Miles, who comes to Baton Rouge from Oklahoma State, admits he inherited a good situation after former coach Nick Saban skipped town for a new job as head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
“The feeling of great expectations are enjoyed,” Miles says. “The fact we have some talent, the fact that this football team comes in expecting to achieve, certainly that’s what we want. That’s what any coach would want so I have to enjoy that.”
LSU won the national title two years ago and was favored by many to repeat as SEC champions in 2004, but divisional opponent Auburn posted a 13-0 record and took the conference title while LSU finished 9-3.
“Nine wins isn’t bad, but after what we did the year before we aren’t satisfied with nine wins,” says talented tackle Kyle Williams, who is expected to be the anchor of what should be a strong defensive line. “We have very high expectations for this team.”
Miles says that having his players believe they are good is a plus in his new assignment. “I don’t have to convince anybody,” he notes. “We understand that if we do the things we are capable of doing that we have a chance to have a special season.”
Jimbo Fisher, the former quarterback coach at Auburn, worked as offensive coordinator for Saban last season. He stayed behind in Baton Rouge and is being counted on to find a consistent quarterback who can lead the Tigers on a championship run.
Sophomore JaMarcus Russell completed 73-144 passes for 1,053 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions while sharing the QB duties with Marcus Randall, who was a senior. However, Russell has not been able to win the starting job yet with a challenge coming from sophomore Matt Flynn, who played briefly last year. Flynn completed 4-10 passes for 99 yards with one TD.
A wildcard in the quarterback mix is highly recruited incoming freshman Ryan Perilloux from East St. John High in Reserve, La., who has boldly predicted that he will be the starting job. It’s a good bet he will be one of the top three QBs on campus this year because there are only three on scholarship.
“The competition is JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn to start,” Miles states. “We’ll let them come in in two-a-days and compete and they will get the first opportunities.” Miles adds that Perilloux will get his shot, too, but says the “older guys have the advantage” because they are experienced in Fisher’s system.
Miles says he is impressed with the talent he inherited at tailback with a quartet of players expected to carry the football this year. Those players have combined for 4,792 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns. Junior Alley Broussard led the team in rushing last year with 867 yards and 10 touchdowns on 142 carries.
Senior Joseph Addai added 680 yards, junior Justin Vincent rushed for 322 and senior Shyrone Carey netted 112.
Skyler Green should be a double-threat as a receiver and return man. He was voted the top return specialist on the preseason all-conference team selected at the 2005 SEC Media Days.
The other strength on offense, Miles says, should be the receiver corps led by junior Craig Davis, who caught 43 balls for 659 yards. Dwayne Bowe caught 39 for 597 yards and led LSU in TD receptions with five. Despite playing with injuries, senior Skyler Green caught 24 passes for 219 yards. Early Doucet, a sophomore, caught 18 passes for 257 yards and sophomore Xavier Carter is a speedster who had five caches for 118 yards.
Defensively, 6-4, 237 middle linebacker Cameron Vaughn is a key along with tackles Williams, a 6-4, 295 senior, and Claude Wroten, a 6-3, 293 senior. Vaughn was in on 63 tackles last season. Williams had 57 tackles with six sacks and Wroten had 44 tackles with six sacks.
Strong safety Jessie Daniels, a 5-11, 200 junior, and free safety LaRon Landry, a 6-2, 187 junior, are among LSU’s best players. Daniels was busy last year with 64 tackles plus three interceptions and Landry was really busy with 92 stops and four interceptions.
New defensive coordinator Bo Pelini is shown in spring practice in Baton Rouge.
Miles hired the co-defensive coordinator from in-state rival Oklahoma to head the defense at LSU. Bo Pelini was at another Big 12 school, Nebraska, for the 2003 season where he was defensive coordinator and interim head coach for the Alamo Bowl game. From 1994-2002 he was a defensive assistant for San Francisco ’49ers, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.
Williams says that Pelini likes plenty of contact work in practice and believes in physical football, much like Saban, who called the shots on defense when he was in Baton Rouge.
Coach Les Miles says he has learned this spring and summer that LSU fans have high expectations for this year's team.
Commenting on what he wants to see from his team, Miles says, “We’ll be balanced, run and pass. I believe in a physical style of football, both offensively and defensively.
“I think we will address turnover margin very regularly. I think that I look for the opportunity to have big plays and the ability to control the ball on the ground, and a nice, efficient throwing game.”
LSU opens the season with three home games vs. North Texas, Arizona State and Tennessee. Auburn comes to Baton Rouge on Oct. 22, a week after the Bayou Bengals take on Florida at Tiger Stadium. LSU's other non-conference game is Nov. 5th vs. Division I-AA Appalachian State.