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Les Miles Press Conference Transcript

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COACH MILES:  Good afternoon.  First and foremost, I'd like to kind of mention Paul Dietzel and recognize that he's home from the hospital and resting, and what a magnificent man he is and how important he is to these Tigers.  Just wanted to say hi.

Enjoyed being back in Tiger Stadium.  The rain delay, glad that crowd chose to stay with us.  It turned out to be a beautiful night, couldn't have been any better.  Just enjoyed it fully.

Zach Mettenberger had a nice night, continues to improve, playing with a lot of confidence but working at it.  Confidence comes from preparation.  He's not going by anything.  I saw him early Saturday morning studying his iPad.  I generally get up early and have breakfast and go into what is our team breakfast area, and he's in there studying, and you can just tell that he's in it.

I had nine receivers catch balls.  We had nine rushers.  Odell Beckham had three touchdowns, 136 yards, offensively were very productive.  Cam Cameron is having impact.  The place to improve there is run the ball a little bit more efficiently.  We do those things, that'll be ‑‑ we did have a turnover when we put in the ‑‑ well, not a turnover but a muffed snap, and those kind of things we have to eliminate.

I thought the defense played well.  Second quarter they ran into a couple adjustments, had some young guys on the field that couldn't get the defense adjusted, but I think John Chavis is doing a wonderful job.  We got him in at halftime, and the adjustments were just more emphatically put, and I think our defense understood what to do and came out in the second half and held our opponents scoreless.

We're putting a lot of young faces on the field, and that's good.  We're going to need them.  Down the road you get these guys snaps in our stadium, you get them against a quality opponent, live, let the bullets fly, and then we get later in the season, they'll be able to make plays in the kind of games that we're going to need them to make plays in so we can win a championship.  So enjoy the fact that we're playing young guys.

Odell Beckham, 331 all‑purpose yards, I think he leads the country in all‑purpose yardage.  And I think that that field goal return certainly was something that I'd never seen live.  I tried to recall whether I saw a field goal return for a touchdown even in the NFL on highlights, and I don't know that I can recall a field goal return for a touchdown.  But had a big night.

He is the SEC special teams player of the week, was also very good on punt returns.  We asked him to improve, and we suggested that he catch every punt, and he was in position to do so.  Job well done by him certainly.

Overall, again, very pleased with where we're going.  I don't think anybody is ready to hang the moon and feel like we've done anything.  We've played two pretty good teams, but we all recognize that for us to do the things we're going to want to do, we're going to have to improve, and improve for the next opponent.

It's real interesting, you watch Kent State, a year ago they were a team that was one win away from playing in the Orange Bowl.  They beat a very salty Rutgers team on the road.  They have a running back who sprained his ankle and did not appear in the Bowling Green game, very talented running back.  They have a very, very explosive return player, a quarterback that can really throw it.  Paul Haynes comes from Arkansas with an Ohio State background.  They're going to be well coached.  They've got a good scheme.  They have good personnel.  They've got a nice defensive line that's real active and shows real speed to the ball.

We're going to have to play well.  And again, this one is an opponent that will motivate us to prepare well, but we're going to prepare well because our team needs to improve.  I think our guys kind of got that hint last week, and I think that if they continue to show improvement, the back end of this thing we'll be where we want to be.

Questions?

 

Q.  First of all, you actually said Ohio State.  James Varney would be thrilled to know you actually put the two words together.

COACH MILES:  It was an accident.  (Laughter.)

 

Q.  Can you talk about, I think Zach referred to Odell and Jarvis as "Dumb and Dumber" the other day.  He talked about how different they are.

COACH MILES:  Yeah, I would never speak to a receiving tandem, and really, I have to admit that I have never watched that movie all the way through, but I can kind of draw up the view of those two actors standing side by side.  That would not be Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.

 

Q.  Those two receivers, though, how different are they personality‑wise?  They're different on the field, but do you see a lot of difference in them personality‑wise?

 COACH MILES:  Yeah, they're different guys.  The similarities are many.  They're very committed to this team.  Their work ethic is tremendous.  They recognize that their contribution is necessary for our football team's success, and they're giving it.  They're coachable.  They want to improve, and they're good people.  Now, they're different, but they're the same in many ways.

 

Q.  You mentioned that you'd like to get young players ready for later in the season.  Would you like to use this week's game to get a clearer picture of who you can count on as SEC play begins after this and maybe a clearer picture of your two deep?

COACH MILES:  Yeah, I'm certain that with each game comes clarity.  That's never really something that I'm pushing for over the first goal, victory.  I think there's preparation.

 The one thing that we've done here, we've told our team that we go through a process that starts Sunday at 11:30 when I meet with special teams guys.  We go through that game plan and that daily piece of our weekly schedule, and we go by nobody.  We don't take anything for granted.  We recognize that we're playing a quality opponent.  We're going to give that opponent our respect and our preparation.

It's very difficult for me to go beyond that.  I recognize the fastest way to improve is to prepare well for the opponent that you're about to play and then show that you prepared well by playing that way.  And then if something else happens and you can evaluate talent thereafter, that's fine, but I'm telling you, it's an afterthought.

 

Q.  Beckham in particular, can you talk about how he's learned from his experiences?  The impact early as a freshman kind of faded, then last year I think he took that fumble at Florida very hard, but the way he played on Saturday and the way he's progressed?

COACH MILES:  Well, again, he's a key piece to the puzzle.  Everybody enjoys him.  He works hard.  He makes plays in practice.  He's committed to the team.  I guess when I said that earlier, I know that that's kind of a simple piece to Odell Beckham, but it really is a motivation for his hard work and his presence.

You know, it's one thing ‑‑ he doesn't really talk just all the time.  It's not like he leads the team by standing in front of the team saying, listen, there's some things I want to tell you.  But anybody that watches him practice has got to be impressed with what he does, and that to me is his leadership quality.  He has the ability to speak but more than not he lets his play determine his presence and leadership.

 

Q.  You had mentioned that you hadn't seen a return like Odell's before, but you obviously had to have practiced it to send him back there.  How often do you practice it, and has it ever worked in practice?

 COACH MILES:  We seldom have him return 108 yards if we put him back there; you know what I mean?  I have to give great credit to Thomas McGaughey.  He's kind of recognized the potential of that happening.  We do it on an annual basis, but he was a little bit more sensitive to that fact that they might take a field goal try that's too long, and it might give us an opportunity at a return.

We talked to him about setting the return up because it's an offensive line, it's not a return team there, and he did it just extremely well.  We had a defensive unit that has more speed on the field than our opponent, and we had enough guys blocking in front of them that all he had to do was set the return, and he did, and it went well.

But again, I have to give great credit to Thomas McGaughey.  He kind of saw that one coming.

 

Q.  One more Odell related question.  Have they made you aware that his stats kind of made these automated stat programs go tilt because there's no column for missed field goal return?  He should be leading the nation in all‑purpose yard, but he kind of officially is not?

COACH MILES:  So in other words, basically that field goal return is not one that's in a legitimate stat category?

 

Q.  Well, it doesn't fit into the program.

COACH MILES:  How about that?  I guess it's kind of nice to have a player that doesn't kind of fit into the statistics, right?

 

Q.  You weren't exactly aware of that point, but does that speak to his ability?  He gained yardage five different ways Saturday night, which is pretty hard to do.

                COACH MILES:  Yeah, we handed him a ball, he caught a ball, he returned punts and he returned a field goal.  Again, very talented, nifty is a great word for him, explosive is a great word for him, and his opportunity, he sees himself making great plays, and I've never had a player who had the potential or the ability to make great plays routinely who didn't have that characteristic.  Odell Beckham has that piece to him.  He says, you know what, if I just beat that guy, this might go all the way.  Or if I can just get to the ball, I'll make that catch.  He has that intangible that really some of the very best players around have.

 

Q.  You mentioned the last few weeks that Jeremy Hill is still getting into game shape.  He looked pretty good, moved fluidly Saturday.  How quickly can he kind of reassume that lead back mantle?

COACH MILES:  Well, I don't know.  This is another game week.  There will be snaps taken in practice, and we'll have to see.

 

Q.  A couple of young cornerbacks when you look at Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson.  What are some realistic goals for them this year in how they can contribute?

COACH MILES:  Well, I watched Tre'Davious White in that game, in that film after, and saw him make a couple nice tackles, saw that he covered pretty well.  I think he's a guy that we could look to put into games when it's important.  And I think Robinson has the same ability.  For a guy that arrived just recently and has the confidence to step out and play in that stadium, to me that's a ‑‑ I think both of those guys are guys that we can look forward to playing significant snaps as we go forward.

 

Q.  You talked about the running game.  Y'all didn't really have a lot of tailback carries.  What do you think you need to do to get the running game going a little bit more, and how have you evaluated it so far?

COACH MILES:  Well, I think our line is working hard.  That's not the key.  In my opinion we're ‑‑ technically there's just a little more work to be done there, get in the groove.  They played a front that we were not necessarily just planning on seeing, and it looked like it kind of threw off some of our technique and some of our assignments.  But the reality of that is that we should have really been much more efficient rushing the football than we were.

 

Q.  Just to kind of piggy‑back on that and some general offensive questions, do you feel that the running back has in any way taken a backseat because the passing game is excelling, and with Odell and Landry being your, I guess, bell cows in that regard, how concerned are you about getting the other guys involved for maybe when the competition stiffens and those guys are taken away to a degree?

COACH MILES:  Well, I don't know that you're going to take away those guys.  I think that's something that's going to be very difficult to do.  I think what has to happen to an offense is it must have the ability to hurt you with both the run and the pass.  I would not want to change our development to this date in any way.  I would just think that now that we've established some of the parameters of how we're going to play, now let's get a little bit better in the running game.  Let's just make sure we're more efficient and come off the football a little bit more aggressively, understand our footwork and technique cleaner.  I think that that's kind of one of the areas of improvement for this week.

 

Q.  Anthony Johnson has been kind of quiet the first two games.  Any concerns there, and is he healthy, because it looked like he was favoring his shoulder Saturday night.

COACH MILES:  Yeah, there's ‑‑ I think he is, like probably five or six other guys on the team, has got a nick here or there.  I don't think there's a shoulder in any way.  But I'm not concerned.  His effort and energy is really good.  He's giving us quality leadership.  I just think they're wise to keep him out of the running lane.  I think he'll come on and have a great year.

 

Q.  How many snaps would you like Anthony Jennings to possibly get this weekend, and the way that Zach is playing, what are your hopes for Anthony going under his wing and learning in his freshman season?

COACH MILES:  I'd like to get 60 or 65 to Zach, and I'd like to get 15 to Anthony.  That would be on a wish list, well behind, not to compete with victory as the first piece.

 

Q.  Do you think he's learning from Zach as the season progresses?

COACH MILES:  Absolutely.  I think he is.  I think he's a real quality person.  I think he understands what he needs to do, and he's not getting ‑‑ our first quarterback gets the lion's share of the reps.  The second quarterback gets the second quarterback reps, and that's really what he's seeing.  I think he's improving, he's doing all the things off the field that he needs to do.  I'd have to say that as a true freshman in Tiger Stadium for your first snaps, I think he acted just like he was supposed to.  He was a true freshman in Tiger Stadium for his first snaps.

 

Q.  Do you have an injury update on Craig Loston?

COACH MILES:  Craig Loston has got a nick, and I don't know that he'll practice today, but we'd expect to have him this week.

 

Q.  How have you seen Zach's footwork progress?  He looks much more nimble back there in the pocket.  Is it mental preparation or is it physically something he's doing in practice?

COACH MILES:  I think he's in better shape.  I think he's stronger.  I think that'll continue to improve, and I think he's a creature of habit, like we all are.  The more you ask him to do certain things, the better he gets at it.  I think that that's what you're seeing.

 

Q.  Going back to Ben's question about the young quarterbacks, do you foresee Tre'Davious and Rashard playing a little bit more because there's some concerns with the two Jalens right now?

COACH MILES:  No, I just want to get some young corners ready to roll because I realize that in the games that we'll need to play, you want to play fresh guys.  And should those guys come on, I think it's good to have competition at those corner spots.

I'm sure that our corners recognize that it's not a position that they can afford not to improve on if they expect to play.

 

Q.  Any position on the field has got to earn your trust before you put a guy out there, but has what Zach has done the last two weeks affected the way, how much you trust him in any way, or has it just been the same?

COACH MILES:  We expect that our quarterback will be able to do the things that Zach has shown he can do.  I think there's a comfort with how he's practiced and how he's prepared that's allowed us to extend him that view when we take the field.

If it was any different, certainly we would pull the reins back.  But that's not the case.  He's prepared, he works hard, he's in it, and we do trust him.

 

Q.  Could you have envisioned a better spot for Jeremy Hill to get back in the game with y'all leading pretty early, and was that kind of part of the plan all along to put him back into the second game?

COACH MILES:  Yeah, I kind of enjoyed the fact that other backs saw the playing field, and I think we'll kind of see how he goes and see how the competition at the position looks, and we'll make our decision slowly.

 

Q.  Just to kind of piggy back on the questions about Zach, you mentioned his preparation on Saturday.  We kind of treated this as sort of a revelatory thing the first two games.  How much of this is a function of preparation and time and just sort of having to evolve that way and getting better?  I know everybody wants things to come quickly, but is there a process that time has to carry out to get to this point with a quarterback like that?

COACH MILES:  Yeah, it's interesting, everybody has a piece of a play.  Everybody has a responsibility to do their job.  The one guy, generally speaking, that must understand which assignment everybody has and who's responsible is that quarterback.  And it takes some time.  We're going to change the menu a little bit, okay; we're going to tweak the route; we're going to give it a backside read, on a weekly basis.  And for him to be very, very good, that's going to have to continue.  It cannot be a sometimes thing.  It's got to be an all‑the‑time thing.  I think that that's ‑‑ I think he recognizes that.  I think he looks forward to it.  I think he's realizing what the position can be, and he wants in.

 

Q.  Two questions:  The involvement in the passing game of the fullbacks, Connor showing that he's got some hands, third place as far as receiving catches go, just talk about that, and then, what are your conversations in the coaches' room with Cam like?  I mean, it is a new challenge for him, the college game.  It's a little different.  Is he pleased with the progress?  Does he feel like it's right on time, maybe ahead of time, those kind of things?

COACH MILES:  Yeah, first of all, the fullbacks, I think they're integrated into the offense.  There's pieces that they have to shoulder the burden of receiving the ball and running as well as blocking, and I think you look forward to that on really a weekly basis.

Cam recognizes the improvement that we made, and certainly recognizes the quality teams that we're playing and that we will play will present different challenges, simply.  And that we have to improve, that we're not there, and we haven't won a championship, we haven't got to where we want to be.  We're just on course.

At this point that's good enough.  We recognize that down the road we're going to have to be ready for bigger and better.

 

Q.  What have you made of Micah Eugene's start, and is he a guy that would flourish in the nickel role or with this maybe emergence of young cornerbacks does he perhaps see maybe a different position down the line?

COACH MILES:  Well, Micah has really played well.  He's tackled well.  He's a physical guy.  He has good speed and coverage skills.  I like him at corner.  I think he can play corner, but I think he will probably service us at safety at times.

He's really got a nice start to his season.  He's really been accountable to this point, and that's all he has to do.  If he does that, he'll play a lot of football.

 

Q.  Do y'all count missed tackles, and would you be able to tell us what that number was from Saturday night's game?  Were you alarmed?  Did you feel like there were an inordinate number of them on Saturday?

 COACH MILES:  Yeah, we talk about missed tackles all the time.  It's something that the defense really cannot give up.  We look at personnel, and we look at how they respond to a missed tackle in that series.  Yeah, we're certainly coaching it aggressively, and we would expect that we would reduce those, or reduce the playing time of those guys that have those missed tackles, one or the other.

 

Q.  How many would you say you had?

COACH MILES:  I really don't want to recall.  It was a larger number than we're used to, I can tell you that.