The sun outside burns hotter than ever. School has yet to begin. The first game of the college football season sits four weeks away.
But Wednesday afternoon off Skip Bertman Drive, worlds from baseball’s nearest pennant chase, a man in a collared Nike shirt stepped in front of a media gathering at LSU and welcomed everyone to his time of year.
“As I walked down here and I looked out my office,” Les Miles said, “I can tell you the grass is cut, there’s fresh paint on the field, a team will report. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be away from all the things that I was doing for the last six to eight weeks. I am now pointed north and south to football.”
The stock of LSU’s coach only points one direction these days.
A year after entering his sixth fall camp in Tigertown on a perceived hot seat, Miles seems as relaxed, as loose and as comfortable as ever heading into what has the makings of a memorable seventh season.
He makes cracks about his habit for eating grass.
At a Rotary Club luncheon last week, when he showed up a half-hour late as the guest speaker, Miles admited, tongue in cheek, his clock management was “sometimes no-so wise.”
His demeanor warrants no explanation.
The team that reported Wednesday boasts experience and depth most everywhere on the field, has a quarterback potentially on the brink of a breakout senior year, and features a defense faster than a teenager’s summer break.
And if you asked most LSU fans, they’d probably say there’s no coach they’d rather see at the wheel.
Miles embraced the challenges he faced last year when he entered the season with 14 freshmen and nine sophomores in the two-deep. He quieted the skeptics who wondered if he’d let LSU lose its place among the nation’s elite programs.
After going 8-5 and 9-4 on the heels of winning the 2007 national title, the Tigers went 11-2 in 2010 with a 41-24 smacking of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Not only did Miles beat Urban Meyer and Nick Saban along the way, but he also outwitted them.
Against Florida in The Swamp, it was Josh Jasper on a fake field goal that set up the winning score. Against Alabama in Death Valley, it was Deangelo Peterson on a double-pitch reverse that changed the game.
What could top all that? Only the Michigan job re-opening.
When he said no to his alma mater for the second time in four years, Miles reminded LSU fans they had something worth savoring.
Now here we are, staring into the facemask of another journey.
“Today is a great day to be a coach. A great day to be a player,” Miles said.
The grass is freshly cut. Fresh paint lines the practice fields.
Blessed with a loaded team and backed by a supportive fan base, Miles has every reason to be excited about the sight of it all. Every reason to like the direction of things.