With Huskies on tap, Miles done criticizing Pac-10

Sep 1, 2009 - 7:57 AM By BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer

BATON ROUGE, La.(AP) -- Les Miles sounds like a big fan of Pac-10 football now.

As No. 11 LSU began the final week of practice for its season opener at Washington on Saturday night, Miles had no interest in revisiting his 2007 comments about the Pac-10's strength of schedule.

"The only thing I can tell you is that we're playing Washington and look forward to playing them," Miles said. "I certainly understand the experience that the Pac-10 has had, what a great conference it's been, the success that they've had, so we would expect no less from Washington."

Washington was among the Pac-10 teams - Stanford and UCLA were others - that Miles mockingly referred to as "real juggernauts" while criticizing Southern California's strength of schedule to a pro-LSU gathering in New Orleans in the summer of 2007.

The Huskies haven't exactly proved Miles wrong. They were 0-12 in 2008.

"Washington has not had success last year, but that was last year," Miles said. "Really, the truth is they have talent. They had a great recruiting class. Their quarterback is back healthy, and the likelihood is they will be a much-improved Pac-10 team. And we will have to play well and execute to do what we want to do on the West Coast."

Miles said he expects Steve Sarkisian, the Huskies' new coach and former Trojans offensive coordinator, to have Washington ready to play well. And Miles believes the return of Huskies quarterback Jake Locker will give Sarkisian the foundation for a turnaround.

"When you return a veteran quarterback to a team, there are just so many things that you can do," Miles said. "Steve Sarkisian was a great offensive coordinator at USC. He coached two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, and I'm certain he's thrilled to be at Washington with Jake Locker. He's the style of player that is very similar to the guys that he's coached."

Miles said Locker's ability to scramble and throw on the run could give LSU trouble.

Then again, Tigers defenders see that in practice. LSU starter Jordan Jefferson also is adept at using his speed and agility. And LSU has been preparing freshman Russell Shepard to line up at a variety of spots.

"We'll play him at quarterback. We'll play him at wide receiver and possibly running back," Miles said. "What he does with his feet certainly makes him special. He has great ball skills. He can catch it. He can throw it. We give him a limited menu with throws, but he'll have the opportunity to do those things."

Several LSU players said Shepard has thrived in practice in the single wing formation, popularly known as the "wildcat."

"It's a killer," offensive lineman Ciron Black said of the formation. "It's going to gash a lot of people. They're not going to see it coming. The scheme that coach has got in right now is phenomenal."

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