Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blue Ribbon Preview

ESPN Insider has a very interesting free article previewing LSU football. There is lots of good talk about this article at other sites, the high points being:
  • We're really good
  • Expectations are enormous
  • The defense will be outstanding
  • There's pressure to beat Bama
  • We're really good.
I want to talk about Miles' quotes though, in reference to what happened last week. To recap, last week, Miles talked smack to the Pac-10, calling out USC for having a weak schedule year after year, and calling out Stanford and Washington for being poor teams. I thought it was unhelpful. This time around, however, Miles says stuff like:

"It's certainly a compliment to our team," Miles said, "but it's not warranted by any means. Anybody can tap a team as being capable of winning a national championship, and that's all well and good, but as well all know, you have to earn it. No one here is fooled by that.

"There are a number of pieces in our puzzle that we have to put together before we can finish the complete picture. We've got a quarterback who has started just one game in his career. We understand that. We're young at tailback. We have some losses in the secondary. We had four players drafted in the first round, including the first player drafted, and we have to replace them.

"And yet we're talking about improving. It's not a bad thing to be picked in the preseason top five, but we know it's a position we have to earn."

Now THAT is coach-speak. Appreciation for the positive publicity? Check. Acknowledgment that ultimately it's meaningless? Check. Acknowledgment that there are question marks on the teams that the players will have to correct? Check. Insinuation that the whole team is focused on the goals of the season? Check. All that's missing is a statement respecting the competition:
"We play everybody but the Dallas Cowboys, but at least we play them at home," Miles said. "Each schedule has its own challenges, and our schedule is challenging. I don't think there's a tougher schedule in the country, but the good news is we'll play a lot of our major opponents at home."
Oh. There it is. This is how you say we have a tough, but manageable schedule, which we do. Our schedule is difficult, with plenty of opportunities to slip up, but it's also a schedule that finds most of our biggest games at home, and most of our toughest opponents looking more vulnerable than usual this year. It is, therefore, a schedule that will allow us to run the table if in fact we're as good as we think and if we play each game at our best. Those are two big ifs, and the schedule won't allow us a lot of opportunity to have an off-game. Miles manages to say all that, but doesn't insult other teams.

Gary Crowton, LSU's new offensive coordinator, must have given him lessons in politic responses to the media. Here is Crowton on his former employer: "Oregon was an excellent place to coach and Coach [Mike] Bellotti is an excellent man to work for, but I just felt like we had a chance to win it all here," Crowton said. respect for former employer? Check. Strong statement of excitement for current employment situation? Check.

But doesn't Miles jump out of his shorts when talking about Saban and Bama? Well, here's that section:
"Yeah, there's some interest in that game," Miles said, laughing. "Ultimately, it really doesn't matter who the coach is over there. The great fortune I have is that I represent Louisiana and LSU, and we're as excited as we can be to play whoever we play wherever we have to play them. But Nov. 3 is certainly a game we'll look forward to playing."
That quote isn't making its way to a locker room wall any time soon, but it doesn't deny how big the game is, and at the same time it compliments his fans. This is the proper way to approach the game at this point, with excitement growing later in the season.

Please understand, I like Les Miles. I like him a lot. I think he's been and will continue to be a fine coach at LSU. however, I reserve the right to disagree with things he does on a case-by-case basis. I thought his quotes about USC were unhelpful, and that he has said and done a number of things in the media that strike me as... odd. I'm not a fan of trash-talking, especially by coaches, but Miles isn't even particularly good at it. To be a trash-talker, you have to be a clever wordsmith, and he just isn't. He'll never be the trash-talker that Steve Spurrier and Tommy Tuberville are, and he shouldn't try. It's unbecoming of him.

He makes up for it by results on the field and on the recruiting trail, which in my opinion are well beyond expectations. Not quite "above reproach", but beyond expectations, and I definitely think he is capable of bringing us to even greater heights.

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