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January 17, 2012As far as coach Les Miles was concerned the 2012 football season began at 4 p.m. Tuesday with a team meeting.
It is time for Miles to prepare another one of his teams to make a run at a Southeastern Conference championship. Miles met with members of the media just prior to the team meeting. As expected, much of the questions referred to the manner in which the 2011 season came to a close.
A 13-0 Tigers team was unable to finish the job as Alabama took a convincing 21-0 victory in the BCS national championship game.
"We want to win the last game," Miles said. "We always want to win the last game of our season. "The players and coaches did everything they could to win that game. It was not representative of our best play, but the guys gave everything they had."
Miles strongly denied that there was any conflict between players and/or coaches prior to or during the game against Alabama. Miles indicated that he can see why LSU fans are upset with the final game.
"I understand how our fan base and the people who love our program feel," Miles said. "I can understand their unhappiness. I don't know about the negativity because I operate at arm's length of newspapers and the media. No one is more critical of me than myself."
Miles admitted his team didn't play particularly well against the Crimson Tide.
"Our football team should be hurt," Miles said. "Guys who didn't play much should hurt as well. There were guys who played who had the opportunity to make plays.
"We ended up with some first-and-15s. We had snaps hit the ground. Guys who made big plays throughout the year made mistakes. Our special teams gave up a long punt return. In that game, that didn't need to happen. It wasn't our day. That was a very talented Alabama team that prevailed."
Miles once again explained his reasoning for keeping Jordan Jefferson in the game at quarterback. He wanted a quarterback who could use his legs.
"We talked about changing quarterbacks," Miles said. "Jordan put us in position at Alabama's 32 with an 18-yard scramble. The way Alabama's pass rush was going, we needed a mobile quarterback to make plays like that.
"Jarrett did come to mind. I was confident in him. He did a great job at the start of the season. Pieces of this season were his. His performance spoke to our team's achievements. But, we needed a guy who might be able to get loose with his feet. "
The quarterback situation will drastically change now with Zach Mettenberger, a true pocket passer. Miles is looking forward to the 2012 campaign.
"We'll throw the football more," Miles said. "We lose the characteristics of a quarterback who can move his feet. But, we have a guy who will throw the football with a greater percentage. It will enable us to throw the ball more effectively. We will throw the ball downfield more efficiently.
"Our team next year will be just as talented as this year's team. We will be just as capable. There are pieces which need to mature and come together like this year."
LSU lost one of its commitments Tuesday when quarterback Gunner Kiel enrolled at Notre Dame. Miles indirectly referred to Kiel's situation.
"Young people make a variety of decisions for a variety of reasons," Miles said. "A guy in the Midwest staying close to home may have been the right decision. I can understand that. We need people who are happy here in Louisiana. I like how our class is shaping up even currently. We have to finish strong."
The 2011 LSU team didn't finish strong, but Miles was very satisfied with its accomplishments.
"We'll hang two banners this spring," Miles said. "This team won the (SEC) West, which at one point had the no. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country. It won the finest conference in the country.
"We played in the last game where only two teams can play. I don't bemoan the want to finish well in that last game. But, by any count, it was a great year."
Every player who was expected to return from the 2011 team was in class Tuesday. The only underclassmen leaving the program are wide receiver Rueben Randle, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Morris Claiborne. All three players are heading to the NFL.