9/3/15 5:50 am CDT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
SEC football gets underway today with two games, and then the one we’ve all been waiting for will be here before we know it, as LSU is set to battle the Cowboys of McNeese on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. In just a bit I’ll give you my predictions for those contests and several others, but first here are a few key points from yesterday’s media session with Coach Miles, followed by a recap of last night’s Les Miles Show.
Media Session Key Points:
• Quarterback Brandon Harris continues to improve. Miles said the more reps Harris gets, the better he gets.
• Wide receiver Trey Quinn has returned to practice and is expected to play in certain sets this Saturday.
• Defensive end Isaiah Washington injured his arm and won’t play this Saturday. Washington was not expected to start, but would have likely seen action in the defensive line rotation if healthy.
• As for Miles’ own health, he said he feels “pretty good” but hasn’t run a marathon or anything that exhausting.
• As expected, Miles said William Clapp will start at one guard and Josh Boutte will start at the other. Sounds like Maea Teuhema will likely rotate in at left guard.
• Coordinators Kevin Steele and Cam Cameron will both coach from the press box.
Les Miles Show Recap:
At the start of the show, Miles said the team had a great summer and that their attitude and performance may have exceeded that of any team he’s ever had. This was the first of two very strong statements Miles made about this team. (See question about WRs below) It’s becoming obvious that Miles feels like this team could be something special.
The first caller of the night was Sadie from Denton, Texas who asked what the coaches and staff have to do to be successful in the game. Miles answered by saying, “What we need to do is apply a consistent strategy that allows us to be aggressive and take territory… and tackle, block run and demonstrate great speed.”
Rickey from Birmingham asked what are three or four things Miles will be looking for in Saturday’s game, other than winning and avoiding injury. Miles said he’s looking for the team to play well in all three phases of the game. On special teams, he wants the return game to look explosive. Offensively, he wants to move the ball with balance. Defensively, he want to see a team that can rush the passer and make tackles.
Clint called to ask what Miles would think of having two five-stars in the backfield in one offensive set. Miles said that’s something we can look forward to seeing this Saturday with two very talented tailbacks in the game at same time.
As a follow up to that question, Jim Hawthorne asked Miles about Derrius Guice, Nick Brossette and the speed they have. Miles said Guice has great speed and is elusive, and that Brosette is smooth with great ball skills. He then said, “When you say speed, what comes to my mind is Jackson. He’s a very, very special talent.”
Jack from Lafayette asked about the health of Coaches Miles, Cameron and Kragthorpe, and about special teams. Miles’s response was, “I’m the least of your worries.” He added that his deal was “a temporary bout of stuff” and that if the trainers would have given him about 15 minutes more he would have done the press conference and no one would have noticed. As for Coach Cameron, Miles said he has a great plan that’s being executed ideally and he thinks he’ll be fine. As for Kragthorpe, Miles said he operates in a lifestyle that factors in and works against his disease.
In response to Jack’s question about special teams, Miles once again mentioned Donté Jackson and said he will be a very dangerous kick returner. Miles named Jackson, Guice and Fournette as kick returners and Guice and Jackson as punt returners. Interestingly, I didn’t catch any mention of TréDavious White.
A little later on, Gary from Baton Rouge asked about Coach Kevin Steele’s changes on defense and how they might affect the linebackers, and of course he asked about Kendell Beckwith. Miles said Beckwith will play every snap he can at middle linebacker and that he’s expected to be a leader. The coach then spoke of the linebacker corps’ exceptional speed and said Deion Jones runs a high 4.4 and is one of fastest LBs in the conference.
Buster from Mississippi asked if LSU will have an improved pass rush under the direction of defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and whether Arden Key will see significant playing time. Miles said Key will play two-thirds of every defensive snap this first game. As for Coach O, Miles said he’s doing a great job with the D-line. The interior four guys are pushing the pocket, and the ends (Bower, Neal, Key, Teuhema and Clark) are very physical, capable and deep.
From the live audience, Margie asked whether there are any standouts at defensive end. Miles said he thinks Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal will be very difficult to block, and that Key runs 4.55 forty and is a talent that reminds him of KeKe Mingo.
Also from the live audience, the Evil Twin asked about Brandon Harris’ improvement and what influenced Miles’ decision to make him the starter. Miles said Harris had a great summer and took the lead when he stepped forward and ran player workouts. He added that Harris is a strong-armed guy who has always had the ability to throw, but is now more accurate than ever, especially with the passes that require “touch.” At one point, Miles said Harris “has all the throws.”
A little later, Hawthorn asked Miles about Travin Dural and the wide receiver corps. Miles said Dural has great speed, height, and ability, and that Malachi Dupre is so much more talented than last year. As for Trey Quinn who was injured earlier, Miles said he has come back and it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. Miles added that John Diarse is big, strong and capable, that freshman Tyron Johnson is in position to play very significant football, and that D.J. Chark is another very talented guy. He then mentioned freshman Jazz Ferguson, who at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds has tremendous ball skills. Miles finished by saying, “Our corps is better than its been by 10-fold…way more talented than it’s been.” I’d say those are pretty strong words.
The last caller of the night was Bailey from Denham Springs who asked what the other SEC coaches were thinking when they didn’t name Jamal Adams to the preseason All-SEC team. Miles agreed with Bailey’s sentiment and said he thinks the coaches were thinking they needed to get home real quick because they were hungry, or maybe they were on vacation and let the Sports Information Directors fill out the voting sheets. He ended by saying Adams is a tremendous player who will give the team leadership and play big, and that he doesn’t know of a safety as talented and capable as he is.
Now let’s switch gears and get to those predictions I mentioned earlier. As those of you who’ve followed this site for a while know, each week I will post my predictions for SEC contests and a few games involving in-state schools. My predictions are straight-up (not against the spread), and just for fun. Your feedback is welcomed. Here we go…
South Carolina 31 North Carolina 24
Western Kentucky 38 Vanderbilt 27
Texas A&M 35 Arizona State 28
Alabama 45 Wisconsin 13
Georgia 48 UL-Monroe 10
Ole Miss 45 UT-Martin 6
Arkansas 51 UTEP 13
Tennessee 48 Bowling Green 28
Missouri 42 SE Missouri 7
Kentucky 35 UL-Lafayette 28
Florida 42 New Mexico State 7
Mississippi State 41 Southern Miss 20
Southeastern LA 35 Northwestern State 27
LA Tech 38 Southern 14
LSU 41 McNeese State 13
While on the topic of predictions, I want to remind all of you that the deadline for making your picks in our Louisiana High School Pickem Contest is today at 5 p.m. It’s fun and free to participate, and it doesn’t take as much time this year as we reduced the number of games from 140+ to 50 per week. Also, weekly winners will receive DandyDon.com koozies and bumper stickers. So far the participation looks to be pretty high, and I hope several of you will decide to sign up today and make your picks.
Last but not least, let’s close out with our countdown to game day, which is at the 2-day mark, by remembering a special Tiger who played a key role in LSU’s 2007 National Championship - No. 2 Demetrius Byrd. A native of Miami, Florida, Byrd came to LSU as one of the most coveted JUCO players after playing two seasons at Pearl River Community College. As a junior in 2007, Byrd immediately made a splash in his first season with the Tigers, leading the team with seven receiving TDs and finishing second on the team with 621 receiving yards. Byrd was LSU’s big-play receiver, as nine of his 35 receptions went for 20 yards or more. There were several big plays by Byrd that were pivotal in big victories, including a 4th-and-3 TD reception in a 28-24 victory vs. Florida, the well-known game-winner with one second remaining in the 30-24 win vs. Auburn, and LSU’s only offensive TD in the Tiger’s 21-14 victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship. As a senior in 2008, Byrd followed up his excellent junior season by finishing second on the team in receptions (37) and receiving yards (513) and also caught four receiving TDs, including a go-ahead TD in LSU’s come-from-behind 26-21 win at Auburn. Here are video highlights of many of Byrd’s great plays as a Tiger. Despite being involved in a serious car accident that left him hospitalized the week before the 2009 NFL draft, Byrd was drafted in the seventh round by the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, he never played a down in the NFL but will always be remembered for his great accomplishments in just two years as a Tiger.