Miles talks Miss. State on Monday

Here are Les Miles'comments from his Monday press luncehon.

Opening statement…

"Welcome back to campus. I am glad to hear that Mike the Tiger is on campus. They told me he is at the vet school being checked out. I wanted to make sure the season started with Mike in place."

"Summer camp was long and hot. We got a lot accomplished. I felt like our kids came in great shape. They worked hard. Our team is healthy and looking forward to playing a game. When you work so hard, practices are only enjoyed because you can celebrate that hard work with a game. We are in game week and you can see it in the faces of our players. Our guys are looking forward to Thursday night. It will be the first nationally televised game of the year and our guys always look forward to playing on television. There is a little bit extra enthusiasm because of that."


On Mississippi State

"They are a very quality opponent. They return 10 starters on offense. Their offensive line and tight end are intact. Their quarterback (Michael Henig) returns with a lot of experience. Last year he was injured but still played in seven games. He is a quality guy that understands the offense. Their tailback Anthony Dixon is a 6-1, 240-pounder. He had close to 700 yards rushing a year ago. We will make sure that our team shows up as a group when trying to tackle him. Their fullback (Jeremy) Jones is 6-2, 275-pounds and gives a great push for that tailback."


"Defensively, they graduated a number of guys that went off to the NFL. Most of the players they have have game experience. Their front four are quality guys. Their secondary is kind of reshuffled.  They took Derek Pegues, who was a corner a year ago, and made him a safety. They are probably much better in their secondary this year then they have been."


"With special teams, they have Derek Pegues. He is All-American candidate kick returner. He averaged 23 yards on kickoff returns and 14 yards on punt returns. He can be very dangerous. Our guys on the return teams will have to go down the field with the idea that they are going to have to tackle a guy that is very capable."


"Coach Croom has done a great job. He is always prepared. In the season opener a year ago against South Carolina his team played very hard. We understand a team coached by coach Croom will be prepared and ready to play. We also understand that the environment we walk in to Thursday night will be loud and noisy. The good news is we bring a veteran team with us. Guys that understand what it is like to play on the road in a loud stadium. We don't need to play with anybody's expectations but ours. We expect that we will play with focus and toughness. We will play in conjunction with all three phases – offense, defense and special teams, complimenting one another. We will play to what has become acceptable play for an LSU football team. Nobody else's expectations, just what we expect from our team. We have first-year starters and some veterans. I promise you that our expectations are all that we have to meet. If we play well and have great focus we will do fine."


On the advantages and disadvantages of playing a Thursday night game…

"For practice, yesterday was taken as a normal Tuesday and today's practice will be what would normally be a Wednesday practice. We practiced right through the weekend. At this point in time during a game week we are cutting practice a little, but still getting key work done. I think our preparation has gone well. We designated the weekend for our players to have a chance to get a pizza and relax. Now they are back and we are really right in game week. Even though it is a Thursday game, we won't have any less preparation then a normal game week. Wednesday will be our travel day and Tuesday will be what normally a Thursday is. We had a nice day on Sunday. We gave them a time to go to church by giving them the morning off. They didn't have to come to the facility until 2 o'clock. We gave them an opportunity to do things that we all feel are important."


On how he would define pressure…

"Being unprepared would be pressure. If you are prepared, understand what to expect, practiced in the heat and worked as hard as this team has, I don't think pressure will be an issue."


On if Matt Flynn is still a mystery to the national media…

"I don't focus much on how one of our players is perceived on a national stage. We ask a lot of our quarterback and he has responded extremely well. He has done what we need him to do, whether it is to put us in the right play, to make the right throw or see and make the reads on the run. I don't think he should look at how he is viewed on a national stage. What he needs to do is do just what he need did against Miami in the Peach Bowl. He needs to learn the offense as it is called, make the plays that are expected and don't try to do anything that is more than what he is capable of."


On if he believes the defense is still ahead of the offense…

"I think all three phases have improved. I think the veteran defense is not likely to get out of position. There's a strong likelihood that they'll play well and play like a veteran club. There are some new guys who are playing on that team, so I can only tell you that they have prepared well. I think we're in good shape defensively. The offense has taken strides in the last week. The offense has improved in a number of areas, and I like the improvement of the young offensive linemen who are in a position to back up and play. I wouldn't be surprised if Joe Barksdale got some snaps at any point in time in the game. I have enjoyed his preparation, not to say that Carnell Stewart is not going to have a great game and play the entire time, but that second team offensive line has really improved. For special teams Patrick Fisher is the punter. The guy who will kick off - we'll hold off until we make that determination, and you can look forward to Colt David being our field goal guy. For returners they are the same names we've mentioned in the past – Early Doucet, Trindon Holliday, maybe Chad Jones and maybe Keiland Williams for kickoffs. It is not really a lot of changes, and I think it's interesting as days pass, skills have to be acquired for your team to get better. If they just play like they played yesterday and if they just play like they have been playing, then they have not improved. I can tell you that this football team in all three phases has improved. It's going to be exciting to me to see where we are in the opener because that really is the mark of where your football team is. It is hopefully the low water mark of the year because you would like to think that in every week that improvement will continue."


On the running back position…

"The running back position is a little like it was a year ago. Jacob Hester gives us many different skills. He runs hard and he is a good receiver out of the backfield. There are a number of guys that will play a lot of football. Keiland Williams has had a good fall camp along with Charles Scott and Richard Murphy. Those guys will step in and play and play in different situations and different calls. At fullback, Quinn Johnson and Shawn Jordan have had really good camps. I see them playing equal amount of time."


On if he is comfortable with playing an SEC opponent on the road in the season opener…

"We played on the road my first year here. There are certain reasons to look forward to our SEC opener this year. It is a nationally televised game. It gives us the opportunity to have a weekend off after a long two-a-days camp. It gives our guys some more time to prepare for the rest of the season."


On Herman Johnson and Will Arnold

"In his first two years, he played a little awkwardly. He was strong and had the ability but he still needed some work on his technique. Even after this past spring, his play has improved. Will Arnold has practiced every snap in the last two practices and will have the opportunity to play a little bit more football. We are very cautious with him and know we can't count on him for every snap."


On the chemistry between Early Doucet and Matt Flynn…

"They both worked extremely hard over the summer. As soon as the season was over, those guys were looking forward to the next season. I don't think Early missed a week of workouts. He was getting in shape and working on his speed. Matt Flynn worked with him during the spring and summer and they have developed great chemistry. They understand the calls and the offense. We will have Early in a number of different plays and routes."

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