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Miles, Tigers relish challenge of tough season-opening opponent

Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 6:39 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

ARLINGTON, Texas — You could practice for a whole year instead of just a little less than a month.

You could have a team returning virtually intact instead of less than half the starters from a year ago. You could even be playing a rent-a-win team at home instead of a No. 20-ranked TCU team in its own backyard, in the palatial playpen now known as AT&T Stadium but still affectionately referred to as JerryWorld.

It wouldn’t matter.

“I get as excited as I can be,” LSU head coach Les Miles said this week as his Tigers put the final touches of August camp with an eye on TCU.

He’s also, even beginning his ninth year at LSU, his 13th as a head coach, just apprehensive enough to keep the edge on.

There’s always that great unknown.

“Every year you take a team to the field in a season opener there’s a new personality, some certainty and (some) uncertainty with how some guys are going to perform,” Miles said.

“Every team has a personality, but it’s a developing one. In your first game, I think that there’s always that enjoyment in finally seeing (just) how good they are.”

Miles’ teams are usually pretty good — he’s never lost a season opener at LSU.

It doesn’t make the latest opening night any easier.

“It’s a great time. College football’s opening day is truly a special time,” Miles said. “The expectations are so strong; they want to be a great team, it’s been done on the practice field, now it’s time to do it with live bullets. It’s the first step of the year.”

But this year’s team, perhaps, is more of a preseason mystery than most.

It returns three starters on defense — the Tigers’ traditional calling card — yet the buzz about a fairly veteran offense is not about who’s back, but rather what effect new coordinator Cam Cameron might have on juicing things up on the offensive side.

“There will be some variance there,” Miles said of the offense, which has often been accused of being predictable.

He also is confident that a retooled defense, decimated by graduation and early NFL defections, will “look very much like an LSU defense.”

But there are unknowns, for instance, across the defensive front — which is all part of the excitement, Miles said.

“There are guys that have played some as backups, are now getting an opportunity to start,” he said. “Now you get to see how good they are, what they anticipate doing on a Saturday night.

“I think you’ll see very little difference. There may not be a (former defensive end Barkevious) Keke Mingo blur, but there’s going to be great speed. It’s going to look like LSU’s defense.”

There won’t be any easing into the season. LSU is opening away from home for the fourth time in five years. And the Tigers don’t go on the road to play lightweights.

“We relish that, quite frankly,” Miles said of starting the season against such a quality opponent. “I think there’s every reason to believe this team will respond as LSU teams in the past have.

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