Les Miles preparing for top ten matchup at Georgia - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Les Miles preparing for top ten matchup at Georgia

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Baton Rouge, La. - LSU has flexed their muscle through four games, gaining 400 yards each game, a school record.

The following are Coach Les Miles' comments to the media during his weekly availability, as transcribed by LSU Sports Information:

Afternoon, all. You choose to come to LSU to look forward to playing in a game Between the Hedges, nationally ranked. Our guys are looking forward to it. Know it's going to be a great environment. Been there before. We'll do our part to prepare to give us all a great game.

Game Day will be there. CBS will be televising. Kind of we're all looking forward to going to that and being a part.

The Auburn game, it never rains in Tiger Stadium. I can tell you it was a very stiff, very wind driven dew that made it just the same. I thought our guys did a great job managing the position they were in. We handled the ball well during their net time. We ran the football in characteristic fashion. I think, importantly, we handled bad weather.

I thought Zach played well. We were in our fourth straight game in excess of 400 yards offense. This is the first time in school history that that's happened.

I think Zach's really doing what we ask of him. Need not get impatient at certain times. We're not going to throw the ball down the field at certain times. The read is going to keep you underneath.

We felt like he had poise during that stretch where we were looking at rain and an opponent, as well.

He threw one pick. I think he'd like to have that one back. Again, it may be a little too measured on the throw, trying to make it too easy for our guy to catch it. Should have thrown a little wider out. If he would have done that, that would not have been picked as a well thrown ball.

Jarvis Landry had seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, had two called back. He and Odell Beckham continue to give us the big plays in the passing game that we need.

Jeremy Hill with 185 yards and three touchdowns, who was named the SEC back of the week, had a lot of big plays in that game.

The offensive line played well in stretches. Had a couple of presnap penalties that we need to get corrected. I recognize what happened there in both instances. So we'll be able to address that and get those fixed.

Defensively we're improving. We got some young guys out there taking a lot of snaps. We forced three takeaways. The two linebackers, both Welter and Barrow, had 11 tackles each. It was nice to see Craig Loston back in the lineup. I think out backers played well.

Special teams, Jamie Keehn continues to hit the ball deep. We dialed it inside the 20. He's really coming on. I think he continues to improve.

Hairston kicks it deep in the end zone both with the wind and against it. Just exactly what we needed again.

No. 6 in both polls, kind of tells you we're getting better. And now Georgia. They're 2 1, and 1 0 in SEC play. They beat North Texas this week. North Texas is much improved. Played very well against them.

Really think that the job that Mark Richt has done in his time there is just exemplary. It's really a tribute to him and Georgia what they've got accomplished. They're a quality team, do things right.

I'm told that Zach's mother was given the week off because Zach's mom is the secretary for Coach Richt. We were really kind of hoping that we'd get the call sheet, several of the other key pieces of information, but Mark kind of knew that we needed to get that done (smiling).

I also have a member of my family that has some fondness with Georgia. I have a niece that goes to Georgia. I'm going to have to call her later today and see her when I go up there. And my daughter at the SEC meetings, Macy, just happened to go over by where the T shirts were being handed out to the coaches, made an acquaintance with Mark Richt.

She came back after talking to Mark and said, Gee, daddy, he's a really nice guy. She said, Do you play those guys?

I said, Yeah.

So I also have to keep an eye on her this week. I want to make sure she's not mailing Coach Richt our game plans (smiling).

Their offense, Aaron Murray, very, very talented quarterback. Manager of the game. Todd Gurley, very talented tailback. Big offensive line. Really, really nice receiving corps. Defense that's talented as well. Big, tall, athletic men.

Todd Grantham is the defensive coordinator. Does a really good job there. Going to be a great challenge to us.

Special teams, they got a punter that averages 48 yards per punt.

We're looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun. We've been there before. We certainly recognize the venue. We'll look forward to competing against the best, so...

Questions.

 Q. Coach, facing that potent of an offense in Georgia, how key will time of possession be for your team when you guys have the ball in terms of sustaining drives and keeping Murray and them off the field as much as possible?

COACH MILES: We're going to do the things we do. It's just that simple. We need to sustain long drives. We want to keep the ball. But we're also going to take our shots. We're going to use our balance to our advantage.

So, yeah, we want to sustain drives, keep drives going. In the same vein, we want to take an opportunity at some down the field throws.

Q. In that game against Auburn, none of the touchdown drives took longer than three and a half minutes. Could you talk about the way the game is changing. Are you as coaches going to have to adapt with it? You can no longer sit on the ball and kill the clock, because teams are so potent, including your own.

COACH MILES: Every game is different. You have to have the ability offensively, defensively, for that matter special teams, to adapt. The opportunity to run the clock out against a very talented offense may not start about three minutes to go on the clock, and up really three scores. You might really start looking at, with a 17 point lead, three minutes, as opposed to what is traditionally a four minute runoff, because everybody throws the football.

In this league, which is a defensive league, I think it will eventually this year be a defensive league, I see a lot of quarterbacks and a lot of receiving corps, guys that can throw the football.

Frankly, I think you'll see that we may not be able to control the clock as well as we'd like if we have to turn it back to an offense that can throw it as well as some that can play.

Q. Coach, what advice, if any, would you give Zach on his emotions this week, playing within himself?

COACH MILES: He has earned so much with us. He's so accountable, so committed, giving great effort and leadership. All he has to do is go and do the things that we've asked him to do and be proud of what all he's accomplished, what all he's about to accomplish.

Q. Les, Aaron Murray is about to start his 45th straight game as a quarterback at Georgia, which hardly anybody in the SEC has done that. Started every game from day one. How do you rattle a guy like that?

COACH MILES: I don't think you rattle a guy like that. I don't think that's necessarily the thought process.

You pressure him with coverage and disguise. You pressure him with pressure up the field in his face. It's the mixture. Certainly he also has an issue when he hands the ball off and they don't gain yards. If they don't gain yards on a running play, the pressure falls back to the signal caller.

But to rattle him, yeah, that's not something that's in the plan.

Q. Coach, you already talked about some familiarity with Coach Richt. The fact that you have been there a while, the programs, the way the team has been winning, do you think LSU is like Georgia?

COACH MILES: Like Georgia? I think certainly both schools have their similarities and their differences. Yeah, I can imagine that somebody could make some comparisons. I'm just so comfortable in this (indiscernible) that it's hard for me to figure it any other way.

It's not likely for me to want to wear red. It's just not going to happen, so...

Q. Les, would you talk a little bit about Todd Gurley in detail. I don't know if he reminds you of Jeremy Hill, a back that you know of. And in reference to Zach going home, have you ever thought about what it would be like to take a team to Michigan and play at Michigan?

COACH MILES: Todd Gurley is a physical back that can run with deception and speed. We certainly recognize his abilities.

Yeah, the difference between me playing and taking a team back to Michigan to play would be very reminiscent to me and not necessarily my team.

I think for Zach it's going to be a lot of fun for him to take a very, very capable group of men that are committed to the team and him playing in that stadium. I think it will be a great experience for him.

Q. Coach, on the injury front, can update Trai Turner's status and Anthony Johnson's as well. How healthy are you going into the weekend?

COACH MILES: Trai Turner will practice today. He was stepped on. Was initially diagnosed as an ankle, but is really a contusion. It's really great news.

Anthony Johnson, basically kind of bruised. He's going to be fine, too. So both guys will play from the first snap on.

Our overall health is very good, so...

Q. Coach, in the SEC Championship game two years ago, Georgia got off to a fast start, missed some opportunities to take a big lead. What do you remember about that first half and how did y'all change things in the second half to slow them down?

COACH MILES: I think it's really different teams. I think there's an ability to handle and do the things that this team does maybe a little bit more effectively than that team. So I think the game plan will be different. But obviously the same two team's playing.

Q. Coach, so many big name passers in this conference right now. How is Zach separating himself from the pack?

COACH MILES: Well, I can tell you the only thing that I can recognize is he makes a very, very accurate throw. He can throw a rope when he needs to, put air underneath it when he wants to. He's so much more athletic. His thinner and stronger than he's been. When we first got him, we felt like maybe he was a little too heavy. But he's trimmed down and gotten stronger.

I think he's one of those guys that really can compare against any and has a tremendous future at quarterback.

Q. What kind of work has Jeremy Hill done behind the scenes since getting back with the team, now that he's sort of back at top speed? What kind of work has he been doing behind the scenes to get back to that point?

COACH MILES: Well, practice and conditioning. Really what would be our normal practice regimen for him has allowed him to regain speed, understand the cuts, return to form, if you will. We'll see if we can keep him there for quite some time.

Q. Les, you mentioned the linebackers. What progress do you think they've made from week one to week four that makes you feel like they're playing better?

COACH MILES: Well, recognition. Kwon Alexander, if you watch his contribution, you can see it with speed and contact. Lamin Barrow really is athletic and strong and making plays. D.J. Welter, for that matter, is a guy that steps in the middle, really can kind of call the defenses and understand the adjustments, gets a lot of guys lined up and ready to roll.

Q. The fake field goal obviously didn't get what you wanted. What did you get from that after running it?

COACH MILES: A headache is what I got from it (smiling).

I need to give thought to running those things ever. I can tell you that it was designed well. Should we have executed it, we would have gotten exactly what we wanted. But, anyway...

Q. Les, question about SEC defenses. You mentioned it being a defensive conference earlier. Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, they're giving up more yards per game this year than they were last year. Is that an early anomaly or what have you seen in the evolution of the conference that may contribute to something like that?

COACH MILES: Yeah, I think improving quarterbacks. If you look at the league, the four teams you mentioned, virtually those were the defensive teams in the league a year ago. The reality is all those teams have really quality quarterbacks and are really going to pursue the championship, can score, can throw it and run it.

Maybe there is a little more balance offense and defense than there's been in this league. This has been traditionally a great defensive league. I can't imagine that it won't be. But as I say that, you know, I am watching the scores.

Q. Les, talk about developing the depth on the defensive line at tackle in particular. Quentin Thomas' status. Is this team ready to go on the road and play a true road game for the first time this year?

COACH MILES: Well, even though Dallas isn't that far away, there is a lot of LSU faithful that watch that game, I think we've really prepared for the road with that trip. So the regimen will be comfortable. We have really week in and week out prepared for the road in terms of music, noise, et cetera.

Now, our team. Yeah, I think so. I think there's a really strong group of veterans. The young guys that are developing with experience understand what it's going to take to win in a tough environment. I think it will be a great challenge to them. I think they're looking forward to it. I'm really kind of looking forward to it myself.

Q. What about the defensive line depth?

COACH MILES: I think Quentin Thomas will be back this week. The guys we had there last week will all play again. We're looking for a guy to maybe step out from the younger guys that can go in there and give us snaps in a game where we need some rest.

I think Mickey Johnson is a guy like that. I'm not ready to say that Greg Gilmore or Bain are out. They're still guys that we're looking at there that can step in, play, give us real quality snaps.

Q. Tahj Jones, is he going to be practicing all right this week?

COACH MILES: Yeah, I have to be honest with you. I think Tahj will be fine. I think there's some rehabilitation that's going to need to take place there and some rest. I don't think there's any long term issues with Tahj Jones.

Q. Coach, usually when you get a big matchup like this, a lot of the big plays come on third down. Can you talk about Zach's performance on third down, the coaching staff, what is the dynamic there that has made you so successful so far.

COACH MILES: I think the ability to run it and throw it on third down is one of the advantages that we have. I think Zach's arm and strength, understanding of what we expect from him in a pass progression, I think those are all advantages.

Q. Les, I get a sense there's a good relationship between you and Mark, mutual respect. You mentioned they do wear red jerseys, play in a horseshoe shaped stadium. Does that remind you of another team you're not too fond of from the Big Ten?

COACH MILES: No, to be honest with you, not at all. Between the Hedges, it's a really unique stadium and it's different. There's no review of past opponents that also wore red.

Q. Not going to say it?

COACH MILES: No, I'm not going to say it (laughter).

Q. You talked about the defensive nature of this league, it coming. Is that indicative of maybe a young group of players out on the field still trying to feel it out, much like they would in practice with the offense being ahead of the defense? Do you feel in your own instances it's a matter of young players getting up to speed, realizing what it's going to take in these games?

COACH MILES: I think there's probably some of both there. I think our players are as talented as we've ever had. I think there's a maturity that needs to take place so that they can play with their cleats headed north and south, ready to take a tackle, show the style of confidence, if you will, that other defenses that have played in this uniform have shown.

I think that that's coming. I see it in last week, better in certain spots. Certainly that's got to continue.

Q. You talked about time of possession. You totally dominated that first half, doubled their yardage, yet they ran six or seven more plays than you did. Is that a concern? What can you do about a team, even though they're not threatening you, they're running so many more plays and wearing down your defense?

COACH MILES: We're not likely to say to a running back that breaks through the hole, Okay, now, listen, this has to be an eight , ten play drive, not a two play drive. So what we're going to do is 12 yards into the run, take a knee. We'll come back with the same call, you'll be able to get it, we'll just take more time.

It's a difficult position to be in. You know, we do want to control the ball. I mean, we want to certainly score and drive. Really, when appropriate, we want to use the clock. It's something that we're going to have to do, we're going to have to embrace at some point in time.

There will never be a time when that open hole will be met with, Please run as fast as you can. There will be a time when we'll need to possess the ball and take some of the strain of play away from that defense.

Thank you.

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