Considering that one of the first questions posed to him during Friday’s session of the Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Ala., involved the recent dominance of Florida and Alabama, it’s safe to assume that Louisiana State head coach Les Miles understands the perception that the SEC is quickly becoming a two-team league.
The sixth-year LSU coach just doesn’t seem all too concerned about it.
“I don’t have anxiety about that,” said Miles. “My want is to prepare my team. I really feel like our view is how to make us best. I think if LSU does what they’re capable of doing, that closing gaps is really not what we’re after. We want to play well and play for a victory within each contest.”
Still, there’s been a noticeable lack of dominance from the conference’s traditional powers — a group that includes an LSU program just three years removed from a national title.
The Tigers have failed to reach double figures in wins in each of the past two seasons despite bringing in highly ranked recruiting classes, and clock-management issues were prevalent last season, when LSU finished 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the SEC.
“We went through some of the situations we went through last fall,” Miles said. “That did not go beyond my scrutiny. I scrutinized the coaching — me and others. I can promise you that those situations, some of those situations I’d never run into in coaching. Some of those situations I was, even though prepared for, had not envisioned the time constraints.”
With those problems (hopefully) fixed, Miles seemed confident the Tigers have the potential to return to the level of prominence it enjoyed during the middle part of the decade, a stretch that included 34 victories from 2005-07.
“I understand that there are very many talented teams in this league,” he said. “I know we play ‘em every week. But I can tell you that our view is what we can do and how we need to prepare. I think we got talented guys on my team.”
TENNESSEE: Derek Dooley had to know the Lane Kiffin questions were coming.
After replacing arguably the most controversial coaches in SEC history, the first-year Tennessee coach was showered with questions about his predecessor, and for the most part, Dooley, a former lawyer, did a good job of dodging them.
Asked whether he’s talked to Kiffin since taking over the Vols program, Dooley said no. “But that’s just because I don’t know him,” he added. “It’s nothing more than that.”
Asked whether any of the league’s coaches had thanked him for not being anything like Kiffin, he said, “I mean, how do you answer a question like that? Y’all are just waiting for me to say something, I guess.”
In the end, Dooley managed to avoid any disparaging remarks about the brash Kiffin — an impressive feat considering SEC commissioner Mike Slive wasn’t even able to do it during his meeting with the media earlier in the week.
MISSISSIPPI: One thing Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt learned from last year’s (RECORD) season is that, while preseason expectations are a good thing to have, you’d better be able to deal with disappointment if and when it comes.
“What you really want to guard against is you want to embrace it, but at the same time, you got to be ready to help your team if the bubble pops,” he said. “… When that bubble popped, that’s where you better have some ‘Dr. Feel’ in you. You better be ready to go, to help your team, because expectations are so high. Fans have this vision that you’re going straight to Atlanta. You got to be ready to adjust.”
The Rebels didn’t necessarily do that in ’09, when they fell in the third week of the season to South Carolina and ended up finishing 9-4 and just 4-4 in the SEC despite entering the year with a good deal of promise.
The same kinds of expectations aren’t present this year, but Nutt says he’s developed a pretty decent philosophy for the next time they are.
“Hey, embrace it; it’s awesome,” he said. “But you got to get ready, though, in case there’s a little detour along the way.
AUBURN: Under first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the Auburn offense morphed into one of the nation’s best in ’09, setting school records for most points in a season, most total yards in a season and most passing touchdowns in a season.
Sometimes, though, it might have scored too quickly.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik acknowledged Friday that while the team’s offense has established itself as potent, there are times when scoring quickly — 29 of the team’s scoring drives last season lasted less than two minutes — can have adverse effects.
“What we need to address that we saw in the off-season as we evaluated everything is, how can we sustain longer drives? That was where we felt like, from a team concept, we needed to, you know, continue to improve,” he said. “So that means getting first downs. That means driving the football, running the football, doing the things that can keep our defense off the field a little bit more.”