LSU wrapped up its 2007 Spring Training session last Saturday with Super Tiger Bowl, the traditional spring game held in Tiger Stadium. The day was marked with sunny skies, but the one thing missing was searing heat. While it was still warm, temperatures were in the mid 80s.
As a matter of fact, temperatures rarely approached the 80-degree mark through spring practice, a noted difference compared to years past.
"This weather has been fantastic, huh," Miles said following practice one afternoon.
While the weather was a treat for players throughout spring drills, Miles said he likes having spring training much earlier for one specific reason.
"The good thing about having the spring early is that when guys get nicked up, they have an opportunity to heal up and still have a strong summer," Miles said.
The Tigers do conclude spring training with a few bumps and bruises. Ali Highsmith (leg), Will Arnold (ankle) and Glenn Dorsey (leg) sat out of spring training with pre-existing injuries. Curtis Taylor went down with a shoulder injury in the spring game, but Miles said it shouldn't be anything serious that would affect his status for the fall.
"One player that appears to be nicked is safety Curtis Taylor, but I think he'll be back," Miles said. "It doesn't appear to be, at this point, to be an operable injury, so with some time off, it will allow him to get healthy and be ready to go in August."
Speaking of Taylor, the junior safety was the subject of much scrutiny this spring. Taylor and Craig Steltz will fill the two most notable holes on the LSU defense replacing standout performers LaRon Landry and Jesse Daniels at the safety positions.
"I think Curtis Taylor has had a great spring at safety and a number of guys have played well at that position," Miles said. "I think Danny McCray had a great spring as well."
Another vacancy on that defense is at defensive end. Chase Pittman is headed to the NFL leaving one slot up for grabs. Tremaine Johnson took a huge step toward grabbing that position come next fall.
"I think he (Johnson) has had a good spring," Miles said. "I think there are a number of guys there that will get an opportunity to play at defensive end. Certainly, though, Tremaine is making his case."
Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini wouldn't say for sure, but he liked what he saw from Johnson throughout the spring.
"A lot has to be done between now and (fall practice), but Tremaine had a good spring," Pelini said. "He's been coming along, but we had a lot of other guys that have done that this spring. He's in the mix. He's one of the guys that has to come on and give us some minutes. He looked like he did some good things early (today). We just have to look at the film to get a better sense of how he played."
Overall, though, the highest profile position battle on the team comes at the quarterback position. Replacing JaMarcus Russell, who will likely be the top pick in the NFL Draft, is top priority. While it looks as if the job is Matt Flynn's to lose, Ryan Perrilloux has made some headway throughout the spring.
Miles doesn't want to label the quarterback position as a controversy, the way many would like to. Miles has another word for it.
"I like the word struggle," Miles said. "It is a much more appropriate word than anything else. I like our quarterbacks. Both have things to learn. But both showed skill and ability today running the offense. We are going to need both of them, I can tell you that. We are not going to pass through the season without taking the opportunity to use both quarterbacks."
Miles complimented Perrilloux, who got mixed up in some off the field situations in mid January. Miles said the sophomore signal caller is getting his act together.
"I think he has made some good strides," Miles said. "I think he is way more comfortable back there. I like what he is doing academically in the classroom above all. That may be an even stronger indication than anything. Again, if he keeps going in the right direction on the field and off, in the offseason and come into the fall ready to compete, he can have a great fall."
Speaking of getting his act together, someone lit a fire under Alley Broussard. After not even expecting to be in the mix at running back after finding his way into Miles' doghouse, the senior tailback showed flashes of brilliance in the spring game, even scoring a touchdown.
Miles said he isn't quite in the doghouse anymore.
"Off to the side," Miles said, pertaining to where Broussard is located to the doghouse. "All he has to do is what best for himself and this football team and he will be fine. He is certainly talented and if he does the right things from this point forward he can have a great fall."
One of the more interesting storylines of the spring was that of Jared Mitchell. A talented wide receiver, Mitchell also is a star on Paul Mainieri's LSU baseball team. Mitchell balanced both sports this spring, taking part in eight of LSU's 15 workouts.
"What you get by having him go over to baseball is you get a few more snaps for Chris Mitchell," Miles said. "We get a chance to get some more looks at some other guys. This fall, he is going to be there all the time and I think he has gotten a really good introduction to the things we are doing. To not let him do that (baseball) is being pretty short-sided."
The star of the spring – by a long shot – was senior wideout Early Doucet. After nabbing nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown in the spring, Doucet looks ready to step into the vacancy left by Dwayne Bowe as LSU's primary receiving target.
"Guys that had big days, Early Doucet was pretty obvious," Miles said. "It is pretty clear just by watching him that when he touches the ball, something big is going to happen.
"Certainly we will need to achieve balance in the passing game, but the good thing is we had the chance to move Early around and get him the ball as well," Miles added.