DEVILLE: Last week a big one for Miles

For two years now, LSU coach Les Miles has been compared in every way to former Tiger coach Nick Saban.

From his game management, to the way he recruits, to the way he speaks at a podium to the way he wears his hat, Miles' every move has been scrutinized by the LSU fan base.

 

And why wouldn't he be when his predecessor was the most successful coach in the program's history? Saban transformed the football landscape in Baton Rouge and placed the Tigers among the elite programs in the nation.

 

There is no doubt Miles had to know what he was stepping into when he arrived in the capital city in January of 2005. The shoes that needed filling would be quite big and that shadow loomed large over the new football operations building, one which Saban designed and built, but never had the opportunity to move into.

 

And for two seasons, Miles fought that uphill battle trying to convince the fan base to buy into his system and philosophies. Twenty-two wins against four losses should have been enough. Toss in a pair of the most decisive bowl victories in the program's history and it should have been a no-brainer for Miles ascent to stardom in Baton Rouge.

 

Not quite though.

 

Of those 22 wins, none gave LSU its third national championship, much less the school's 10th SEC title. After all, championships are the measuring stick for success in the eyes of the fans.

 

While Miles has yet to achieve championship status in the SEC, he has managed to maintain LSU's place among the elite teams in the country. I wrote in last week's The Point After how Miles has a grand opportunity to finally erase Saban's shadow in Baton Rouge and solidify his place in the hearts of LSU fans. Last week he took three important steps in that direction.

 

Talking with LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette last week, he said "Coach Miles does a great job surrounding himself with great assistant coaches."

There is no doubt about that. Miles made arguably the biggest hire of his coaching career when he snagged Bo Pelini prior to his first season in Baton Rouge.

 

Some folks felt losing Jimbo Fisher to Florida State two weeks back would be a mighty blow to the Tigers' on-field success. But Miles countered with a terrific hire.

 

Last Wednesday, the Tigers' third-year coach announced the hiring of Oregon offensive coordinator Gary Crowton to replace Fisher. Crowton, who was ultra successful as the head coach of Louisiana Tech, served as an offensive coordinator in the NFL (Chicago Bears) and served four seasons as the head coach at BYU. It was a quality hire of a quality man and will prove to be a beneficial acquisition in the long run.

 

A day prior to the Crowton hiring, LSU all-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey announced he would return for his senior season. Last Tuesday, Dorsey announced he would be a Tiger in 2007 stating a leg injury kept him out of the NFL Draft. Projected to be a top 15 pick in May's draft, Dorsey will anchor a defense that is poised to be just as good in 2007 as it has been throughout his tenure at LSU.

 

Miles' third accomplishment last week will be further discussed in Tiger Rag's Where Do We Stand on page 4, but I will touch on it here.

 

The aforementioned Saban was hot on the recruiting trail infiltrating the state of Louisiana last week visiting a number of LSU's biggest commitments. Last Wednesday, Saban was in Bastrop, La. making a pitch for a pair of Rams that are pledged to Miles and the Tigers. Both Kentravis Aubrey and DeAngelo Benton turned down the ex-LSU coach and sent him on his way. While in the northeast part of the state, Saban also made a stop in West Monroe visiting LSU commit Luther Davis.

 

Thursday, Saban was back in the capital city visiting some Baton Rouge area recruits. The new Alabama coach then visited one of the most heralded recruits in the nation in John Curtis running back Joe McKnight. Saban also contacted Phelon Jones, a four-star recruit in Mobile who has committed to LSU.

 

The good thing for Miles is that Saban has, for the most part, come up empty when making his march through the Bayou State. Miles, who now has his staff in place after hiring new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa on Saturday, has the opportunity to close out a top five recruiting class and begin making preparations for the 2007 season.

And all of this will come with the full support of the LSU fan base.

 

From the mailbag:

 

I had an overwhelming response to my column two weeks ago on JaMarcus Russell leaving LSU for the NFL. Here are just a few:

 

 

Just want to say that that was a very good article you wrote.  I enjoyed reading it, although it made me uncomfortable wondering how JaMarcus will remember us here in the Tiger fan base.  I saw the press conference and was appalled at the question on RP.  I was, however, not thinking about the infringement on Russell's day, but more on Les & LSU being put on the spot for something they obviously could not talk about.  Was an informative answer really expected?  Now, I realize what a final display of disrespect for JaMarcus it was.  Thank you for pointing that out. 

 

For what it's worth, during the course of the 2005 season, I thought JR might be the best we have ever had at QB.  What a remarkable athlete and apparently fine young man.  One early vision I have of JR made me think he would be a great leader for our team.  In 2003 against Miss. St., JaMarcus was dressed, but not playing (redshirting).  Shyrone Carey had just assumed the role of featured back since Addai was hurt the week before.  Carey went down with a knee injury in 3rd quarter, and was obviously devastated. 

 

I remember the TV camera catching him sitting alone on the sideline trainers table - pouting - on a couple shots.   Minutes later, the camera focused in again and there was JR, a 19 year old freshman, talking quietly with Carey.  I thought right then that JR would be a strong leader, and that we were in good hands.  He has confirmed that belief to me.

 

Sincerely,

Bill Banks

LSU Alum and fan living overseas

 

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Great article on Russell. He deserved better while he was at LSU. Some just couldn't realize that one of the best QBs to play at LSU was on the field, and rightfully so. He will be missed. I just hope, in some way, he knows that there is a large contingent of LSU fans that greatly appreciated him while he was here, and will be watching him succeed at the next level.

 

I wish more people could read this article.

 

Thanks,

Jared

 

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I enjoyed reading your column on JaMarcus Russell but would offer a counterpoint to your argument on why he might have left.

 

Most of the intelligent, fans (who I feel were the silent majority) knew Russell should always be the starting QB.  This majority always felt you need to have an arm that can throw it 80 yards on the field at all times. Your column should acknowledge this silent majority and not give voice to the minority of vocal idiots who call the talk radio shows and the other pessimists who frequently criticized Russell and frequently criticize everything LSU no matter who they're playing. 

 

Maybe Russell heard those voices too often.  Most of this silent majority however, couldn't wait to see him take the field the moment we saw his awesome highlight videos on signing day and we are VERY sad to see him go.

 

Jeff

 

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


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