Miles expects LSU to apply lessons from 2011
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Les Miles can only hope that LSU's preseason camp is a lot calmer this season than it was a year ago.
"I hope we learned some things from the distractions last year," Miles said Wednesday as the Tigers reported for August practices. "My greatest hope (for camp) is a very, comfortable forecast for sustained focus and learning.
"But, I always expect some crisis along the way," Miles continued. "In my first fall (2005), there was (Hurricane) Katrina. No matter how smooth the weather may be today, something can come up."
When Miles greeted his team 12 months ago, he was dealing with an unexpected change in offensive coordinators and the suspension of one of his returning wide receivers.
Offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease right before the beginning of August practice and gave up that role. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa assumed the coordinator's duties with Kragthorpe shifting to quarterbacks coach.
Wide receiver Russell Shepard was suspended for the first three games of the season for violating confidentiality guidelines during an interview with NCAA investigators during the summer.
Then two weeks before the opener, there was a fight outside a bar near campus. Numerous players were involved. Then-starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson was arrested and charged with a felony offense, resulting in a suspension spanning the first four games before the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.
That LSU squad handled all of those situations and won the Southeastern Conference. Only after the Tigers won their first 13 games, putting them on the brink of the greatest season in school history, was their national title bid abruptly derailed in a stunning 21-0 loss to Alabama in January.
Miles and his players are ready to put that disappointment behind them.
"The message after (national championship game) was the same as following the (2011) Cotton Bowl (victory against Texas A&M), or after the (2009) Capital One Bowl (loss to Penn State)," Miles said. "There is a necessity to learn from past experiences.
"The good thing is that was last year and this is about this year. It was history we have lived. We had the best college record (13-1) last year, but we didn't get it done. We have the opportunity to do some more this year. That's something."
Miles welcomed back 12 starters - six on offense and six on defense. In addition, both the punter and kicker are back. LSU also picked up a last-minute transfer - Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden.
Due to the NCAA sanctions against the Nittany Lions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Bolden is immediately eligible. A starting quarterback for Penn State in 2010, Bolden fell to No. 3 on the depth chart for coach Bill O'Brien and was granted his release just before the penalties were announced.
Zach Mettenberger is in position to be LSU's starting quarterback. The only other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster are two redshirt freshmen - Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall. Bolden will provide Miles with an experienced backup to Mettenberger.
"We had a great need at quarterback" after recruit Jeremy Liggins failed to qualify academically, Miles said. "We recruited Rob several years ago and he chose Penn State. ... Two or three months ago, his high school coach called and said that Rob was interested in transferring.
"Rob will be a nice addition to our team. It's impossible to predict how it will end up," Miles continued. "Coming out of high school, he was very, very talented. Right now, he can't call a play for us. He has a long way to go."
The Tigers are expected to be near the top of national preseason polls. Miles said he does not worry about any burden associated with a high ranking.
"We were No. 1 for a number of weeks last year," Miles said. "We are fine with that. The ranking thing is a compliment to our body of work and what has gone on. This (team) is all about championships. Improvement is a huge issue. This season doesn't start with our last game. It starts with our first game."
Updated August 1, 2012