Les Miles took the stage in Hoover, Ala., in typical Mad Hatter fashion.
LSU’s 12th-year head coach provided a 25-minute opening statement before fielding an array questions ranging from the violence in Baton Rouge, La., whether the offense would open up this season and if there were any flat tires on the team.
Miles’ time on the podium certainly lived up to expectations. Here’s the SEC Country report card from LSU’s appearance at the 2016 SEC Media Days:
Job security? What job security?
Miles sat on a very warm seat last November before LSU bounced Texas A&M in the regular-season finale and carved through Texas Tech during bowl season.
On Thursday, before reporters could ask Miles a question about his job security, he addressed it in his opening statement.
“We were 9-3 last year and it should’ve been a 10-win season,” Miles said. “We were 7-0 and No. 2-ranked in the country in position to finish and we did not. Our goals have not changed. We want to win the West and play in the conference championship and go onto the playoff and win the national championship again.”
That doesn’t sound like a coach worried about being back at SEC Media Days in 2017. Instead, it reminds of us of a confident coach that has high expectations for his team.
Where’s the weak link?
Miles may eat grass, he may dress up as a police offer, but we’ve yet to see him don a mechanics uniform or work under the hood of his car.
Yet LSU’s coach fielded a question about where the flat tire on his team was. Objectively, he could have named his quarterback who struggled down the stretch of the regular season, or an offensive line forced to replace both its starting tackles. He could have suggested a hiccup as the defense transitions to a 3-4, or the handful of young players thrust into prominent roles in the secondary.
Miles took a different approach, suggesting LSU’s biggest issue was putting together a starting lineup, which can be a difficult task when the roster is as deep as it is this summer.
“Right now, in every phase, in every coach that comes up here has exactly the same thoughts, quietly: Fix this, fix this, fix this. Fix? There’s nothing broken at this point, but you want to get to your best at the front.
“And I think that happens for me in a number of spots. But I think we’re — we’re looking for a wide receiver step to the front. We like the three guys that are going to start. We want to see who’s the next guy. I think there’s — I think Brandon Harris will have a — the right year. I think all he needs to do is what he’s asked him to do. He’s so ready to do that, he’s champing at the bit.”
The sensitive issues … yes, offense
We knew this was coming — a question about the Tigers offense and the quarterback questions plaguing the program for some time now (with the exception of the Zach Mettenberger era).
Miles was asked whether the offense will finally open things up — the question was repeated twice so the coach could fully hear it. That’s been a common theme dating back years and has again surfaced this spring as players and coaches have discussed more passing and more spread principles.
Miles remained calm, cool, collected — as he routinely does — but made no promises. He not only referenced his offense’s depth, but their talent level, which you could argue rivals any team in the nation.
How the offense will turn out remains a question, but whether it’ll be effective seems to be a sure thing.
“We can expect more from our quarterback play and receiver play,” Miles said. “(Travin) Dural and (Malachi) Dupre should have marked seasons, where they make big plays in significant games. So yeah, I think that what we’re going to do is this: throw it and run with advantages. Where the advantages are is going to Malachi and Travin.”
Those sound like glaring advantages so long that the quarterback play is up to par, which remains a bit of a “we’ll see” sort of situation. Harris has a productive spring and has drawn praise from both his coaches and teammates.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.