February 27, 2007
Baton Rouge, LA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- For LSU football coach Les Miles, kicking off spring practice Monday was business as usual.
Despite a talent exodus including former offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, 22 seniors and top NFL quarterback prospect JaMarcus Russell this off-season, Miles said the challenges his team faces are not out of the ordinary.
"It's always an evolution on offense, defense and special teams," Miles said. "There are always issues by personnel or by strategy that you must evolve, and you must look into and effectively evaluate."
Miles addressed the media Friday regarding the state of the team heading into spring practice, which began Monday. He said the departure of Fisher and the subsequent arrival of offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and wide receivers' coach D.J. McCarthy would require some adjustment time.
"Go slow, be sure and be smart," Miles said of his coaches. "Don't be in too big of a hurry. When you get there and you've built a good base and a foundation - Now let's go."
One familiar face that did not show up to practice was senior running back Alley Broussard. Miles said Broussard will not be practicing this week because he violated team rules.
Miles said one challenge presented to players by coaching changes is a new vocabulary requirement that comes with a new playbook.
"There's more differences than you think," Miles said. "There are terminology issues."
Miles said the Tigers will forge ahead with returning talent, which will be bolstered by a solid recruiting class, ranked No. 4 by Rivals.com.
"I think the guys that recruited for us this year did an unbelievably strong job," Miles said. "I mean you look at Larry Porter and the relationships that he was able to build and mend with the loss of [coaching] staff and how he did recruiting. They've named him one of the best recruiters in the country, if not the No. 1 guy in the country."
Miles said the coaching turnover put more pressure on recruiting coordinator Josh Henson, who he said did a "tremendous job."
Miles said upperclassmen will not assume starting roles by the merits of experience alone.
"Understand this - we will have competition throughout the spring," Miles said.
Miles said the younger players will compete for playing time and starting spots.
Russell's departure reduces LSU's annual quarterback derby to a duel between senior Matt Flynn and sophomore Ryan Perrilloux.
Flynn is best known for leading the Tigers to a 40-3 defeat of Miami University in the 2005 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Perrilloux made a mockery of high school defenses as a running and passing threat and came to LSU with much fanfare.
Miles said Flynn and Perrilloux will compete for the job with equal repetitions in spring practice.
Miles said Flynn put the team before himself in the Russell era. He said Flynn will fully grasp the magnitude of his opportunity to earn the starting job.
"You always look at guys like that and you say, 'A guy that waits around for as long as he has, it certainly means more to him,'" Miles said. "If that's the case, it'll bode well for us at quarterback. We know one thing - we'll have a tremendously talented and capable quarterback."
Miles said the offensive line, which lost two starters, will be very fluid in the spring. He said he expects junior Herman Johnson, junior center Brett Helms and sophomore Ciron Black to be starters, but he was not sure what Johnson's position would be. Miles said the other two line spots will be determined in spring ball.
Miles said the line will be opening holes for a running back corps led by sophomore Keiland Williams, sophomore Charles Scott and freshman Richard Murphy.
Miles said Jacob Hester would start at fullback and be the Tigers' fourth option at tailback.
Miles' most glaring omission from the running back depth chart is senior Alley Broussard. Miles said he is not sure where Broussard fits on the team, and he said Broussard is not mentally or physically ready to play.
"Let's just say we will look at the opportunities and how which to use him when he is most prepared to compete," Miles said.
Miles said the Tigers' receiving corps will look drastically different in 2007. He said senior Early Doucet and sophomore Brandon LaFell enter the spring as starting wide receivers. Miles said the third and fourth receiver slots will be open to freshmen R.J. Jackson and Jared Mitchell as well as sophomore Chris Mitchell.
Miles said coaches will focus on getting speedy sophomore Trindon Holliday the ball despite his place in the receiving depth chart.
"We're going to find key spots for him, and as the spring goes on, we're going to look to use him and talk about how to get him the ball," Miles said.
On defense, Miles said the Tigers will have plenty of depth at every position.
Senior tackle Glenn Dorsey returns to clog gaps and harass quarterbacks on the defensive line.
Miles said the interior line will be led by Dorsey, junior Marlon Favorite, sophomore Al Woods and freshman Joseph Barksdale.
Miles said Dorsey's production should improve from the three sacks and 64 tackles that made him an NFL prospect this past season.
Like Dorsey, Miles said the 629-pound tandem of Woods and Barksdale creates a void in space.
"Putting Barksdale and Woods next to each other, one thing it will do is cast a very big shadow," Miles said.
Miles said the defensive end will have proven commodities in 2007, including junior Tyson Jackson, junior Tremaine Johnson, sophomore Rahim Alem, freshman Pep Livingston and sophomore Ricky Jean-Francois. He said senior Kirston Pittman made great strides in the off-season as well.
Miles said a multitude of talented players will be patrolling as linebackers this spring and fall. He said junior Darry Beckwith, senior Ali Highsmith, senior Luke Sanders, sophomore Perry Riley, freshman Kelvin Sheppard and sophomore Jacob Cutrera will contribute.
The 2007 campaign will be the first in four years not to feature LaRon Landry at free safety.
Miles said he is confident the departure of Landry and Jessie Daniels will not cripple his coverage unit. He said senior Craig Steltz and sophomore Danny McCray will step into starting roles.
Miles said the two safeties will combine with returning senior starting cornerbacks Jonathon Zenon and Chevis Jackson to break up passes.
On special teams, Miles said he will decide who replaces punter Chris Jackson through competition. He said junior Colt David would resume kickoff and place-kicking duties in 2007.
Miles said long snapper Jordan O'Hair cannot play full-contact in the spring but will return from knee injury this fall.
Craig Davis will no longer be returning kickoffs and punts in 2007. Miles said LSU must find an equal or better option.
"We really have to find us a great return man," Miles said. "The difference in our team when Buster took the lead and made some really great plays for us - it really made a difference."
(C) 2007 The Daily Reveille via CSTV U-WIRE