MULE': Miles sleeping well at night

ZZZZZZZZZ. That, believe it or not, is the sonorous battle-cry of the LSU Tigers, or at least their chief. "I sleep well at night,'' Miles said in a rare admission for a football coach whose team's fan base expect their leader to be tossing, turning and worrying wide-eyed through the long summer nights about everything and anything that could go wrong with the fast-approaching football season.

And Miles, even more than most coaches, knows about the sports' pitfalls, the unexpected, and the overcoming of such. He'll always be the Tiger of record for the amazing 2005 season when he had to guide LSU through the treacherous rapids of not only a demanding schedule pocked with hordes of athletes and coaches fully capable of disrupting LSU from all it could be, but also having up-close and personal dealings with the aftermath of the most calamitous natural events ever in U.S. history, Katrina and Rita.

Hurricanes aren't on the Tigers' schedule this season – but, then, of course, they weren't in 2005 either.

 

What you would think could be keeping Miles awake these days is the fact that both of his lines are in need of repair, and what appear to be LSU's three season-determining games, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, are all on the road.

 

Those are concerns that would have anyone staring at the ceiling at night.

 

Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams, the core of the Tiger defense, are gone. On the other hand, the emerging talents of tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Kirston Pittman on defense and linemen Brett Helms, Ciron Black and Peter Dyakowski on offense have to be the next best thing to Sominex for Miles.

 

If those players develop as the Tiger coaching staff think they can, by the time LSU makes its first appearance on opposing terrain on the third playing date of the season, at Auburn on Sept. 16, Miles will have an idea of the capabilities of his squad. If the Tigers can get past Auburn – and, admittedly, that's a big "if'' – then LSU won't have another away game for another three weeks, at Florida. By that time the Tigers might be coalescing into the kind of team fans expect. If that team is the one Miles finishes the season with, he'll be ready to go to Tennessee, against whom LSU had their infamous second-half melt-down in 2005. If the team hasn't come around as he anticipates, it won't matter by that point.

 

That possibility, it seems, hasn't entered Miles' thought process. After all, talent abounds. It's a just matter of whether it ripens in time. He has an embarrassment of riches

at quarterback with returning starter JaMarcus Russell, who guided LSU to 10 victories last season, despite playing the last half of the season with an injured wrist of his throwing hand; super-sub Matt Flynn, who was the linchpin of LSU's Peach Bowl rout of Miami in Russell's absence; and inexperienced but ulta-talented redshirt freshman Ryan Perrilloux. They'll be throwing to receivers like Early Doucet, Craig Davis and Dwayne Bowe, who as a group dropped some passes in 2005, though they also made big, game-winning grabs. The receiving stats ought be greatly improved this year after Bowe was fitted for contact lenses.

 

Those guys rose to the occasion in 2005 despite any deficiencies. Doucet made the game-winning catch against Arizona State after three earlier drops; Bowe made the game-winning catch against Alabama despite struggling a bit.

 

In fact, considering everything, it has to be wondered why, exactly, should Miles be worried. He lived through the most harrowing football season any Top 5 team ever experienced, and prevailed. Despite game-site changes and schedule turnarounds, LSU won was 5-1 in games decided by four points or less; the Tigers played in three overtimes games – more than any team in the country – and won two; LSU defeated four opponents that finished in the top 17, best performance in the country by that measuring stick; LSU won 11 of its 13 games, most victories ever for a Tiger team that didn't win a national championship.

 

After all that, you think the loss of a few players or a few away games is going to rattle this man?

 

There won't be, at least right now, any stories entitled "Sleepless in Baton Rouge.''

And, please, keep it down around the Miles household.  

                        

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Marty Mule' is a veteran journalist and a former Times-Picayune sports writer based in Mandeville. Mule' was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Writer's Association Hall of Fame last month. Reach him at MJM981@bellsouth.net.


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