Les Miles strolled into a news conference at the LSU football complex Friday looking like he was getting ready to go play an afternoon 18 at the LSU Golf Course instead of gearing up for Monday’s start of spring practice.
Maybe it was because he was on home turf, meeting with the media in LSU’s intentionally homey recruiting reception room.
More likely because he’s feeling pretty good about where his football team is and how good it can be in 2007.
The three vacancies on his offensive coaching staff have been filled by coordinator Gary Crowton, line coach Greg Studrawa and receivers coach D.J. McCarthy.
He knows which players are returning that he can count on this year. Even with the ones who are iffy — Miles intimated that running back Alley Broussard still has a ways to go to be in a “position to compete” — there are plenty of others to soak up the carries. Players like Keiland Williams, Charles Scott, Richard Murphy and Jacob Hester.
In short, Miles isn’t concerned about talent. One look at Rickey Jean-Francois sauntering out of the building “looking cut and menacing even in street clothes” tells you the Tigers football complex oozes talent.
“In terms of X’s and O’s we’ll be fine,” Miles said. “But every team’s personality is different. You have to reconfigure that (squad) room every year.
“It’s the leadership of the team that will always define the success you have.”
Last year, like this year, the Tigers had to find leaders to anchor the room. Miles knew what he lost from 2005 in players like Kyle Williams, Andrew Whitworth and Joseph Addai. What he didn’t know this time a year ago was who would fill their seats.
Miles figured then senior wide receiver Dwayne Bowe would have to become a team leader, and frankly the coach had his doubts. But he said Bowe blossomed in the role.
Bowe is gone now. So are JaMarcus Russell, Jessie Daniels and offensive guard Brian Johnson.
Who will be this year’s leaders? It’s a safe bet to start with fifth-year senior quarterback Matt Flynn, of whom Miles said, “It’s his team now.” Then he backtracked to say Ryan Perrilloux is in the mix and will be all spring despite having had his name linked in the offseason to a federal criminal investigation.
Early Doucet will be the man at wide receiver without Bowe or Craig Davis, though he could get some help from R.J. Jackson, one of those spring experiments at wide out and running back.
Who not to count on? Besides Broussard, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and offensive guard Will Arnold will both miss the spring with injuries. Dorsey didn’t turn pro largely because of a shin injury that he told Miles on Friday actually bothered him most of the season — his All-American season — while Arnold missed most of 2006 with knee and ankle problems.
Of course, both will be expected to be around.
That’s what leaders do, whether they’re playing or not.