How would you say your team improved as a unit throughout the season?
Kliff Kingsbury: “For us, I felt we started the season fairly strong, 3-0 in non-conference, played Baylor and TCU going into conference when they were hot and playing very well and then battled through, but by the end, I think the last two games, played our best football and felt like that is what we wanted to do and have a month to continue to try to get better and play one of the best teams we will have played all year. I like where we are at, but know that it is a big challenge ahead of us.”
Les Miles: “We are a team that has some youth and we started a couple of young freshman on the offensive line. I felt like they developed all year long. I think it’s an interesting thing, we have lost some guys at midstream and we were 7-0 and in really good position and we find ourselves starting guys in key contests that just didn’t have a lot of experience, the good news is they have grown up, they may have been playing as freshman then, but there are certainly sophomores or juniors today and we feel like we are in position as well to play our best football.”
What’s the benefit of playing in a bowl game or a neutral site game in Houston?
Les Miles: “We recruit here. I have to be very honest with you, I got off the plane today and realized it was a press conference. I knew I was going to go recruiting here. That happens after we leave. We have a tremendous fan base here. I can’t tell you how many energy, petroleum industry executives that LSU has right here in Houston and not only our fan base, but we draw a lot of students from Houston, so this will be a very nice trip for us, certainly the venue, the NRG Stadium, the AdvoCare Texas bowl, is exactly the style of bowl we would want to be in. It is right directly in the mainstream of our recruiting and fan base and the population that comes to our school. We are thrilled to have been here before, recognize the hospitality that (Chairman of the Board of Directors for the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl) Chris Hanslik and that staff will be a part of. We are excited and this is a tremendous opponent, talented football team, second in the nation offensively, talented quarterback, great running back and defense that plays very sound and over the top, so we recognize really in short order that Coach Kingsbury has done a great job and we are going to have to play well.”
Kliff Kingsbury: “Yeah, very similar, incredible recruiting base here as well as huge alumni base here, to play a top 20 team from the SEC, a premiere program like LSU has been under Coach Miles is a huge
What’s the one thing you guys take away from these extra bowl practices?
Kliff Kingsbury: “For us, just like any other college, I think your young guys that have red-shirted, that have really been doing scout team type duties and repping other people’s plays, now you get to coach them. Now you get to get them started moving into spring football with your terminology, how you coach, how you work, so those are invaluable practices and having not gone to a bowl game last year, it’s huge for us to get back, get our young guys developed and continue to move them forward.”
Les Miles: “The opportunity to practice some of those guys, in what we call young guys go, where they can line up against each other and get after it and run our plays, just puts them in great position for, if you look at it, spring ball is 15 practices and you are basically, you are not quite 15 practices here, but very close, so it’s an added spring. It’s very important to us and we are very fortunate to have the ability to be there annually.”
How much can having a bowl game in a fertile recruiting ground do for your recruiting?
Les Miles: “It’s not a place you, we won’t leave the stadium and go into somebody’s home, because it will be a dead period. It will be followed by local media and it will be followed by, I would not be surprised if some guys got tickets and came to the game. Certainly we feel like this information disseminates quickest from Houston.”
How will it affect them when recruits get a first-hand experience with the team?
Les Miles: “Yeah. Again, they would have to get to the stadiums themselves. We are not allowed to provide tickets and we don’t. It’s more the perimeter, the day in and day out press coverage of the event, really kind of saturates Houston and allows us to be really on the tips of people’s tongue a ton.”
Is the spread offense more dominant now in college football than the wishbone or veer was?
Kliff Kingsbury: “I don’t know much about the veer or wishbone so I’ll let you take that.”
Les Miles: “That’s the advantage of youth, right. You were young for some of those. I can tell you this, that there’s a lot of similarities. Basically it’s an option. This quarterback has an opportunity to read a down lineman and not block him and run an option. I think obviously Coach Kingsbury played in a prolific passing attack and I think that that comes along with a spread piece and there’s some traditionalists that would certainly want to cry if they said ‘wishbone’ and some of these traditional ways of attacking. Yes, I think by far the way of the spread is overtaking. I think it’s certainly the trend in high school, college, it’s not gotten to the NFL often. You look at an NFL game and occasionally it’ll get there, but it’s not gotten there often.”
Do you see anyone in high school running anything but the spread?
Kliff Kingsbury: “In high school football not a lot, not a lot. I think that that’s with the prevalence of seven-on-seven, particularly in our state, that’s where teams are going. It gives you all those extra practices throughout the summer to throw and get good at it, so yeah. I don’t see much on the recruiting tape, I see of anything other than true spread.”
Les Miles: “I can tell you this, that we just occasionally look for it, a big strong blocking back and you don’t find them. You have to go find and make that guy. It’s an undersized tight end, it’s a h-back that’s got physicality, the fullback position, it’s not even in our conference as an all-conference position.”
How have defensive lines also changed in college football over the years?
Kliff Kingsbury: “Yeah I think the d-line that Coach Miles has can face any offense from what I’ve seen. I think more than anything during weeks of practice or training camp, and he knows this, going against a tempo of spread, the conditioning comes into play and having enough bodies to rotate guys through is more important than it ever has been. You can’t leave guys out there six, seven plays where teams are tempo-ing and playing fast. Having depth at that defensive line position is more crucial than it ever has been in college football.”
Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury
(on his relationship with LSU Head Coach Les Miles and what he remembers while they were together at Oklahoma State) “Just a great coach, I remember him taking over and them having immediate success there and really helping take Oklahoma State to the next level. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he’s done in coaching and still do.”
(on what he’s seen from LSU RB Leonard Fournette) “Just the highlights, I haven’t watched any game tape on him, but he’s a phenomenal athlete, one of those once in a generation type backs. We’ll have our hands full trying to slow him down.”
(on if he followed the matchup speculation leading up to bowl announcements) “I didn’t get too much into that. I know how these things go, so I knew there was a strong possibility we’d be in this game versus an SEC opponent, so I was excited about that opportunity knowing we’d play a very quality opponent.”
(on what he likes about this matchup for his team) “It’s a great team. I think it’ll be a great atmosphere with their fan base and our fan base in the state and in Houston. It’ll be rocking, and that always makes for a great deal for both universities and the bowl itself. They were ranked up there in the top 2 I believe when the rankings first came out for the playoffs and they’re a very good team, and that’s what you want in the last game of the year. You want to see how far you’ve come by playing a great team like LSU.”
(on how different these two offenses are) “I’m not sure, we’ve actually ran the ball pretty well this year, not to the extent they have, but we are very proud of our running back as well in DeAndre (Washington) and what he’s accomplished this year. We throw it more, we push the pace more, but I think that their offensive coordinator is a great offensive mind. I’ve seen what he’s done over the last few years there and they’ll have a great plan. You give a great coach like that a month to get ready and he’ll have a great plan.”
(on if he has any ties to the LSU coaching staff) “No, I’m not, when I was at (Texas) A&M in 2012 we played them, but that was it.”
(on what he remembers about that game in 2012 with Texas A&M against LSU) “They had an awesome defense. I think eight or nine of those guys left early. We had Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel) running around and they did a pretty good job of containing him. They had Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry and (Zach) Mettenberger and they beat us. That was (former defensive coordinator John) Chavis, and I was always impressed with the way he did things and Coach Miles, and it was a heck of a game we just, they got us.”
(on building on the wins they’ve head recently) “I think every team is focused on that. You want to play your best game at the end, and we’re no different. We’ve built to this point and with a month to prepare we feel like we can put our best plans in place, put our best foot forward, continue to progress as a football team over this month and try to finish with some momentum.”
(on how the changes on his coaching staff affect how they go into the bowl game) “We’ll have to move some bodies around and do our best to handle that being a little short-handed. It’s part of the business. It comes with the territory, and we’ll be able to slide some guys around and try to put our best foot forward.”
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Louisiana State University Head Coach Les Miles
(on if he expected to land at the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl) “We’re very happy to be at the Texas Bowl. Houston, Texas for our team, for our recruiting and really our fan base, I mean we have a ton of people that come down the road from Houston to watch us play in Tiger Stadium, so we will certainly have a large number of alumni at the game and we look forward to it. We opened the season last year at NRG Stadium against Wisconsin. It was a great venue, big spacious, well lit, fast tracked, so we’ll look forward to playing and participating.”
(on the matchup against Texas Tech) “I know Texas Tech since I was in the Big 12 conference and they are very talented on offense, move the football well against everybody. I think they are second ranked nationally on offense. They have a 1,400 yard running back, and a very capable quarterback and receiving core. Their defense is very sound, plays on top, plays to the strength of the offense, very capable on special teams, so we recognize this is going to be a great challenge. I think our guys will look forward to that challenge and that will add to the preparation of the bowl game.”
(on the last week after the reports of his job security) “I think the only thing I did was I had a distraction free week of preparation. It really didn’t bother me much at all. I communicated pretty effectively with the AD (LSU Athletic Director), Joe Alleva, kind of knew where we were at. I did not believe reports. I guess what I am saying is, all I did was put my head down see if I can improve our team and coach.”
(on what is key to getting his players ready for a game that is three weeks out) “I think first and foremost is introducing the opponent. I think Texas Tech, it will be important to our team to play well in this game. They are a very talented, very capable team. They have a lot going on. They are very multiple offensively and their defense is again a team that plays extremely sound, plays over top, and has quality special teams. I think when our guys see that team, they’ll be challenged. They’ll be challenged to work hard, they’ll be challenged to improve, they’ll be challenged to prepare for this team and I think that really starts with the next team meeting.”
(on how important is it to make a good showing for the final game of the season) “I think anytime that you line up in a bowl week or anytime that you look forward to a very quality next year, I think you need to have a very positive bowl experience, so certainly that will be the plan.”
(on LSU RB Leonard Fournette) “I think he is a complete back. I think he can block you. I think he can catch the ball out of the backfield and I think he certainly has the ability to run. He runs with a good combination of size and speed. I think he is pretty special, considering he is the LSU leading rusher for a season and that record he got in his last game. We are also a game shy, we didn’t get to play in a lighting game. I think he is very talented and I think he will have the opportunity to do a lot of things before he leaves here.”
(on if LSU RB Leonard Fournette reminds him of any of the running backs that he had at Oklahoma State) “I was very fortunate to have a great number of backs in my career, both at Oklahoma State and at LSU, and I think there are similarities and there are not similarities and I think I do a good job, politically, to not compare people to Leonard Fournette, especially great backs, as I have enjoyed their abilities, so I refrain from making too obvious a review.”
(on the coaching style of Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury) “I certainly like his style and I think he is a very competitive man. I think he played that way the quarterback spot and I think he is doing exactly that. I think he is very competitive and I think his team carries that characteristic.”
(on LSU RB Leonard Fournette against Texas Tech’s rushing defense) “I just watched the start of the Texas game and that defense played awfully hard in that game. I don’t think it will be any issue with our players watching that game in recognizing that this is a very capable defense and we will have to play well.