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Les Miles on something other than Michigan: the LSU quarterbacks and a look to next year

LSU coach Les Miles is king of the bizarre press conference (remember this and this). He had another Monday night, refusing to be directly quoted but telling a large group of reporters of his non-interest in the Michigan job.

In non-Michigan discussion, Miles spoke about a variety of news-worthy things, which are all here for you in this notebook. What’s not in there are a couple of items the coach spoke on: his quarterbacks and next year’s team.

The quarterbacks

Anthony Jennings struggled at times this season as LSU's quarterback. (Travis Spradling)

Anthony Jennings struggled at times this season as LSU’s quarterback. (Travis Spradling)

The topic everyone wants to know about, right? LSU’s unsteady QB position is under evaluation, Miles said last week. Starter Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris are competing, as they have all season.

“Looking at competition at several spots, giving some other guys opportunities to step forward and see what they have. Brandon Harris is being groomed in a like fashion,” Miles said.

Miles suggested that LSU coaches this season have had plans to get Harris into the game with scripted plays to start games. Because of the momentum of the game, Miles said, he deviated from the script and left Jennings behind center.

“We’re so ready to go with Brandon Harris plays it’s not funny,” Miles said. “We just enjoyed where we’re at and what we were doing and how the game was going. I did not want to change the momentum at that point.”

Does Miles wish he had more competition at the QB spot? He paused and then answered.

“I think the guys that we have are pretty good players,” he said. “I think we’ll look forward to the guys that will be coming in. Again, the two that we have, (if) they continue to improve, we’ll like where they end up.”

The notion of LSU bringing in a junior college quarterback seemed to end with East Mississippi Community College QB Chad Kelly committing to Ole Miss, but Miles was asked Monday about the proposition of bringing in a midyear junior college QB.

It’s “more likely” that it won’t happen, the coach said.

CB Jalen Collins is one of a host of players who could leave early. (Travis Spradling)

CB Jalen Collins is one of a host of players who could leave early. (Travis Spradling)

A look to 2015

The 2015 season first starts with decisions from underclassmen. LSU has lost 18 redshirt sophomores or juniors to the NFL Draft the last two years.

As we reported in this notebook, five LSU players requested grades from the NFL College Advisory Committee. That’s the maximum number allowed for each team, a new limitation being imposed this year.

LSU is petitioning the committee to allow more than five, Miles said. The coach hinted that “eight or nine” players want a grade from the committee.

The five with grades already in likely come from this group: DE Danielle Hunter, OL Vadal Alexander, OL Jerald Hawkins, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Jalen Mills and CB Jalen Collins.

Miles and his coaches have started the annual process of speaking with underclassmen about their decisions.

“The conversations are informal until we get back the advice from the NFL,” Miles said. “When the NFL comes back and says when it is that’s likely they be drafted then things become … there’s more information to deal with, decisions can be made more effectively. I think there’s some telling points that can be made now. Those are quick, very brief conversations that allow us to broach the subject but not make any final decision.”

And, now, we turn to 2015. Miles suggested that his sales pitch in getting underclassmen to return involves LSU’s possibility of success next season in the SEC.

Here’s his quote about that:

“It’s basically revealing statistics and observations about conference opponents, guys going to have senior quarterbacks and teams going to lose this and lose that where we’re pretty much in good shape should we return our junior class,” Miles said.

Later in the press conference, the coach again hinted that LSU could be a championship-caliber team if juniors return for their senior seasons.

“I think that this team has the potential to play in championships,” he said. “Should the juniors recognize how close we are to being in the tournament that, frankly, this could be a great class for quite some time and a great team for quite some time.”

LSU FB Connor Neighbors accepts Senior Bowl invite

LSU fullback Connor Neighbors joined a list of LSU players who will play in postseason all-star games.

Connor Neighbors joins a lengthy list of LSU players who will compete in postseason all-star games.

Connor Neighbors joins a lengthy list of LSU players who will compete in postseason all-star games. (Travis Spradling)

Neighbors has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, the school announced on Monday. Neighbors, a former walk-on from Alabama who earned a scholarship, started nine games this season as the lead blocker for a running game that rolled up 219 yards a game.

Neighbors may be the first player in Senior Bowl history to be a third generation to play in the game, according to an LSU spokesman. Neighbors grandfather and father both played in the Senior Bowl after their careers at Alabama.

Neighbors joins left tackle La’el Collins as Senior Bowl invitees and a host of other Tigers who will play in postseason all-star games:

Senior Bowl

  • LT La’el Collins
  • FB Connor Neighbors

East-West Shrine Game

  • S Ronald Martin
  • DE Jermauria Rasco
  • RB Terrence Magee
  • RB Kenny Hilliard

NFLPA Bowl

  • LB D.J. Welter

Also on Monday, LSU safety Jamal Adams made it on ESPN’s Freshman All-American team.

LSU LT La’el Collins highlights team awards distributed at annual banquet

La'el Collins (left) is a first round projection. (Travis Spradling)

La’el Collins (left) is a first round projection. (Travis Spradling)

LSU left tackle La’el Collins earned the Charles McClendon Award as LSU’s most valuable player at the annual team football banquet Sunday night.

Here’s the full list of awards:

Newcomers Award

  • DT Davon Godchaux
  • DB Jamal Adams
  • RB Leonard Fournette

National L-Club Permanent Team Captains

  • Offense: OT La’el Collins, RB Terrence Magee
  • Defense: DE Jermauria Rasco, LB Kwon Alexander
  • Special Teams: P Jamie Keehn

Percy E. Roberts Outstanding Offensive Player Award

  • OT La’el Collins
  • FB Connor Neighbors

Percy E. Roberts Outstanding Defensive Player Award

  • DE Jermauria Rasco
  • LB Kwon Alexander

Wild Tiger Club (for special teams performance)

  • LB Duke Riley
  • DB Jamal Adams
  • LB Deion Jones
  • SNP Reid Ferguson
  • PK Colby Delahoussaye
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • TE Dillon Gordon
  • P Jamie Keehn
  • LB Kendell Beckwith
  • TE Travis Dickson
  • RB Terrence Magee
  • CB Ed Paris
  • DB Rickey Jefferson
  • TE Logan Stokes
  • CB Jalen Collins
  • PK Trent Domingue

Special Teams Coaches Award

  • DB Jamal Adams
  • LB Deion Jones
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • SNP Reid Ferguson
  • P Jamie Keehn
  • LB D. J. Welter

Wild Tiger Championship Trophy

  • LB Duke Riley

Jeff Boss Unsung Hero Award

  • TE Logan Stokes
  • TE Travis Dickson
  • TE Dillon Gordon
  • OG Evan Washington
  • CB Jalen Collins
  • WR Travin Dural
  • LB Lamar Louis

Dr. Charles E. Coates Academic Award

  • DB Chris LaBorde

Alvin Roy Strength and Conditioning Award

  • RB Terrence Magee
  • LB D. J. Welte
  • OT La’el Collins

Butch Duhe Award (players who personify the idea of unselfishness, dependability and commitment to the team)

  • RB Kenny Hilliard
  • OL Ethan Pocic
  • CB Jalen Mills
  • DT Quentin Thomas
  • C Elliott Porter
  • LB Kendell Beckwith
  • OT Jerald Hawkins

George M. Wallace Memorial Award (players who distinguished themselves by performance, leadership and commitment to the team)

  • S Ronald Martin
  • DE Danielle Hunter

Morn’n Rumblings: Miles and Michigan; Early enrollees; Mett’s role next year

Les Miles has been approached by Michigan before. Remember his press conference before the 2007 SEC title game? (Travis Spradling)

Les Miles has been approached by Michigan before. Remember his press conference before the 2007 SEC title game? (Travis Spradling)

  • Haven’t you heard enough about Les Miles to Michigan? Well, here’s more: The Detroit News is the third outlet – and the first non-website entity covering the Wolverines - to confirm that UM reached out to the agent of Miles. A reminder that we reported Tuesday night that LSU AD Joe Alleva has had no contact with anyone regarding Miles.
  • The Detroit News also wrote that a report that Michigan offered its job to Duke coach David Cutcliffe was not true. Mlive.com says a Duke spokesman also refuted the report about Cutcliffe to be untrue. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, as well, refuted the report about Cutcliffe on Wednesday morning.

  • We reported Tuesday night that CB Kevin Toliver, the headliner in the 2015 class, and QB Justin McMillan have been cleared to enroll early in January and that TE Hanner Shipley also plans to enroll early. According to Scout.com, at least two other 2015 commits plan to enroll in January. It’s unclear if they’ve been cleared by the school already:

  • Titans QB Zach Mettenberger is out for the season, but did he do enough in his six starts to earn the starting gig next year? The Tennessean writes about that here. “He did a nice job in a number of areas,” Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday.
  • LSU is very much pleased with its ticket sales to the Music City Bowl. The school has nearly sold out its allotment of 8,000 tickets. LSU tweeted Tuesday afternoon that it had sold 6,500 tickets. That’s probably above the 7,000 mark by now – Wednesday morning.

  • In the wild and crazy world of recruiting, the No. 1 weakside defensive end in the nation, Josh Sweat of Virginia, committed to Florida State on Wednesday morning. Sweat picked FSU over a host of offers, including LSU. He visited Oregon, Virginia Tech, FSU, Ohio State and Georgia.
  • Police were called to the apartment of Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett for a domestic disturbance incident. It led to no arrests, according to ABC6 in Columbus. Ohio State is aware of the incident.  Barrett broke his leg in the season finale after helping lead the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record as a starter.

LSU OC Cam Cameron: “I think I could have done a better job” with the QBs

Cam Cameron (left) takes advice on play-calling during games from head coach Les Miles. (Bill Feig)

Cam Cameron (left) takes advice on play-calling during games from head coach Les Miles. (Bill Feig)

LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron “could have done a better job” with the quarterbacks this season and the Tigers’ offensive philosophy will continue to be a “mesh” of traditional  and zone-read schemes, Cameron said earlier this week.

Cameron spoke to the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club on Monday. He suggested he might have overloaded LSU’s two young quarterbacks – Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris – early in the season.

“I think our quarterbacks … I have to be honest with myself: I think I could have done a better job,” Cameron said, according to video of the address via SportsNOLA.com.

“We had young guys. They were different than a fifth-year guy like Zach Mettenberger,” Cameron said. “Having a Drew Brees in the National Football League, or Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers. I’m evaluating how I’m teaching and try to streamline some things to help Anthony play better, help develop Brandon Harris. I think both of our guys are going to be really productive quarterbacks, but I’ve got to do a better job.”

He explained how play-calling unfolds during games, and mentioned two young offensive linemen. He spoke about the future of the program’s offense and how freshman RB Leonard Fournette gave the Tigers a much-needed identity midway through the year.

Cameron has been made available to reporters just once this season – after LSU’s 41-3 win over Kentucky.

  • LSU changed its offensive identity “after a loss early on,” Cameron said, and began to use Fournette more in an effort to try to establish more of a running identity. The run-heavy attack worked (three straight wins) but eventually “caught us,” he said, likely referring to the loss at Arkansas, where the Hogs shut down the Tigers rushing attack.

I think after a loss early on we said, ‘Hey, let’s regroup a little bit. Let’s put Leonard back there and let’s wear him out. Give him 20-plus a game. Establish an identity.’ I think we did that. It allowed us to regroup, take some pressure off of our quarterbacks a little bit.

Ultimately we all know that approach usually doesn’t last and it eventually caught us. But I think we were smart enough as a staff, coach (Les) Miles, to say, ‘OK now we have an opportunity going into the A&M game to maybe head a little different direction, compliment Leonard a little bit, take some of the pressure off of him.’

  •  LSU implemented some wrinkles on offense against Texas A&M, including more zone-read keepers for Jennings and a handful of jet sweeps for WR Travin Dural. Dural gained more than 40 yards on the jet sweeps, and Jennings had more than 100 yards rushing. So is that who the Tigers will be, a zone-read squad that aligns in the shotgun? They’ll be both, Cameron said.
LSU OC Cam Cameron just completed his second year leading the Tigers' offense. ((Travis Spradling)

LSU OC Cam Cameron just completed his second year leading the Tigers’ offense. ((Travis Spradling)

We’re going to be both – underneath the center and in the shotgun. You saw that more in the A&M game.  Are we going to be a huge zone read team? I don’t know, but the threat of the zone read helps you in so many ways. It’s a little bit of a balancing act for us because we do believe in some traditional things, and a guy like Leonard benefits from those traditional thoughts where we can put him 7-8 yards behind the quarterback and let him run down hill on people.

We’re going to continue to do that. Mesh those two things together.

  • During the question-and-answer segment of the speech, Cameron was asked about young offensive linemen replacing two to three possible departing starters from the 2014 class. He immediately mentioned two names: freshmen Will Clapp and Garrett Brumfield. He called this recruiting class “critical” for offensive line. He also mentioned redshirt sophomore Jerald Hawkins and junior Vadal Alexander.
  • And, now, to play-calling. Cameron said play-calling on offense is
    Cam Cameron said Les Miles called the game-winning play against Ole Miss. (Travis Spradling)

    Cam Cameron said Les Miles called the game-winning play against Ole Miss. (Travis Spradling)

    a collaborative effort from the entire staff. Specifically, he mentioned running backs coach Frank Wilson and head coach Les Miles. Cameron gets input from each of those coaches during the game. Wilson is Cameron’s “mouthpiece” on the sideline, he said.

It’s a total staff effort. In critical situations, headsets really go pretty quiet in every level because that’s what you’re charged with. At some point in time as a coordinator, you’ve got to make that call.

I can hear two or three guys and I’ve got to filter in my brain, ‘What do I feel like is the best call?’ Or I get a suggestion from Frank. Yeah that’s a great call, but I wouldn’t call it now. But I set up his call. You’ve got to know how to set up a guy’s suggestion or sometimes you really don’t have a great call. ‘Hey fellas, give me some help here. Anybody got a good thought? That’s the one I need. Bang!’ And now you’re back rolling. It’s nothing cut and dried.

Five or six minds are better than one, but sometimes I know I’ve got to make that call. That’s how we do that. We’ll continue to do that.

That’s Les Miles’ call. Les made a great call. He phrased it as a suggestion but it was a great thought. Great head coaches understand how to work with a play-calling coordinator throughout the course of the game.

Things to Know: Music City Bowl

The wait is over.

LSU is set to meet Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. Here are some facts about LSU’s bowl destination.

The Basics:

When: 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30

Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.

Stadium Capacity: 68,798.

Why: Arkansas was selected for the Texas Bowl. Tennessee was selected for the TaxSlayer Bowl.

TV: ESPN.

Payout: $3.5 million.

Selection Order: ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC.

Tickets: Click here.

Schedule of events: Click here.

The History:

LSU’s last appearance: First time appearance.

LSU record there: 0-0.

Who’s been there most: Kentucky.

SEC’s Record: 7-8. The SEC has won the bowl three consecutive years.

Most Notable MVP: C.J. Spiller, Clemson RB, 2009. Spiller has shown sparks of brilliance since being drafted to the Buffalo Bills in 2010, but there was no denying who the best player on the field was in the 2009 Music City Bowl. Spiller accounted for 172 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in his final college contest as Clemson beat Kentucky 21-13.

Most Notable Game: Kentucky 28, Clemson 20, 2006. Favored by 10 points, an 8-4 ranked Clemson squad was the obvious pick against an unranked 7-5 Kentucky team. But the Wildcats refused to end their season on a negative note. Kentucky jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the third quarter as junior quarterback Andre Woodson threw three touchdown passes. Despite a late Clemson surge, Kentucky recovered the onside attempt on the final kickoff, running out the clock and sealing the upset victory.

Name Game: Back in 2002, the game was officially titled the Gaylord Hotel’s Music City Bowl. In 2010, Franklin American Mortgage jumped on as a sponsor, leading to the bowl’s current name, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Fun Facts:

The Upset Bowl: The Music City Bowl has a long list of upsets under its belt. Ten-point underdog Kentucky won in 2006, seven-point favorite Arkansas lost to Minnesota in 2004, and six-point favorite Minnesota fell to Virginia in 2005, among others.

Success against the Irish: LSU has won both of its previous bowl matchups against Notre Dame by a combined score of 68-23.

Weather: The average high temperature in December in Nashville is 50 degrees. The average low is 31 degrees.

How I Voted: Week 15

Alabama and coach Nick Saban won the SEC titles, and they're our No. 1 team. (AP)

Alabama and coach Nick Saban won the SEC titles, and they’re our No. 1 team. (AP)

How I Voted will be a weekly blog in which Ross Dellenger reveals his AP Top 25 voting with a blurb on each explaining that team’s ranking.

  1. Alabama
  2. Florida State
  3. Oregon
  4. Baylor (UP 1)
  5. TCU (DOWN 1)
  6. Ohio State
  7. Michigan State
  8. Mississippi State (UP 1)
  9. Ole Miss (UP 5)
  10. Kansas State (DOWN 2)
  11. Georgia (UP 4)
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. Arizona (DOWN 2)
  14. Clemson (UP 3)
  15. Louisville (UP 1)
  16. Auburn (UP 2)
  17. UCLA (UP 2)
  18. Missouri DOWN 5)
  19. Wisconsin (DOWN 9)
  20. Arizona State (UP 2)
  21. Utah 
  22. LSU (UP 1)
  23. Minnesota (UP 1)
  24. Southern Cal
  25. Nebraska (NR)
  • Others considered: Memphis, Duke, Boise State
  • Biggest jump: Ole Miss jumped five spots to No. 9. The Rebels soared up the rankings while not playing.
  • Biggest fall: Wisconsin dropped nine spots to No. 19 after being beaten 59-0 by Ohio State.
  • Questionable move: We jumped Baylor over TCU after the Bears’ win over Kansas State. The two teams’ resumes are very similar, but the Bears beat the Horned Frogs in head to head competition.
  • Newbies: No. 25 Nebraska
  • Dropped out: Oklahoma (20)

LSU national bowl projections: Week 14

Here’s the updated list of national bowl projections for the LSU Tigers heading into the championship/final weekend of the regular season.

Bowl bids will be announced Sunday after the College Football Playoff semifinals are announced, probably around 3:30 p.m.

There remains a huge disparity in LSU’s  bowl projections, everything from a return trip to the Outback Bowl (unlikely) to the Independence Bowl (even more unlikely, nearly nil).

Our pick continues to be for the Taxslayer (formerly Gator) Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, though LSU’s prospects of returning to Houston for the Texas Bowl also remain high.

Here’s a link to our analysis of LSU’s bowl prospects earlier this week.

National bowl projections

  • Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Texas Bowl vs. Texas
  • CollegeFootballNews.com: Independence Bowl vs. Virginia Tech
  • CollegeSportsMadness.com: Outback Bowl vs. Nebraska
  • Zac Ells, SI.com: Taxslayer vs. Maryland
  • Mike Huguenin, NFL.com: Texas Bowl vs. Texas
  • Jason Kirk, SBNation.com: Liberty Bowl vs. West Virginia
  • Stewart Mandel, FoxSports.com: Taxslayer vs. Maryland
  • Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com: Taxslayer Bowl vs. Louisville
  • Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Texas Bowl vs. Texas
  • Brant Parsons, Orlando Sentinel: Belk Bowl vs. Notre Dame
  • Alex Scarborough (SEC blogger) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten blogger), ESPN.com: Taxslayer Bowl vs. Iowa
  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Belk Bowl vs. North Carolina
  • Erick Smith, USA Today: Music City Bowl vs. Minnesota
  • Phil Steele, PhilSteele.com: Liberty Bowl vs. West Virginia
  • Jim Tomlin, Tampa Bay Times: Texas Bowl vs. West Virginia
  • Christopher Wilson, Yahoo! Sports: Music City Bowl vs. Duke

Bowl guide

  • Independence Bowl, Dec. 27, Shreveport
  • Liberty Bowl, Dec. 29, Memphis
  • Texas Bowl, Dec. 29, Houston
  • Belk Bowl, Dec. 30, Charlotte
  • Music City Bowl, Dec. 30, Nashville
  • Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, Tampa
  • Taxslayer Bowl, Jan. 2, Jacksonville

Les Miles congratulates new Florida coach, alludes to his future at LSU

In a tweet Thursday afternoon, LSU coach Les Miles congratulated new Florida coach Jim McElwain and suggested that he’d be the Tigers’ coach for years to come.

Within about 30 minutes, the tweet had been retweeted more than 400 times.

Miles’ name has been floated by multiple national outlets as one of the top candidates for the open job at Michigan, his alma mater. The Wolverines flirted with Miles during openings in 2007 and 2010. They offered him the job in 2010, according to former athletic director Skip Bertman and several others around the program.

It’s unclear if Miles has been approached by Michigan since the school fired Brady Hoke last week.

It’s also unclear if Miles or a school administrator posted the tweet. Either way, Miles, at the least, would have approved the tweet.

The coach was in Florida recruiting on Thursday.