Les Miles has taken to starting his weekly Monday news conferences throwing good-natured barbs at veteran reporter Ted Castillo.
On Columbus Day Monday, he started his "Lunch with Les," by asking the retired Castillo if he ever met Columbus. After Saturday's 41-11 win over Florida, he picked on another writer for wearing a red hat (Miles is a Michigan man and red is the color of hated rival Ohio State).
Given Miles' loose, joking demeanor these days as the top-ranked Tigers prepare to go to Tennessee this week, it's easy to forget that after the last time LSU played Tennessee, there was anything but a joking mood around LSU football.
If you recall, LSU's 16-14 win last year over Tennessee at Tiger Stadium was the game where LSU butchered clock management at the end of the game, only to be saved when Tennessee had too many players on the field on the game's last play. Given an extra chance, the Tigers scored and escaped with the win.
LSU almost let the clock run out when it tried to sub players with the game clock running down. It led to a bad, hurried snap on what would have been the game's last play -- if Tennessee didn't get caught with too many players on the field.
"We made changes that week (after the Tennessee game) so it won't happen again," said Miles, who was under fire after the win, which came less than a year after clock management issues at the end of a loss to Ole Miss brought the ire of LSU fandom.
How times have changed. The 2010 team went on to the Cotton Bowl where it beat Texas A&M. Then came this year's 6-0 start, the first time in school history the Tigers have won their first six games by double-figure margins. Under fire after last year's Tennessee game, Miles now enjoys being an ESPN favorite and a frequently-mentioned candidate for NFL jobs.
If there's a story to be told on how it's happened, Miles gave plenty of clues Monday.
First, came accountability. Miles said after the Tennessee game, the coaches admitted to the players what mistakes were made and made moves to correct them.
"Being in it with a team is part of what being a coaching staff is about," Miles said. That means, hearing complaints and suggestions from his own players.
"The line of communication with the players is open as it should be," Miles said.
Next, came a more efficient offense. On Monday, Miles credited quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe and receivers coach Billy Gonzales for directing a more efficient passing game. Then-offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is now gone (to Maryland).
The evidence of a more efficient offense is there in the SEC statistics. LSU has the fewest turnovers in the SEC (three) and has yet to have anything remotely like the confused sequence at the end of last year's UT game.
And next, comes a team that maintains a week-to-week focus. With a Nov. 5 showdown with No. 2 Alabama looming, Miles assured the room Monday that his team is focused on nothing but Tennessee.
"I hear the talk, but I promise you the talk does not exist in our building," he said.
Indeed, LSU has been a focused, efficient team putting opponents away.
On Monday, LSU offensive guard Will Blackwell was named SEC offensive lineman of the week after Saturday's 41-11 win over Florida, the latest of many LSU players to earn such honors.
And LSU's success continues to lead to more national TV. It was announced Monday that the Oct. 22 game against Auburn will also be the 2:30 CBS game. That means LSU will play at least four straight 2:30 CBS games, starting with the Florida game (the Tennessee game is also a 2:30 p.m. game).
The Alabama game will also, most likely, be a 2:30 start meaning eight of LSU's first nine games will have been on national TV.
The good news continued with injuries. While Miles said while center P.J. Lonergan, who left the Florida win with a sprained ankle, will miss Monday's practice, the injury "is not bad." The news this week hasn't been as kind for Tennessee (3-2), which announced Sunday it would be without quarterback Tyler Bray (broken thumb) for at least four weeks.
That means LSU will go into a second straight game facing a backup quarterback.
And more good news came from the recruiting trail when LSU got a commitment Monday from Vadal Alexander, a highly-touted offensive guard from Buford, Ga. who's on the ESPNU list of the nation's top 150 prospects, according to TigerSportsDigest.com. Alexander is ranked No. 73 on the ESPNU Top 150 and is No. 159 on the Scout.com 300.
Things are going quite swimmingly for LSU and its coach who was under so much fire just over a year ago.
And speaking of "swimmingly," Miles also joked that his daughter "Smacker" Miles, a star swimmer who left Baton Rouge to attend prep swimming powerhouse The Bolles School in Jackonville, Fla., took the brunt of LSU's lopsided win over Florida.
Miles said her coaches, Florida fans, threatened to make her swim extra if LSU won by too much over the Gators.
"I told her to get in shape," Miles said.
It's easy to joke around when, every week, you're beating ranked teams by double digits.