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LSU football coach Les Miles pretty much says the same things at every preseason stopover, whether it's a Tiger Tour speech in New Orleans or Houston or an appearance at SEC Media Days. Most of you could ace a test on the topics of preseason 2009 without needing to scan the Cliffs Notes.

By Cliffs Notes, I mean the summaries of the summer tour stops, including one I assembled for you from the July 16 appearance near Lake Charles, and posts from members who attended elsewhere.

I heard Miles on the Tiger Tour. I heard him in Hoover, Ala. After Miles and Miles of my July travels, I've settled on my favorite quote from all of his talking points and answers to questions.

"I reacquainted myself with my children," Miles said at SEC Media Days, speaking about his summer. "I find I have four children: two of them that call me Dad, and two of them that call me Daddy. I enjoy that."

During his four-plus years at LSU, Miles has mostly struck me as the Coach Most Likely To Be Your Next-Door Neighbor. There's no Mansion On A Hill vibe, despite a salary in the millions. Instead, he seems like the guy who says hi to you when he goes out to the yard to cut the grass, or comes by to borrow your drill -- or because he wants to shoot the breeze while you both look under the hood of your truck as if it were the most natural place in the world to catch up on things.

Since things began slipping away in midseason 2008, Miles has been to various degrees troubleshooting, repairing and fine-tuning. There's no photo gallery to prove it, but he slid under the vehicle to have a look under the engine as well. Staring at a 7-5 record a full regular season after winning a national championship, Miles had to get to the bottom of it.

Ciron Black, the LSU offensive tackle who accompanied Miles to SEC Media Days, said Miles knew there was a problem -- well, more than one -- and Black credited his coach with attacking the situation between the loss to Arkansas and a Chick-fil-A Bowl date with Georgia Tech.

"He sat us down and said, 'Hey, we're going to change things up, and we're going to fix the problem.' We did," Black said. "We sat down. It (the problem ) wasn't even on the football field. We figured out what the problem was, and we all just came together as one, and we played as one in the bowl, and now we're going to lead it over into next season."

LSU's 38-3 victory against Georgia Tech convinced returning players Miles was ready and able to do whatever had to be done to right the ship.

Miles replaced three defensive coaches and brought in new coordinator John Chavis. Listen to what LSU linebacker Jacob Cutrera said during SEC Media Days when he compared Chavis to Bo Pelini, the defensive coordinator of the national championship team.

"The two main things I see is they know what they want, and they get it," Cutrera said. "They don't say 'Maybe this'll work.' No. There's none of that. They know what they want, and they tell you how they want it, and it's going to work. I like that about them. I like the confidence about them. It gives us confidence. That's one thing about them that I realized."

The quotes from Black and Cutrera are telling and, for me, conjured images of Ed Harris as Gene Kranz in "Apollo 13," leading a NASA team as it worked to solve a critical carbon dioxide situation on the spacecraft.

"Let's work the problem, people," he said. "Let's not make things worse by guessing."

Miles wouldn't need much of a change to his haircut to play the part.

With all those smart people at Georgia Tech -- "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an Engineer" -- it was the continually doubted Les Miles, the not-in-anybody's-top-10-list-of-coaches Les Miles, who fixed the problem and put together a plan for another resounding bowl victory and offseason momentum.

Nobody will absolve Miles of the responsibility for the problem(s) in the first place, though, so he knows this is a make-good season for him, for his relationship with LSU fans.

"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?' (an inevitable 8-5 season). 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."

Whatever lack of confidence the players had in the previous arrangement on the defensive side during the one season between Pelini and Chavis, Miles took big steps toward repairing the damage. Whatever was missing from team chemistry and other dynamics with young men ages 17-22 to cause the Tigers to lose focus (a term the players used again and again in Hoover), Miles seems encouraged that problem is in the past.

"I just really think that our leadership ... I think the philosophy is clean," Miles said. "I think they understand the team. I think they want to be a part. I think they're ambitious. I look forward to this team. I'm anxious to coach 'em. Can't wait till they report."

The only LSU head football coach in the past 47 years to stay longer than five seasons was Charles McClendon (1962-79). Miles is past the four-season line (Stovall, Archer, Hallman) and approaching the five-season milestone (DiNardo, Saban).

The Hat's legions loved to project a sort of "Who's Your Daddy?" bravado on Miles' behalf after 2007. He'd beaten seven coaches with national championship rings, six while at LSU, and was ringing up quite a winning percentage against men who are consistently ranked higher than Miles by those who see fit to rate coaches.

Then came last season. Florida. Georgia. Alabama. Ole Miss. Arkansas. Houston Nutt has beaten -- and outcoached -- Miles in back-to-back seasons, both times in Tiger Stadium, with Arkansas and with Ole Miss. Larry Blakeney almost beat Miles.

Miles has had fun this offseason. He's watched two of his players win baseball national championships. He got immeasurable recruiting benefits from being seen on ESPN in the stands at the College World Series, Twitter updates and all. He's watched sons play baseball, a daughter swim and another keep growing up and learning how to be a girl, as he put it.

Two people -- Smacker and Macy Grace -- call him Daddy. No 8-5 season can change that.

The rest of us are curious to see what Miles can change 8-5 into after an interesting offseason overhaul of the engine.


So, Paul Mainieri sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at the Cubs game Sunday.

After listening to that and thinking about hearing Les Miles speak on a regular basis for more than four years, I couldn't help but imagine him improvising the song.

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
Those are certainly pieces I would enjoy,
Let me root, root, root for my damn strong team,
If they don't win, they finish second.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out, dadgoneit,
At the old ball game.
See ya! Have a great day!"


Carl Dubois has covered LSU sports since 1999 and was at SEC Media Days for the eighth consecutive year. He is certain someone will eventually do an offseason ranking of the best singing by coaches in Division I football. It might be the only rankings yet to be published during the slow days of summer while everyone waits for football season to arrive. You can contact Carl at carl1061 'at'

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