“We have a 4 o’clock team meeting and that begins next season,” said Miles while meeting with reporters just prior to the meeting Tuesday. “We know how to compete to win here. We’ll put together the best team that can do that.”
Signing day for 2012 recruits occurs Feb. 1, and Miles said he feels good about his next class even as Notre Dame announced that quarterback Gunner Kiel of Columbus, Ind., would play for the Irish, meaning he had officially backed out of his verbal commitment to LSU. Miles indirectly referred to Kiel’s situation.
“Young people make a variety of decisions for a variety of reasons. A guy in the Midwest wanting to stay close to home was his right decision. I can understand that,” Miles said. “We need people who would be happy in Louisiana.”
LSU spent most of the 2011 season ranked No. 1, only to come up one victory short of winning their second national championship in five seasons. Alabama, which had lost to LSU in the regular season, convincingly won the rematch in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9, 21-0.
Still, LSU will be among the favorites for a national title again next season with 12 players who started against Alabama returning, as well as both its punter and placekicker. Miles expects the Tigers will have the depth to overcome the losses of three key players who are leaving early to turn pro— All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne, wide receiver Rueben Randle and defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
“Next year’s team will have just as much as talent as this year’s team,” Miles said. “It will be just as capable. There are pieces which need to mature and come together just like this year.”
The most significant change for the Tigers will occur at quarterback where junior Zach Mettenberger will take over for the departing Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. Miles indicated that Mettenberger will provide the Tigers with a better passing threat.
“We’ll throw the football more,” Miles said. “We’ll lose the characteristic of a quarterback who can move his feet. But, we’ll have a quarterback who throws the football with a greater percentage.
“We’ll have a different view of the quarterback position now. It will enable us to throw the football more effectively. We’ll throw the football down the field more efficiently.”
As disappointed as Miles was about losing the national title game, he said he thought his players deserved credit for what they did right during their 13-1 2011 campaign.
“This team won the SEC West which at one point had the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country,” Miles said. “We won the finest conference in the country. We played in the last game where only two teams get to play.
“The players and coaches did everything they could to win that last game. It was not representative of our best play, but the guys gave everything they had. … By any count, this was a great year.”
Miles was questioned about his decision not to insert Lee when Jefferson was struggling in the national title game against Alabama. Lee was responsible for LSU’s first eight victories. Lee was replaced by Jefferson as the starter after he threw two interceptions against the Tide in the regular season game.
“I had a question about changing quarterbacks,” Miles said. “We got to Alabama’s 32 when Jordan scrambled. The way the pass rush was going, we needed a mobile quarterback to make plays like that. Jarrett came to mind. I was confident in him. But, we needed a guy who could get loose with his feet.
“Jarrett did a great job at the start of the season. Pieces of this season were his. At the back end, we played mobile defenses. Jordan controlled the line of scrimmage with his movement. That enabled us to win those games.”