LSU head football coach Les Miles discussed many topics during his turn in front of the media Thursday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
One of those, of course, was quarterback Brandon Harris. The former Parkway standout, who started every game for the Tigers in 2015, will be a junior this season.
“Certainly our play there will be significant,” Miles said. “He shows more poise and more comfort in — he’s more ambitious — the more you accomplish, the more you want to accomplish.
“The artistic piece of being a quarterback is the style of throw and the style of throw is really where he’s at. You know, do I drive it? Do I put air on it? Where am I — what is this throw? And there’s where you want a quarterback to spend his time, and he is, and I think for a guy that’s throwing for 2,600 yards, 19 touchdowns in two years is kind of a nice position to be going into the season.”
Harris completed 149 of 277 passes for 2,165 yards and 13 touchdowns with just six interceptions last season as LSU went 9-3. The Tigers’ top two receivers, Travin Dural and Malachi Dupree, also return.
Miles was asked if he was planning to open up the offense more, a question he’s heard more than once. The offense has revolved around running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette the last two seasons.
“I think we could expect more from our quarterback play and our receiver play,” he said. “I think Dural and Dupre should have marked seasons, seasons where they make big plays and significant games, so, yeah, I — and I think open up the — what we’re going to do is this. We’re going to throw it and run it with advantages, and where the advantages are, we’re going to. Malachi and Travin would be those guys.”
Miles spent a large part of his time discussing recent events in Baton Rouge and elsewhere that have garnered national attention.
He said the coaching staff has had meetings and that he’s met with individual team leaders. There was also a team meeting that was broken up into position groups.
“I don’t know that we got to the depth that we needed,” he said. “I think that has to continue, certainly in our place.
“When you look at what’s going on in our country and you look at the culture of a football team and the culture of any sport team, people have to buy in, they have to have great energy. They have to work hard. They have to do their job. And then when they do that, they come alongside a team effort. They’re embraced by team. They enjoy the position that they have. They’re productive, and that team is significant.
“If you have great talent, you can have a very, very talented team, but you need everybody. And I feel like our society’s the same and you need everybody. If you look to see change and if you watch the representation of our country on live TV, you realize that change is necessary.
“And it comes through all of us, everybody in the room, certainly me. It’s an inclusive. You reach for others. You need to be respectful of their life and their opinion and who they are. You need compassion for people. You build them up and you train them and you give them the best practices, and we change as a team and as a community and as a society. I help my guys in some way process emotion. I don’t know that I’ve done a very good job. I don’t know that I personally have processed the emotion that I see when I — when our country is displayed as it is.
“What I’d like to do is have them, our guys, have a platform where they could affect change. I think they’re wonderful men. I think they’re constantly involved in roles — they’re a student, they’re a football player, they’re role models. Society chases them. They want them at the party. They want them in front of the magazine. They want their autograph. And so then they’re constantly barraged with what’s the answer, what’s the answer, what’s the answer? And the reality of it is just hope to put them in the position to allow them to have the greatest possible impact, because they’re our future.”
Miles said he wants his players to focus on the game plan, academics and getting their degree during the season. But during their free time the players and coaches could get out in the community more.
“Maybe it’s an opportunity to share outreach,” he said. “Maybe there’s a youth football team in the neighborhood that needs a speaker. Maybe there’s those types of things that make the community rich. I want you to know something. I have great respect for my neighborhood. I have great respect for our community. And there’s not a huge negative piece there. I just want to be a part of whatever change that could be positive.”
Asked if it might be asking too much of 19-, 20- and 21-year-old men to also be role models in the community, Miles said “you’re absolutely correct.”
“I mean, a football player, he’s injured, he’s nicked. He’s got to get up early to go to treatment. He’s got to get up early and get to study. He’s got to stay up and get the paper done. He’s got to do a bunch of stuff. There’s a bunch of stuff in academics.”
Miles also mentioned the demands of the media on some players.
“But during the fall of the year there’s also a need in the community for that team to win and let’s see if we can do our part to do that — find the times, and they’re going to be rare — that we can do community outreach as a team.”
LSU senior defensive back Tre’Davious White was also asked about the ongoing events in Baton Rouge, including the relationship between African-Americans and police.
“I feel like it is not a problem,” he said “If you treat people with respect, they will respect you,. That was the way I was brought up. In the situation that is going on right now, our best bet as athletes at LSU is to win football games. That will bring the community together.”
— Miles was asked what it meant to be the “dean” of SEC coaches. Entering his 12th season, he has been the head coach at LSU longer than any other current coach in the SEC has been head coach at theirs.
“I don’t know. I think really being called a dean, I should probably get like a robe, right, and maybe a hat that maybe sits to the side and maybe my hanging cloth could be, you know, kind of dressed up some. That would be nice.
“I can tell you this, how fortunate I’ve been to be with really great teams and represent a wonderful institution in LSU and to be able to be here at the length of time that I have and how many very, very quality coaches have come and gone in that time, and I’m very fortunate. I certainly enjoy the membership and being a part of this group of SEC coaches.”
— Earlier during the offseason, Miles said Fournette needed to drop a few pounds in order to be in playing shape. Thursday he said Fournette is there now.
“It’s his desire to be an elite back. He wants to be able to have speed, strength, and the combination of the two is certainly the advantage for the elite back, and so we felt like that would happen somewhere between two and a quarter and 231, and he’s right there. Just where he needs to be.
Miles also talked about running backs Derrius Guice, who averaged 8.5 yards per carry last season, Darrell Williams and Nick Brossette and fullbacks J.D. Moore and Bry’Kiethon Mouton.
“We’re going to be pretty salty at running back,” Miles said in an understatement.
— LSU was picked to finish second in the SEC behind defending national champion Alabama by the media on Thursday, the final day of Media Days.
The Crimson Tide earned 223 points as points were awarded on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. LSU was second at 59 points, followed by Tennessee in third with 29 points.
Georgia was a distant fourth with seven points, while Florida was fifth at five points, Ole Miss sixth with four points and Texas A&M, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Arkansas all tied for seventh with one point apiece.
Alabama was picked to win the SEC West with 2,220 total points, while LSU was second with 1,984 points. Alabama received 246 first-place votes in the West, while LSU collected 76. Ole Miss was third with 1,479 points and five first-place votes.
Tennessee was selected to win the SEC Eastern Division with 2,167 points, including 225 first-place votes. Florida was second with 1,891 points and 57 votes to win the division, while Georgia was third with 1,860 points and 45 first-place votes.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org
SECSports.com and lsusports.net contributed to this report. Feature photo by Tim Eddington.