Year 1: The Miles Era

Les Miles is a man who knows football.

Miles' football roots are as deep as they come. A letterman at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, coaching stints in the Big Ten, the NFL and a head coach at Oklahoma State, Miles was selected as the replacement for Nick Saban last January.

With a background similar to that of Saban, Miles was scrutinized from the day he was announced as head coach on Jan. 3. Possessing a rich past in the Big Ten both as a player and coach, Miles dipped into the NFL waters with the Dallas Cowboys and rebuilt the state's secondary program in the football-rich state of Oklahoma.

Like his predecessor at LSU, Miles enjoyed ample success at OSU compiling a 28-21 record in four seasons plus a pair of wins over arch-rival Oklahoma. In five years at Michigan State, Saban went 23-16-1 and claimed two wins over bitter-enemy Michigan.

In LSU circles, some thought athletic director Skip Bertman hired beneath the heightened reputation of the Tiger football program in the post Saban era. But Bertman, as many did, viewed Miles as a diamond in the rough.

Almost eight months have passed since being tabbed LSU head coach and the soft-spoken father of four has already met plenty of adversity winning countless battles in the eyes of Tiger fans.

Immediately, Miles was faced with two major obstacles – that being the final (and most critical) month of recruiting as well as assembling a staff of assistant coaches.

What did Miles do?

He managed to close out the recruiting season with four prestigious signatures (R.J. Jacson, Brandon LaFell, Rickey Jean-Francois and Ryan Perrilloux) plus gather a staff possibly more talented than Saban's last crew. Retaining Jimbo Fisher as offensive coordinator, the acquisition of Bo Pelini to run the defense as well as corralling the services of former Tiger great Karl Dunbar all worked in Miles' favor.

"I think maybe we hired the best staff," Miles said. "The two guys (Fisher and offensive line coach Stacey Searels) that stayed (from Saban's staff) stood above the rest. They didn't know me from Adam. They didn't need to show me the respect. But what they were was loyal to LSU. They knew what was going on in every phase of every question I asked. When it came to helping LSU, they wanted in. I feel very fortunate that they remain."

That being said, there is no wonder when Miles took to the road on the annual spring tour he was met in all four corners of the state with open arms.

"(This is the) only place in America you can get a standing ovation before you ever take the field," Miles said. "I am so thrilled to be the new coach here at LSU. I am very proud to join this athletic community."

Already Miles has been faced with two difficult situations testing his qualities as a leader before having ever taken the field. In May, fullback Shawn Jordan was arrested for carrying steroids across the border from Mexico to his hometown of El Paso, Texas. Most recently, defensive end Chase Pittman was involved in an altercation in a local Baton Rouge night club where a patron was sent to the hospital after a fight. Miles disciplined both Jordan and Pittman suspending each from the team indefinitely.

Their status with the team was unknown at press time and their future with the team will be revealed at a later date.

"We take a great deal of pride in the conduct that our players exhibit," Miles said. "We expect it to be exemplary. Behavior that reflects poorly on LSU or this program will not be condoned."

"I am going to ask them (the team) to do difficult things," he added. "I am going to ask them to work hard, to give everything for their team."

Miles talked candidly about his tour around the state of Louisiana. Talking with fans with names he cannot pronounce is towns he cannot spell, the Michigan native got a feel the passion for Tiger football in Louisiana. He said when he first learned his name has surfaced as a candidate for the job in Baton Rouge, he consulted with his college coach – the legendary Schembechler – who shared his feelings about LSU.

"He (Schembechler) said, ‘I have had great friends in coaching and one of them was Charley McClendon. He spoke of his school as a place where the people were good and have a love for their school.' His recommendation was basically that I should look at LSU very strongly based on that," Miles said.

Miles said he has already experienced much of what his former coach told him.

"I have done more talks than I possibly should," Miles said. "But the reality is I get the feel best from the fan. I can honestly say I have never been on the field (in Tiger Stadium) on a Saturday night. Everybody who meets asks, ‘have you been there?' When I say no, oh my goodness am I in for a story. It is just coming, they can't help themselves."

Having played and coached at "The Big House" at Michigan, one of college football's grandest venues, Miles said he has been given countless descriptions of what it is like in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.

"It is culture," he said. "It is religion. It is food. It is music. It is people with different backgrounds all coming together that makes it special and different. It is a party, with a football game stuck right dab in the middle."

After years of working his way through the coaching ranks, from graduate assistant, to position coach, to the NFL and finally a head coach, Miles has arrived at college football on the highest level. However, he admitted after all of the experiences of his professional journey, he may not be prepared for the first time he takes the field in Death Valley.

"I promise you the first time I go through that tunnel, I will most likely shed tears," Miles said. "I will feel that thunder and that roar and I'll be very sincere and respectful of the opportunity we have to represent the greatest institution in the country. I look forward to that. I look forward to Saturday nights."

And the team he will lead onto that field, LSU returns 17 starters and is ranked in the top 10 in virtually every poll. Three different services have said LSU will play for the national title versus USC in The Rose Bowl. With the talent returning and the schedule that lay ahead, the Tigers could vie for their second national title in three years.

"We have a nice place to start and we are looking to finish at the highest rung," Miles said. "We have to play it out from here. But we will all be disappointed if we are not champions."

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