HOOVER, Ala. - LSU football fans can riddle off the missteps of the 2009 season without hesitation, from the offense’s finish outside the top-100 in production down to the clock management issues – most importantly the final-minute blunder that took place in Oxford, Miss. last November.
“Now our guys can take a snap in one second,” said Miles in response to an inquiry into the Ole Miss debacle. “When the official lets the ball go, it’s coming back.”
Mind you, the 25-23 loss to the Rebels was just one snippet from a year gone off-course.
The Tigers dropped contests against Ole Miss, Alabama and Florida for the second-straight season. Wins over Mississippi State, Georgia and Arkansas were all pulled out in the final moments - with the Razorback win coming in overtime.
A 9-4 finish, which included a letdown performance against Penn State under pouring skies in Orlando, sat well with little LSU loyalists over these past six months.
When Miles took the podium on Friday afternoon it didn’t take long for the microphone to find the hands of a media member anxious to hear the headman’s diagnosis of the 2009 year.
“We went through some of the situations we went through last fall,” said Miles of clock-management issues. “I scrutinized the coaching – me and others. Some of those situations I, even though prepared for, had not envisioned the time constraints. So what we’ve done is we’ve added that to our game week preparation. Maybe were a little more prepared and a little bit more ready to play in those situations.”
For an example Miles pointed to fall practice, where the team is currently scheduled to work on the two-minute drill for 45 minutes during each two-a-day session.
“It’s never been given that kind of emphasis,” Miles said. “We just feel like the teaching of the situation and the understanding of the situation is more important.
“It’s not just lip service. You know, we’ve changed.”
Coupled with the addition of wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, running backs coach Frank Wilson and tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, Miles spoke with confidence about what the changes will mean headed into his sixth season with the program.
“After last season, we looked at those things that we need to do to put this team in a position to win a championship,” Miles said. “We looked at everything we did. We hired three coaches. Our weight/strength position adjusted. What we do on offense and defense we adjusted. We practiced a little differently. We've done a lot of great things.”
With Jordan Jefferson in tow, Miles talked in depth about the newfound leadership skills in his quarterback. He had high praise for Terrance Toliver, Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard, even tabbing Shepard as, “stronger, faster and better than he’s been.”
On his defense, Miles called the cornerback tandem of Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne the best in the SEC. He then called Kelvin Sheppard the most physical middle linebacker in the conference. On the ends of the line, Miles praised the speed of Sam Montgomery, Lavar Edwards, KeKe Mingo, Chancey Aghayere and Ken Adams.
“I think we’ll put more speed on the field than we have,” said Miles of the defensive philosophy headed into coordinator John Chavis’ second year with the program. “That’s good for the Tigers.”
While his contract was not rolled over the last two years, Miles – considered on the hot seat by many – brushed off most inquiries about the level of comfort with his job headed into the 2010 season.
“My view, very honestly, has been a view of how to coach and prepare my team for victory,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have a good contract. I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the issue is preparing my football team.
“It will only be a championship season, and that’s the only point and direction of this program,” said Miles at the conclusion of his opening statement. “That’s where we are headed.”