Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Interview with Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate

On Thursday, August 30th, I had the opportunity to interview Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate....Scott is the beat writer for LSU football and was on his way to Starkville, Mississippi to cover the LSU-Mississippi State game.....our interview focused on LSU football, Tigers head coach Les Miles, and the return of Nick Saban to the SEC.....

Q1. A lot of the preview magazines have LSU ranked either second or third in the nation with their strengths being defense and offensive line. However, they did lose these skill position players, JaMarcus Russell, Craig Davis, and Dwayne Bowe. What do you think about LSU and how are they are going to replace those players?
SR: I think the rankings are justified. Everyone has USC number one, but the teams behind them all have some type of questions. LSU just has so much back on defense which is a lot of the reason for the ranking. But they do have some question marks on offense. Everyone wants to see how (Matt) Flynn performs at quarterback and who takes over the running back position. LSU is also benefitting from a "what have you done for me lately." Well, the last thing they did was finish with a six/seven game winning streak and polished off Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

Q2. Matt Flynn (photo) will be the starter at quarterback this year. However, what is the deal with Ryan Perrilloux. He was so highly recruited coming out of high school but he has never become that star like he was supposed to be.
SR: There is a lot there with him. He was questioned about a federal counterfeiting investigation. He was not charged or accused, but his name came up. He was then suspended for using his brother's driver's license to go on a riverboat casino. He is now back on the team and looks to be the number two quarterback. We just have not seen much of what he supposedly can do. The people who saw him play in high school said he is one of those unique talents - running and throwing. He needs to use better judgement because Ryan has put himself into some bad situations. With all that being said, if he keeps his nose clean, he will probably be the starting quarterback next year. He has a little growing up to do between now and then. I don't think anyone's ever questioned his ability, but they have questioned his judgement and leadership ability.

Q3. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey has received so much praise in the preview magazines. Is he the real deal? Can he play at the next level?
SR: He is continuing that streak at LSU where at least one defensive lineman has been named to the All-American team. There is also Tyson Jackson who is a defensive end who may be even better than Dorsey. These two players (Dorsey and Jackson) remind me of the two dominant Alabama lineman, (John) Copeland and (Eric) Curry, back in the early 1990s when they won the national title. It seems like this could be a similar team for LSU in which they get it done on defense but not hurt yourself on offense.

Glenn though is a good kid to talk to. He is very humble. Often times he can't believe that everyone is talking about him for all these awards. He deserves to be an All-American. I think he will have the desire and ability to make it in the NFL even more so than some of the other defensive linemen who have come through LSU. He played through a lot of pain last year with something like a small fracture in his shin. No one really knew about it though because he played through the pain and didn't complain. He has the drive to make it in the NFL.

Q4. I want to talk a bit about head coach Les Miles. There has been talk across the nation that LSU fans are waiting for that big win under Miles. What is the attitude and feeling about Miles?
SR: Well a lot of the attitudes changed on January 3rd when Nick Saban took the Alabama job. Until then, a lot of the LSU fans were still pining for Saban. And some still are. They are hoping that "maybe he will come back." But for the most part, LSU fans now realize that Nick is now the enemy. He is trying to beat LSU and trying to take their recruits. So now the feeling is that "Les is our guy." Despite all the success over the last few years, anything less than a 10 win season is not acceptable. But a lot of people still say that Les has been winning with Nick's players. But they forget that Nick's first SEC championship came with players like Rohan Davey and Josh Reed who were recruits from Gerry DiNardo. Les is starting to get his due, but there are people who feel that if Lloyd Carr leaves Michigan after this season and Les gets the job, the feeling will be "well, thanks Les and good luck, but we can get someone better." But the guy has done well. He is not flashy. Is he as good of a coach as Saban, no, but he has probably a better staff around him and he has recruited well.

Q5. What type of person is Les Miles?
SR: He's very passionate. He's generally laid back and easy going. He does not do a lot of yelling and screaming ala Nick Saban. But he is driven in his own way. He is more humble, more unassuming. He is kind of vague with his quotes. What you see is what you get with Les. He is a blue-collar Midwestern guy. He's an Ohio native and Michigan grad. He's making around $1.8 million this year, which is not bad, but he is not making the $4 million that Saban is making. From a journalist's standpoint, he (Les) is not always forthcoming with information or injury updates. But he is genuine. Saban comes off more slick, polished, and prepared, but not really interested in you. Every year the LSU football coach speaks at the local Rotary Club before the season. Saban is the type of guy who looks over the top of the audience and not make eye contact; Miles is the type who does make eye contact and acknowledge people in the audience. Some may feel that Saban's way is the way a coach should be, but you can't argue with the numbers that Les has put up so far.

Q6. LSU lost their offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher (photo) to Florida State. Do you believe that Fisher will become a head coach one day?
SR: I think that is part of the reason he left LSU. Another reason he left is that Miles and his (Fisher) philosophy never meshed. I think Miles was asked to keep Jimbo around as part of taking the job. Jimbo was well liked by the players and he was a good recruiter. But I think he also left to broaden his resume and possibly take over for Bobby Bowden. I don't know if he has a shot of getting the job at Florida State when Bowden steps down, but it is a possibility.

He (Fisher) is very Bowden-like. He coached under Terry Bowden at Auburn. He's very fast delivery and has that little drawl. He is very engaging and has that personality that people like. But yeh, I could see him being a head coach. He is in his early 40s. Is it going to be Florida State? I don't know. He has turned down a couple of smaller jobs. So he may be waiting for a big job ala Mark Richt at Georgia.

Q7. I have to finally ask you about Nick Saban. What was the feeling down in Baton Rouge after he became the head coach at Alabama?
SR: LSU fans felt betrayed. People understood, they weren't happy, but they understood when left to go coach the Miami Dolphins. Everyone knew that he would probably leave one day for an NFL job. He had to give it a try at that level and he found out that is not what he wanted. LSu fans would not have cared if he took, say the North Carolina job or another job. But Nick just did not come back to college football. He came back to an SEC school in the same division.

They loved him so much at LSU that it is like a jilted lover syndrome. But he went to where the best opportunity that was available and he is getting paid $4 million a year. The LSU fans still respect his coaching ability, but they would like nothing more than to beat Alabama on November 3rd. That will be a must win for Les Miles and LSU. Let me say this, if Les left, would the LSU fans like to see Nick come back - yes. But for now, they hate his guts.

Q8. How do you think Saban will do at Alabama?
SR: I don't think he will be at Alabama that long. I think if another job opens up, say Joe Paterno retires at Penn State, he may go there. I think Nick has one more move in him. Alabama is a school that gets a lot of in-state players and have real good facilities. I think the fans there will drive him crazy. It is even more rabid in Tuscaloosa than it was at LSU. Plus Auburn is not just going to roll over and go away. It's kind of funny that Nick left a similar situation at Michigan State to come to LSU. At Michigan State, he had to battle with Michigan for in-state talent. At LSU, he did not have that in-state rivalry like he does not with Auburn. He can succeed at Alabama. I could see him win an SEC championship or two then be on his way somewhere else. Alabama fans got to get used to the idea that one day he will leave there for another job.

Q9. In a few years from now, Michigan has a two year opening where they do not play Notre Dame. It is being reported that Michigan athletic director Bill Martin wants to schedule a home-and-home with a big named football program, especially from the SEC. Have you heard anything about this?
SR: Reportedly LSU has been talking to Penn State. They have also talked with Notre Dame to play a home-and-home again. I get the impression that Miles would not want to play Michigan if he is still at LSU. LSU is looking to play at least one quality non-conference BCS opponent every year. From an LSU perspective, Michigan is one of the very few programs that LSU has never played in football. They played Penn State once in a bowl game and they had a home-and-home with Ohio State in the late 1980s. I think it would be great to play Michigan.

Once again, I would like to thank Scott for his time.....it is much appreciated.....

1 comment:

twins15 said...

Interesting stuff... I especially like the Nick Saban talk.