College Football: Finding Les Miles’ replacement

Les Miles won nearly 80% of his games in his twelve year run at LSU,  two SEC titles, and one National Championship. Miles’s LSU teams bridged the gap between Urban Meyer’s Florida’s teams and Nick Saban Alabama teams for SEC dominance for a decade. As I have written before; coaches need to adapt. Miles failed to adapt. Offensively Miles believed in a very old-school, I formation, smash-mouth football……stupid football if you will. Given Miles record over the years, it is very possible to win games running the ball 65%-75% of the game, but counters to your base power play have to exist within your offense to keep the defense honest. Alabama has been a running team since Nick Saban took over in 2007 but Saban had stud receivers on the outside (Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley) to keep the safeties back;  Alabama pounds the ball with inside zone until the defense put an extra safety in the box then run play-action and hit the deep ball. Watch Alabama last season, Derrick Henry left, Derrick Henry right, bomb to Ridley, touchdown Alabama.jan-07-2016-16-03


Stanford runs the power play very well, but when you watch Stanford they have reverses, counter’s, misdirection plays to offset the power play. LSU lacks those types of plays.     

Miles was a victim of his own success at LSU; winning over ten games in his first three seasons (including a national championship), two-year gap with 8-5, 9-4 season seasons than four straight years of ten plus wins. That level of success is very difficult to sustain (unless your Urban Meyer or Nick Saban). LSU’s new coach will be fortunate enough to have a grace period (for a few seasons). Three names you will hear throughout the college football season to replace Les Miles: Tom Herman of Houston, Jimbo Fisher of Florida State, and Lane Kiffin at Alabama. Each of these coaches are offensive minds that would be a turn around from the offense that Les Miles implemented. Herman runs a smash-mouth spread offense similar to what Ole Miss, Auburn and Ohio State currently run (all teams that have beat Alabama recently); Fisher is able to recruit and develop quarterbacks that into first round picks while at Florida State, Kiffin runs a blend of west coast offense with smash mouth tendencies.

Herman is doing a wonderful job at Houston so far (17-1 in two seasons), but the question is why would Herman leave? He never has to leave the state of Texas for recruiting purposes and the conference schedule (until Houston joins the Big 12) is fairly easy. Moving from the AAC to the SEC is a day and night move in terms of week in and week out competition. Yes Houston dominated Oklahoma in this season’s opener, but Oklahoma seems a little overrated at this point and Houston had an entire off-season to prepare for Oklahoma. I have no doubt that Herman will eventually land a bigger profile job but it is early in his coaching tenure to make a move to the SEC.   

Jimbo Fisher was Nick Saban’s and Les Miles offensive coordinator at LSU before becoming Florida State’s offensive coordinator and coach in waiting to replace Bobby Bowden. While at Florida State Fisher has won a National Title and has been able to recruit and develop first-round picks at quarterback (Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel, James Winston). Fisher is in the same boat has Tom Herman in terms of recruiting and schedule. The state of Florida is loaded up with four and five-star athletes, and the ACC coastal is a two game schedule (Louisville and Clemson). Outside of offering Fisher the Godfather offer LSU is better to look elsewhere for a head coach.

Lane Kiffin has been the offensive coordinator at Alabama for the past three seasons and has moved the Alabama offense move into the spread, RPO, no-huddle revolution that can put up video game numbers. This season Alabama is averaging 46.5 points per game with a true freshmen quarterback, freshmen and sophomores at running back and wide receivers. Each year of Kiffin’s tenure as offensive coordinator Alabama has had a new quarterback and the Crimson Tide offense has been able to average at least thirty-five points per game. Kiffin as a coordinator has been outstanding; his work has a head coach is questionable, to say the least. His four-year run at USC was filled with ups and downs finishing with a 10-2 record in 2011 then having the preseason number one ranking in 2012 then losing to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Kiffin may be better suited to stay as an offensive coordinator than a head coach.

  1. Chip Kelly: Chip Kelly the collegiate head coach was awesome. While Coaching at Oregon Kelly went 46-7 with three Pac-12 Championships and a BCS Title game appearance. Chip Kelly the NFL coach is not so awesome. Kelly’s tenure while at Philadelphia is well-documented, and so far his tenure in San Francisco is not much better. Chris Brown of smart football has an outstanding article concerning Chip Kelly’s offense in the NFL. An added benefit of hiring Kelly is the spread, no-huddle offense with quarterbacks that can run is Nick Saban’s kryptonite.screenshot_2016-10-01-10-56-45-1
  2. Ed Orgeron: This may come as a surprise to some as Orgeron coached at Ole Miss and compiled an unimpressive record of 10-25; then was USC interim head coach after Lane Kiffin got fired went 6-2 and was bypassed for Steve Sarkisian. Not a very impressive resume to be the next coach at LSU. Orgeron, however, has strong ties with the Louisiana. Orgeron grew up in Louisiana, coached with the Saints and coached the defensive line while at LSU. If Orgeron can keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and hire a solid offensive coordinator then Orgeron can do what he does best and that’s recruit.
  3. Chris Peterson: Chris Peterson led one of the most impressive runs in college football with Boise State from 2008-2011 Peterson lost three games in four seasons….that’s Nick Saban territory. From Boise State Peterson has been the head coach at Washington for the past three years and has Washington ranked in the top ten this season. Beating Stanford this weekend would put Washington in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North Division.
  4. Willie Taggert: This may come as a surprise and may not be the big name hire that LSU wants but Taggert can flat out coach. In three years at Western Kentucky Taggert improved the program from 2-10 to a bowl game in his third season. After moving to South Florida Taggert improved from 2-10 to 4-8 to 8-5. This season South Florida has only lost to Florida State.

Whomever LSU chooses will be an offensively minded coach that has a history of developing quarterback’s and can use schemes and systems that allow a quarterback to be successful. With Dave Aranda locked in as the defensive coordinator; LSU needs an offensive mind to keep up with Alabama and the rest of the SEC West.

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