The following is a transcript of comments from LSU head football coach Les Miles to reporters in New Orleans on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, as the Tigers prepared to play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the BCS National Championship.
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our head coaches press conference. LSU head coach Les Miles. Coach, if you would like to make an opening statement, and we'll open it up for questions.
COACH MILES: I want to thank the Sugar Bowl committee for making this BCS game very special. The hospitality that we've been shown has been spectacular.
I can tell you that our team has enjoyed being in this city. There's a great attachment with our team, its players and coaches, and certainly the city of New Orleans.
Preparation has gone well. We're looking forward to winding it down and playing the game. At this point in time, we're all looking forward to getting on the field.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. I'm just wondering if you think about the season you've had and the job you've done this year of managing this team through some ups and downs, and the things that have gone on and the fact that you've been able to manage those on and off the field, do you shake your head? Do you go, Wow? Do you ever think about it, Coach?
COACH MILES: I have to be honest with you, anytime you're a team that's achieved and worked as hard as this team has worked, it's full of real quality people.
The opportunity to manage quality people is easy. The opportunity to demonstrate which is the right course and the direction that needs to be taken is easy with those people.
And our football team really expected this path, saw this path, and I take no credit for the managing. I think it's something that's a byproduct of a quality group of men.
Q. Two questions here about your quarterbacks. First, after the Kentucky game, you mentioned about Jordan Jefferson, that you like him, you made a point to say that after people were talking about his boos. First question, is there anything more than ?? or is there a special coach/player relationship, or is it liking him more than any other player? And, secondly, Jarrett Lee, he did such a great job at the beginning of this season. I think his story is what college football is all about throughout his career. Why has he not been rewarded with more playing time after the Alabama game?
COACH MILES: I like both of my quarterbacks as men. I personally enjoy both men.
I am responsible as the head coach to make the call as to who goes in the game. It has always been my desire to make that call which gives us the best chance at victory. And I will always make those calls that way.
I agree with you. I think college football is about Mo Claiborne, who came from Northern Louisiana, who was not highly recruited who had tremendous talent, who fought like hell to become one of the best corners in the country and grew as a man in terms of his abilities academically, in terms of his abilities accountability?wise, and now has become a fundamental leader of our team.
Jarrett Lee, obviously, started in a position where he did not start quickly as a player. And the ability for him to rebound, continue to compete and to show his team that he was there for them is also another great story about college football.
But the great thing about teams that are in this game, they all have those stories. Every one of those players. And it's the responsibility of the coach to put them in the best position that he can, gives them an opportunity to win.
Q. When you consider what's happened with this program starting with the unfortunate situation with the coaching staff and a couple of players having some hiccups, the schedule you played, where you played them, having to make a change at quarterback midway through the season when everything was going well, if you're fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, where do you think this team stacks up historically?
COACH MILES: I've been asked that question a couple of times, and I think certainly it's fair after tomorrow night.
I think it's all about this game. It's one that certainly we're all looking forward to, and I think that those conversations are best served for then.
Q. You talked about before the season how it's not a coincidence that every four years when this game's in New Orleans this program qualifies. So now that you've done it again, can you kind of reflect on that? Because it's only been the three times it's been in the Superdome this decade that LSU comes back to play for a championship.
COACH MILES: I think there's been an enjoyment with our program that started in '03 and then happens again in '07 and then come '11.
When we came down here in '7, Katrina, really the aftermath, was very much a part of the game. And our players, coaches, certainly myself, became informed.
Bryan Fleetwood, who heads my security detail, head my security detail then, and the description of what went on and what's taken place and how important it was that when the national championship was played for the first time after Katrina, in the Dome, that LSU would qualify for that game and what it meant to the city, I think our guys understood that.
And when they took the Oregon game by vote, they recognized that they were going to have to play a very, very strong road schedule. Six road games of 12.
I mean, that's a ?? it's not something that I necessarily would like to see happen again. I like to play them all at home. But six on the road that prepared them for road victory.
Six on the road that really qualified their identity and who they were in unpredictable different circumstance. And I think their want to qualify for this game was apparent really from the start.
Q. Could you talk about the next 32 hours, I guess, up until kickoff, what you as coaches will be doing, what the players will be doing, and what you really would like to get out of the few remaining hours you have before kickoff?
COACH MILES: In the next 32 hours I want them to relax and get off their feet. You can't play the game until you play the game.
Yet, it should all focus. When you are preparing for something that's significant, will provide you with significant lifetime memory, you need to qualify your want to participate, and it's a personal decision. And I think that if you see a team that's maybe a little bit, you know, within their own thought, that that's what they're doing. And I've kind of suggested that's the way to go.
When we take the field, we'll be an emotional, fired?up football team. I think there's no way that this team could be contained that way, considering how they've played in this year.
They played national television, on the road, [ESPN College] Game Day ?? the Game Day crews, some people are calling them by a first name basis. It's changed our feel of big games.
They just need to get ready to get there. They'll play well once they get there.
Q. Wondering how you manage your kickers and how important is it to sometimes just kind of let them work through the mental side on their own.
COACH MILES: Kicking? Thomas McGaughey, our special teams guy, does a great job there.
In my opinion, we set up certain regiments that we count on our kicking and punting to take, really starts during the year. And I think it's a ?? I think the measures that we take allows them to get comfortable in their confines, wherever they're playing.
It allows them to understand and work through their mental issues really almost, if you will, by themselves before they come to the team, and then when we put it together, it's reflective ?? I think it's also, too, those men that are competitive, you know, they have an understanding of what you do next.
And I think both Alleman, Drew, our kicker, and Brad Wing, our punter, understand that really well. I think they know how to adapt and correct and perform very, very well.
Q. If you lose on Monday night, LSU will have beaten three of this year's five BCS Bowl winners. My question to you is how much input do you have in nonconference schedule and do you think schools should be able to make their own nonconference schedules when it comes down to the competitiveness in the BCS?
COACH MILES: The only team that I've told them not to schedule was the Green Bay Packers. (Laughter).
So I think there's a ?? I think each year each team really is specific to me ?? I think there's been some teams that I've been around that may not have handled the schedule as well as the team that I'm coaching currently.
And so I think that's all up to them. Obviously, it worked out well for us.
Q. I know you want to get through tomorrow night, but interest this early vantage point, how would you assess your team's chances of being back in this position a year from now?
COACH MILES: A year from now is just so far away.
I was just asked a 32?hour question, and then I went to a full year away. And I'm going, Oh...
I do appreciate the question. It's a very valid one. I'm really more concentrated on that 32?hour. In fact, that 31?hour, that 30?hour question. So...
Q. Another time question. You have so much time between the last game you played and this game. Can you talk a little bit about how your preparation changes because of the time difference and how you expect that to play out early in the game Monday night?
COACH MILES: Well, I think our preparation's been very good.
I think our description to our team, what we do benefits them. I think the number of reps that they get at the things that we're going to ask them to do in the game benefits them.
I would expect that we would execute and be able to play well. As a coach, in this position, the reality is I want them to come in and make their plays, play their game, do the things they came here to do.
That's my greatest desire for this game. I think that if that happens, the score will benefit us.
But put them in that spot is what it's all about.
Q. Given that you've played Alabama before, do you have to resist the desire to overanalyze, to think, well, you did this last time and so they're going to adjust so you have to adjust to what you think they might adjust to you, that sort of thing?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I suspect that, like us, Alabama will review what they've done and come up with a conclusion in some regard, no matter what changes are made specific to game plan, that it's really all about what you did well, what you do well, and how you can operate that in this game.
And so I think maybe overanalyzation can be counterproductive. I think you'll see similarities, certainly, and differences. But hopefully the styles of play will be the same.
Q. Simple question. What are you sensing from your team this week? Are you sensing they're focused? Are you sensing that their ability to finish and complete the season that they've always preached finish, finish, finish, and it's the last game now?
COACH MILES: I feel the same, you know, about this football team, really, since the beginning.
They're a team that loves to play. And the lights come on and they want it. And I think this will be a game that will be very representative of that. I think every guy's looking forward to playing at a very high level and, again, making the plays that they come to make.
Q. How do you operate as far as self?evaluation of your coaching job during the season as it plays out and just how you've changed in your coaching career at LSU?
COACH MILES: Well, my self?evaluation really reflects around my wife, and if she thinks I'm doing a good job, then maybe I am.
And other than that, what I'm very fortunate to have a great coaching staff. We make decisions really jointly. And the view of to improve our football team certainly is first and foremost.
I am probably most self?critical. And beyond that ?? after I get to the game I figure I've done as good as I can, I might as well smile and enjoy it.
Q. You've been to a championship before. What makes this one different, and what's your message to your team tomorrow night before you take the field?
COACH MILES: Well, each team has its own personality and its own feel. Coaching staff, gone through some changes from when we were here last. And I think it's a completely different feel.
And in the same vein, there's tremendous similarities, quality people, certainly the place that we're playing, the city, and, you know, the idea that there's a game of significance that's about to be played and there's a real want to play our best.
Q. Is Alabama the best team, in your mind, that you've played, this Alabama team?
COACH MILES: Yes, absolutely. I mean, if you just review the season, it will come up pretty comfortably that way. I mean, really without another team that you would consider.
The teams that we play, this is certainly the best team on our schedule.
Q. What has made them the best team?
COACH MILES: I think they play hard. I think they work hard. They want ?? they're willing to pay that price.
I don't answer that question very well, just so you know.
Q. You've mentioned a couple of times already what sounds like a maturity about this team that seems a little uncommon. And I'm wondering, given what happened with Steve Kragthorpe and what happened with the brawl in August and how they responded to that, is this a team that picked up on real?life issues and has that tempered that youthfulness?
COACH MILES: Real?life issues are ones that ?? we all think to a certain extent that we're impervious to wrong, nothing is going to happen to us and we'll operate our business and be okay, except that if you take the wrong step, suddenly you're at the decision?making of others.
And I think that that awareness is something that every adult has to go through. Every man and woman have to realize they're a part of a society and this thing works as a group and it doesn't work separate. And even though as players there's a fundamental common theme, they feel like they can do the things that they do on the field which are not like everybody else.
So there's a feel that they can step through boundaries of speed and contact, and so they break rules of normal people, rules of I run slow but our players run fast, the rules of I take contact poorly, they take contact very well.
That feel sometimes can get a player's view skewed. And I think real life is: No, no, no, no. There's some things you can do differently, and there's some things you can't do differently.
And I think our guys are wonderful people. They understand that. It was maybe brought to their attention more clearly early in the year.
And I think maturity is a great way to describe this football team. They come from wonderful families, and their background is strong because they handled that so well.
And then they moved very quickly to a corrective step and moved very quickly to be ambitious on the field. And they moved very quickly towards the next hurdle.
And I think that that's a great lesson, not only for the individuals, but for our team.
Q. You win your second national title on Monday, you've already said no to Michigan, at what point do you entertain the idea of the NFL?
COACH MILES: You said something about Michigan and entertaining the idea of the NFL.
Again, I got a year question, I got a 32?hour question.
I promise you, I'm going to go to the game and fight like heck for victory.
Q. For the casual football fan, college football fan who maybe just watches the big Bowl games, the BCS games and whatnot, and has spent the last week and a half seeing these shootouts and high?scoring affairs in these games, what would you tell that fan to expect on Monday from this game?
COACH MILES: I'd expect it to be big?boy football. And I'd expect it to be very, very physical and that it would be a game that would be representative of two quality football teams.
Q. It's been said that Tyrann Mathieu's looking up Alabama players' mothers' names to kind of get into their head on Monday. How do you feel about that? And do you encourage anything you can for your players to get into the other team's head?
COACH MILES: That would be news to me. (Laughter).
Gamemanship is one thing. I think that might be a touch much, so...
Q. I'll try and keep this in the here and now for you since you've been all over the map. Considering again what this team has been through, the way that they have responded, there have been games where you've been down at half. Your offensive coordinator the other day said he marvels they've never been flustered. So personally what has it been like for you to coach this group and how unique is this group?
COACH MILES: There's never been a time in a game where ?? certainly there's been some frustration, but it's always been one of those things where this time would pass and that we would get to whatever adjustment needed to be made and that there was a fundamental confidence that we were going to play through what would be a current situation.
And I think the overview that something good's about to happen, I think the overview of, you know, it's time for me to make a play really is the feel of our team.
I think ahead or behind, I think that our football team's very competitive and looks forward to competing and certainly playing for victory.
Q. I was just wondering if there was any satisfaction in being able to play a national championship game against the coach who you took over for. Is there any satisfaction in playing in a national championship game against Coach Saban, who you took over the LSU program from?
COACH MILES: I congratulate Coach [Nick] Saban for being in this game. I think that this game and the significance of its outcome really transcends personality or style or stuff.
And I think this is about quality teams playing for a very significant title.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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