Miles sending offensive coordinator back to booth

BATON ROUGE - LSU football coach Les Miles appeared as tentative and unsure Tuesday during his weekly press luncheon as his then No. 5 team did in a 16-14 upset loss to unranked Wisconsin on Saturday.

"Now, there's a lot that can be said about a lot of things, and there's a lot of observations," Miles said in his opening statement, which was more disjointed than usual. "And certainly I'm aware of what's going on and what's being said, etcetera."

On Monday, for example, former LSU All-American defensive end and SEC Network commentator Marcus Spears, who left LSU just as Miles was entering in 2005, said Miles should be fired. Several columnists locally and nationally harshly criticized Miles and his team for its poor play against Wisconsin, which entered the game with nine four- and five-star prospects from its last four signing classes to 68 by LSU. An extremely high percentage of callers to the local radio shows on Monday and Tuesday mornings were not supportive of Miles in any way.

Asked to clarify what he meant by "what's going on," Miles said, "Just the perimeter, the outside-the-building opinions, basic opinions."

Miles still appeared shell shocked from the season opening loss - the first in his 12 years at LSU and first in his career since losing at Nebraska, 17-7, in 2003 when he was Oklahoma State's head coach.

"Well, after the summer that we had in Louisiana and after the floods, there wasn't a group of men more motivated to please their state and their school than our team," Miles said to open his press conference. "I can tell you that they're just like you. They're sick. They're miserable. I've given them the 48-your rule, so at this point in time, we're trying to shed that feeling and go forward."

LSU, which fell to No. 22 from No. 6 in the nation in the USA Today coaches' poll on Tuesday, hosts 1-0 Jacksonville State, which is No. 5 in the second tier Football Championship Subdivision poll, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU. 

"It's not the end of the world," LSU senior center Ethan Pocic said Tuesday. "As long as we learn from it, and we improve, we've just got to make the most out of it and become a better team after it. We're just focused on this weekend. We can't wait to play."

Miles, though, could not move forward just yet. 

"Obviously, I am the one that has to regress and hopefully not them as I need to address the media," he said.

And on the menu at the "Lunch with Les" billed press conference was grilled Mahi-Miles.

QUESTION: "When it was announced that you were returning as the coach last November, there seemed to be maybe an ultimatum that the offense had to improve, that changes had to be made for you guys to compete for championships again. The overwhelming feedback that we get is that nothing looked different. What is your assessment? And did you make an effort to improve the offense."

MILES: "Yeah, I think if we had five more passes and if a couple of those runs were turned into touchdowns, I think that you would look at us and look at the Texas Tech fix and say, 'Hmm, a lot of similarities. We were spread in two back. We had some big plays out of two back. I think you would consider it an offense that has the width and breadth to take advantage of an opponent."

Miles never confirmed that there was an edict from LSU athletic director Joe Alleva to change the offense last November, and he actually poked fun at that notion after beating Texas A&M, 19-7, in the regular season finale with 244 rushing yards and just 83 in the air. But LSU did gain a school bowl record 638 yards with 261 of that through the air from quarterback Brandon Harris in a 56-27 win over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl last season, though the Red Raiders came in with one of the worst defenses in the nation. Against Wisconsin, which had one of the nation's top defenses last year under present LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, the Tigers managed just 257 total yards and only 131 through the air.

"I think what everybody is saying is, 'Geez, you know, let's go for 600 yards and let's put 50 on people, and we're for that," Miles said. "The issue is we have to find the recipe that allows that to happen because we have talent. I promise you this - we've recruited well. And there's some really good kids here and good people. We're fighting it, and we're seeing what we can get to."

QUESTION: "Are you considering playing Danny Etling (backup quarterback) at all this week (after Harris was often inaccurate and threw two interceptions, including one late that sealed the Wisconsin win)?

MILES: "I think we've considered it and will consider it. Hopefully, it'll not have to be done for the necessity of victory. Hopefully, it'll be done because Brandon has really improved and done well, and, 'Let's give Danny some snaps.' But that evaluation is ongoing. The quarterback was errant several times, but he had two drops. So 14 for 21 as opposed to 12 for 21, he looks like a much better quarterback. We think certainly he's got the tools that every quarterback would want to have - a big rifle arm and the ability to move his feet. But yeah, I don't think his play was great. He overthrew a couple of balls."

QUESTION: "Do you feel like something has to change offensively?"

MILES: "I don't think that change is something that we avoid in any way. I think that it's really how best do we attack our opponents, given the skills and talents that we have."

Miles did make at least one change. He has decided to return offensive coordinator Cam Cameron back to the press box after just two games on the field - the bowl win over Texas Tech and Saturday's loss to Wisconsin. Cameron had coached all of his previous games at LSU from 2013 through '15 from the pressbox, but Harris had asked that he be on the field for the bowl game. Since that worked well, Cameron opened the season on the field as did LSU's eight other assistants in an extremely rare move by Miles, who had only young graduate assistants at his disposal in the press box against Wisconsin.

Miles' plan now is to have eight with him on the field and Cameron in the press box.

"We did not get as much information from the box as we would have liked," Miles said. "And Cam can really tell what's going on very quickly from there as opposed to having it relayed, especially in between calls. So we look to reverse that."

Miles will have wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig do most of the sideline coaching of Harris with Cameron back upstairs.

"I liked it with Coach Cameron on the field," Pocic said. "Brandon in the locker room, he thought it was all on him. But it's not. It's the offense. It's the defense, special teams. There's so many things that play into it. Like I told Brandon, the offensive line has got to give him more time. We just have to get on the same page."

FOURNETTE MISSES PRACTICE: Tailback Leonard Fournette did not practice Monday with a contusion on his ankle suffered late in the Wisconsin game, but he is expected to play Saturday night.

"Yeah, he's fine," Miles said. "He's not terribly swollen. He's got a nice bruise. I'd expect him to play."


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