Both men talked about this weekend’s collision of ranked teams at Tiger Stadium this weekend, along with other topics.
Here’s a breakdown of what Miles and Muschamp had to say.
--- The emergence of LSU senior quarterback Jarrett Lee has been a cornerstone of the top-ranked Tigers’ success this season.
Lee has thrown for 793 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception in 108 attempts.
Miles was asked if Lee’s resurrection from a rugged redshirt campaign in 2008 has been a surprise.
“He could always throw the football,” Miles said. “Very talented there and that really has not changed. He’s matured tremendously. The experience that he’s had have helped him grow in this position and his leadership for his team and I’m really proud of him. Proud of him as a person.”
The thought of Lee transferring has been a hot topic around LSU since that 2008 campaign, especially after Jordan Jefferson inherited the starting job in the final game of that regular season when Lee injured his ankle against Ole Miss.
There was strong consideration to leave – Lee has said so and Miles confirmed it Wednesday.
“I think there was several times,” Miles said. “There was a piece of time where certainly consideration was honest and sincere. The reality of it is, he declined that opportunity and wanted to continue to compete.
“His question to me as I recall was ‘Will I get an opportunity to compete to start and be the quarterback?’ And I always said yes. That’s been the truth and that’s how he competed and he’s improved routinely because of it.”
--- Jefferson spoke to the media Monday for the first time since his alleged involvement in an early-morning brawl outside Shady’s Bar right off campus.
The starter coming into this season, Jefferson was arrested and charged with second-degree felony on Aug. 26, suspended indefinitely and subsequently his case went before an East Baton Rouge grand jury. The felony charges were whittled down to misdemeanor simple battery last Wednesday and Miles quickly reinstated the senior QB.
When he spoke to the media, Jefferson was at times humble and contrite, at others not, and he has been a target of criticism by local media since.
Miles said he had not read Jefferson’s comments.
“I never get to really read those things and digest it,” Miles said. “I know who he is and I know that he’s a guy who’s a great teammate and very supportive of Jarrett Lee. I know that we’ve built a team based on competition and the ability to compete for positions. Frankly for four weeks it was very obvious that Jarrett Lee had the run of the team and did a great job with it.”
“I don’t know what Jordan said or didn’t say, but I know who he is and he has been a great teammate.”
--- Sophomore running back Alfred Blue’s family lost its home to a fire earlier this week, but he has plugged ahead and will be involved in Saturday’s game as much as he always is.
“He went home and assisted and was very obviously down for some time,” Miles said. “I believe that there’s no real threat to people. Having lost a house to fire certainly was a concern. At this point he’s buoyant and understands the position that he’s in as one that we really count on him. I think he’s pursuing football and school and kind of back into his routine at this point.”
--- Tigers defensive back Tyrann Mathieu has blossomed into a national media darling of sorts this season to the point where his name has been bandied about as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
For the second time in three days, Miles was asked about that and he again treaded carefully, saying that chatter was “certainly premature.”
“But he has all the characteristics that you would want and allow in a national voting position to award,” Miles said. “He’s a tremendous team guy and he’s made the style of plays and continues to make the style of plays that warrant consideration.”
The defensive-minded Muschamp also weighed in on Mathieu.
“Ball hawk,” Muschamp said. “He’s an electric guy on the field that plays with great energy. He has a knack for getting the ball off people with strips and interceptions. He shows up in the right spots, regardless of what’s being asked for him. Certain players have a certain knack to be in the right spots at the right times. He plays the game hard and is a physical player.”
--- The LSU offense has added two key components the last two weeks: Jefferson last week and receiver Russell Shepard the week before against West Virginia.
Any thought of those two disrupting the Tigers or requiring major changes has fallen by the wayside.
“It’s more the pieces of the puzzle that they allow us to run,” Miles said. “There’s really nothing new that we’re doing. We’ve gone four weeks in a pretty traditional, structured way. We’re not going to change much more than what you’ve seen in film or what our guys have done in the past here. It’s basically going to be the same style of offense.
“Those guys, when you add the skills that Russell Shepard has, it gives you an opportunity to do certain things. And obviously Jordan Jefferson gives you a more mobile quarterback prospect. It’s another consideration for the defense that lines up against us, but we’re gonna be the same team that we’ve been.”
--- With second-year starting quarterback John Brantley likely out Saturday with a high ankle sprain, the 17th-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) are poised to start a true freshman at quarterback in Jeff Driskel. Muschamp said the No. 2 will also be a freshman, Jacoby Brissett.
Getting their first extended playing time at Tiger Stadium against the No. 1-ranked team in the country is not an ideal situation for either youngster.
“We’ve prepared ourselves for injuries at all positions, including the quarterback position, throughout training camp,” Muschamp said. “Now you’re getting into the point of the season where we have an injury, and it’s unfortunate for John because he was playing so well – playing his best football since he’s been at Florida. We’ve got to move on and understand that he’s not going to play this week and our guys need to accept the challenge not just at that position but as a team as a hole.
“Jeff is ahead because of his playing experience, but we’re repping all three guys for the game and preparing all three of those guys. I feel very comfortable with our preparation with these guys.”
Florida’s game plan will be tailored to fit either of the two rookies and redshirt freshman Troy Murphy – especially after the way Driskel sputtered when he was forced into action against Alabama’s tenacious defense last week in a 38-10 loss.
“After the Alabama game, (Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis) and I sat down and he said ‘I just don’t know if we gave Jeff much of a chance because of the game plan and the experience that John has in running the offense,’ ” Muschamp said. “It’s tough when you’re getting ready to play a defense like Alabama or LSU and you’re preparing to have your starter play the game and then something happens. You’ve got to be able to adjust and adapt to the situation and do the best job for your football team.”
--- As troublesome as playing with a freshman QB was last week against the Crimson Tide, the Florida defense struggled as well, allowing 226 rushing yards – 181 to Trent Richardson.
“It’s about playing blocks, it’s about understanding your job within each call, striking the guy across from you and keeping him off the second level,” Muschamp said. “We did not do a good enough job of that the other night. We had too much second-level blocks and the ball bouncing to the second level, not getting the carrier down and a lot of that had to do with our front. We’ve got to play blocks better up front.”
--- The Gators will also have to prepare for the threat Jefferson poses as the more fluid runner of the two primary LSU quarterbacks.
Last week in his season debut against Kentucky, Jefferson ran 29 yards on four carries, buoyed by back-to-back 12-yard dashes for first downs.
“You’re switching gears to a certain degree, but they run their offense and do what they do and they do it extremely well especially in their two-back,” Muschamp said. “When (Jefferson) comes in the game, it’s a different dimension as far as the quarterback. It’s a one-back set but there are two runners. He does a really nice job. Jordan has won a lot of football games. He has been in the fire, as well as Jarrett (Lee). There is a different preparation as far as when (Jefferson) is in the game as far as different personnel groupings.”