LINCOLN — Les Miles’ son will be a Nebraska freshman next season, and Miles would love to come watch some Husker games as fullback Ben Miles starts his college career.
Only it was obvious Friday that Miles, 63, also would like to be back on somebody’s sideline again before too long, if possible.
“I want to coach football,” Miles said. “That’s pretty simple. I want an opportunity at a place that can win and a place where they really want to invest in the players. If they do that, I’m good.”
The former LSU and Oklahoma State coach met with reporters after speaking Friday at the annual Nebraska spring coaches clinic. A few minutes into his hour-long talk, Miles slipped on a white NU baseball cap that he was still wearing when he left the Hawks Center.
Miles is excited about his son starting a new chapter in his life — and joining a storied program — but also not ready to give up on his own career that included him becoming one of the more visible and colorful figures in the sport.
Miles had held the LSU job since replacing Nick Saban in 2005 but was fired last September after an 18-13 loss at Auburn left the Tigers 2-2. His time in Baton Rouge included a national championship in 2007, SEC championships in 2007 and ’11 and an overall record of 114-34.
Nothing worked out in the offseason — with Miles most seriously linked to the Purdue opening — but he said the wheels were in motion.
“I saw several schools,” he said. “It’s not like I didn’t look into things.”
Asked if he would be picky with his next stop or just itching to get back, Miles said: “It can be a different style of job, but then I’m going to be picky about the people that I work with and those things. All I need is an athletic director and a president that says, ‘Yeah, I want to be the best.’ ”
The game continues to evolve, Miles said, but the fundamental principles never change. And he believes some time stepping back over the last six months might even help him for the future.
“I’m probably a better coach today than I was when I left LSU, and I was certainly a better coach in my last years at LSU than I was in my first years,” he said.
Miles didn’t know Nebraska coach Mike Riley personally in the past, but that relationship changed once Ben Miles started getting recruited by the Huskers. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound fullback committed to NU last July and signed in February.
Les Miles called his son “the most independent man I’ve ever been around,” so the decision to leave Baton Rouge for Lincoln was made without much help.
“I went with him, and he said, ‘Dad, I like Nebraska,’ ” Miles said. “And I said, ‘Me, too.’ And I really just didn’t have to get much further than that.”
It also helped that Miles felt so good about Ben landing in a program run by Riley.
“Everything that I knew, that I heard about him, was that he was a special person and a person that your son would enjoy playing for,” Miles said. “That made a tremendous difference. All the people that I know who know Mike give him a great rating.”
Miles told a story Friday of his son constantly carrying around a football as a kid. He vouched for both his love of the game and strong work ethic.
“He’s miserable about today because you know why? He didn’t get to work out,” Miles said.
Some other notes from Miles, who spoke to about 500 coaches on the topic of physicality being a must no matter what your team is doing offensively:
» Tanner Lee picked Nebraska last winter, but Miles said LSU took a look at the quarterback when Lee announced plans to leave Tulane after two seasons: “I think Tanner had the ability to throw it, and he was really coming into his own in terms of decision-making. And he was pretty physical. I thought that he was a guy that we really needed to look at.”
» Miles was 1-4 vs. Nebraska as a Colorado assistant from 1982 to ’86, then 1-2 against the Huskers during his time as offensive coordinator and head coach at Oklahoma State. He still remembers crossing paths with a woman during his first visit to Memorial Stadium as he walked under the bleachers to the field.
“She said, ‘Young fella,’ and I looked at her, and she says, ‘Good luck today,’ ” Miles said. “These people are just unbelievably nice. They were nice, but the Cornhuskers were not.”
» The NU program hasn’t changed, he said, although Memorial Stadium has gone through a couple of facelifts.
“I think there’s the same drive for excellence that’s been here in the past,” Miles said. “I tell you one thing, the facilities have got a really beautiful look to them. I can remember the old stadium, and this new stadium is spectacular.”
» Asked if he would have liked to coach his son, Miles replied: “Yeah, you bet your bottom. I promise you this, if we had won about 11 games (last season), I’d have put a last-minute rush on him. Heck, I knew his mom.”
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Two close to call. Quarterback Tanner Lee, right, appeared to be the front-runner for the starting job, connecting on 13 of 19 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, none better than a 30-yard touchdown pass to slot receiver JD Spielman. Close behind was Patrick O’Brien, who hit 11 of 17 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown and got the first snaps of the game with the Reds after winning a pregame coin flip in the locker room. Lee, O’Brien, Tristan Gebbia and Andrew Bunch combined for 702 yards passing, five touchdowns and one interception on the day.
2016: Nebraska walk-on Kyle Kasun’s interception of freshman quarterback Patrick O’Brien on the final play produced the six points in the scrimmage’s scoring system that gave the defense a 46-41 victory over the offense. The Huskers racked up 343 yards on 64 carries — with the quarterbacks accounting for 162 of those rushing yards.
2015: Nebraska coach Mike Riley's spring game debut featured 408 punting yards by Sam Foltz, a bizarre safety by quarterback Tommy Armstrong and plenty of growing pains. NU quarterbacks completed 34 of 68 pass attempts, but it ended with a Gatorade bath for Riley. “I loved that,” he said.
2014: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini kicked off the spring game by carrying a cat onto the field during the tunnel walk — a nod to Faux Pelini, his Twitter parody account. Red defeated White 55-46, behind running back Imani Cross, who had 100 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.
2013: Team Jack stole the show. Midway through the fourth quarter, Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez handed off to 7-year-old Jack Hoffman — a pediatric brain cancer patient who became close friends with former Husker Rex Burkhead — for a 69-yard touchdown. Both sidelines emptied to converge on Jack, who was raised to the shoulders of a couple of players. The play was named USA Today’s “Best Emotional Moment of 2013″ and awarded the ESPY for best sports moment.
2012: Fans take shelter in the concourse at Memorial Stadium to avoid the rain. Nebraska chose not to play the 2012 spring game when a severe thunderstorm blew through the area about 90 minutes before kickoff. It was the only spring game canceled in NU's 65-year history of the scrimmage.
2011: After missing a field goal attempt for White seconds before, Brett Maher kicked the game-winner for Red, giving them a 32-29 win. True freshman Jamal Turner racked up 228 all-purpose yards on just seven touches.
2010: The Taylor & Cody show. Taylor Martinez (pictured) passed for two scores and added nine carries for 60 yards. Cody Green’s highlight was a 72-yard touchdown throw to Will Henry that showed off his arm. He finished 7 of 15, passing for 155 yards for White, but Red won 21-16.
2009: Quarterback Zac Lee finished the game with 214 yards and three touchdowns and directed Red to a 31-17 win. He completed 15 of his 18 attempts, hardly looking rattled in front of 77,670 Husker fans who had been waiting all spring, maybe somewhat anxiously, for a chance to see the team’s new leader in action.
2008: I-back Marcus Mendoza eyes the end zone, but is pushed out of bounds by Mathew May of Imperial, Neb. Mendoza gained 33 yards on seven carries in Red's 24-14 win. The Bo Pelini era began with a school-record 80,149 fans in attendance.
2007: NU quarterbacks Sam Keller and Joe Ganz combined to complete 21 of 31 passes for 350 yards against No. 2 and No. 3 defensive players. Keller and Ganz led Red to a 38-0 win. “The coaching staff obviously has a handle on this (deciding on a No. 1),” Keller said after the game.
2006: Cody Glenn, No. 34, tries to run against White Team defenders, including Phillip Dillard, No. 38, and Kevin Luhrs, No. 89. Glenn finished with 98 yards on 16 carries. Red defeated White, 35-7, racking up 28 first downs and 219 rushing yards compared to two first downs and -10 for White.
2005: Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor is greeted by fans as he enters the field. Taylor, a transfer from Butler County (Kan.) Community College, finished 20 of 27 for 357 yards and three touchdowns, leading White to a 42-14 victory. Taylor’s 357 passing yards, and the 606 combined passing yards by White and Red, set spring game records.
2004: White's Brandon Rigoni and Tyler Fisher break up a pass intended for Ross Pilkington. New coach Bill Callahan unveiled a new pass-happy attack and set multiple spring game passing records, including attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. Husker quarterback Joe Dailey threw 49 times for Red, completing 29 for 241 yards and four touchdowns in 35-6 victory. “I had a good time,’’ Dailey said. “It was a great day. I think there’s more to come. This is the very tip of the iceberg.’’
2003: White's Joel Jackson catches a pass and is tackled by Mark Brungardt, left, and Stewart Bradley. Defense was the theme of the day in Red's 13-0 win, led by new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. NU defenders recorded six interceptions and three sacks, despite lining up in just one front. "I just chose to hold back," said Pelini. "It wasn't about beating the offense. All we wanted to do is have our guys lined up in a base defense and play hard."
2002: Red's Ira Cooper blocks Sam Koch's punt in the second quarter. The blocked punt set up Red's first touchdown in their 17-7 win. Junior-college transfer linebacker Demorrio Williams made a game-high 13 tackles for White, while Red's Dahrran Diedrick averaged 8.0 yards a carry en route to 96 yards and a touchdown.
2001: Thunder Collins had 55 yards on 13 carries for White, but defense ruled the day in Red's 16-7 win. The Red and White defenses combined for 16 sacks and limited the offenses to a combined 426 yards. "We feel like we made progress this spring," NU defensive coordinator Craig Bohl said.
2000: Red Team quarterback Joe Chrisman tries to escape from DeJuan Groce and the White Team defense. Eric Crouch and Jammal Lord sat out the spring game with injuries, leaving the Huskers with three inexperienced quarterbacks. White rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the last one coming on a 46-yard pass from converted split end Brett Lindstrom to Ryan Ommert with 2:24 remaining, tying Red 21-21. The no-decision marked the first time since 1950 that the game ended in a tie.