Miles more at ease as expectations are high

A mere 18 days prior to the Tigers taking the field in Starkville, Miss. before a nationally televised audience, LSU Coach Les Miles addressed the press during Media Day. In his third go-round at the podium for this event, Miles appeared more at ease, more comfortable than his previous appearances.

Even after notching 22 wins in his first two campaigns at LSU, posting back-to-back 11-win seasons, and thumping postseason opponents in bowl games, the scrutiny and criticisms of Miles are as intense as the heat the Tigers are coping with on the practice fields.

Expectations and the unconvinced were both a part of Sunday afternoon's conversation.

"I can tell you that rankings and talk of championships are always premature before the season," Miles said of the Tigers No. 2 preseason ranking. "So, I don't see fit to be overly concerned about that. Our football team right now is preparing to be a quality football team and improve in all three areas and prepare to play extremely well in the opener."

As highly regarded as his team is, one media member brought up the fact that Miles himself was ranked by a national publication as being somewhere in the 40s among the 119 coaches of Division-I football.

Miles smirked about his personal ranking, just as he did when he was asked about some of the "young pups" trying to make their way in the rotation of the offensive line. Lyle Hitt and Carnell Stewart have both shown improvement, according to Miles, and it will be hard for them to not be the line's starters on the right side. But they are being pushed by the younger guys, and Miles even thinks that Jarvis Jones could see starting time at left tackle this year. Joseph Barksdale and Ernest McCoy are showing signs as freshmen that they will one day be relied upon to hold blocks and open holes.

Another freshman Miles regards highly as camp has progressed is wide receiver Terrance Toliver.

"Terrance Toliver is a guy who currently may not know what route he's supposed to run, but at six-foot-four and running fast through the secondary, the quarterbacks find him and toss him the ball," Miles said. "So, it may not be that important that we call routes for him."

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Miles added that last bit jokingly and also stated that he thinks Toliver is a smooth and gifted athlete. The fact that he was on campus during the summer and got some coaching from Matt Flynn has helped in distancing him from the other newcomers to the receiving corps.

After 10 straight practices and a scrimmage last Saturday, Miles has seen improvement in all three phases of the game. He's trying to see how new guys fit in on the offensive side of the ball, while recognizing that the offense is attempting to gel against potentially one of the nation's best defensive units.

"Defensively, I think we're ahead of the offense on that side of the ball," Miles said. "Very talented, difficult to move the football. It appears they're in their third year, and it appears they're doing very well."

Even so, Miles stated he was impressed with the way freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee moved the ball in a two-minute drill during last Saturday's scrimmage. Regardless of how well Lee is doing now, however, it would still be a major drop-off from Flynn should something happen to the starter and Ryan Perrilloux remain the No. 3 guy on the depth chart. No matter who is taking the snaps, however, anything less than a couple of championships this year – Western Division, Southeastern Conference, and National – would probably be viewed by most as a disappointment.

So, yes, Miles knows the expectations are high. He doesn't think that they are any higher this year than they have been in the past though. He also isn't concerned about the fact that some, despite thrusting such lofty expectations on his team, don't rank him as highly.

"As far as being ranked as a coach in this country, I could care," Miles said of the national publication that lists him in the 40s. "I don't think that anybody really knows…Maybe they ranked me too high; I don't know. I can only tell you that I enjoy coaching. I enjoy being with this team, particularly this team. If they had to rank enjoyment with this team, I might rank first."



INJURY UPDATE

Coach Miles addressed some of the injuries that a few Tigers have sustained during camp and a Tiger who finally seems to be free of the injury bug.

Linebacker Jacob Cutrera will "probably miss a couple of days, if not longer," according to Miles, while fellow linebacker Perry Riley is a little nicked up as well.

Will Arnold is being given time to heal so that he can "come on," Miles said. Glenn Dorsey, on the other hand, is okay health wise and was held out of last Saturday's scrimmage as a precautionary measure. That wasn't the case for kicker Andrew Cruthcfield. He has a quad injury and was not allowed to participate in the scrimmage.

Following last Saturday's scrimmage, Miles lauded the play of defensive end Kirston Pittman. In his freshman season, Pittaman earned Freshman All-SEC honors. He played in 12 games his sophomore season, and then the problems began.

Pittman was redshirted his junior season in 2005 after having a cyst removed from his ankle and then missed all of 2006 after tearing an Achilles tendon during an offseason workout.

Since then the injury bug has chosen not to infect Pittman, and now the senior from East St. John is, according to Miles, showing the desire that two years away from the game can create within someone.

Pittman had two legitimate sacks in last Saturday's scrimmage.



FINAL NOTE

Although it isn't an injury, one of the main concerns Miles has about a player being out permanently is incoming two-sport sensation Chad Jones. The Houston Astros have until August 15th to sign the Southern Lab superstar.

Jones was the safety the Tigers had as a top priority on their list this year after going through a recruiting season without a surefire SEC starter. Losing him would create a depth issue. And even though Jones has shown up to camp and gone through the entire regimen up to this point there is still, according to Miles, the chance that Major League Baseball could throw enough money his way to sway him.


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