Les Miles Weekly Press Conference
COACH MILES: Looking forward to the Auburn week. A 2:30 kickoff in Tiger Stadium, gold game, game on CBS. I would expect that that crowd will be fired up and looking forward to celebrating and being with that team that plays football for these Tigers for the afternoon. Make plenty of noise. Should be deafening in Death Valley.
Nice win, nice road trip. Top 25 team, SEC opponent, Western Division. Certainly it only counts one, but it’s a big one. Our guys respond.
It’s interesting, though. We had a nine-play game that was our first playing experience, not necessarily a game, and we did not just get by. First-game mistakes. So we had a series of penalties that were costly. If you go back and add in the plays that were taken away based on a holding — quality calls. I’m not in any way suggesting that the calls were not quality, but it cost us 204 yards, big plays that were taken back, and 17 points. Those kind of things you cannot do. We were fortunate to be on the road and play like that and still achieve victory.
Pleased that the offense didn’t turn the ball over. Really expected that the defense would get — I think it’s the first time that I played that it was 0-0 in turnovers. But again, first game.
I thought Leonard Fournette‘s high of 160 yards, 159 yards, three touchdowns and 28 carries, I thought he really performed excellently on the day. He gave great leadership. He was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
And Darrel Williams comes in, it’s a very nice complement to Leonard, 45 yards on 12 carries, and again, a very quality back.
Ethan Pocic was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. He had 16 knockdowns, gave up no sacks or pressures. So come off the game with some conference recognition, which is nice.
Brandon Harris did just what we asked him to do, made plays with his arm and his feet, 9 of 14, 71 yards, 48 yards rushing. He’s only going to get better. If he maintains that composure during the game and relaxes and just does the things we ask him to do, not try to make a play that is out of reach, he’ll continue to improve and continue to get better and we would expect that. I like how he played and he gave us every opportunity of victory. The defense, thought Steele in his first game in the conference did a great job. He held back Prescott to his lowest rushing total of his career at minus-19 yards, limited Mississippi State to 43 yards rushing. A year ago the team rushed for 302 yards against us. They completed passes, but really we kept everything in front of them. Our secondary, in my opinion, played extremely well. Tre’Davious White makes a big play late in that game that allows us to — that field goal would be a lot closer if it hadn’t been for T White. Thought that the secondary played well, but guys like Kevin Toliver did not play like a freshman. He looked like a real guy. Defensive line, true freshman Arden Key, Godchaux and Lewis Neal all had sacks and several pressures. Defensive line continues to play well. We needed a little pass rush in the back end of the game and Coach Ed says, Okay, guys, let’s go, and he gets it from them. That’s great. It’s a nice piece for us. The linebackers were just as we would expect; speed to the ball, physical when they got there, played their hearts out.
Again, very happy with that group. Overall, the defense held State to just 3 of 15 on third downs and got off the field and put the offense in good situations most of the night. All in all, a good first experience. Not perfect in any of the three phases, but very nice first game. The Auburn team’s very talented. They’re 2-0 overall. They got into an overtime win against Jacksonville State. Jacksonville State is a good football team. They’ve historically had a lot of transfers in from other schools that are really, really good players, and they have a very quality team. Watched them on film. The coach at Auburn does a great job, Gus Malzahn is a very fine coach. I certainly respect the job that he does there. Their offense is averaging 364 yards, 177 yards rushing, and 186 yards passing, 29 points per game. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson has thrown for 373 yards, three touchdowns. The leading rusher is a guy named Peyton Barber averaging 120 yards per game. Wide receivers Ricardo Louis and D’haquille Williams are both very talented receivers and very, very capable.
So Will Muschamp as the defensive coordinator is doing a wonderful job there. His teams have always, you know, played an aggressive style of defense and tackled the ball and you can see that. They’re allowing 22 points and 199 yards rushing and 222 yards passing. A lot of playmakers on their side of the ball. Johnathan Ford seems like he’s been there for a long time but he’s leading the team with 24 tackles and one interception. Linebacker McKinzy, 19 tackles, four for losses and two sacks.
This is kind of an historic rivalry. We look forward to playing Auburn. Auburn is a very, very quality team, deep-rooted SEC history with LSU. Nice to be 1-0, nice to have an early lead in the game. Enjoyed how my quarterback played. I suspect he’ll get better, I suspect my team will get better.
It’s interesting, we’re a young team with some veterans and if they make a decision that they want to be something very, very special, they’re going to have to commit to it and it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but this is a team that has that kind of talent. I’m going to suggest that they need to make that kind of commitment.
Q. What did you see out of Maea? He played, I think, almost the entire second half. What did y’all see out of him?
COACH MILES: We like to keep guys fresh and I think the more that those guys are fresh and especially when you’re younger, it takes some of the pressure off playing down after down.
Q. Being an old offensive line coach, what do you see that Ed Orgeron‘s doing with your defensive line with the pass rush and watching them in practice that they have come through and are improving already?
COACH MILES: Well, I think first of all, the two veterans, Lewis Neal and Bower are both guys who have really improved. It’s kind of that time where a backup now steps up to the first team and he’s looking to — he takes coaching better, he gets it all, and I think Ed was just perfect for him. Adds a natural enthusiasm to his style of coaching. I think it’s made a tremendous difference. They read and react and I think they can come off the ball and attack you extremely well. And then Arden Key‘s going to get nothing but better. His wingspan is huge and he’s fast and he’s a true freshman. Looking out there, you know, he’s going to enjoy playing in his career, I can tell you that.
Q. Coach, how is Rickey Jefferson a different player than Jalen Mills and what did you see from him in his opener?
COACH MILES: Rickey played well in that game. He worked hard to get some things accomplished in the game plan, and so many times as the coach you look at those things that they had mistakes in in the week and you go to find out whether or not they got it accomplished in the game, and Rickey Jefferson did. He had a very, very good game and he’s ballistic, he adds great speed to the ball, and when he gets there, he’ll hit you.
Q. Also, only three receivers played in that game, Diarse, Dural and Dupre. What went into not playing guys like Chark and Quinn?
COACH MILES: Well, I think there’s a need to get a quality of play that you have to play to. I think the guys that did not play in this game will have an opportunity to play in others. I don’t think there’s any question that those guys will step onto the field here pretty quick.
Q. Hey, Coach, a 2:30 kickoff this week. What are your concerns about hydration and your team being ready to play in the heat and the elements? It could be around 90 degrees or so for the game.
COACH MILES: Yeah, hydrating at the cellular level is the new buzz word, right? In other words, you don’t want to just get it in your stomach, you want to make sure that your body can get it to the different sections. So hydrate at a cellular level, that means start early and drink plenty.
Q. At the end you guys only went three deep there. What status with Isaiah Washington with his hand and then the two guys who didn’t dress the first week, Sione and Deondre?
COACH MILES: I think Isaiah Washington probably will practice this week and I think that’s good news because he’s got great speed and gives some quickness there. I think Teuhema played a couple of plays and I don’t know if he played on defense or if they were special teams, and I think that those guys will be counted on here pretty quick to play very significant football.
Q. What did you think of the defense? I know you mentioned you thought the DBs played well, but the run game, which was kind of night and day from Prescott last year and Josh Robinson to this game, especially the guys you’ve got to the middle now with Beckwith and Godchaux and LaCouture. What was your takeaway?
COACH MILES: They were getting off blocks. The line of scrimmage was cluttered for their runners. When the quarterback carried the ball, there was no place for him to go, so he ended up trying an edge and the edge was met with linebackers and some of those secondary backs that were responsible. So it was a well-conceived plan and our guys played awfully hard.
Q. Would you label the offensive game plan from Saturday as conservative?
COACH MILES: I would say that we labeled the game plan Saturday as imperfect. Certainly, things that we like to get accomplished that we called that we didn’t get accomplished. But if you think about 200 yards that were taken away by penalties and a 17-points — in other words, the opportunity that we certainly were down there in a very tight position to kick a field goal. In other words, I think if we had 200 more yards on our offense and a position of 17 more points, nobody would be arguing about the offense at all, okay? So the key to it is not change the offense; let’s make sure we execute what we call and not hold or have an infraction.
Q. Do you look forward to having that game tape this week? Do you anticipate it being a difference, being able to make your corrections and improve from what is now your week one to your week two?
COACH MILES: We think that there’s some very nominal, very key places where we can improve just by having watched the tape. Certainly, eliminating those penalties would be first and foremost. Boy, you do that, it would be nice to have a 21-0 lead early in the contest and kind of see how things go from there. Again, we didn’t execute and the opportunity to fix some of those things is right in front of us.
Q. As special as Leonard Fournette is and was on Saturday, how nice is it to have Darrel Williams to serve as that complement you mentioned?
COACH MILES: If you watch them run, the next guy comes in and the defense has got to go, you know, it doesn’t seem like much of a difference. There was a big strong back that’s very physical and suddenly the next one comes in and has a very similar characteristic.
Q. Auburn came into last week’s game No. 6 in the country and then they had that close game against Jacksonville State, they fall all the way to No. 18. Do you look at Auburn any differently whether it was a close game or a blowout against that opponent?
COACH MILES: No, it makes no difference to me whatsoever. I recognize that they played a very good football team and it has not to do with, you know, what the score was or how it ended, in my opinion. It has to do more with it’s a very talented Auburn team and really working hard to be something special, so we respect them.
Q. Jeremy Johnson, he’s a different kind of quarterback than what Auburn’s had a the last couple years, a little bit more of a pocket passer?
COACH MILES: Yeah, a little bit more a prototype, you know, NFL-style passer, although he can run. He’s not one of those guys that you’re going to dial up 20 runs a game for.
Q. Shifting gears to your quarterback. You talk about Brandon settling into a role, maybe even settling down. What were some of the things that you enjoyed about his performance other than the no turnovers, and then what was an area that you would like to see him improve upon?
COACH MILES: I thought he was pretty accurate. I still think there’s a reception in there for Malachi Dupre with the one that may have bounced on the ground, but I think that’s a deserved reception. If you look at his day, he was very, very accurate, and the things that we asked him to do when it comes to the running game, he did exactly what we asked him to do. So, again, I would expect him to get his feet on the ground, get comfortable and go to practice, and again not have it figured out until he got until Thursday some, and then maybe reaffirmed it on Friday and then say, okay, let’s execute it now on Saturday.
Q. Does it make it easier, somewhat easier for your defense, because Jeremy Johnson and Gus Malzahn’s zone-read offense, he’s not Cam Newton as a runner, he’s not Nick Marshall as a runner. Does it make it a little bit easier for your defensive players as far as reading the keys? Like you said, he’s not a guy who’s going to run it 20 times a game.
COACH MILES: Yeah, but he’ll still pull it and make some yards so you’re going to have to take the responsibility there anyway. His abilities are more in the throwing game. They’ll still have a nice tailback and some receivers to throw it to. So it’s still very much a formidable offense, it’s just not the same Cam Newton style of runner.
Q. How much, if at all, this week do you rely on your history against Will Muschamp even though it’s only his first year at Auburn?
COACH MILES: Well, one thing about relying on history with Will, Will’s a great coach and a guy that’s obviously a very capable defensive coordinator. He does the things that his players do best, and to me, that’s a mark of a great coach. Put your players in position to do the things that they can do. When you watch his film, that’s what’s being displayed. And sure, we’re going to see what he did while he was at Florida and we are looking at some of those tapes as well as what he did against the last two opponents.
Q. After the game you were, I guess, a little dubious as to some of those penalties, you said they might have been dominant blocks. You’ve gotten a chance to watch the film. Has your opinion changed any?
COACH MILES: Yeah, my impression of the 90-yard sweep should have been called back because it was holding. It was a great effort, it was a great effort hold, but flat holding.
Q. What hold?
COACH MILES: Flat and simple, straightforward, like a flatline, it was holding.
Q. In general you felt like those were good calls, some of those holding penalties?
COACH MILES: Yeah, there were some — you know, again, there’s some things that you think you got right and some things that maybe the officials didn’t see, but I think for the most part that was a well-officiated game.
Q. Do you have an injury update on Mills?
COACH MILES: Update on Jalen Mills?
Q. Yes, sir.
COACH MILES: It’s really the last time I described him in depth was very positive. I think he’s really in the position where he’s running on a treadmill, even though it’s water, and this thing is progressing very quickly.
Q. Any timetable?
COACH MILES: I would be guessing.
Q. And I think you guys were 4-13 on third down. How do you improve the third-down percentage on offense?
COACH MILES: Well, we work it every day. It’s not like we’re not involved in it completely.
COACH MILES: I think “acquaintance” would be as close as I could get to defining it. Met him through recruiting and a fine young man.
Q. Coach, Trent Domingue is your kicker right now?
COACH MILES: You betcha.
Q. What went into that decision over Delahoussaye?
COACH MILES: I think Delahoussaye may get some kicks as well, but basically what we did is we went through a simple competition and it’s very close and I wouldn’t be surprised if Delahoussaye didn’t get some kicks.
Q. How big of a part of your offense will be Brandon Harris‘ feet, we saw it a few times there, just getting it on the ground, how much do you expect of that moving forward?
COACH MILES: Well, it’s really not up to us so much as it is if they want us to hand the ball to Leonard, we’ll hand the ball to Leonard, but if there’s an opportunity for the quarterback to carry the football, we certainly want him to carry it. We enjoy his abilities to scramble out of the pocket. We think we’ll get a couple of those a game, and we also think that there’s an opportunity for some dial-’em-up quarterback carry.
Q. You didn’t use a whole lot of the strong side linebacker, y’all played a lot of two linebackers. What went into that?
COACH MILES: Well, the one-back formations definitely inhibit the use of three linebackers. You go to a nickel over using a linebacker, although we look forward to getting Lamar Louis on the field because simply put he has speed and he’s a very violent player and we like him. He’s a quality guy. Plays a lot in special teams, but would love to get him on the field.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports