BATON ROUGE - LSU coach Les Miles met with members of the media on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since his post-game press conference following last week's loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship contest in New Orleans.
Miles, who just wrapped up his seventh season at LSU, is the third-winningest coach in school history with a 75-18 mark. In 2011, Miles guided the Tigers to one of the best seasons in school history, going 13-1 overall with eight of the victories coming against Top 25 teams. LSU also spent a school-record 11 straight weeks ranked No. 1in the nation and won 12 of its 13 games by double-digits.
LSU returns 16 starters (8 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialist) for the 2012 season, including a trio of All-Americas in cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Sam Montgomery and punter Brad Wing. The Tigers also return its top four running backs and its second-leading receiver in Odell Beckham Jr.
Tuesday was the first day of the spring semester for LSU and the Tigers are scheduled to begin spring practice at the end of February. Next up for the Tigers will be National Signing Day, which takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
The following are the comments from Miles at Tuesday's media session:
"I have to tell you that beyond the last game there has been a lot of heartache on our team. I think there is a quality group of men that tried awfully hard to win everything, and fell short. I don't think there is any question that is a pain that we have endured. I can tell you that I was in the schools with recruiting, and I can remember seeing a young woman. We talked about the last game. She took a deep breath, and she sighed. It wasn't what she wanted either, and I understand that. I understand from that our fan base, and I understand that by the people who care about this program.
"I can tell you that I do think about the ability to change quarterbacks. That was a question that I had, brought to my staff. There was a point and time where we just scrambled to the 32-yard line against Alabama. Jordan Jefferson put us in that position, and the way the pass rush was going in that game we just felt like that we needed a mobile quarterback to make a play like that. Understand that if you finish one drive, you just finish one drive, you score seven. It's a completely different game really right from the start to the finish minus the back end. I can tell you that Jarrett Lee did come to mind. We do have confidence in Jarrett, we just felt like we needed that guy who might be able to get loose with his feet.
"That being said, I have a difficult time people moaning my time effort and my coaches effort and the want to win. I felt that they did everything that they could, that they were asked to do. I don't think we played perfectly. I don't think there's anybody would say that this was something that was representative of our best play, but I can tell you that our guys gave everything that they had.
"Now that being said, we hang two banners in this building. The fundamentals of this program are to win championships, and this team is a championship team. We won the (SEC) West. Now in the (SEC) West you have at one point and time, 1-2-3 (in the country). So when you win the (SEC) West, anyway you cut it, you are in the top four in the country. When we win the conference, the conference is the finest conference in college football certainly in our view. When we take 11 weeks as the No. 1 team in the country and really repelled all comers. We played eight nationally ranked teams, beat the national champions in the regular season and played in the last game where only two teams get to play. Later this spring, our team will take a day and hang the (SEC) Western Division championship and the conference championship banners in our indoor facility. I have to be very honest to tell you that I cannot bemoan this team's success. By any measure, this is a great year.
"I can tell you that our team at 4 p.m. will be directed towards next year. We return a team in my mind that will have just as much talent and is just as capable as any that we've had. As we did a year ago, there are some things that we're going to have to put together. There are some pieces that need to mature and come. I don't think that there's any question that this team will be capable. We will throw the football more, we will lose a characteristic of a quarterback that can move his feet and run by design. We will have a guy that will scramble but certainly will throw the football by percentage greater. I can tell you that we are having a great recruiting class. I like the class as it is shaping up even very currently. I think it is an opportunity for us to again compete for a national championship with the style of class that we are capable of bringing in. We certainly have to finish strong but again that is something that this program has done. Again, we will have a team meeting and start next semester. I don't bemoan the want to have finished well in that last game, but we won 13 straight. The opportunity for us to approach that style of team and exceed is certainly before us."
On the Alabama game ...
"There were certainly a number of uncharacteristic mistakes by our guys. We ended up in some first down and 15's that we didn't need to. There were some snaps that hit the ground, some guys that had made big plays, not the quarterback, big plays throughout the year made some mistakes. Guys that we needed to count on in that game. That being said, I really think in all phases for the first time that I can remember, our special teams gave up a long punt return. Certainly in that game, it needed not to happen. I think our defense gave up a lot of third down conversions which they were tremendous in the red zone and tight zone. They were tremendous on the course of the day, but certainly they could play better on those third down conversions. That being said, it wasn't our day. It was a very talented Alabama team that prevailed."
On the quarterbacks ...
"I have to give credit where credit is due first. Jarrett Lee did a great job at the start of the season, and I have to tell you that there are pieces of that season that are specifically his where his abilities really spoke to our team's achievement. I have to say the same thing about Jordan Jefferson. You get in the back end of the season and the opportunity to play against very mobile defenses, the idea that he could control the line of scrimmage with option and movement gave us an opportunity to win in those games as well. Again with 13 wins and two quarterbacks that led us, it would be hard-pressed for me honestly - there are a lot of team in this country that will accept 13-1 win our conference and win our division except me to be very honest. We want to win the last game. It's something that we've always wanted to do here, whatever last game we were in. I think there will be a fun approach, a different view of our quarterback position now. I think it will allow us to throw the football more affectively, to approach a game plan that can feature some receivers and some balls being thrown down the field more efficiently. If that means it is Zach Mettenberger and he's our quarterback and maybe it's a Stephen Rivers or someone in the back drop, that decision will certainly be made. I will enjoy sustaining critical comments by fans as we continue to win and win. It's just something that's the job that I must take. I don't' think piece of the job will change much no matter who the quarterback is."
On the success of 2011 and going forward ...
"I think the proof was what was in our past season. The strength of this team is the fact is we know how to compete to win. We'll call and play that team that gives us the best opportunity at victory. I don't think there is any question that the graduation rate of 76 percent, which is second in the conference behind Vanderbilt. The idea that we win the conference, win the (SEC) west. I think the opportunity to come in here, play for championships, get your degree and in my mind enjoy very much that endeavor here at LSU has never changed.