LAWRENCE — One of nine team-labeled “Louisianimals” — or natives of Louisiana — on the current Kansas football roster, junior safety Mike Lee nevertheless knew little about Les Miles before Sunday.
Luckily, in freshman cornerback Corione Harris, Lee had a teammate able to bring him up to speed on at least one thing.
“All he told me was he eat grass,” Lee said Tuesday, “and I was just like, wow.”
Miles, the former national championship-winning coach who most recently oversaw an 11-plus-year stint at LSU that ended with his 2016 firing, was introduced over the weekend as the Jayhawks’ new leading man. Miles will replace outgoing coach David Beaty following the team’s 11 a.m. Friday season finale against No. 11 Texas at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Lee was one of many Jayhawks — several “Louisianimals” among them — to comment on the program’s high-profile acquisition of Miles. While Miles only spoke with KU players for five minutes upon his arrival Sunday, the buzz surrounding his decision to join the long-suffering program has obviously caught the eye of many current Jayhawks.
One in particular, junior wide receiver and Patterson, La., native Daylon Charlot, was actually recruited by Miles during Charlot’s time as standout at Patterson High School. An Alabama transfer, Charlot will hold the distinction next season of being one of only two active players to have been coached by both Miles and Nick Saban (Crimson Tide junior cornerback Saivion Smith played under Miles at LSU in 2016 before transferring).
“He was a person I saw on TV every Saturday winning football games, winning a national championship, and it was just exciting,” Charlot said. “And now that he’s here, it’s great that I got coached by him and Nick Saban, so that’s something great I can tell my kids.”
Charlot said he’s been told Miles will meet with every player one-on-one in the coming weeks and added the Jayhawks “have everything (they) need” already — “We’re just going to follow his plan and hope it works out," Charlot added.
His first meeting with Miles in a group setting was a scene he likely won't soon forget.
“Everybody was quiet, but I could just see the excitement on their face, like holding it inside, too. But it was great,” Charlot said. “I can’t wait until everything (is) turned around.”
Miles’ message that evening, Charlot recalled, was short and sweet: “Beat Texas.”
“I don’t know, it’s just crazy. Like I said, it’s crazy that he’s really here,” Charlot said. “I wouldn’t have ever thought it.”
Another New Orleans product, sophomore safety Ricky Thomas, couldn’t hide his smile as he talked Miles, who coached a place in LSU that Thomas called a "dream school."
"It's like a dream come true,” Thomas said of Miles’ hiring. “I've been watching him since I was younger, and like just to see him in person and wearing Kansas gear, it's like kind of weird. ... I'm excited. I'm ready for next year, (to) see what he brings. I know he's definitely going to change the culture around here, so I'm ready."
Fifth-year senior linebacker Joe Dineen isn’t a “Louisianimal” — the Lawrence native is nicknamed “The Mayor” for his ties to and status within the city — and he’ll be playing on Sundays next year instead of under Miles’ watch. Still, he said he’s excited to see what the 65-year-old coach can do and hopes KU fans show him the support he needs to succeed.
“It’s huge. Obviously he’s a really, really popular, famous coach,” Dineen said. “I think it’s a huge hire, and I think the town and the community is really excited about it. We haven’t gotten to talk to him very much and I hope I get to before it’s all said and done, but I’m excited for him and I hope everyone backs him and gets ready to go for next season knowing he’ll be our head coach.”
Back to Lee, who like most teammates is still in the feeling-out process with Miles.
Lee stressed his entire focus this week is on sending Beaty and the team’s seniors out with “a dub” against the Longhorns. After that, he’ll move on to the team’s future.
One thing he is confident in, though, is the health of the Louisiana recruiting pipeline he helped install in Lawrence.
“We started the pipeline through the whole Louisiana,” Lee said. “A lot of Louisiana guys want to come to KU because of my first year being here and what I did. They know that they can do the same thing I did, so if they get the opportunity, if they get the Kansas offer, they’ll come.”