Miles: LSU reinforcements on way
LSU coach Les Miles sounds like he's ready to enjoy a trip to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl and not at all nervous about how his No. 9 Tigers will match up with No. 14 Clemson on Dec. 31.
After joking, perhaps only partially, about how he would enjoy bringing his wife to the game, dancing out on the town and ending the night with a New Year's kiss, Miles on Wednesday talked about what he sees as a promising outlook for his team, which is expecting the return of four players.
Offensive lineman Josh Williford, who has been sidelined since an Oct. 6 concussion at Florida, is slated to return along with fellow offensive lineman Evan Washington, as well as linebackers Tahj Jones and D.J. Welter.
Washington, Jones and Welter have all overcome issues with academic eligibility from earlier in the season. But even with the increased reinforcements, Miles didn't anticipate any changes to the starting lineups.
''Practice and bowl week will kind of determine how all that goes and what we might expect with certain guys coming back with a lot of experience,'' Miles said. ''There's a point where you want to put a rusty guy in a game when everybody else is tuned up. It's a good measuring stick, if you will, for bowl practice. We'll have to see who the best is.''
The bowl game also marks the final outing for 16 seniors and a possibly a number of juniors who could declare for the NFL draft, which Miles says is an increased motivator for a team searching for another 11-win season and a top-five finish in the final rankings.
''I think our football team wants to be seen as one of the best teams in college football,'' Miles said. ''The goal there is not so much the finish number, but how we play and what we can accomplish on the field. A team that has a close bond and some real feelings for one another have that need to play well for your teammates. I think this football team has that.''
It'll also be a homecoming of sorts for six Tigers who hail from Georgia, including All-American linebacker Kevin Minter and quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Minter will be one of five total All-Americans to take the field in the Georgia Dome, including Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Boyd has racked up 3,550 passing yards and 34 touchdown strikes this season to go along with 492 yards rushing and nine more scores on the ground, catching the attention of Miles and the coaching staff.
''He's a very talented quarterback with a real strong arm,'' Miles said of Boyd. ''He has the ability to move his feet and run and extend plays. He was named All-American for a reason and it certainly is evident when you watch his film.''
Miles said the staff has begun breaking down Clemson game film, in particular the two common opponents both Tigers played this year - Auburn and South Carolina. LSU and Clemson both beat Auburn in tight games. LSU beat South Carolina, 23-21, while Clemson lost to the Gamecocks, 27-17 in the regular season finale.
''We're watching game film and really seeing their talent and their abilities and seeing how the matchups might fit against us,'' Miles said. ''I don't know that the common opponents are any more of an indication. The only think that you do recognize is that we played South Carolina and we know their offense and defensive line are capable of.''
The Georgia Dome has become a home away from home for LSU in recent years. The Tigers have posted a 9-1 record there and are hoping to attract a Baton Rouge following big enough to give the Chick-fil-A Bowl its 16th consecutive sellout.
''We love the Dome,'' Miles said. ''Every time we have ever walked into that dome, we have had a tremendously loyal following. The Tiger nation fills that dome, and we're excited to compete in that venue again with those people that wear the purple and gold. In my time here, every time we pull up to a stadium, we see purple and gold - every time.''