By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
BATON ROUGE – Since November 27 when Coach Les Miles said at a Gridiron Club meeting that he would likely be coaching his last game at LSU, he has done the following:
– Won two games over bowl teams Texas A&M and Texas Tech by a combined score of 75-34 by nearly doubling them in yardage – 965 yards to 577 combined. The second game included 14-of-23 passing for 261 yards by quarterback Brandon Harris, who played the latter part of the regular season and the bowl game with a sports hernia. As one doctor said, an injury to the core area of a football player tends to be painful for that player … only when he moves. Harris will be significantly improved next season in his second year as a starter, and he’ll be healthier.
– Hired Dave Aranda, one of the hottest if not the hottest defensive coordinator in the nation from Wisconsin for $3.75 million a year over three years. Aranda’s contract does not include the “Joe Alleva Clause” that was part of the reason the very successful John Chavis left the LSU defensive coordinator post after the 2014 season. The clause prohibited continued pay to Chavis should Miles lose his job before Chavis’ contract expired. Part of the reason Chavis’ replacement, Kevin Steele, left LSU after one season was because – like Chavis – he did not feel he had administrative support. Had Miles had more administrative support from Alleva after the 2014 season, he could have kept Chavis or may not have had to settle on Steele. If Miles is fired after or during the 2016 season, Aranda’s money is still guaranteed. Miles is calling the shots more now about his hires because of the egg still on Alleva’s face due to his unprofessional handling of the near firing of Miles in November. Miles is not the perfect coach, but LSU will be better with him running the program free of Alleva’s hands. Just ask Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who believes he didn’t turn the corner at Duke until Alleva left.
– Recruited his juniors projected to be drafted a year early by the NFL to stay for their senior seasons, including likely first round pick cornerback Tre’Davious White and possible second round pick middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith. They will be the heart and soul of LSU’s 2016 defense and would have been sorely missed had they left. Miles returns 19 seniors – his largest class in a decade.
– Kept together one of the nation’s top recruiting classes despite a November from hell staged by some of our friends in the athletic department and on the Board of Supervisors who have a tendency to make LSU stand for Lying State University. Miles has also kept his recruiting class despite losing recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson to a head coaching job at Texas-San Antonio only two weeks ago.
If LSU had hired a new coach, let’s say before the Texas A&M game for argument’s sake, and that coach did the above, the LSU Nation would be dancing in the streets over the great new hire LSU made.
Now, the new coach likely would have quickly hired a new offensive coordinator to replace the troubled Cam Cameron. And, depending on the identity of the new hire, he would have likely gained a commitment from a better quarterback – on paper – than Lindsey Scott Jr., who committed to LSU on Sunday. OK, you can’t have everything.
But, the fact that most of LSU’s offensive players, particularly the junior-to-be Harris at quarterback, know only Cameron as their coordinator will help the offense in 2016 by familiarity, experience and carryover. LSU should be better on offense for simply natural reasons – one would think at least. And should Harris remain the starter in 2016, next season will mark the first in Cameron’s tenure at LSU that he will get to coach the same starting quarterback he coached the previous season. That should help both parties – not the mention the wide receivers and hopefully the tight ends and running backs, if the latter two groups get more passes thrown their way.
In the end, keeping Les Miles for 2016 may be the best decision LSU ever backed into making.
By sheer numbers returning, LSU will be better, and Alabama should not be. On paper, that is.
By Les Miles returning, LSU will clearly be better – on paper and otherwise – than Georgia and South Carolina with new head coaches Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp. Smart’s claim to fame is he was the defensive coordinator for Nick Saban, one of the best defensive coaches of our time. Interesting hire. At least, he’s young. Meanwhile, South Carolina is banking on Muschamp, who couldn’t win at Florida, which is clearly a place easier to win at than is South Carolina. Just ask Steve Spurrier.
So, members of the LSU Nation leaning toward membership in the Prozac Nation, quit whining. Just pretend you got a new coach. If you did have one, it’s hard to believe he would be doing any better than Miles has been lately.
And the new Les is just getting started.