Baton Rouge, La. - Les Miles' Tigers have flexed their muscle against two straight opponents at home and now it's time to start the SEC schedule. First up is Auburn, boasting a 3-0 record of their own.
The following are coach Les Miles' comments to the media at his weekly lunch, as transcribed by LSU Athletics:
COACH MILES: ...I think we're doing a I think he's understanding what we want, doing the things. I think he's kind of he's geared in and his nine touchdown passes in three games is a school record. He leads the conference in pass efficiency with 45 for 69 attempts and 797 yards.
Last week, offensively we rushed for 300 and through for 270. Both backs Hill and Magee were over 200 yards. Those kinds of numbers means that the offensive line is doing a very strong job.
Defensively, I think we're making progress. I think we get better and better with each quarter. The young guys and the veterans feel more comfortable understanding their role. I think we'll continue to improve.
Ego Ferguson had eight tackles and really a big night and was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. I like our linebacker rotation still.
Lamin Barrow came out and we got some more young guys to work, which was good for us.
Craig Loston will be back this week. He probably could have played last week, but felt like the rest time would be beneficial and so we did that.
Chief is doing a good job. I mean, he's bringing young guys a long, veterans and newcomers all at the same time. We look forward to that continuing.
Special teams Colby Delahoussaye is 4 for 4 in field goals and continues to hit it. We have enjoyed real quality teams from him. The kickoff coverage again continues to improve.
Hairston had five touchbacks. We hit a couple of hot squibs on purpose. Some of those things off the tee just to have a look see at it. Maybe as we get going along here, we may use some of those. But nice start, not necessarily what we want to be. We, you know, need to improve certainly this week.
Auburn is very quality team. Gus Malzahn doing a great job in preparation. You watch the teams play, they play hard. Just a very quality opponent and somebody that has done a great job. Their defense is big and strong. They are allowing 17 points and 433 yards per game. But it's probably not reminiscent of their abilities because they have talent and they are well coached and prepared. So they are getting better.
We're looking forward to it. This is the kind of game we need. We recognize the conference we play in. This is a very quality conference opponent and, again, our team is ambitious. They look at this practice week and they best look at it as an opportunity to improve because we have a quality opponent, this is SEC conference play. That is where we want to be.
COACH MILES: Yeah, Lamin Barrow could have gone back in the game probably within about five, seven minutes. We just say, nah, stay right here. The way things were going and the opportunity to just freshen him up some, we felt like that would be best. He'll practice today. And to be honest with you, I don't know that there will be anybody that misses practice today.
Q. You have lost a fumble every game leading to points. You are averaging eight penalties per game. I know you have little tolerance for that normally. Is that an even greater emphasis this week?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we can't afford in conference play to make those kind of mistakes. The good news is that and I meant that when I said Travin Dural is really a sure handed punt returner. I have great confidence in him, such that I put him right back in the game and he fielded an extremely difficult punt, fair caught it. We really taught him a lesson, if you will, and I think we're letter for it.
The penalties that were you know, I look at every penalty. I watch the film. Certainly there are some things that you want to get corrected and then, you know, frankly give you an example. We had a center that cut a guy, okay. And as the play ends, that guy who is going down contacts one of our players. I mean, the view of chop block in my mind is one guy stands you up and the other one cuts you. The guy was going down and ran into one of our players.
So, I mean, it's just I'll turn that one in and see what they say. However they interpret it will be fine with me.
So I guess what I'm saying is that with great effort and energy at times even, you know, at the cost of a penalty, I'll take some of those. When you push somebody in the back on a punt return, I won't take that. Those are things that we're going to get fixed. Pre snap penalties, I can't have motion and movement. So those things, we're working on. I would think we'll be I think the sense of urgency will certainly be there for this game.
Q. Coach, what are some of the challenges of defending these more up tempo offenses and how do you go about stopping that?
COACH MILES: Well, ready is the issue. You have to make sure that the call is in, communications is done and we're ready, and we're not paused to communicate but in fact we are feet north and south, keyed in on our responsibility and ready to play. I look forward to that. I think it's something that we've practiced, in my opinion, every day since probably two springs ago. There is always a piece of every practice donated to an up tempo style of offense.
So we feel like we've got a handle on it, it just needs to be made perfect.
Q. Coach, who in practices is established themselves as a third receiver in the passing game? It's been a lot of Jarvis during games, but who could emerge into that spot this year? Along those lines, what's the status of John Diarse?
COACH MILES: John Diarse is one of those guys that you talk about that can emerge. His health is very good. He'll play. I think Travin Dural, Kadron Boone, John Diarse, all three of those guys are real quality receivers and on the given day could end up with, you know, five to nine catches and a big night. So I think it's just kind of depends on, you know, what the defense, what they want us to dial up.
Q. You alluded to SEC starting and obviously this competition so far hasn't been to that level. Record setting pace on offense, how do you temper that? How do you gauge that as a staff?
COACH MILES: Well, we feel like the style of offense that we have is varied as well in that we really, you know, have kind of we've opened and prepared a wide number of things and we should be in great shape as we go forward. We're not we knew what we did and why we did it in the last couple of weeks and feel like, you know, in the next couple of weeks we're prepared as well.
Now, we expect that the balls that will be thrown will be thrown a little bit open but still open. Better secondaries, better pass rush, we recognize that in preparing for that as well.
Q. How is the style of Terrence Magee different than that of the rest of your running backs and has he opened up the staff's eyes that this guy needs time?
COACH MILES: I'll let you know something, I'll say this, you know, very honestly, our staff knew that Terrence Magee had that kind of ability. He's a tough runner. He's going to get what the play could be turned into. That's, you know, we look forward to getting him in games early and late.
Q. With the start of SEC play, just being a big advocate for this conference, what do you enjoy most about the level of competition, just week in and week out the battles that ensue?
COACH MILES: You better be ready. Don't come to a conference opponent and it's going to be a highly contested, very competitive game. It generally goes down to the end. So I if you enjoy competition at the very highest level, you love these games.
Q. You mentioned that you still work on the up tempo offenses. Are you going to go as far to do what you did when you prepared for Oregon using two teams and things like that? If not, what are the things you do to simulate that in practice?
COACH MILES: We play our offense versus our defense in an up tempo scale, you know, what would be probably 12 snaps, you know, six and six, pretty routinely. It's a different kind of offense or a the same type of offense, kind of depends. At a very rapid pace. And our guys have to be ready to substitute. Our guys have to be ready not to substitute. They have to get the call in. They have to make sure that they understand who is making the call for the front, for the secondary, et cetera. It's all done off the field in what is most like a game simulation.
That's as good as we can get, the way I got it figured.
COACH MILES: Well, we use two offensive teams, but also using our own tempo. In other words, we get on there, we don't want to substitute. We want to go fast. We want to mark the ball, put it down and go. So that even at times, two teams with two huddles go slower than that team that you just marked the ball. Now they're on it and they're snapping it.
Q. When you watch Auburn on tape, what is the biggest difference you see under Malzahn as opposed to the previous staff?
COACH MILES: I think they are as talented as the other teams that you would see come out of Auburn, but I just think they are well prepared. I think they are flying around for their coach. Shoot, I wouldn't expect it any differently.
Q. You guys have tried, I think, between seven and ten different combinations of linebackers so far this these games. What has been the calculus behind the rotations?
COACH MILES: Well, it's a we're looking at different guys involving different styles of offense and how they can make the adjustment to the communicator. There's a lot that goes into the rotation. We're looking at it very specifically. I don't know that it's fair for me to share that with you at this point.
I can tell you that it's been beneficial. I enjoyed seeing big Beckwith in the game and it's there's some guys making real strides. And frankly, we settle down to a five linebacker rotation. I think you'll find that they are pretty darn good.
Q. Can you compare how much Auburn has improved offensively from the team you played last year on the road, in particular at the quarterback position where Marshall had a big game against Mississippi State?
COACH MILES: I think he is throwing the ball better. I think they have a good schemes. They are a balanced offense, both run and pass. I think they are improved.
Q. Tre'Davious White left the game and didn't come back. Is he going to practice this week?
COACH MILES: Absolutely. He won't miss practice. We wanted to see what he was like as a starter and really gave him his snaps early and made a number of tackles, played well, very aggressive. Really we went to another corner and we think we'll be fine there. He was a little nicked, but not something that will miss a practice.
Q. Warren Beckwith, we've seen him line up at different spots on defense. Has he found a home at linebacker?
COACH MILES: We think that he can play a number of spots on offense. I think one of those spots is linebacker. I think to say that over the course of a career that he would just be a linebacker, I don't know that does service to his talent. I think maybe there's an opportunity for him to play linebacker maybe a mikebacker, in certain situations move to the perimeter and put his hand on the ground and pass rush.
Again, I think there is some variance there and I think he's developing very nicely.
Q. Along the lines of talking about how many plays you are running, in the first game I believe you ran 80 plays. In the last two, they've been in the 50s. Are you pleased with that number? Do you want to run more plays offensively or where do you want it to be?
COACH MILES: We ran, I won't to say, 50 some in this last game, 54 or 55. Basically averaged ten yards a play. We didn't have it as long as our opponent. We scored a bunch.
It becomes difficult for me to you know, I like the idea that we can get first downs and go down the field. But those big plays, what happens on long drives is something kills a drive, okay. In other words, whatever it is. And then on those big plays that go in the end zone, that is a drive fulfilled. So we're enjoying the productivity.
Q. Malzahn, I guess, is a lot more exotic than what we've seen in the past from them. How important is it having a guy like Loston back there to read that before the snap?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think that again they have a very quality scheme. You know, I don't know if "exotic" is exactly the word. I think it's all things that we've seen. They're not necessarily brand new, but it is very important that a guy like Craig Loston, who has got a lot of experience, understands what to do, understands the differences in offenses is back there. I think that's advantage for us.
Q. After the first week, you put Quan Alexander as the linebacker that stays all the time in the nickel and dime. Talk about his talent.
COACH MILES: Well, he has great speed and he is a very, very vicious tackler. He will tackle you with his speed. If you watched Odell's field goal return and you watched the kind of play that he had on that play, he's extremely explosive. He's kind of guy.
He didn't play perfectly in the last game. There's certainly some things that we need to get fixed. But in terms of athleticism and the abilities, he's when he fully understands the position, he'll be as good as there is.
Q. For a long time the full back position kind of disappeared from offensive football as anything other than the blocking back. Starting last year you seem to start getting your full back re involved in the offense as far as handling the ball and more so this year. Can you comment on getting the full back reintegrated into offensive play and the two young men that you have got now?
COACH MILES: Yeah, the key piece is if the full back is just a blocking piece then you don't have to take coverage. You don't have to worry about if you are a defense. You don't have to worry about a quicker hitting play on a running game. But when that full back cannot only block but receive it out of the back field or hit a seam very quickly from a closer alignment to the line of scrimmage, the pressure is significant on defenses. It's and obviously the advantage is to the offense.
I think our longest reception in the last game, maybe even the year, may have been to a full back coming out of the back field.
I like our two guys. I think both Connor Neighbors and J.C. Copeland are big, strong physical guys that can run it and catch it, as well as block it. So if you watch the productivity that's coming from that position, it's just very difficult for us not to put a guy on the field that can do the things that those two can do.
COACH MILES: Well, I think it's a difficult piece to find that big man that can run the ball, can block it and receive it well. I think it's just you have to find those guys just aren't there. You know, you have to kind of find those guys.
Q. Through three games, your defense has forced two turnovers and got one on special teams. Do you expect more than that? Is that something that you are focusing on?
COACH MILES: Well, the we really look at it as an opportunity for our defense to get takeaways. I think they come and go. There is an ebb and flow in games that are not necessarily can you predict how soon or how often that's going to happen.
I think our guys, if you watch the film, I think you see attempted strips and guys that are making plays on the ball. And I think it really kind of depends on the style of offense that you play. Some offenses are a little bit more at risk and some are ready to take first downs and/or punt. And I think that those guys are not as liable to give you a turnover.
Q. You mentioned earlier the challenges of facing a tempo team in terms of calls. With Auburn's power game that they run at temp, what is the challenge for guys like D.J. or Lamar in terms of getting that orchestrated? What test does this offense pose to those guys?
COACH MILES: Frankly, it a kind of depends on the call that's made and being able to, you know, decipher it and making sure that the guys that you have to get specific information to are getting that information. And then getting the alignment and being ready to diagnose the play.
After the play is aligned, you know, there is keys and issues that go into the proper diagnosis of what's being run. How we're going to play it. How we're going to spill it. How we're going to long arm it, et cetera. I think that that's the magic of being prepared for that style offense.
In other words, being ready and lined up is one thing, but having gone through the thought process of this is what we expect, that is what ready means.
Q. You guys have really been able to keep Mettenberger pretty upright this season. But Jerald Hawkins, talk about the job that he has done and what he'll have to do entering SEC play.
COACH MILES: I think our offensive line is making progress in protection. We have to continue to. This will be another challenge. I like how they are approaching it. They come to practice willing to work. They understand, you know, deciding their targets. There is I think the group I think Hawkins certainly is one as well that's really come light years, in my opinion will continue to improve because that's really what they have taken on. They have come to work every day.
Q. I know it's just three games into the season, is there a sense of accomplishment or pride that you were able to put the puzzle pieces together to get this offense to get to speed that I would imagine you like?
COACH MILES: At some point in time way off in the future, at some not foreseen period in my life, I guess I'll look back on some of those things. This is not that time.
I can tell you when you have a contest that you know is going to be competitive and the need and want to get that to your team and prepare them, there is no there is no responsibility or task that allows you to then at that point in time, you know, take some personal luxury and kind of figure it out. No.