HEAD COACH LES MILES
Opening Statement ...
"We really have been struggling around here today because we heard about the plane crash that involved a number of people, but specifically Sean O'Keefe and his son. I have been told that he is reportedly on the survivor's list. It is interesting because what happens is you think you have a number of days carved out and you think that you are up for a couple more years. I am very glad that there were survivors and my prayers and our program's concern for all those on that plane is very sincere. We hope that Sean O'Keefe and his son are fine. It is just interesting because it is one of those things you don't plan on. He was hired on the same day I was hired so I just want you to know we are hopeful that he is fine.
"I can tell you that our summer has been productive. I think this team has come back and their percentage body fats are lower and the number of men that made the conditioning test is in the 90's, and it is the first time since I have been here that has happened. There are only a very limited number of big men that showed issue and did not make it. By in far our football team is in great shape and it has showed that way during the summer by the practices we have had.
"I can tell you academically we had a big summer. Our freshman class in 144 hours averaged a 3.47 GPA. We had 13 4.0's, 19 3.5's and 74 guys on our team are above a 3.0 GPA. We really have had a very productive summer coming into the five practices we have had and I can tell you that after our five practices I think we are going to be a good football team.
"The quarterbacks and offense are coming along. Offense always in my opinion comes a little later than defense. Defenses line up and react and the offense is so much more. I think both quarterbacks are so much more experienced in this offense and we are expecting more, and frankly both are competing to start. Certainly Jordan Jefferson is our starter but Jarrett Lee is much improved and gives us another really qualified quarterback. It is the first time in my last two years that we have started the season with a quarterback who has started a season. Both Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson have now started a season and come in basically to their second year playing, so that has certainly been excellent for us.
"I think our offensive line is coming. We have had some hot practices and we have been outside a good portion of our time. I think that those guys up front are really playing better. I think the guy that we moved from the right side and moved to the left side, Joe Barksdale, has really started fast. I think he is going to a postseason honors guy. We do the Big Cat drill, a drill where we go one-on-one, and Joe Barksdale had a dominate outing against some very good defensive ends recently. P.J. Lonergan and T-Bob Hebert both are going to be good at center. I think certainly there is competition there. I think T-Bob is quicker and he is a little bit lighter than he has been, but I think there is going to be some competition there as to who is going to be the starter. I think P.J. is getting better and better and I think the more snaps that he gets he is going to be better there.
"At wide receiver I think Russell Shepard has had a really great summer. He just keeps doing things better and better and I think he is a guy we will have to turn to and see if he makes some plays. Terrence Toliver started fast and so has Rueben Randle. At tight end Deangelo Peterson, Chase Clement, Mitch Joseph and really a number of other guys are going to come to the field. I think we will be talented there.
"Offensively we come out fast and it appears to me that we are going to run the football. I like the stable of running backs we have right now. We haven't had a real tackle scrimmage yet, but that will really separate the tailbacks to see how they are running but I think any of the three guys that we have will be guys we can call on and count on to give us snaps. I like where we are going to be on offense, but we are not there yet. We are not precision yet, but we changing our practice and looking to emphasize a piece of our game in each practice. I think that part of the practice schedule will help us.
"Defensively there is so much speed on that side of the ball it is really a lot of fun to watch them run. Patrick Peterson is a dominant player and we are having a difficult time completing balls on that side of the field. Morris Claiborne is on the other side and he is pretty good too. The linebacker core of Ryan Baker, Stefoin Francois and Kelvin Sheppard are making plays and it looks like they have really improved just even with the summer. Michael Brockers is showing some life inside and is a guy that is pressing to play. He is a 300 pounder who is ready to step on to the field, and he has had a big summer. He is looking forward to a really good year. Our football team on the defensive side is aggressive and they are flying to the ball. Five practices in the defense is supposed to be ahead, and they are.
"On special teams I like our punters and our kickers. Derek Helton is banging the heck out of the ball and Josh Jasper has been right on the money with his placements, so we are good there. I think the rule change in the kickoff return game without having a wedge certainly has affected us early. We are having to change our kickoff returns to develop some schemes and to develop who is executing those positions, but I think it is a great rule change. I think our speed on defense and the speed in our freshmen class means that our special teams are going to be very fast and we will have great coverage units. I think our returners of Morris Claiborne, Russell Shepard,and Ryan Baker are good and we think Patrick Peterson will be as exciting a returner as we have had. We are excited about the special teams.
"The schedule is exciting and I think the reason we have had such a great summer is a complement to our first opponent. We recognize that they are a very good football team and we want to play well in our first game. I think our guys kind of understood that they had to prepare with a purpose, and I think our preparation continues. Today what we have done is practiced five days and now taken a day off our feet and legs today before we do two-a-days tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the start of the remainder of this two-a-day schedule, and one that I think will be very productive."
On the fullbacks ...
"At the fullback spot, if we had to start today, James Stampley would probably be our starter. I think Richard Dugas is certainly the other veteran guy and they are the two guys that know where to go and where to contact. I think there are a number of young guys that we are looking at to factor in there and I think there is some development at that position that needs to take place as we go forwards. That is certainly one of those spots that we are trying some guys and seeing how they work, but there is good competition there and I think we have good enough players.
On the chemistry of the offensive line ...
"I think Joe Barksdale has really worked hard to operate that and recognize that chemistry is a significant issue. Josh Dworaczyk has had a little pneumonia and has missed some practices, but he had a great summer and worked hard at it. I think that group is a great mix between the veterans that know what to expect and the Alex Hurst and Will Blackwell's that are very talented young men that are allowing some of the leadership from those veterans to take place. I think the chemistry is very good and there is a want to be a very physical offensive line. They understand that at times we are not where we were a year ago and their practices have shown that."
On the progression of Jordan Jefferson's leadership ...
"He has to see that the quarterback position is more than just one of eleven guys that just calls the play and runs it. It is different. He has to run the offense, understand what the play is designed to do and how to attack the defense. He has to put some of those young players into position for us and communicate effectively so those players that need a coach on the field can turn to a quarterback and understand. He is getting there and it is a work in progress, but I think he is very accepting of his role. One thing about it, when you have a tough man at quarterback leadership will eventually come to him because he has to be tough. Kicking him in the tail is generally great guidance for a guy that has some tough skin."
On if they will use a two quarterback system ...
"I don't think it's inconceivable that Jarrett Lee would get on the field in a game, in the first game or somewhere down the road. Right now it is not without possibility, but it is not something we are planning on. It would have to be greater execution on Lee's part and maybe if it is a more definitive advantage. I like how he is competing, so at some point in time where it is an advantage to have him in the game we could see that."
On if they are watching rules more closely due to NCAA violations ...
"I don't think there is any question that you have to in today's football. You have to be aware of the NCAA violations, and what we have tried to do with agents is really educate our players. We are much more preventative in a fashion to make sure that certain things that could very accidentally and innocently occur don't happen. We have to make sure they don't and it is something in today's football you have to be aware of and there has to be changes. You can't do it like you did in 1970, you have to recognize that there are these rules. You have to be compliant and we are going to be."
On what ideas Billy Gonzales has brought to the offense ...
"He has really brought a lot of passion and he certainly understands the advantages of his players. He gets the most out of his players, and he is requiring them to be a thinking receiver as well as physical and blocking and catching. His ideas in terms of game plan certainly are fruitful. We are going to use them regularly and routinely, and I think you will find that our receivers will play better because of it."
On Morris Claiborne and teams throwing to his side more often due to Patrick Peterson ...
"He has great foot speed, reaction, ball skills and great hands. With his reaction and coverage abilities he is going to be able to apply coverage to the best receivers. He also has the ability to make great plays. I don't know if it doing to be a great advantage to them to throw it his way. We like our corners, both of them. If you put Ron Brooks in that mix I think he is as capable as any backup I have been around, so I like our corners."
On how Richard Murphy has handled No. 18 ...
"Jacob Hester years ago was the No. 18 and Richard Dickson had 82. As Hester left he turned to Dickson and said he would expect him to wear 18 in a very prideful way and make sure that he played in a way that would represent excellence. Then Richard Dickson turns and gives the responsibility to Richard Murphy to really carry on that tradition, and it is a great thing. That was a decision that was made by Hester and Dickson to offer that jersey to Richard Murphy, and that tells you who Murphy is. Off the field Richard Murphy is a great young man, and on the field they expect him to play with great talent and ability, and make them proud of that number. I think he has had five practices as we would have expected and his health is back. He is fast and elusive with great ball skills, and he is going to be a guy that will compete very well and compete as well on special teams."
On Zach Lee's progress ...
"Zach Lee is much further along in his approach and how he learns than really a number of quarterbacks I have been around. He has a natural framework for understanding the passing game, where his reads should be and where he should go with the ball. He is very athletic and he has a good arm. He is the kind of guy that when he gets strength he will be as good a quarterback as there is. He is just young right now, but when his body matures he will be something special. He is getting the snaps and he is certainly very comfortably our third quarterback. We are planning on him getting a lot of reps and him being a part."
On Michael Ford's progression ...
"He is a guy that is certainly going to get a lot of reps in summer ball to see where he is at and how he runs the football when it is live. That will really mark the position of our running backs. It is all well and good being healthy and ready to roll, but who is the best? Certainly we are going to play that guy. Michael Ford is a great look because he might be the best, we will just have to see."
On how he felt being picked fourth in the SEC West ...
"I have always felt pressured to win, but it has always been something that I bestowed on myself. I have constantly told my team that rankings mean nothing, and you have to earn your position. It makes no difference if you were picked first or fourth, we have to earn our way. Our guys understand that being picked fourth is not a complement. There is an understanding that we need to play and play well."
On the new guys on the defensive line ...
"Sam Montgomery is a defensive end that really plays with intensity and takes it to the field every snap. He looks forward to playing football. I think our fans and people that come into the stadium will realize that he is going to play it like it is supposed to be played. We always saw Michael Brokers as a really capable defensive tackle coming in, and maybe even a defensive end if he lightened up. He is tough and smart and has great potential in a real tall, strong and athletic body. He has done nothing but just get better and better from the first practice he got here. When he steps on the field I think the fans will enjoy watching him as well."
On the competition at safety ...
"I think Brandon Taylor has been there all spring and has played a lot of football back there, so he is really comfortable and making big plays. He is a very physical safety with an ability to cover. I think certainly if you look at the safety spot he is one of those guys you start with first. I think Jai Eugene gives you another very bright guy that understands where he is supposed to be and how to line up and how to communicate. There are also a number of other guys. I think Craig Loston is for the first time starting to get in shape, and I think that as he matures and gets stronger he will get faster and get more confident and capable. He is a guy that learns pretty well. I think Karnell Hatcher is a guy that will play in there. He had a bit of a groin injury through last spring, but now he looks faster and better than he has been. I am not ready to say that one of these freshman safeties might not see the field. Eric Reid is a really bright guy and very fast. We are going to make some long term decisions and put guys who will help us win not only the first couple of games, but also develop and become really capable guys. I think we are good at safety."
On the criticism he received for offering grey shirts to players ...
"I didn't read that article specifically, but I did get bits and pieces. I can tell you that no one is more critical of myself than me. I can tell you the guys I visited with, every one of them will have a scholarship at LSU when we are able to give it to them, and in the short term. Certainly no later than next fall. He can take this time to get in shape and benefit his body to get ready to compete. I think my guys would certainly be disappointed that day, but recognize long term that it is not a bad deal. At the end of the day it is a scholarship until they get their degree. It is scholarship not for that semester, but for their career. It is a very difficult situation and it is not something that I am used to. I realize how hard it is and I was very sensitive to their reactions, and their reactions are justified. I can promise you that the toughest meeting that I have had in a decade is to tell a young guy that in the next couple of months your class is going to take the field, but we would like you to mature your body and allow yourself to compete with advantages later and postpone your enrollment. That was difficult, it wasn't easy. Was it unfair? No, it is hard. It is something you have to do for your team. It is certainly not something that I anticipated in this class."
On if they will use the two tight end formation regularly ...
"I think there will be two tight ends on the field routinely. I think Chase Clement is a guy that is going to be a very good tight end in the future. He and Deangelo Peterson are guys that are both much more physical than guys we have had in the past, and they will have the opportunity to catch balls like receivers. There are advantages to suggest that we might be in that personnel group often.
LSU DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN CHAVIS
"First of all, let me say thanks to everyone for being here. Obviously this is an exciting time for us here at LSU. For me personally, as the years go on and on, you learn a little bit more about yourself. I certainly learned a little bit more about myself this year. My wife and I had a discussion a couple of days ago, and she flew back to Knoxville (Tennessee) on Monday to spend some time with the boys and she said, 'You know what? This is really a neat situation because during two-a-days or during fall camps, you are the most griping and ornery individual I've ever been around.' I didn't know that. I thought I was a nice guy. It makes it good for her to get away. She said, 'I've got an opportunity to get away. You better go do your job and do it well. We'll be back before the first game.' You learn a little bit more about yourself every year that you're in this business.
"Let me tell you this. Last year was a great experience being in a program like LSU. There's no question, and you can see by the media that is here and the coverage that we get, you know the program. You know the program as well as I do because you've covered it longer than I've been here, but I've not been disappointed one single second that I've been at LSU. It's a quality program. I came here last year, and we found a group of young men that were willing to work and work hard. I tell you this. I don't think anybody in the country prepares you any better. I don't think anybody in the country works any harder than our young men right here. I think (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Tommy Moffitt is the best in the business. We have a squad right now that is in great condition. He's done a great job with them here in the offseason. We've got some freshmen that were here last year that you would not recognize. They've changed their bodies during the time they've been here. They're mature. They're ready to step in there and give us some playing time, and we are going to need that. From that standpoint, it's great.
"On our defensive staff, (Defensive Backs coach) Ron Cooper does a great job with the secondary. This is our second year together, and obviously it's a lot easier for us to communicate. The more you've been together, the easier it is, and last year was really a transition deal for me because I had not had a change on the defensive staff in the nine previous years. I had a couple of guys who had been together for nine years. You knew the walk; you knew the talk. Now we are more comfortable together. (Defensive Line Coach) Brick Haley does a great job, he and Joe Rob (Robinson) with our (defensive) front. I'm certainly excited about this defensive staff, but it's all about players. It's all about players and guys who can make plays. Let me tell you this. Depending on how you look at it, and I'm not a big spin guy. People who know me know that I'm going to put it out there. I'm going to tell you what I think. I'm going to tell you what I believe. I'm not a big spin guy, but depending on how you look at it, we have seven or eight guys that we have to replace. We've got seven or eight starters that we have to replace. I've been there, done that. Let me tell you the advantage that we have. We have talent. We are inexperienced, and we are very young when you start looking at the number of juniors and the number of seniors that we have. You are going to find out that this defense is going to be a lot of sophomores and a lot of freshmen, and that doesn't put any fear in me because I love coaching a young football team that's aggressive, a young football team that's eager to make a name for itself or themselves - each individual and then us as a team.
"We certainly have talent. We have a lot of work to do, but I like our position right now. I like the conditioning of our team. I like the mentality. A lot of what you get done has to do with attitude, and that's one of the things I learned when I got here - attitude was not lacking here at LSU and in this program. They understand how to train. They understand to work hard. They understand how to prepare, so that's an exciting situation to be in. Five days of practice, and certainly when you look at the acclimation period that we go through now, it's a little bit different. Certainly the people that make the rules in the NCAA, they've studied it, and they've looked at it. It certainly makes it hard to coach football in helmets. You certainly can make one evaluation, and it may change when they put those pads on. Certainly it's been a good period. It gives you an opportunity to learn. It gives you an opportunity to ease your young people in it. In the five days that we've had to practice, I see a football team right now defensively that's starting to come together, there's no doubt about that.
"What I'd like to do is just kind of go through the positions and kind of talk a little bit about our people there. Up front, obviously we lost some good people there that have to be replaced. Some guys are coming back that have some playing time, but there are some guys who are being pushed. Just because they played last year doesn't mean that they are going to inherit that starting position. There's some competition there. I really like what we've got going on at defensive end. Obviously we're bring back Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere that had played a good bit of football last year. We've got a couple of newcomers. They are actually three guys that you will here a lot about at defensive end. Ken Adams is a junior college transfer that in a short period of time changed his body. He looks totally different than the way he did when he got here. If you haven't seen him yet, you will be impressed when you do see him. He's a guy that is really coming on for us. 'Keke' Mingo is a young, talented guy that we redshirted last year. He played a little bit of linebacker. We decided that he was a guy that we needed to play defensive end. We feel like he's going to be a guy that is going to give us a speed rush and give us the speed that we missed a little bit at that position last year. He's a guy that's growing and maturing. He's only going to get better and better. Realize that he's only a redshirt freshman.
"Sam Montgomery I think kind of got his name out there this spring. He had a great, great spring. He's picked up right where he left off at spring practice, and certainly we're expecting Sam to give us a lot of play. Again, if you asked me who was going to start today, I could tell you who we were to start if we were playing tomorrow, but that could change. We have great competition there, and competition is going to make us better. It's going to make us better. Inside, we are returning Drake Nevis, and let me tell you. I'm not singling anybody out, but Drake as a leader and as a young man is everything you look for. When you go to the practice field and he goes to the practice field, you know you are going to get his very best everyday. He's a great role model for our young guys to emulate. If they can be like Drake and work like Drake and be productive like Drake, then we can have an exciting football team. Pep Levingston was a defensive end last year and played really well for us outside, but our intent was to get more speed onto the field. We asked him to put on a few pounds and to move inside, and I'll tell you he's done a very good job there, so we are excited where Pep is.
"A name that you are going to hear and sometimes I hesitate as a coach, and I've been in the business for a long time and in the SEC for a long time, and I hesitate to say too much too early, particularly with young players, but Michael Brockers is a name that you are going to want to know. Certainly he's never played a down in the SEC, and we've got to get him through fall camp and get him to the field and let him be productive there, but based on what we've seen right now, you're talking about a young man that we are really getting excited about. I think he has a big upside. He's a big body. He really moves well. He's really smart, and he's going to be a productive player for us. Again, if I was looking for names that I wanted to remember that we've never heard before in terms of playing at LSU, Michael Brockers would be one of those guys that I'd have in the back of my mind. Josh Downs, who played for us some last year as a true freshman, is having a very productive fall camp for the first five days, and two of the names I'll mention are Bennie Logan and Chris Davenport. Both of those guys need to come on because it's going to be very important for us as we go through a tough SEC season and open up with four games and a non-conference opponent - two of them being teams ranked in the top 20 - so we need to get out of the gate, particularly defensively. We need to get out of the gate. As usual, the schedule is going to be challenging, and we look forward to that. That's the way it should be. It's going to be an opportunity for us and an opportunity for our young defense.
"In the secondary, we bring some guys back that certainly have played well around here. With Patrick Peterson, I could talk all day about Pat. He did a great job for us last year and certainly the year before. We anticipate him having an outstanding year. Patrick probably without making comparisons, it would be easy for me to say that he's as good and has opportunity to keep growing as anybody I've been around. Obviously, he has all the tools. He has the mentality. He's a great cover guy, but that doesn't mean he can't tackle and he can't hit because he covers so well. He's got the entire package, and he's about 220 pounds, probably the biggest corner that I've had the opportunity to play with. Certainly, as I've said I could talk all day about Pat and his possibilities. A name that you had a chance to see last year is Morris Claiborne. He's another guy that we feel very comfortable with at the other corner. He gives us an opportunity to do some things a little different. He's a guy that's growing. He's a guy that has excellent talent. I'm excited about him. Brandon Taylor did a super job for us last year at safety, and he's going to be our quarterback back there. We've got to have someone back there with the knowledge of the defense, get us in the right checks, make sure the right things are happening for us, and he certainly gives us that. Jai Eugene, Craig Loston and Karnell Hatcher are all in the mix, and if you asked here today who the starting safeties would be, I'd say right now if they're all healthy, Brandon Taylor would be one and the rest would be in that battle. There's a battle for that other starting position, and everybody will have that opportunity.
"A couple of guys that you may see at corner are Ron Brooks, and certainly on our nickel and dime situation, he'll be in the game. There's no question about that. Ron has had a very productive fall camp thus far and had a great spring. Some young guys in the secondary who catch your eye, and this is a name that I'm going to tell you that you need to know is Tyrann Mathieu. Really, in the five days that he's been here, I think he's caught everybody's eye. He's a guy that we expect to grow and a guy that we expect probably to play some as a freshman. Certainly he is very talented. Eric Reid and Ronnie Vinson are guys who will have an opportunity, and they've shown that already that they maybe can be ready, and we are going to expect to create some depth with those guys and try to get them ready.
"When you go through an SEC season, you better have five defensive ends who can play. You better have five or six defensive tackles who can play because those guys are going to get knocked around a little bit. It's physical in there, and you are going to have some nicks as the year goes on, but you better have six guys that are ready to play.
"I haven't talked about linebackers yet. Let me tell you. Again, like I've said, we've lost a bunch of starters. We lost three fine linebackers. There's no question about that, but we are bringing a good core back. Kelvin Sheppard is a great leader, and he's a great centerpiece to build around. As long as I've coached this game, I don't know that I've coached a young man smarter than Kelvin Sheppard. He absolutely knows the game inside and out. I tell you what. I could walk out today, and he could take them and coach them as well as I can. There's no question about that. He understands the game, and as a coach, that's what you try to get them all to do, understand the game and concepts. He can talk the talk, and he can walk the walk. There's no doubt about it. Certainly when you look at how productive he was last year, and we asked him to do something last year that I've never asked anyone to do. He played all three positions. We had four linebackers that I thought were capable of being starters in the SEC, and to make that work out, we asked Kelvin to play all three positions, and every single series he was at every position. I've never done that before, but he was able to handle that and do it well. He was productive at outside linebacker - Sam or Will - and he was productive at inside linebacker. We're hoping that we can keep him at the Mike linebacker spot. I think he's more of a natural Mike with great speed for a Mike. Now, if we get in a situation and we have some injuries, he's flexible enough where we can move him around.
"Ryan Baker is really, really coming on. We're talking about a guy who is very talented and a guy who has the speed, size and strength, and certainly as he grows, he's got the potential to be an outstanding linebacker. Stefoin Francois has really given us some depth, and if we started today, he would be our starter at Sam linebacker. When you start looking at it, Kevin Minter had a really, really good spring, and it really benefitted him two years ago by being a mid-year guy that came in and took advantage of that first spring practice, so he's a little bit further along than some of those guys. Lamin Barrow is another guy who will provide depth. His flexibility and the fact that he can play Will or Mike gives him an opportunity to get on the field a lot quicker. Of the newcomers that we have at that position, Luke Muncie is a guy that in the five days that we've had him on the field has shown us that he has the talent that we thought he did. Obviously there's a lot of things that he's going to have to learn before he's going to be ready to play at that position. It's a very, very physical position, but certainly he's a guy that can get ready. D.J. Welter is another guy that's going to be in that mix. Because of our depth at linebacker, we probably are going to look for those guys to give us some play as freshmen, and they certainly will have an opportunity to earn that playing time on the field."
On rushing the passer...
"I think we made a commitment even last year in terms of speed, and I think when you look at philosophy, the easiest thing to do is say this, and this is basically our philosophy on defense. We're going to stop the run with numbers. We are going to get more people in the box than they can block. We are going to rush the passer with speed and when you start looking at a couple of those young defensive ends like Sam Montgomery and KeKe Mingo, then certainly you're talking about speed. It's amazing when you look at those guys, and you watch them run sprints, and they are running side-by-side, and you look at the times they're running, both of those guys are faster than almost everyone of our linebackers. We are talking about guys who are legitimate 4.5 (40-yard dash) guys, so we've got some speed there now. That's going to be a benefit for us, and certainly rushing the passer is something that we've got to do better. Another thing that we've got to do better is turnovers. When you start looking at the biggest impact that we can have as a defensive football team is turnovers. We are not very happy with where we were. We were so-so. We were very average. We were the worst of the best and maybe the best of the worst in that category, and that's not good enough. If you are going to win championships, and that's the culture here - we expect to win championships here - the one stat that you are going to have to win is the turnover ratio. We can do something about that on defense, and it's an area that we have got to grow in."
On Morris Claiborne taking pressure off Patrick Peterson...
"We had a chance to see him in practice, and let me say this. When we are competing in practice, there may be one or two exceptions, but we are competing against guys that are going to be just as good as the ones we are playing against. That's one of things about being at LSU and at a championship program that you're competing against guys as good or better than the ones you are going to be competing against, so the practice that he had in the spring, the practice that he's getting right now, he's shown that in practice. That's the way you are going to earn your playing time, and that's the way you are going to earn your respect, and certainly we feel very, very confident that he's talented enough because quite frankly, he's shown us that in practice. He's shown that he can be a lockdown corner. He's shown that he can handle the pressure of being to the field if we decide to put Pat in the boundary, which we will probably do from time to time."
On if he will be simplifying his scheme with so many young players...
"We've talked about that and had that discussion. Let me tell you when you go back and just to let you know what we are doing in the offseason, there's not anything that we don't try to break down and study. One of the common factors that we found was last year when we gave up big plays was either one or two things. We either had a player who didn't quite understand what we were asking him to do, or we didn't do a great job in terms of fundamentally from a tackling standpoint, and we weren't a bad tackling team. That's not what I'm saying. Everybody is going to miss some tackles, but those are areas we are going to clean up and be better at, but in growing, we feel where we are right now, we are already further along than we were last year coming in putting in a new scheme. Obviously when you start talking about incorporating freshmen, we're not going to put them out there and ask them to do things that they can't do, but certainly there are some things that they can do that will help us to be a better football team, but the guys who were here last year that were exposed to what we were doing, they're ready. We're further along right now scheme-wise than we were last year."
On the enthusiasm of the young players...
"Football is a very emotional game. Obviously you start playing and the pads are popping, you can take some of the emotion out, but certainly it's a game that you have to play with a lot of emotion, enthusiasm and a love for the game, so it's always important. Not that older teams get tired of playing or anything like that, but we have a bunch of young guys who feel they have to prove something, and that's the situation you like. There's a lot of competition going on. People are fighting, and the beauty of the situation is that some of those older guys have taken those younger guys by the hand, and they're teaching them, and they are working with them, knowing that you've only got one choice. You've got to get better, or he's going to take your spot. Again, the youth is always exciting. They are excited to play, and not that our older guys aren't because they are too, but I love being around a young football team that is eager. This football team is eager. We are in great condition. It's just a matter of getting the kind of work that we need to do, and we're going to have to be smart as we go through fall camp. We are going to have to be smart and do some physical work. Hopefully we can keep them all healthy for the first game, and if we can do that, I think we'll be pretty excited about what we're able to put out there."
On Stefoin Francois...
"It gives us the flexibility in terms of not having to play a lot of nickel, and that's something that we've not done in the past. Having Stefoin in that situation is always a plus because we play a great deal of man-to-man. We get our linebackers at some point in time matched up against slot receivers. We try to keep them out of that position as much as we can, but obviously when we play our base scheme, it's like most people when they play a nickel scheme. It gives us that flexibility. We feel very comfortable with him out there and also the speed for our blitz package, it gives us a guy that turns the corner and gets there a lot quicker. Any time you can put speed on the field, I think you are at a big advantage defensively. That was our goal, and certainly I think we had a really fast defense last year. As a matter of fact, some people thought we were one of the fastest defenses around. I think this defense has a chance to be even faster."
On the lack of fumble recoveries last year despite forcing many and if he's looked at the Saints' opportunistic defense from a year ago...
"Coach Miles really has taken the lead because that is a big, important stat, and yes, we look at what other people have done. When you start looking at the Saints and their numbers and go back and look at their defensive numbers the year before, there was a little bit of a difference there but other places, not a big difference. The thing that they were was they were excited about it. They did a great job. They did a better job than anyone in the country, and let me tell you this about (Saints' Defensive Coordinator) Gregg Williams. I think he is the best in the business. There's no question about that. He's brought that to that program. We are being more aggressive in practice. The offense has to give a little bit for us to do that to really strip and work those kind of drills and work them live, you have to have an offense that is willing to tolerate that to be honest with you. It's a little bit disruptive, but we certainly think the benefit is there to do that, and Coach Miles, as I've said, is taking the lead on that. We keep up with that everyday. We chart it just like we do everything. We reward our guys for strip attempts, and there is a big emphasis on that. Obviously the Saints did a great job, and if we could come close to duplicating that, we'd all be happy, but we're certainly working on it."
On getting off the field more on third down...
"I think that's a good point. You mentioned third down, and I always have these stats because I knew someone would ask me about third down today. There was someone several years ago, and he couldn't find a lot to be critical of, so he wanted to be critical of our third down production. That's fine. Let me just tell you where we are. I want to be the very best, but when you look at where we are in terms of third down, we finished the season at 63.2 percent total on third downs. Our goal is 70 percent. If we finish at 70 percent on third down, then we're going to finish probably at the top of the league. There's no question about that. The opportunity is there, and I'm going to give you some other stats. The opportunity is there to improve our football team by getting off the field on third down. It's always there by the last question - turnovers and giving our offense the short end of the field so they can go score. We want to improve there, but my point is this. When you start looking at it, we had 205 opportunities on third down. Nobody else in the league put their opponents in third down situations that often, so we want to improve. We want to get off the field. If we have that opportunity, then we need to take advantage of it.
"Let me tell you where we kind of came up short on third down. It wasn't third and long. We finished at 75 percent. When I say third and long, we are talking about six or more yards. That's pretty good. Eighty percent is going to put you in the top of the country, so we can improve a little bit there. Where we didn't was third and short. We need to improve our third and short and then our third and medium, three to six yards. We were not very good in that area, and that's an area that we are going to focus on. When you start talking about third and three to six or four or five yards, there a lot of things that can happen. You've got to be able to handle a lot of situations, and that will be an area that we definitely improve, but to go back an answer your question, yes third down is a big down. We chart it. We chart first down. First down is a big down because if we get them in a bad situation on first down, then we set second down up and third down is a lot easier. The longer the situation, the advantage goes to the defense. We absolutely have to get off the field whether it's three downs and out, and that's the key. Three downs and out or turnovers are what we're working for, and we're trying to make that our emphasis with our players. Great defenses are going to do that. We'd like to come away with five or six three and outs and three takeaways. If we could come away six because that's what we tell our players, we have six three and outs and three takeaways, that's nine possessions in a game. Most games right now are over 13 possessions. That's four other possessions where they're going to either gain a first down, or they are going to move the football a little bit. Ideally, if we could do that, I guarantee you we will be playing championship football, and that's our goal. That's what we need to improve."
On Chris Davenport and the youth on the defense...
"We are going to give all those guys a chance, and certainly they will earn that on the field. That's a big part of what practice is all about. There's no doubt, and the guys I mentioned will have an opportunity. The depth chart is not going to stay the same. If I came in here and you said to tell you the one guy who you know was going to start if he was healthy, I can tell you Patrick Peterson is going to be a starter for us. I think Kelvin Sheppard is going to be a starter for us. I think anywhere else there's competition. That competition is going to make us better. As far as the size, Michael Brockers is a 300-pounder that I guarantee you'll be impressed with. We've got enough size inside that we're going to be able to hold the point and get done what we need to get done there. Certainly Chris Davenport is not out of the mix. We are talking about playing six tackles, and we are pushing hard for him to come to the front. I hope he does. He has ability. He's still got a ways to go yet, and coach Haley is working with him everyday, but he's a guy that we have not given up on. We need to get him ready to play for us. He needs to be a force for us. At linebacker, I mentioned those three guys that will probably right now if we started tomorrow, it would be Baker, Sheppard and Stefoin. Tahj Jones is a guy who is getting ready to play. I think Kevin Minter is ready to play. I think Lamin Barrow would be the next guy, so those would probably be the next three right now, but we've got three freshmen and another guy or two that's going to push them a little bit, so we'll see how it shakes out. We are not afraid to start a freshmen. You're not going to win championships if you're starting a whole bunch of freshmen, and I'm not going to tell you that there is going to be any freshmen starting, but if a guy comes to the front, that's what we want to happen. We're going to give him that opportunity and certainly if he can work his way to the front and make us a better football team, that's what we're looking for. I guarantee you we have four or five tackles that can give us the kind of size we need to stop the run."
On if Kelvin Sheppard can play a role similar to former Alabama LB Rolando McClain...
"There's no doubt, and Kelvin did last year really. He'll make a bunch of calls for us upfront. He did last year. He's one of the smartest players that I've had an opportunity to coach. He understands the game, and not only because he's a smart player but he's very talented too, so there's no doubt he will mean every bit as much as the guy that you mentioned."
On what kind of advantage it is having an extra coach on the field...
"It happens in practice. It gives everybody an opportunity. Certain things that he (Sheppard) can see that we've recognized and certain things that he can communicate with the rest of the time, and most of the time he's right. It's not 100 percent, but things he can communicate that will give the defense an advantage on defense on run or pass or direction of the play, those things are all big for us. A lot of people you get into without getting too far, receivers split things that they do that give away what you can expect them to do. He recognizes those things right away, and he makes those calls for us, and it's great to have somebody like that."
On what the athleticism on defense allows him to do that he couldn't last year...
"The thing that we've talked about in the offseason and we're working toward right now is being a bit more aggressive. That's not to say that we weren't aggressive at times last year. I'm going to see how many of you remember the first third down that we were in last year. We blitzed, we brought eight guys, and we had a guy designated to fill it out and play the screen, and he didn't quite get there or understand the technique. On the first third down, we were going to kill the quarterback, and we didn't play the technique well enough, and they end up getting about a 40- or 50-yard gain and end up getting a touchdown. When those things happen, it makes it a little more difficult to put your defense in that situation, but I think that we are going to be a lot more ready for those situations. We had the same call later on in the season, and believe it or not, the team threw the exact same screen that they did in the Washington game, and we made the play. The speed will give us that advantage, and we feel really good about our cover guys. We have to execute because there are things that people can do to get you out of practice, so you have to be able to play the screens well. You have to be able to recognize those things because if you don't you are going to run yourself out of plays. We want to be aggressive. There's no doubt about that. That's more of my temperament. That's more who I am, but I'm not going to blitz just to blitz. We are going to have to know what we are doing. We are going to have to make plays when we do blitz, but I enjoy blitzing. Our players do too, and certainly we will not blitz because we don't have the personnel to do it. We do have the personnel to do it."
On former safety Chad Jones...
"I haven't talked to him recently. Let me say this. Any time you get an injury, you have a guy you look at right there that is very talented. He seems to have a great, great, great future ahead of him, and it lets us know this. Things can be cut short in a hurry. Thank God that he's alive. I don't know that you know how close he was to not. It was a very serious injury. Hopefully he'll have a full recovery. I don't know what the prognosis is right now. It tears your heart out. It tears your heart out for anybody, but can you imagine him and his future and how he feels, but can you imagine his mom and dad when you have a child that has that? My prayers are with he and his family everyday, but those things can happen to us, and it can happen to any of us at any time. My hopes are that he'll have a full recovery."
On what he has seen from the three quarterbacks from a defensive coordinator's standpoint...
"The thing that happens as you go through that learning curve, the first couple of days things are quite easy, and then, it gets more complicated because of the reads and everything, but let me tell you. Talent is there. I don't want to evaluate our quarterbacks other than to say they are moving quite fast. They are making decisions fast. They are finding the places to get the ball, which is going to make us better. I know this; we play against them in practice, and it's a challenge for us. Certainly as a young quarterback it takes awhile to be able to develop and adjust to the speed. If you asked Zach (Lee) this, he would tell you that that is the biggest challenge. When he was in high school, there was one or two guys that could make those plays, but now there are 11 guys who can make those plays. I think the future looks good at quarterback for LSU, and we all feel very confident in that."
On if he had to make any sacrifices to get more speed on the field...
"There is no doubt, and let me say this. You don't have to be a 300-pounder to be a great player in the SEC. As a matter of fact, I think you will find most of the guys are not. There is a premium on speed. I said earlier that our philosophy is that we are going to stop the run with numbers. We try to get unblocked players in the box. We are going to load the box. We are going to do those things, and what it does is force you to put your corners on an island. They've got to be able to play man-to-man, and that's where you have to be able to hold up. As long as we can hold up outside, I have no concerns about what we have inside. I do think that we have some people that can hold the point, match up and play SEC football. There's no question this defense is as big and strong as any I've been around and maybe as fast as fast as any I've had."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GARY CROWTON
Opening Statement ...
"It's an exciting time of the year. I've been looking forward to this year to start and I'm excited about the team and the schedule. I'm looking forward to getting right back out there and having a really good year. Looking at the offensive team, there are a lot of things happening to our offense that I feel comfortable about. We have two quarterbacks that have both started in a season. Both have game experience on the road, in our league and at home. They both have their ups and downs as players and are very anxious to get after it, learn and get better. It has been a very excitingr first round of practices that we've had through this first week."
"At our tight end position everybody is back but Richard Dickson. There were lot of times where Richard was a little beat up last year. We've got Deangelo Peterson who made some big plays in the Alabama game back, we've got Mitch Joseph who's back, and then we're excited about Chase Clement who we've moved over from defense. Clement had a pretty good spring and a pretty good fall camp. He's a good blocker who can catch, so we feel pretty good about that position from those guys who have all been in the program for a while."
"On our offensive line we had to move some guys around a little bit. We actually moved Joe Barksdale to the left tackle position where Ciron Black was. We moved Alex Hurst to right tackle and he's really having a good fall camp. Will Blackwell has been playing as our right guard. We have two centers that have both played in T-Bob Hebert and P.J. Lonergan. They have both played in meaningful games and both are really young players. P.J. started a couple of games when T-Bob got hurt, and they've been battling right there. P.J. has the upper hand right now and T-Bob is right behind him, so that's good. Our left guard is back with Josh Dworaczyk. This will be his second year as a starter; he's improved and gotten a little bigger and stronger. So we're in pretty good shape right there."
"Running backs -- Richard Murphy is back. He was injured early in the season last year. (Stevan) Ridley who played a little at the end of year is back. Michael Ford who had a real good spring is also in there battling. Those are the three guys who have been around the program, and then we've got three good freshmen coming that are working hard right there."
"Receiver wise, with Terrence Toliver we want him to be the leader of that receiving core. He will be a senior. We're very happy with Russell Shepard as the inside receiver where Brandon LaFell was and he's done some really good things. He has really worked hard and is really getting the feel for that position, and I think that he will get better and better. Then Rueben Randle is back in the other position, him and Chris Tolliver. Then there are some younger guys who will be battling for the next spots in that area. That's kind of an overview of it."
"We felt that we didn't get enough plays last year. I looked at the average plays and we averaged about 58 plays a game. There are a couple of reasons for that. We feel that we can quicken up the way we call things. We're trying to get Jordan Jefferson to be faster at getting a play from the sideline, communicating, and getting that snap count, so the clocks not running down to five-four-three-two-one snap. Then we're trying to do some things in third down. First of all you have to be good on first and second down so your third downs you have smaller yards to gain. But I like what we're doing in there and we've got a few little wrinkles that we haven't shown in the past, and hopefully those things will help us. If we get more plays, if we can get at least 10 to 15 more plays a game, that will really help us offensively with controlling the clock and obviously yards and points and that's the stuff we want to get too. So that's been a good thing."
On the quarterback competition between Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, and how it pushes Jefferson to be better
"Like I've said, both of them have played in games, both of them have played as young players, both of them did some real good things and both of them made some mistakes also. They feel it. They feel the excitement for coming back for the year and having an opportunity to play in this league, and being the quarterback for this football team. But they both also felt what it's like to make errors. They know, they felt media pressure, they felt fan pressure and they felt coaches pressure. They know they've got to get better and get good at that position because it is a position everyone is looking at right off the bat on the field on the offensive side. With that in mind, the work ethic they had in the summer was much better. They were able to organize their schedules well, do their scripts well, all those things that coaches can't do anymore, those guys were able to do it and get the guys going around them. Obviously as coaches you want them to always do it better and better, but I felt there was much improvement there. I like that they were both competing against each other. Jarrett Lee, he's kind of a man on a mission, he's got things to prove because of the errors he made as a freshman. I think he has settled down a little bit, matured, and he's putting the pressure on Jordan. It's good for Jordan to feel that somebody is right there. It makes you work hard because there is nothing like competition. I think with both of those guys wanting to get back on the field proves something. I think that competition is very good and very healthy."
On WR coach Billy Gonzales and what he's done for the offense
"Well Billy and I have known each other for a while. We both played in Colorado State and we both have very similar philosophy with the passing game. We work very well together. Billy is a very detailed young man that knows how to get a lot out of his players. He knows the passing game in and out, so the little detail things that he does I feel like will help us become a little bit sharper. I think our rhythm will be better, and the confidence level between the quarterback and the receiver will be a little bit stronger. Thus it should give the receivers a little bit of a chance to catch the ball and have run after catch, rather than catch the ball a little bit late and sometimes get hit and not have as much run after catch as we would like. Just because of how Billy and I work together will transfer over to the quarterbacks and receivers. And I've been very happy with that."
On relationship between Gonzales and Crowton
"I really enjoy him and when I first got here. He (Gonzales) was one of the first guys we tried to get back when I first came here in 2007, and he was unable to leave the position that he had at that time. I've known him for a lot of years through Colorado State and also when I was BYU and he was at Utah. He and I have had a lot of time to talk about football even before we got together on the same coaching staff. It was really nice to have him here. He's got a great family, we get along great, I really enjoy working with him and hopefully it will work out in how we play this year."
On what Jefferson needs to do to become the unquestionable starter at QB
"From a leadership standpoint, quarterbacks need to understand the offense, understand the game and understand the situations. I think having a year under his belt as a starter is something that will really help him in leadership. As far as what he needs to do to get better, as a quarterback we're working on all sorts of things. We're working on his accuracy and we're working on keeping his feet up underneath him. When he becomes a ball carrier as a runner, we're trying to get him to go vertical, not go out of bounds and get down so he doesn't take big hits. We're working on a lot of those things that will keep him in the game, but at the same time will help move the chains and get us yards. He's really worked hard on his reads, understanding coverage and where to go with the football. That should get the ball out of his hands a little bit quicker. When the ball is out of his hands a little bit quicker, you don't have to protect as long and it helps everybody. It helps the line protection, it helps the receivers when they catch the ball to run after catch and you're just moving the ball all the time. I think those things are where he's worked really hard on and is making progress, and we hope to see him continue making progress through the rest of fall camp and into the season."
On the effects of having three new coaches on the offensive staff
"It seems like every year we've had a couple new coaches, but I like the staff and I like the chemistry of the room. We have experience in there. Steve Ensminger is an experienced coach. He's been around and we've been in similar places. We've both been at Louisiana Tech. When I was the head coach there he was at Texas A&M and we used to play them every year, so I've been very familiar with him. He's very familiar with Louisiana and the recruiting area. I like what he brings to the room from that standpoint. He's a good guy, fun guy, good to work with, very knowledgeable and voices his opinions. He works well with rest of the staff and gets good conversations started. Frank Wilson is local, being from New Orleans, he's been around this league and he's got some experience on some of the other programs. He knows a lot of the coordinators and some of the players around the league from being at Tennessee and Ole Miss. I think those things right there adds to the room and they're (Ensminger and Wilson) are good people to be around. Both have one focus on football and that is to win, and so that is good along with coach Gonzales who I've already talked about. I like that chemistry. The chemistry is always important for the team and the coaching staff, and right now I feel real good chemistry. It makes me real excited for the season."
On Zach Lee compared to other freshman quarterbacks
"Zach is a very hard worker and he really prepared himself coming into this fall. Right after he signed I was sending him information via email, he studied it, he knew it when he got here, he had questions about it and that was very impressive. He's got a good work ethic, a strong arm, his understanding of the game is very impressive at this point and I feel very excited about him. As far as quarterback ready, I think anybody who has as good of a background like he does, is a hard worker like he is, has physical talent and size like he does, it gives you a chance to help in the program as quickly as he can put it all together. From that stand point he is probably maybe a little ahead of some of the guys that have been here in the past. It's hard to tell because we're only six or seven days into practices, but my early feeling has been very positive and I think he is going to get better and better. I think he has a good feel for the game and I like that."
On the impact the changes along the offensive line will have on the team
"Barskdale practiced at both tackles last year in case something was to happen. He's been around that position (left tackle) and it's the same position, just on the other side. Because he had a spring to worry about getting into the left stance on the left side instead of the right stance on the right side, he has been able to work on that adjustment all summer. I feel that he is solid as can be coming back on that left side as he was on the right side. Being a two year starter I feel he is strong with that. I think that Dworaczyk as a second year starter is strong. T-Bob (Hebert) and P.J. (Lonergan) have experience from last year, with P.J. starting in two games last season and playing a lot, not just at the end of the game but with good competition. I feel very comfortable in that. On the right side, Will Blackwell was one of the youngest players and played well. Alex Hurst played a lot last year at right guard and he will be a new guy there, but he's shown a lot of promise, athleticism, intelligence and size. I'm feeling like he's going to be a good one for a long time. Again it's early, with those linemen it's always hard to tell. They take a pounding every play, but right now it's been very positive. I'm pretty optimistic about the front right now with the line. They are healthy right now. T-Bob is the guy coming off of an injury and he's rehabbed for it really well, and he was coming off a knee injury a year before, so his knee is all the way better."
On Michael Ford's potential
"Michael Ford in the spring was hard to tackle, had speed, had the ability to break a play and maybe take it for a long ways. He's very explosive, I think he had a 40 inch vertical jump that shows his explosion and power. From a physical standpoint, that strength, explosion and speed show a lot of upside for him. He just needs to get a feel for the game and the league. It's a good feeling to have him there knowing that there is some depth. He's got a chance to keep battling in there and see what happens when we get to our league play. I have a very positive feeling about Ford."
On the approach of the quarterbacks for the upcoming season
"You always have to do what's best for the team. We're in one of those leagues where you have to be careful with that football, but at the same time we want to be aggressive offensively. I know the personnel very well, and when Jarrett (Lee) was first playing I wasn't sure what he could and couldn't do. I know what he can do now and the same with Jordan (Jefferson). Some of it was experimenting, wondering how much drop back, how much deep throws, how much sprint out, and now I know those guys pretty good. With their strengths I can be pretty aggressive. I want to be aggressive with their strengths and stay away from their weaknesses, and that is what I want to do as a play caller."
On Richard Murphy
"Richard Murphy has always been a really good player for us. He's been behind a couple guys who have been a couple years older than him and he's made a lot of plays when he's come in. I expect him to continue doing that. He is healthy now. I feel like he can catch, run the ball, has understanding and has intelligence. He's working all the time on his running the football. His knee is better. I really like that experience in that area. I don't know whether he is going to be a starter or not."