NEW ORLEANS – Friday was media day at the BCS Championship Game, which meant coaches and players from both teams were available for an hour to any and all questions.
LSU coach Les Miles took his turn at the microphone and here's a breakdown of what the Tigers' head man had to say:
"Really enjoyed the hospitality of New Orleans. Our guys sought to qualify for this game. Really kind of focused it right along, and the reason is such a strong attachment to the city of New Orleans and obviously the state of Louisiana.
"We've enjoyed the fact that the last three times that the national championship was played in this building that an LSU team was fortunate enough to qualify. And that was our goal. And the reasons are obvious. And the enjoyment of our hospitality of the Bowl committee and the enjoyment of being in New Orleans is the reason."
Question: Coach, first of all, if you could talk a little bit about the up-and-down season Michael Ford has had?
Miles: "Really, I think that Michael Ford has come to play and improved really kind of start to finish, playing his best football now.
"But there's a differing maturity, if you will, in players, and it happens through a season, sometimes in a series of games. And he has done that and looks forward to very much finishing this campaign with his best play. He's a very, very quality man."
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the fact that you had so much time off to get prepared for the game, and with you and with your staff, any differences it made in the way you would prepare for a normal game?
Miles: "We've been fortunate to play in some late bowl games, even the Cotton Bowl a year ago, and even the national championship in '07.
"We really kind of identified our calendar and told our guys what to expect. First 2½ weeks were weight strength, condition, rehabilitation, and refreshing our team some. And then really the next series of practices were more LSU vs. LSU and get the speed of the game up and get our execution up, and then we really put in more game plan, opponent appropriate material really probably five days out before we left to come here. And then here, obviously, refine the game plan. I think that's a solid schedule and gives you the opportunity to execute at a pretty high level, once you get to the game."
Q: Coach, can you talk about your two senior quarterbacks, just how they've handled the sharing of responsibilities and how confident you guys are in both of them to play significant minutes on Monday?
Miles: "Well, both quarterbacks have put us in this position, very much like our defensive line, very much like our secondary, our offensive line, but the quarterback position we have to get in significantly quality play there, period.
"Certainly Jarrett Lee has continued to compete and continued to get better. Obviously (Jordan) Jefferson not starting the season as our starter really regaining the job as the season went on and really provided with an opportunity to learn leadership yet another way.
"A difficult situation that he was in certainly provided him with an experience that's helped him want leadership and want more for the back end of the season. And I see him really preparing to play his best football.
"So both quarterbacks have been tremendous contributors. Both quarterbacks are great teammates. There will be no quarterback on our team when one is in the game doing anything but hoping that he has great success."
Q: You took over for Nick (Saban), and it was a great thing because he had a program really well established. But did it ever feel like a burden taking over for Saban, having that sort of shadow linger over the program?
Miles: "Yeah, I really never had that, because I've really interacted with the people that are LSU the way I would. I've kind of always felt like, you know, it was in a tremendous position. Certainly we're grateful for the position that it's in. But I never felt that there was a shadow or something that needed to be done.
"I always really only enjoyed how my team responded to me and how my team competed. And I've never really responded to that, if you will."
Q: I asked Coach Saban this. I know you guys are in this bubble right now, but are you allowed or do you allow yourself to enjoy this experience at all that a lot of coaches don't even get in their careers you've had twice now, but to enjoy the championship atmosphere?
Miles: "Right now there's no enjoyment. I promise you that when we take the field, I will be preparing to enjoy myself for that evening.
"But right now it's all about preparation. It's still, you know, we want to make sure this happens and that happens and how many snaps here and how many snaps there and what do we do in the red zone, tight zone, etc. And so that's important and those things that are important really overshadow fun. And so we practice hard. We get after it. Our guys back in there are preparing. They'll have a good, hard practice today. And we enjoy practice. If you talk about the things that we enjoy. Here's what we don't enjoy. I don't know where my room is half the time. I don't know where my shoes are the other half. I don't know where's my pens. There's all those little insignificant things that you don't know when they change your environment. Other than that, I enjoy my time generally."
Q: Since you came in replacing (Nick) Saban, I think most people would say you've tried to establish a real family atmosphere. How much of your football team feels like family, especially when you're playing on this big stage?
Miles: "Well, I have to be real honest with you. They all do to some extent. I want for old (Morris) Claiborne, I want for Jarrett Lee, I want for Jordan Jefferson and I want for Sam Montgomery, I want them to be comfortably prepared and ready to play. And that's a family tie, if you will. And it's a debt I owe a group of young men that worked that hard to be where they're at, really saw their path to put them here.
"This feels like my family. I have two sons and two daughters that have heard some of the same talks that these guys have heard and probably enjoy them in a very like fashion. Some not so much and some a lot."
Q: A lot of attention has been put on the quarterbacks, and you're only one play away from having your starting quarterback injured. Do you feel like because you have two guys who have played a lot compared to (AJ) McCarron and (Blake) Sims who maybe McCarron has seen a lot more playing time than Sims has, if McCarron was hurt, do you feel like your team has an advantage because your guys have ?
Miles: "I hope that neither quarterback, none of the four, get injured. I would like to see a game played where both teams played their best and the decision was made based on quality play. But we look forward to if we put Jarrett Lee in the game, because he operates this offense very well."
Q: Les, could you talk a little bit about the job that Mike Gundy has done at Oklahoma State and what would it have been like if you were playing them in this game?
Miles: "Mike Gundy has done a remarkable job. He's recruited a very, very high-level athlete. The speed on that field is a very, very fast-paced group of young men. He's always been tremendously competitive. He is and has a very competitive team. And I couldn't be happier for him. They've taken that program much further than I had it when I was there, much further. And it would have been very difficult to play these guys – to play that team here. What would have happened, would have been, was you would have to have gotten by the personal attachment to enjoy the competition, and certainly that's what we would have done.
"But I root for those guys every time they play. Them and that Michigan team that played in here and won. So it's just one of those things. And those Dallas Cowboys."
Q: If somebody told you on Aug. 1 your offensive coordinator would have to move because of a diagnosis, your offensive line coach would move over with little experience at play-calling, and your starting quarterback would be out, what would you have told them, looking back?
Miles: "I would have told them that this team would have found a way. I would have told them that those are obstacles but not real burdens. We'll find a way. And the truth of the matter is (Greg) Studrawa called the plays for a very successful offense at Bowling Green as a coordinator. And I had been fortunate to have been in that room and realized that his ideas are very quality and that he has a good overview, not just the line, he has a good down-the-field view.
"Now, the key piece to that was that Steve Kragthorpe said: I want to coach. I want to do this. Are you kidding me? I want to coach for the next 10 years and get after it. But he said: Frankly, I'm not certain that I'll be able to handle the responsibility of coordinating. I'd like to be the quarterback coach.
Q: Despite popular opinion or punditry, that your last national championship in '07 was with Nick Saban's players, I think the total number of actual starters out of the 22-man starting roster that was even recruited by Nick Saban was about four, who were all freshmen when Saban left. But talk about what it means to come back here, four years later, back to New Orleans, with a team that is 100 percent yours and an opportunity to win a national championship with all of your recruits and basically make yourself the most successful coach in LSU football history?
Miles: "Just so you know, I have not thrown my arms around what are my goals. You got me? It's really allowing this team to achieve the greatest potential, to be the best football team they can be, period. That's kind of how I see it.
"The idea that this is an undefeated team, it's an SEC champion that really played everybody, played all comers, played six road games, played eight nationally ranked teams, I'm just letting you know that this football team, irrespective of the coach, deserves to play well in this next game. And that's the feel of the preparation. That's what we want. We just want to play well in this next game."
Q: Two successful quarterbacks at the SEC level. Quite a feat. Talk about the dynamic and how it changes from day to day and how the team has kind of adjusted.
Miles: "When you add a style, there's just a little bit more to it, and you have to accommodate that piece. And I think the team's done a great job. I think both players interact extremely well. I think both players understand their roles.
"I would not be surprised to see Jarrett Lee in this game early on make significant plays and Jordan Jefferson step back in and do the things that he's capable of doing.
"So, again, I think teammates and team understanding is key. I think both those guys are really team guys.
Les Miles at the BCS mike
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