DEVILLE: Why Miles is SEC Coach of the Year

Les Miles – SEC Coach of the Year.

There we've said it. Tiger Rag magazine proclaims Les Miles as the SEC Coach of the Year for 2005.

 

All right, let's be realistic, Les Miles will likely not get the nod as the league's top coach this season. It most probably will not happen.

 

There are too many other big names within the league that could qualify for the conference's top field general.

 

Steve Spurrier is the obvious choice.

 

The Gamecocks, who had little talent coming into the season, weren't expected to make much noise in the SEC Eastern Division race, much less the SEC. After a 2-3 start and a 48-7 blowout loss to Auburn, many had given up on South Carolina. But the Gamecocks won five straight, including wins over Florida and Tennessee, and was a Kentucky upset of Georgia away from the SEC Championship Game.

 

How about Mike Shula?

 

Sure his Alabama Crimson Tide collapsed at the end of the season. Following a 9-0 start and a No. 3 national ranking, the Tide dropped its final two regular season games to LSU and Auburn. But it was a heckuva coaching performance to a team riddled with injuries and NCAA sanctions.

 

The more obvious choices for SEC Coach of the Year could be Auburn's Tommy Tuberville or Georgia's Mark Richt.

 

Two teams decimated with losses, including starting quarterbacks, Auburn and Georgia were projected to be in a rebuilding phase this season. Auburn's entire starting backfield from last season was drafted in the first round while Georgia lost college football's all-time winningest quarterback in David Greene.

 

Yet, Georgia is in the SEC title game and had Auburn kicker John Vaughn made at least one of five missed field goals at LSU and War Eagle would have made its way back to Atlanta.

 

But beyond all of this – there is Les Miles.

 

Miles came to LSU with very little fanfare. Fans were left scratching their heads when Miles was named the successor to "King" Nick Saban last January. With the likes of Bobby Petrino, Butch Davis, Jack Del Rio, even Steve Spurrier, available, no one saw the Miles hire coming.

 

LSU was criticized by the national media for going after the coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. What had Miles done outside of winning a couple of games against Oklahoma to get the LSU job? Was he the man to take on such a monumental task of coaching in a football pressure cooker like Baton Rouge?

 

Not only was he the man, Miles had the heat turned up to well above the boiling point before he ever coached a single game in purple and gold.

 

Miles inherited a team laden with national championship level talent, but then was dealt a hand from a deck so stacked against him most people would have folded.

 

Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast a week before Miles' team was to take the field against North Texas. The fallout from Katrina forced officials to postpone the North Texas game to late October, sent the Tigers to Tempe, Arizona for a "home" game at No. 15 Arizona State, after which they would return home to play then No. 10 Tennessee.

 

To make matters worse, a second hurricane hit Louisiana, postponed the Tennessee game two days to the following Monday, in which Miles' team blew a 21-point lead and lost 30-27 in overtime.

 

With the North Texas game being moved to October 28, it eliminated LSU's only other open date of the season. The Tigers would be forced to play 10 straight games to close out the season, all the while knowing another loss in league play would likely end any hopes of an SEC title.

 

Miles was booed out of Tiger Stadium the night of LSU's meltdown against Tennessee and many fans admitted an 8-3 record would be acceptable considering the situation.

 

But the Tigers adopted a refuse-to-lose attitude and nine wins later, LSU founds itself with a ticket punched to Atlanta for the third time in five years, to battle Georgia for the SEC Championship.

 

It wasn't always pretty though.

 

The Tigers won five games by four points or less, including three point wins over Auburn and Alabama and a four-point thriller against Florida. The always tough day-after-Thanksgiving thriller with Arkansas went down to the wire with LSU winning by a safety. The Tigers entered the fourth quarter at Vanderbilt leading 12-6 before scoring 22, fourth quarter points to win 34-6

 

As LSU Sports Network analyst Charles Hanagriff said after Friday's game, it wasn't luck or coincidence that these Tigers kept winning close game after close game week after week. It was the character of a battle-tested football team that refused to lose, an attitude inherited from its head coach.

 

So again, we dub Les Miles the SEC Coach of the Year. Again, we will say he is more than likely not going to get the nod, but if Alabama can recognize national championships awarded by Football Thesaurus, a former Princeton player named Park Davis who put out a poll until 1935, the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Litkenhous brothers Fred and Edward, then we can name our own Tiger Rag SEC Coach of the Year.

 

Here's to you Les.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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