something that he is certainly capable of.
Q. The depth chart you’ve got all the assistant coaches listed as being on the field. Is that correct and how is it going to work?
LES MILES: The second team assistant coaches are going to be in the press box. The first team assistant coaches are going to be on the field.
Q. I’m serious.
LES MILES: I thought you said depth chart. I figured you wanted to know who was the first and second team in the coaching staff.
Q. Who is the second team?
LES MILES: We’re good. Yeah, most of our full-time assistants are going to be on the field this year.
Q. Who is going to be in the press box?
LES MILES: An empty line.
Q. Will they have more room up there?
LES MILES: Exactly right.
Q. Really, have you ever been on a staff that did that?
LES MILES: Yeah, what we will do is we’ll have a young group of coaches. Those guys that can coach and talk and be upstairs. Thanks.
Q. Have you ever been on a team that did that?
LES MILES: Yeah, yeah, I have.
LES MILES: Well, at times, we did it at Colorado.
Q. I just never heard of such a thing.
LES MILES: Yeah, well, another thing, too. Here is the issue: Where does Dave and Cam figure to serve us best? To me, I think what Cam gave us dealing with the quarterbacks was extremely good, and I think Dave’s really got to be downstairs for the defense. Peveto is going to substitute our special teams. Ed is going to substitute the defensive line. So really, the coordinators are the only ones — the coordinators and the secondary coach would be the ones that can come upstairs and the reality is that our guys wanted to stay down and it’s something that they can do, and I’m going to take it under advisement and say that they can see the field from there. And if I find that, in fact, we’re not getting the view of things that need to be relayed from the press box, this will change.
Q. Les, with regards to Leonard Fournette and the approach with him this season do you think he can be more effective with even more work than he had last year or more effective with a more balanced approach that keeps him fresh for critical junctures in the season?
LES MILES: Well, I think it will all depend on his conditioning and his health. We’re not going to keep him on the field when he’s tired, no matter what, and we have real quality backs that way.
I think balance is a way to remove people from the box and allow us bigger plays. So if we can do the job that we have planned to do throwing the football, then I think you will find that there will be less people in the box and then maybe more productivity out of less carries.
Q. Les, DeSean Smith is not listed on the depth chart. Tell us his status situation?
LES MILES: DeSean Smith is fine to play. It was obviously — wherever you got that, he’s going to play.
Q. How different is Leonard from the first game against Wisconsin? That was his first career game two years ago. How different is from that game to now?
LES MILES: Experience is always a tremendous advantage for anybody that plays football and he’s made that cut now instead of 20 times he’s made that cut 200 times. He understands the offense better, and he’s in position to really take advantage of the experience that he’s had.
Q. Coach, did you breathe a sigh of relief when Kendell Beckwith said he was coming back this year? What did his return to the team mean?
LES MILES: He’s a leader on our team. He’s just a fine young man, and a guy that can step in the middle of the defense and make it very difficult for people to run the football. He’s physical play and speed to the ball, and it meant a lot to the defense for him to stay put for another year.
Q. Specifically to Leonard’s on-the-field’s performance can you put a value on what Leonard Fournette means to the team and how has he handled the pressure, the expectations even of him coming out of high school?
LES MILES: I think he’s been a great back for a long time. I think great backs when you show up at Tad Gormley Stadium or someplace down in the city to play and everybody expects you to get 195 yards, 225, whatever it would be, the communications and the buzz in the perimeter is always about you, it’s a trainer, if you will, for what happens when you’re a major collegiate player.
Q. Coach, you said you suspect Wisconsin might play two quarterbacks. Any chance you play two quarterbacks on Saturday?
LES MILES: We would prefer to play one, but we never decline the opportunity to improve our team. Should we play two, it would be for that advantage.
Q. You’ve had a relatively uneventful year for your team. Obviously the community has had some troubles but your team has managed to stay very much locked in on this. Does that speak to their understanding of what this potential — what the potential on this team is and what is your attitude? Do you talk to them about that potential moving forward as the year starts?
LES MILES: I think this team wants more. I think there’s a group of leaders that have really insisted that there’s some things that we need to do and things that we need to do as a team and some things we need not to do. I think there’s a — I think they’re going to enjoy Saturday night and Saturday afternoon much more than other times socially.
Yeah, I think we’re — I think this team is a little bit more focused than other clubs that I’ve had.
Q. Greg Gilmore and Duke Riley, two guys that have been here a long time that have maybe waited their turn, you’ve got them both listed as starters. What makes you and the coaching staff feel like they’re ready to get out there and play?
LES MILES: Duke Riley has played in every game that we’ve had, played a lot of football, knows a lot of football, played special teams in virtually every game and he has turned out to be a very, very good linebacker. I can’t wait to see him play.
Greg Gilmore is going to be a nose tackle that can come off a football and, you know, he’s — so many times a guy that takes some time to get to that starting spot maybe just cherishes it a little more and maybe it’s a little more important to them, and I think that’s the case with both these guys.
Q. Is this training camp a little more refreshing you’re not dealing with quarterback issues. Harris is the guy and the past it’s been who is the guy and every day in training camp you’re asked questions about who is number one and number two, is it a little bit different to know that this is your guy going forward?
LES MILES: I think the years where you’re trying to figure out where your leader at quarterback, the guy that’s taking snaps is going to come from is — it’s pretty obvious at this point that he is that guy and I kinda enjoy that. I think he does, too. For that matter, I think the team does as well.
Q. Arden Key told us last week his goal for the season is 20 sacks. Is that absurd or is that achievable?
LES MILES: My goal for the season is to win games and 20 sacks is an — for him, five times four, which of those five are we going to get four? I’m with Arden Key. Arden Key is a great pass rusher and he has speed to the ball. He will make a lot of tackles. I think he will have a very successful year not necessarily having 20 tackles for loss or 20 sacks. But should he have 20 sacks, I would be the first one celebrating that number.
Q. Your starting tackles are Weathersby and K.J. Malone speak to putting them in the starting lineup and the health of Big Teuhema.
LES MILES: Maea Teuhema is extremely healthy, ready to roll. He’s practiced the last ten days and practiced very well. He’s not limited in any way and we’re ready to roll. The good news is it ensures that we will have real quality tackles.
Q. Kickers kind of have maybe an unfair rap for mental and physical toughness. What has Colby Delahoussaye given you in the past few weeks?
LES MILES: I think you realize when you get out of a car and several people did not that you are very fortunate. He’s said that to the team and how much he looks forward to every day, and I think he had some significant burns and his need to get back and his need to get rehabbed just was much more urgent. Again, I think we’re thrilled that he’s back.
Q. What are you expecting from Wisconsin’s defense without Aranda? Are you expecting something similar from Justin Wilcox’s defense?
LES MILES: I think they have a number of structures that they can go to and we’re kinda preparing for both. They certainly have run a quality defense wherever they’ve been. So, you know, it’s — wherever you go to study their defense they have had great success.
Q. Les, when you tossed Travonte off the team a year and a half ago, what did you tell him and did you think he would make it back and how is he different on and off the field?
LES MILES: I really suggested that he invest in himself and that he needs to make a change in his life for him, and really I did not necessarily see his return. What was depicted to me is that change had been made and what I’ve seen since he’s been with us is he’s — and I think this is personal discipline, if a guy is thinner, I think that’s something that shows you that he can have a self-discipline. And he’s done a good job in the classroom. I wouldn’t know exactly, but I think he’s got a 2.3, 2.4 range and really has not missed a class. So we like the turn that we’ve seen and we hope that it stays that way. We would expect it to be.
It’s one thing when you don’t make mistakes and you’re going to class and you’re doing the right things, it’s awfully easy to smile and he’s got that. He’s got that little extra pep in his step and he’s got a smile on his face most of the time.
Q. Every coach wants more out of his team. Do you feel that your kick game specifically, kickoffs, punts and even field goals under achieved last year and how confident are you that they can raise that level this season?
LES MILES: I think we have the ability to punt the ball better. I think we will have the ability to kick the ball off better. I believe that we will have the field goal extra point that we need to score. I think we will be better.