Wednesdays With Les is a weekly post bringing you comments from LSU coach Les Miles during his three media opportunities each Wednesday during football season.
Did Leonard Fournette practice Wednesday?
Les Miles won't say.
The coach declined to answer the question when asked Wednesday afternoon during a post-practice news conference.
"I'm not going to answer that question," Miles said.
Miles said the running back's ankle "is better," and that he still expects him to play Saturday — "as far as I know," the coach said — against Jacksonville State in the home opener at Tiger Stadium.
Fournette missed a week of preseason camp last month with a sprained ankle, and he re-injured the ankle late during the Tigers' 16-14 loss against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field last Saturday. He was prepared to re-enter the game, Miles said Saturday evening.
Replay of the game shows Fournette prepared to come back in the game before quarterback Brandon Harris tosses an interception that secured the Badgers' win.
- Three players suspended from Saturday's season opener at Wisconsin are scheduled to return to the team this weekend, Miles confirmed. Defensive back Saivion Smith, defensive lineman Frank Herron and receiver Dee Anderson missed the game for breaking team rules, the coach confirmed.
- Miles left the door open for backup quarterback Danny Etling to see playing time in Saturday's game, saying Wednesday, "I think there's a chance he could see time under a couple of situations." Harris struggled in the season opener last week, misfiring at least five times and finishing with two interceptions. Etling takes first and second string reps during practices, the coach said.
- Ramblin' man: Miles started his radio show by asking host Chris Blair if he could “ramble.” He acknowledged he and his offense are taking the most criticism but said, “It’s not as simple as, 'just throw it every down.'” Although he said he didn’t come to the radio show to avoid tough questions, he said he wouldn’t answer certain questions in order to “protect” his team. "I’m responsible,” Miles said. “I will do those hard things that will make this team better, period.”
- ‘Catch-22’: Miles was also asked about changes to the offense, suggesting LSU is trying to find a balance between the spread offense and pro-style sets. Miles said they “would like to see some more spread sets, but we’re awfully productive in some of the traditional sets, as well." "It’s kind of a catch-22," Miles continued. "We’d like to just wing it every down, but we have a really good running attack. Change comes with execution, balance, and the ability to throw it and run it. That’s really what we need to do.” To another question about the offensive scheme “not cutting it,” Miles simply said, “I understand your pain. It’s one that shared by many.”
- Mechanical issues: Of quarterback Brandon Harris’ struggles with accuracy against Wisconsin, Miles said the coaching staff has “focused on some of his mechanics a little differently” in practice this week. “We’re going to script those things that he does and he does extremely well,” Miles said. “We’re going accommodate him yet again and encourage that efficiency that I was talking about.” Like at his post-practice presser, Miles said Harris is the starter for the time being but acknowledged changes could be made if Harris didn't show improvement. "Frankly, our quarterback can play better and will play better," the coach said. "We would expect that from him. Should he not, we would look for another quarterback at some time. I don't know when that is but hopefully not. But, yes, there would be that time that another quarterback would be considered."
- Critical of Cameron: A caller suggested that Miles would not retain the LSU head coaching job unless offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a close friend of Miles, was fired. "Cam works awfully hard, does a great job,” Miles said. “He makes the calls. I certainly understand that everything at this point in time is to be criticized. I certainly understand that. I think you'll find that Cam will do great things for us." Miles frequently suggested that the lack diversity in plays on offense was due to a lack of time of possession and first down, not the playbook.
LSU's offensive problems during Saturday's season opener overshadowed another issue: punting.
And coach Les Miles is well aware of that.
"We did not punt consistently. There’s some things we did extremely well," Miles said Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference teleconference. "Hitting the ball, we did not punt consistently."
Josh Growden, a redshirt freshman punting for the first time, averaged just 32.6 yards a punt in the 16-14 loss to Wisconsin. That would have ranked him well outside of the top 100 last season. The 100th-best average in 2015 was 38.7.
Growden, the Tigers’ third straight Australian-born starting punter, booted two of seven punts under 30 yards (23 and 25) and another two didn’t crack the 32-yard mark. He booted back to back punts of 25 and then 30 yards in the third quarter. The 25-yarder gave the Badgers field position at their own 42. Wisconsin scored its only touchdowns five plays later.
Miles is confident Growden can punt better.
"I think Josh Growden in his first starting assignment, didn’t hit it like he wanted. I think he can be much more consistent," the coach said.
- After the season-opening loss, Miles isn't worried this week about impressing the College Football Playoff committee with a blowout victory. "Frankly, we’ll have an opportunity to impress the committee later," the coach said. "What we need to do is execute the play that’s called and do so in a matter that we need to and we’ll like the score. I don’t know that there’s any pressure on us to finish and win by any number. First of all, let’s secure victory."
- Travonte Valentine played about 34 snaps in Saturday's season opener, and he impressed in the first quarter before tiring. Miles on Valentine's play: "He played well. Very sticky against the run. Very powerful pushing pocket."
Travonte Valentine heard the voice of Ed Orgeron first.
- Asked about restoring or building QB Brandon Harris' confidence, Miles said, "He works hard, recognizes things he did wrong. He shoulders the load. ... We all expected him to play well in that game, including himself."