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 BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -Les Miles stood on a Bourbon Street balcony soaking in the roars of approval from enthralled fans following LSU's national championship win over Ohio State in New Orleans.
It was a triumphant moment. He finally silenced the fans who still longed for former coach Nick Saban, showed his loyalty by spurning Michigan and now looks to extend his extraordinary three-year run in Baton Rouge.
``I've watched lots of NFL teams and NBA teams, talked to some coaches, and I've found a common thread there that will benefit us,'' Miles said. ``It's basically doing what you do, process who we are, making sure that you don't change the recipe on a team that's had success not only in one year, but in many years. That's where we're at.''
Indeed, Miles is now 34-6 at LSU, including 3-0 in bowls, and many of his own recruits have begun to emerge as stars on a team that was already loaded with NFL talent when he took over.
That trend must continue if No. 7 LSU hopes to stay in contention for another BCS title while playing an always difficult Southeastern Conference schedule.
The most glaring hole is at quarterback following the graduation of Matt Flynn and the dismissal of super-talented junior Ryan Perrilloux.
The most likely candidate to take the first snap when the Tigers open at home against Appalachian State on Aug. 30 is now sophomore Andrew Hatch, known more at this point for transferring from Harvard than anything he's done on the gridiron. His only snaps for LSU came in mop-up duty last season during a blowout of Middle Tennessee State. He's thrown two passes, completing one.
His competitors - redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and true freshman Jordan Jefferson - have yet to take a college snap.
But the Tigers are deep at other positions, including the offensive line, where four starters are returning, and they don't seem too concerned about a lack of experience behind center.
``I hear people talking about it, but I'm not worried,'' left guard Herman Johnson said. ``I've seen what these guys can do. I trust them.''
On defense, LSU has lost tackle Glenn Dorsey, one of the most decorated players in school history. However, coaches are quick to say the defensive line as a whole could be better this season.
One reason is the return of Charles Alexander, injured most of last season, and Ricky Jean-Francois, who was academically ineligible for most of 2007, but returned with dominant performances in the SEC championship and BCS title game, winning MVP.
Also returning are starting defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman. Pittman is in his sixth year at LSU because of a pair of medical redshirts.
``You can't downplay the loss of Charles Alexander. I think he was playing extremely well at the beginning of the year and unfortunately we didn't have Ricky throughout the whole season,'' LSU co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. ``That hurt us, and I don't know if a lot of people understand the significance of losing those two players up front.''
With Bo Pelini moving on to coach Nebraska, Miles elevated two coaches from his own staff, Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto, to co-defensive coordinator. Mallory will be in the booth calling the schemes, while Peveto will be on the sideline monitoring personnel.
They have maintained essentially the same aggressive, blitz-happy 4-3 scheme Pelini left behind, which they thought was best because it's what they and their players know.
Although there will be a pair of new starters at linebacker, two at cornerback and one at safety, all of them have seen playing time and were ready to compete for starting roles.
Peveto called his current linebackers ``as talented of a group as we've had.''
Senior Darry Beckwith is the only returning starter. He'll be joined by sophomore Kelvin Sheppard and junior Perry Riley, while junior Jacob Cutrera will rotate in regularly after a lot of action last season.
At cornerback, junior Chris Hawkins and sophomore Jai Eugene are expected to step in, with either Chad Jones, Danny McCray or Harry Coleman joining returning starter Curtis Taylor.
On offense, whoever wins the quarterback job will have plenty of help. A group of big-play receivers returns in Demetrius Byrd, Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver. And Richard Dickson may be the best receiving tight end in the SEC.
In the running game, LSU has lost Jacob Hester to the NFL, but still has four regulars in Richard Murphy, Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and small but blazing fast Trindon Holliday, who also returns kicks.
With so much talent returning, Miles expects his new quarterback to do nothing more than master the fundamentals and limit mistakes. No need for the quarterback to try to be a star here.
``Any time you bring a new starter to the mix, it's imperative that the strength of the offense help that quarterback,'' Miles said. ``One of the strengths certainly is the offensive line. I like the idea that the running backs are veteran, the tight end is veteran, the full back and the receivers are veteran.
``If you want to look at it, I think it's probably a great position for a newcomer at quarterback to get comfortable and understand that the guys that are around him are all capable.''

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