by Carl DuboisOctober 15, 2009 3:44 PM
We rip coaches when they say something controversial. We criticize them when they don't, because we wish they'd be more interesting. It's no wonder they prefer coaching to talking.
We don't forget their promises and bold statements -- when we get them right, that is -- and we hold coaches to them.
One of the values of saving hours and hours of preseason interviews and Q&A sessions is being able to look back and listen to them again in midseason. We're at midseason.
"Offensively, certainly we'll be better," LSU coach Les Miles said at SEC Media Days. I know he said it. I was there. I recorded it.
"A year ago we put three freshman quarterbacks on the field, all of which at one point in time got hurt," Miles said. "One currently has eight games experience as a starter, one three. I can tell you that both Jordan Jefferson (who had two starts, actually) and Jarrett Lee (eight starts) will take the field with a lot more experience and comfort with what we expect of our quarterback."
What everyone remembers is, "Offensively, certainly we'll be better."
Certainly, they're not.
"I think we can put a number of receivers on the field that can do damage to an opponent's defense."
Are they doing enough damage? No.
"Richard Dickson, our tight end, coming into his final campaign, is poised to have a great year."
Then it would seem wise to get the ball to him.
Miles talked about the learning curve at quarterback, where it's not as easy as it looks from the sideline. He expected Jordan Jefferson to benefit from his experiences as a freshman in 2008.
"He has had a great summer," Miles said in July. "He's stronger. He's bigger. He's run our 7-on-7. Our players get together in the evening a couple nights a week and throw 7-on-7. Both he and Jarrett Lee have done that. We expect those guys, we expect Jordan Jefferson, to have a great fall."
A few days later, at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, Miles repeated the theme.
“We’re going to be better on offense because of our quarterbacks,” he said. “We’re more mature and ready, certainly youthful, but there’s plenty of talent there.”
Not long after that, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton spoke about the QBs and the offense at LSU Media Day.
"Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will both play," Crowton said.
I'll pause here and let you absorb that one.
After noting the receivers and running backs were back for another season, Crowton sounded upbeat.
"I'm really looking forward to a good year," he said.
In other words, Crowton didn't dispute what Miles said earlier in the day.
"We’re three practices in, and I have a distinct impression that this is a pretty talented team," Miles said before Crowton spoke. "Offensively, our quarterbacks are throwing, and our receivers are making nice catches. We have some depth at running back. I like our veteran offensive line. It appears to be a productive offense."
Today it's ranked 109th in total offense and 89th in scoring. That's out of 120 teams in major college football.
On the outlook for freshman Russell Shepard, Crowton sounded optimistic in the preseason.
“He’s very athletic," Crowton said. "It’s hard to put him in a spot, like quarterback, where we already have two guys. We’re going to use his athleticism to help the team immediately to become successful. He could play a lot of positions and be extremely good at those positions. At the same time, he has some very good ball skills even today as a freshman.”
What people heard was: He'll contribute immediately.
Miles was a tad more reserved, suggesting Shepard would need time to mature and saying it was a work in progress to figure out ways to use Shepard in the offense.
There was a hint of multiple offensive formations.
"I think we have the personnel for a number of formations, with the unusual one being the quarterback-carry formation," Miles said. "We have the ability to have that going. That’s one of the things we’re looking into. I think personnel-wise, we have two quarterbacks that can do it, and probably a tailback or two as well.”
It sounded like Miles challenged tailback Keiland Williams to show he deserved more carries.
"What I ask Keiland to do," Miles said, "is this: when he’s carrying the ball, to see where great backs are, and go there. He has all the ability, he’s agile, and he’s fast. There are runs where he can get to a place that maybe other running backs can’t, and I ask him to see that. I think he’s playing tough. Toughness has never been an issue with Keiland.
"It’s his vision, and making that quick plant and getting north and south. It’s also about making a 7-yard gain instead of a 3-yard gain, and then getting beyond that 7-yard gain. I’ve told him to take it north and south more, and in early camp, I see it.”
Putting it on the line
I think those are fair comments to evaluate after six games. Sometimes, though, I understand why coaches would prefer to never say anything.
At SEC Media Days, Miles talked about the guys up front.
"The depth on the offensive line, you know, the five guys that will take the field -- Ciron Black, Josh Dworaczyk, either T-Bob Hebert or P.J. Lonergan at center, (and) on the right side (Lyle) Hitt and (Joseph) Barksdale return -- I think that gives us a great chance to be a very dominant offensive line."
He went on to talk about the backups, saying the coaches were waiting for a guy to emerge as a dependable tackle.
"There's a number of candidates there," Miles said. "I think we do have talent, but I'm waiting for that to take place. I think certainly there's some competition there, and we have enough."
When he said LSU had a great chance to be a very dominant offensive line, it reminded me of when Nick Saban said it was LSU's goal to be dominant. Weeks later, when the Tigers were struggling to live up to that, everyone had transformed that quote into what best suited their agenda.
Saban said LSU was going to dominate! Well, it ain't happening, Nicky!
Saying something is your goal and promising it's going to happen are two different things.
At LSU Media Day, Miles continued to assess his offensive line.
“Our offensive line is more mobile than it’s been," he said. "I think Lyle Hitt and Josh Dworaczyk are both guards that can really get up and run. Joe Barksdale has had one of the strongest summers I’ve been around. Ciron Black has been a starter there for three years and is going on his fourth, so I think our offensive line is potentially going to be as good as there is.
"There’s a great battle going on at our center spot with P.J. Lonergan and T-Bob Hebert. I think it’s a good group. We need to develop some depth behind those tackles and develop some depth behind those guards, but it appears we’ll have two quality centers and a very strong offensive line group.”
What people heard was: This offensive line is going to be as good as there is. Potentially was conveniently forgotten.
Why? Probably because of something Miles had already said about two weeks earlier at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.
The Advocate quoted Miles as saying a revamped offensive line would be “as good as we’ve ever had here since I’ve been here."
Gannett newspapers in Louisiana and elsewhere reported it this way: Miles, speaking to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club last week, said this line will be the best since he's been at LSU.
Do you think saying the line would be "as good as we've ever had had here since I've been here" is the same as saying it "will be the best" since he's been at LSU? Most people remembered the latter, and to them it sounded like a promise.
In paraphrase form, it lives today. The full body of Miles quotes on the offensive line in preseason leaned heavily on its potential, but all anyone remembers reading is "Miles said this would be the best offensive line he's had at LSU."
Is it any wonder Miles mostly talks in circles, rarely seeming to give a straight answer to a direct question? For many coaches, it's damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Days before the Florida-LSU game, Urban Meyer gave a brief answer to a question about Tiger Stadium. I transcribed the entire quote on this site. Word for word.
Another reporter apparently wrote from memory and his notes, and he used the parts that sounded most interesting. That included a sentence Meyer never uttered.
Guess which one was passed around the Internet at the speed of light? Not the full transcription, the boring one, but the shorter one, the one that sounded more catchy. The one he never said.
People complain about long stories. I understand. People have busy lives, and they want the gist, not the entire transcript. That's fine, unless the quotes are misleading -- or inaccurate. Reporters have busy schedules and tough deadlines too, but when their scribbling and listening leads them to publish quotes that were never spoken, maybe it's time for them to buy a digital recorder.
The reporter's job is to sift through much more information than you'd ever have time to digest and condense it for you in manageable portions that are accurate, fair, interesting and provide some measure of perspective and context. Usually, short is desireable. Sometimes it comes with compromise, and you need to know that.
Coaches already do.
It's no wonder they are making less time for reporters and going directly to the fans as much as possible, on team Web sites and on coaches' shows. They have a little more control over the flow of information that way.
News organizations are giving their people less and less time to do thorough reporting, for economic and other reasons, and it shows. And even when they get it right, the quotes are preserved for eternity, and sometimes twisted to fit an agenda. Sometimes, they're flat out paraphrased incorrectly, and coaches see the various versions thrown back in their faces.
I'd start mumbling a lot of nonsense too if I were them.
Accountability in speaking, hearing and relaying
Accountability is a wonderful thing, whether it's a coach being held accountable for his words, a reporter being held to a journalistic standard regarding his reporting or a reader being responsible and discerning before forwarding something he hasn't verified as accurate.
I've been around long enough to know that if it sounds short, sweet, to the point and juicy, it's probably not a verbatim quote.
The SEC apologized to Georgia for calling an excessive-celebration penalty on A.J. Green? The SEC says it didn't. I can point you toward many people -- fans, headline writers, bloggers -- who think the SEC did.
The SEC's Rogers Redding said the call was wrong. Is that an apology? No. Find me the direct quote where Redding apologized. Until then, it's just another example of people reading into something what they want to see, whether it's there or not.
And we wonder why coaches and administrators don't want to comment.
Miles did talk frankly about the unpleasant moments in dealing with an 8-5 record in 2008, and I think it's fair to revisit those preseason comments too.
"I think there's a level of acceptable achievement at our school," Miles said. "I think our guys understand it. I think championship is how we're measured. I understand how that happens, but it's not any fun.
"I had somebody ask me, you know, 'Is that something you expect?' You never expect to finish second, not at LSU. I think our team has prepared in earnest. I think it will be seen this fall."
He and his Tigers have half a season left to show it.
Carl Dubois has written or blogged about LSU sports since 1999. He was going to write about LSU baseball tonight, but talk shows and message boards and coffee talk convinced him otherwise. He apologizes if this piece is too long, but if you read every word, you know how he feels about the dangers of paraphrasing. He hopes people are discerning about the information they receive and pass on to others. Be careful: You don't know where it's been. Accurate quotes? He thinks those are fair game for critical deconstruction and analysis. You can contact him at carl1061 'at' gmail.com.
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