The questions came about Jordan Jefferson, Russell Shepard and off-field issues Monday, but this time there was one major difference for LSU coach Les Miles.
This time, they were in the context of a game week.
Miles, addressing the media in the season’s first game-week press luncheon, said he felt “pent up,” and hopes his players feel the same as they put a rough off-season behind them in preparation for Saturday’s season between the No. 4 Tigers and No. 3 Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
“I think all of us are looking forward to football,” Miles said.
That’s especially true considering the context of the opponent, last season’s national runner-up Oregon, an opponent Miles called it a “premier program.”
Miles said the Ducks served as motivation for his team to comeback prepared for the season, an opponent to create a sense of urgency in off-season workouts.
Miles probably never dreamed the off-season would end up going like it did.
But the distractions at kept cropping up during the summer -- from Steve Kragthorpe’s illness, to Russell Shepard’s eligibility issue to the bar fight that led to the arrest of Jordan Jefferson -- have been dealt with and now it’s time for a game, even if those issues create the biggest question marks heading into the game.
Of Jarrett Lee, who will start at quarterback in the place of the suspended Jefferson, Miles talked of a senior who has learned through “baptism by fire” and is “looking forward to a great year.” He noted the positive contributions Lee made as Jefferson’s backup last season -- the drive at the end of the Tennessee win, the Alabama game and the Florida game -- as indications of a veteran who plays with poise.
Miles said Lee gives LSU “advantages” over starting highly-touted junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger, who will enter the season as the team’s No. 2 quarterback.
Here are other points Miles made during the 45-minute news conference:
• Miles noted Oregon’s team speed and said quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James are two of the fastest at their positions in the country.
“They have speed at all key positions,” Miles said.
Miles noted the difficulty of keeping up with the Ducks’ up-tempo no-huddle approach. He said the key to Auburn’s defensive success in the BCS championship game win over the Ducks was the Tigers’ front four’s ability to create negative-yardage plays that “made it sticky running inside,” he said.
Miles added that LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis spent time during the off-season visiting with coaches about approaches that might be effective against Oregon, but Miles declined to “put names in the paper.”
• Miles said the only player currently slated to miss the game because of injury will be offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk (knee), who Miles said will have surgery within the next week to 10 days and will miss significant time. The likely starter in Dworaczk’s spot will be senior T-Bob Hebert.
While Dworaczyk’s the only injured player, his loss means the Tigers will play without three offensive starters when you count the suspended Jefferson and Shepard, the talented junior wide receiver who is facing NCAA eligibility issues. Miles said he did not know how long Shepard will be out.
Miles said say he expected highly-touted true freshman La’el Collins to get playing time on the offensive line, but he would not likely start over a veteran.
• Aside from Collins, the only other true freshman Miles singled out as likely to see playing time is wide receiver Odell Beckham, who Miles said would play significantly on special teams.
• Miles said freshman Brad Wing has the edge on punting duties and said he expected a big year out of kicker Drew Alleman.
• The coach said his team will have a walk-through Saturday at Cowboys Stadium, giving his team a chance to adjust to the unusual, but familiar, surroundings. LSU played there in January in a Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M.
“We’ll try not to strain our necks looking at the jumbotron,” Miles joked.
• Miles said the punishment phase of is over for LSU’s players after the Aug. 19 bar fight that led to the arrest of Jefferson and reserve linebacker Josh Johns.
“We’re done running them,” Miles said. “There’s a point in time when it’s enough.”
The week of a game -- and not just any game -- is obviously that time.