HOOVER, Ala. – SEC Media Days wound down Friday with Les Miles taking the podium in the final spot at the Wynfrey Hotel.
An otherwise uneventful three-day session didn't change much with Miles' turn at the microphone, in part because he artfully sidestepped the two questions he got about alleged street agent Will Lyles, the man at the center of a storm involving Oregon's – and perhaps LSU and others schools – recruiting practices.
Miles did touch on a number of topics, revealing some minor surprises about his team and having some fun with his latest brush with YouTube stardom. In a separate session with a handful of Louisiana-based media, Miles hit on a few other topics.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of Miles' day with the media.
LSU's relationship (non-relationship?) with Lyles
Earlier in the week, a report surfaced that the recruiting materials Lyles provided LSU with included old, out-dated video. The implication made by some: LSU was using the materials as a cover for the $6,000 he was paid.
"I can't really comment; I'm kind of prohibited from commenting on Willie Lyles," Miles said when asked about when he met Lyles. He has said several times that he doesn't know the controversial figure, although records show LSU has paid Lyles as much as $26,000 since 2008.
"The only thing I can tell you is we look for film and video anywhere we can find it. Those people that provide those services, we need to cover a broad area, and we want to evaluate our guys from a bunch of different spots. That's really all I can say."
Asked moments later if he thought LSU's pre-emptive attempt to provide all information and materials it had from Lyles would pass muster should the NCAA choose to delve into the school's relationship with the agent, Miles said "All I can tell you is we're going to cooperate fully. I can't really make much more comment than that."
Jefferson's job, Kragthorpe's impact
It's no secret that LSU's fortunes in 2011 hinge greatly on whether senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson finally takes a leap forward in consistency.
Jefferson is 20-7 as a starter and has flashed moments of promise in each season. But the Destrehan product has never quite turned the corner completely as an elite quarterback.
This summer he has drawn rave reviews, including while he was a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy, and he has publicly said he will be the starting quarterback without question.
Miles praised Jefferson for his confidence and also credited new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe for his impact.
"Offensively I think the addition of Steve Kragthorpe has really helped Jefferson," Miles said. "Jefferson is in his final campaign and really is at the best position that he has been in in listening and taking coaching. So he's been well-coached.
"I think he has a confidence in who he is as a person. I don't think that he lets who's looking over his shoulder impact anything he's doing. I think he's leading. I think he steps forward to do the things that he can do. The things he can do have been enough. He's been a very productive quarterback for us."
Miles was also asked about junior-college transfer Zach Mettenberger's potential impact and he quickly reminded the questioner that LSU has another veteran QB.
"I think you're going by Jarrett Lee first," Miles said. "I think Jarrett Lee played significant football last fall. If you look at the Tennessee, Florida and Alabama games, he had very significant contributions in those games. Certainly he's competing in a similar fashion that he did last fall and this spring.
"I think Zach Mettenberger is very talented, a guy that can also come in and compete. I think there's some competition at the position. I think that's an advantage for us. I think that Jordan Jefferson understands that. We will play that guy that gives us the greatest opportunity of victory. Right now I believe that would be Jefferson."
Mourning his sister's death
Miles and his family lost a family member, younger sister Ann Browne, in a car accident in Addis in late April.
"It's been a part of my summer and it has definitely had an impact on me," he said. "It talks to a little girl, a little sister, who's not there anymore. I didn't expect that."
Browne left two daughters behind and Miles said his younger brother, Eric Miles, has moved to Baton Rouge to take care of them as long as they need him.
"Honestly, my brother has come into town and has become, in my mind, a genuine hero," Miles said. "He's stepped in there when these girls needed some help. I can't tell you how fortunate we are."
With the loss of All-American cornerback Patrick Peterson, LSU has a major hole to fill in the secondary.
While a lot of people might've assumed sophomore playmaker Tyrann Mathieu was the heir apparent to line up opposite Morris Claiborne – a first-team pre-season All-SEC selection – Miles threw a bit of a curve ball.
As it stands now, sophomore Tharold Simon is the frontrunner to replace Peterson, with Mathieu slotted to continue operating as a nickel and dime back.
"I think Tharold Simon will be the corner across from (Claiborne)," Miles said.
"We have a comfortable spot for Mathieu. He can also play corner. Really Tharold Simon is a very talented guy. We want him on the field, as well. It's really good news."
Later when asked if the Tigers might operate more as a 4-2-5 defense because of the talent and experience in the secondary, Miles said "It really kind of depends on how the linebackers come along."
Optimistic up front
The LSU defensive line is somewhat of a question mark because of inexperience and injuries from last season, but Miles said he looks at that unit as a nice building block for his team's talented defense.
"The defensive line I think will be a strength," Miles said. "(Michael) Brockers inside might well give us the push in the front that we need. I think our defensive ends are as talented and athletic as I've been around. I think we have great speed there."
A huge key is how well sophomore end Sam Montgomery bounces back from a major knee injury and corrective surgery. Through five games, the South Carolina native was one of the most effective pass rushers in the SEC.
"Sam Montgomery returns from injury, is completely back," Miles said. "He was preparing to have a great year last year when he got injured. He'll return to speed."
Another probable contributor on the d-line is freshman Anthony Johnson, nicknamed "Freak" because of his physically imposing 6-foot-3, 294-pound frame.
The O.P. Walker product was spectacular the last three years, recording 67.5 sacks and earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors, the state's first defensive lineman to ever receive the award.
Apparently, Johnson is multi-talented beyond the football field.
"Anthony came in in January, really a very good student," Miles said. "He can sing, he has real personality, and he's practiced an entire spring and summer in our weight room. So I think he's really ready to kind of step forward and play in games as an example of how we play freshmen."
Never one to shy away from the camera, Miles wound up an unknowing YouTube star this summer when a video he had made for ESPN radio and TV personality Scott Van Pelt surfaced.
In the video, Miles switches shoes – to a pair Van Pelt sent him – to improve his basketball skills. To prove he has gotten better, Miles displays his slam-dunk skills and then takes on 7-year-old daughter Macy one-on-one, swatting away a shot, a move documented in cinematic slow motion.
After the block, Miles the father does a bit of trash talking to his youngest child.
"It was unbelievably fun," Miles said.
"I did not make that video for anybody else but Van Pelt. It was a straight-up deal to send back to him based on the fact that he's been knocking my game-day shoes. So we took an afternoon and displayed my basketball ability very honestly. Made the shots that I shot. The slam was my slam.
"At the end of the day, everybody laughed. It was just what you wanted. I don't know that it actually showed – my wife said this: Les, there's nobody that saw that video will ever think that you can play basketball."
In his smaller media session, Miles feigned indignity with his LSU basketball counterparts for not tapping into his basketball knowledge.
"Trent (Johnson) and Nikki (Caldwell) haven't asked me over to give them pointers and I'm really disappointed about that," he said.
Never a dull moment: Miles with the media
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