Aug. 23, 2005
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Les Miles walked into a ready-made contender.
The new LSU coach has one of the most talented rosters in the country, thanks to the stellar recruiting of his predecessor, Nick Saban.
The downside for Miles, who left Oklahoma State after three winning season, is anything less than a Southeastern Conference championship for No. 5 LSU will be viewed by many Tigers fans as a disappointment.
"It's the evolution of what makes people happy," Miles said. "Seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 wins. The last I heard was 12."
LSU is the favorite to win SEC West, with a veteran offensive line, a defensive line stocked with future NFL draft picks and enough depth at running back to withstand the loss of its leading rusher from last season.
Alley Broussard went out for the season with a knee injury, but offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher still has Justin Vincent, Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey to carry the ball.
"I don't know if it really hurts at all," Fisher said of Broussard's injury. "It's a very unique situation. Justin was the guy we won the national championship with. We beat Georgia with Shyrone having a good game. They're all game-tested, not just talent-tested."
LSU struggled with the passing game last season while breaking in a new starting quarterback with a group of inexperienced receivers.
JaMarcus Russell appears to be the front-runner at quarterback. As a redshirt freshman last season, he got extensive playing time but lacked consistency. He completed 50.7 percent of his passes with nine TD passes.
Russell is a potential star with a strong arm and mobility, but if he falters, LSU also has other options at that position.
Matt Flynn was rated just slightly behind Russell coming out of high school and freshman Ryan Perrilloux was this year's hot shot recruit.
"I like what's going on at quarterback to be honest with you," Miles said. "I think both guys (Russell and Flynn) are stepping up. And I think Ryan Perrilloux is talented and bright and has got some moxie to him for a young guy. I like the way things are going there."
The LSU defense has a new coordinator and a few holes to fill.
There will be two new starting cornerbacks and first-round draft pick Marcus Spears is gone from the defensive line. But defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who was lured by Miles away from Oklahoma, has plenty left to work with, starting with defensive linemen Kyle Williams, Claude Wroten and Melvin Oliver.
"We're not anywhere near where we want to be when we kick it off Sept. 3," defensive coordinator Bo Pelini said. "But the progress we've shown up to this point has been good."
Saban won 40 games and two SEC title in his last four years in Death Valley. After winning the Bowl Championship Series title two years ago, the Tigers faithful are ready for another trip to the top. Miles knows people around Louisiana are already thinking Rose Bowl.
"Obviously, 13 is what we want to win," Miles said. "I enjoy those expectations, to be honest."