Jamal Adams knew something was wrong.
The senior safety heard from a large group message that the team was holding an impromptu players meeting at 5 o’clock. He didn’t think the worst was coming. But it was.
When Adams and his teammates arrived for the meeting, their fears were confirmed. Les Miles, LSU’s football coach of 12 years, had been fired, as was offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was promoted to interim head coach and tight ends coach Steve Ensminger will take over as offensive coordinator.
“It doesn’t even feel real …,” Adams said. “I didn’t see that coming. I kind of wasn’t even thinking about it at all. I’m still shocked right now. It’s adversity that we got hit with.”
Adams said that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva started off the meeting by explaining that he felt LSU’s coaching staff needed “more energy,” and he felt Orgeron was the right man for that.
But to the players, there’s no replacing Miles.
“He’s a players’ coach,” wide receiver Travin Dural said. “If anybody tells you different, I don’t know what their experience was, but I have nothing but great memories with him. Everybody has great memories with him. I can’t remember the last time I honestly saw him fussing at someone in practice. He was never that guy. Honestly, when it came true in here, it was shocking. You could see it on everyone’s faces. It was shocking.”
Star running back Leonard Fournette had a different perspective on the situation. Fournette said he understands that football is a business and that ultimately the decision was made because Alleva and his staff thought that this was what was best.
That said, Fournette said that he and his teammates forged the kind of bonds with Miles and Cameron that make this separation particularly painful.
“We developed such a great relationship with these coaches,” Fournette said. “If you don’t have a father, if you don’t have a mother, you could always come here and talk to one of them. It’s hard for some people at these times right now.”
Miles addressed the team before leaving and, according to the players, Miles was overwrought with emotion. The two words the players most frequently used to describe the meeting were “love” and “sadness,” an interesting mix of feelings.
To Adams, that mix of care and remorse exemplifies why his players respect him so much.
“He’s just so passionate about this program,” Adams said. “He has so much love for it. You can tell he put his heart into it every day, 24 hours, always. He was very emotional. I think some of us were kind of emotional seeing him leave. We’re just going to play for him, leave our mark.”
Dural echoed that sentiment, saying that he could “hear the pain” in Miles’ touching speech. He and his teammates have to move on now. But he said he can’t imagine doing so.
“Saturdays aren’t going to be the same not seeing Les Miles on the sideline,” Dural said.