Miles working at the ‘car wash’ again

LSU coach Les Miles: back in Bristol on Tuesday for another full day at ESPN

LSU coach Les Miles is heading back to Bristol, Conn., Tuesday for a full day of interviews in the ESPN “car wash” (that’s what the ESPN folks call it when they run guests through a battery of appearances on their various media platforms).

Here is his schedule (as supplied by LSU). All times are Central and of course some could possibly change at the last moment:

10:10 a.m. – First Take (live on ESPN with Chris Fowler and Erin Andrews)
10:25 a.m. – ESPNU College Football Podcast (taped segment)
10:45 a.m. – ESPN (taped segment)
11 a.m. – Front Row Bump n’ Run (
11:15 a.m. – The Herd (live on ESPNU and ESPN Radio)
11:40 a.m. – SportsCenter (live on ESPN)
11:50 a.m. – Twitter chat (
12:15 p.m. – Scott Van Pelt Show (live on ESPN Radio)
12:50 p.m. – Page 2 Interview (
1:10 p.m. – SportsCenter Tonight Radio (taped segment)
1:25 p.m. – Doug Gottlieb Radio Show (taped segment, show airs at 3 p.m. on ESPN Radio)
2 p.m. – SportsNation (taped segment)
2:20 p.m. – ESPN Radio Dallas interview
2:30 p.m. – College Football Live (show airs live on ESPN)
2:40 p.m. – chat

This will be Miles’ second trip to spend a day at ESPN this summer. He and quarterback Jordan Jefferson went there in June.

All 12 SEC football coaches are doing the ESPN thing this week, six on Monday and six on Tuesday. Miles said last week that he couldn’t imagine what more the ESPN folks had to ask him about after his first appearance, though you’d have to believe the names “Russell Shepard” and “Willie Lyles” will come up once or twice.

Miles added this is an SEC-mandated appearance for all the coaches. Good thing, because certainly SEC football needs all the publicity it can get.

Also in Bristol on Tuesday will be Nick Saban (Alabama), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas), Mark Richt (Georgia), Joker Phillips (Kentucky) and James Franklin (Vanderbilt).

You can follow live updates on Miles’ appearances on

– Scott Rabalais


Shepard hot topic as SEC media days conclude

HOOVER, Ala. – LSU wrapped up 2011 Southeastern Conference Football Media Days as the last team to make an appearance, but it was the player who wasn’t there who made one of the biggest headlines.

Thursday, LSU announced a last-minute decision to replace junior wide receiver Russell Shepard with senior offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert at media days. An LSU news release said Shepard had to deal with some personal issues.

Friday, reported that Shepard faced an NCAA compliance issue related to his off-campus housing arrangements.

LSU coach Les Miles declined to comment directly about what Shepard may have done.

“I can only tell you that it’s not an issue that has any resolution in my mind,” Miles said. “In other words, I don’t think there’s any way to categorize it at this point.”

Asked if he was concerned about Shepard’s eligibility, Miles replied, “I’m not certain of any eventuality. I’m not certain that there will be any involvement there at all.”

Miles later told ESPN college football reporter Joe Shad that he had no reason to have real concern about Shepard.

Miles earlier told an interview room full of TV reporters that Shepard has not been suspended from the team.

In other news, Miles indicated that sophomore Tharold Simon could wind up as the starter at right cornerback opposite junior Morris Claiborne, leaving sophomore Tyrann Mathieu to continue to mostly see action in nickel and dime defensive back packages.




Nutt wishes he could sign more players at Ole Miss

HOOVER, Ala. – Here’s a surprise: Houston Nutt isn’t wild about the SEC’s new rule limiting programs to 25 recruiting signees each year.

But, as the fourth-year Ole Miss coach said: “Well, it’s the rule. And I’ve always followed the rules.”

Nutt earned his reputation as a chronic over-signer while at Arkansas and Ole Miss. Over the past four seasons, he signed 31 players (2008), 37 players (2009), 25 players (2008) and 28 in February, when the SEC had a 28-player limit in place.

Nutt said he wishes the SEC would’ve kept the 28-player rule for one more year, contending that sometimes, “you don’t know what a kid’s going to do on signing day.”

In other words, Nutt sometimes wants to have a few more commitments than he can actually keep, in case a player has a last-minute change of heart, or of a few of them fail to qualify academically.

“That number (25) is very, very difficult, and you’ve really got to do a tremendous job of handling that juggling act,” Nutt said.

In other news:

  • Former Scotlandville running back Brandon Bolden was named third-team All-SEC. He led the Rebels in rushing (976 yards) and receptions (32) last season.
  • Ole Miss might have finished 4-8 last year, but Nutt said believes his team is on the right track, pointing to the Rebels’ back-to-back Cotton Bowl trips in ’08 and ’09 — plus Nutt’s experience in winning the SEC West (he did so in 2002 and ’06, while at Arkansas). “Ole Miss has never been to Atlanta,” Nutt said, “and that’s all I really worry about.”

A friendly reminder: Ole Miss is the only West team not to reach the SEC Championship Game.

– Perryn Keys

New Vandy coach? That’s not new, but his attitude is

HOOVER, Ala. — Vanderbilt has a new football coach.

That’s not news. James Franklin is the third head coach at the Nashville school in the last three years.

What is new is Franklin’s style, brash and bold compared to the bookish image Vanderbilt possesses, a style he’s taking to the recruiting trail.

“Very few schools have all three aspects – academic, athletic and social – like we have,” said Franklin, formerly the offensive coordinator at Maryland (a job now occupied by ex-LSU play caller Gary Crowton). “That plan, that vision, that mentality has really been helping us (in recruiting).”

Franklin’s brashness is also helping the current team, according to senior linebacker Chris Marve.

“He’s committed to every small detail,” said Marve, a second-team All-SEC pick. “He’s passionate, family oriented. We’re a more disciplined team now.

“Everything we needed as a team, coach Franklin brought.”

Vandy has succeeded in luring some stronger prospects, but history says Franklin and the Commodores face a stiff challenge. Only one Vanderbilt coach in the last 60 years has left the school with a winning record. That was Steve Sloan, who went 12-9-2 in 1973-74.

Changing the culture of a team that has lost 16 of its last 17 SEC games dating back to 2008 (and gone 4-20 overall the last two seasons) is Franklin’s immediate challenge.

“The past is something I have no control over,” Franklin said. “All I can do is say that from the day I got on the campus (the players) understand our plan and vision and how we’re going to do it.

“These kids are very, very hungry.”

– Scott Rabalais

Saban not thrilled Alabama picked to win SEC

HOOVER, Ala. – The Nick Saban Show is over here at SEC Football Media Days, and not surprisingly, he didn’t turn cartwheels on the podium after learning that Alabama was chosen to win the Western Division and conference title in this year’s preseason poll, which was revealed Friday.

Saban also surprised no one when he dismissed predictions that Alabama could finish as this year’s BCS national champion.

“It means nothing, basically,” he said. “We’re more concerned about the standard of excellence that we can play to.”

Yes, it’s a shocking response from one Nick Saban.

Some other notes from Saban’s address:

  • Naturally, Trent Richardson will take over as the No. 1 tailback, now that Mark Ingram has moved along to the Saints. Saban said, however, that former Dutchtown standout Eddie Lacy will be next in line.“Eddie will be the other guy who gets an opportunity to play,” Saban said.
  • At the moment, Saban said his team isn’t quite as powerful along the defensive line as it’s been in recent years, with the likes of Marcell Dareus gone.“In the last few years, we’ve already had dominant down guys who were able to rush the passer,” he said. “I’m not sure we have those kinds of dominating down guys right now.” Saban added, however, that Alabama has some pretty darn good linebackers, who could possibly take on a larger pass-rushing role out of the 3-4.
  • Saban seemed to be a pretty hearty skeptic when it came to some of Mike Slive’s proposals, including multiyear scholarships and raising academic standards. “I don’t know why we need to change all this stuff,” he said. “There’s certainly some issues and problems out there, but there are a lot of great things that happen at a lot of programs every day in college football. I’d like to have a lot of discussion and dialogue about (proposing changes).”
  • On the upcoming quarterback derby between Phillip Simms and A.J. McCarron: “It doesn’t stand anywhere. It stands like it stands.”

Always a pleasure.

– Perryn Keys

LSU picked 2nd in SEC West, overall in media poll

HOOVER, Ala. – The LSU Tigers have been picked to finish second in the SEC West by the media attending Southeastern Conference Football Media Days.

The Tigers got the second-most votes for the overall conference championship. In both cases, LSU polled second behind Alabama.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne was the only LSU player selected as first-team All-SEC. Linebacker Ryan Baker and offensive tackle Alex Hurst are on the second team. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson is on the third team (behind Georgia’s Aaron Murray and South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia). Also on the third team are defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.

To see the complete All-SEC team and conference predictions, CLICK HERE.

UT’s Dooley hoping for happier endings in 2011

HOOVER, Ala. – Derek Dooley was about to head off the stage at SEC Football Media Days on Thursday when the question came about the unbelievable endings of last year’s LSU and North Carolina games.

He paused, smiled and said: “I almost got out of here.”

LSU fans of course remember the ending of the Tigers’ 16-14 win over Tennessee on Oct. 2, when the Volunteers were flagged for 13 men on the field, allowing LSU to win on an untimed down.

Some may forget the Vols also lost to UNC 30-27 in double overtime in the Music City Bowl after the Tar Heels were flagged for illegal participation and the UNC quarterback was ruled to have spiked the ball with :01 remaining. North Carolina kicked a field goal to send it to overtime and won in OT with another.

“I told everybody I was 8-7 in postgame handshakes last year,” Dooley said. “It happens and then people say, ‘It’ll never happen again.’ It did.

“But there are lessons in everything. I told our players before you point fingers ask yourself if there’s anything I could have done better to change the outcome. There’s a ton that I, our coaches and our players could have done.”

The former LSU assistant coach goes into year two potentially facing more heartache, though perhaps of the more conventional variety.

He says this may be the youngest team he’s ever been around despite returning 13 starters.

“But youth is not an excuse for a failure,” Dooley said.

Compounding Tennessee’s youth on defense is an offseason injury to linebacker Herman Lathers. The former Scotlandville star broke his ankle in 7-on-7 drills and Dooley said he doesn’t know when he will return.

Clinton’s Prentiss Waggner made a spring move from cornerback to free safety and has bulked up.

“Prentiss had a good year for us last year,” Dooley said. “A lot of interceptions, but not very consistent.”

LSU plays Oct. 15 at Tennessee, the Tigers’ first trip to Knoxville since 2006.

Scott Rabalais

Chizik long on details, light on humor

HOOVER, Ala. — Not exactly known for his bubbly, ebullient personality, Auburn coach Gene Chizik nonetheless covered plenty of interesting topics Thursday at the SEC Media Days.

In a not-very-shocking admission, Chizik conceded that Cam Newton and Nick Fairley will be “hard to replace; we know that.” He also added that by his count, from the 2007 and ’08 recruiting classes, Auburn has nine players left.

“We’re a little bit light on experience,” he said.

On the other hand, barely anyone foresaw the kind of season AU had in 2010, and on the bright side, 1,000-yard tailback Michael Dyer returns.

Other notes:

  • The Newton saga lives. Danny Sheridan said recently Auburn may have had a third-party “bag man” in the recruitment of Newton. Chizik’s response: “The NCAA, on more than one occasion, has said we’ve done nothing wrong in the recruitment of Cam Newton. Nothing has changed.”
  • Chizik (somewhat reluctantly) addressed his run-in with NCAA enforcement official Julie Loe Rach in Destin, Fla., last month, regarding the NCAA’s ongoing investigation: “Without going into the details of the exchange, I was just trying to get clarification at the time. And she was very willing to clarify with me.”
  • Chizik said Auburn’s $16 million indoor practice facility will open this fall.
  • On the poisoned oak trees at Toomer’s Corner: “As with anything in life, you have individuals who are going to go over the limit. … If the fan base, as a whole, had the same amount of respect for each other as the coaches and the players, I think you’d see less of that.”

— Perryn Keys

Georgia’s Richt facing the heat but keeps his cool

HOOVER, Ala. – The Georgia Bulldogs went 6-7 last season, their first losing campaign since 1996, capped by a 10-6 loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl that coach Mark Richt termed “awful.”

It’s widely accepted that there’s pressure on Richt to win this season, his 11th in Athens, but if he’s feeling it he isn’t letting it show.

“If you walk in the Butts-Mehre building (Georgia’s football facility) there’s not one sense of doom or gloom,” Richt said Thursday during SEC Football Media Days. “There’s only excitement. Expectations are just as high as they’ve ever been.

“Our goal is to win the (SEC) Eastern Division. We feel like we’ve just as good a chance to do that as anybody.”

The challenges are huge for Georgia, which opens against Boise State in Atlanta and at home against South Carolina. The Bulldogs have lost their top two rushers and top two receivers from 2010, including receiver A.J. Green, leaving a lot of hopes pinned on the throwing arm of sophomore quarterback Andy Murray.

Murray acknowledged that the Georgia players are aware of the heat on Richt, and want to win for him.

“Coach Richt is the face of Georgia,” Murray said. “I don’t think there’s a better person as a coach. I look up to him more than anybody.”

Richt knows what it takes to take the heat off, having won 10 or more games five times and a pair of SEC championships in his first seven seasons at Georgia.

“It’s not difficult if you win,” he said with a smile. “Win 10 or 11 games every year, win the SEC every three or four years. When you go 6-7, that’s a problem. But better days are to come.”

– Scott Rabalais

No joke: Phillips wants men with ties to old Kentucky home

HOOVER, Ala. — Joker Phillips believes it’s important to have assistants who believe in their old Kentucky home.

A native of Franklin, Ky., and former Wildcats receiver, Phillips — now in his second year having been promoted after Rich Brooks retired — has five Kentuckians on staff, including three UK alumni.

“I think that’s important for us. Maybe not for other (programs), but for us, it is,” said Phillips, who added that in a place like Kentucky, which is shorter on football tradition and hometown talent than other SEC programs, it’s good to have people who believe in where they are and what they’re doing.

UK, which visits LSU on Oct. 1, went 6-7 last season, losing to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl here in Birmingham.

Phillips lost wideout Randall Cobb and tailback Derrick Locke, but not surprisingly, he said the goals for UK don’t change: “Not just going to bowl games, but to contend for championships.”

He added: “The things that’s going to get us over the hump is being the most physical (team), most disciplined and mentally tough.”

Other notes:

  • Phillips said he does “twit, or tweet, or whatever you call it,” and added that his coaching staff has found contact information on recruits through Facebook. Still, he’s not huge on special media, and the program monitors player tweets. “We tell our players, you only want to put things on there that you would say with a camera in front of you,” he said.
  • UK quarterback Morgan Newton: “Coach Joker’s recruited a lot of guys who are used to winning. I think that means a lot.”

– Perryn Keys