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Friday, October 05, 2007


Head Coach, LSU
Exp.3rd year
Previous Jobs
Head Coach @ Okie State
TE Coach w/ Dallas
Offensive Coordinator @ Okie State
Assistant @ Michigan
Assistant @ Colorado
Grad Assistant @ Michigan
Playing Career
Two-year letterman at Michigan
If you've spent the last two months somewhere other than Pluto, you might be familiar with the background of Les Miles. A former offensive lineman under Bo, Miles gave up his job to work for 8k per year as a grad assistant in the early 80s, joined Colorado's staff when McCartney was hired there. He returned to Michigan in the late 80s, leaving for the offensive coordinator position at Oklahoma State. (I can't find out what Miles' exact role was at Colorado or Michigan during his years as an assistant; I assume given his background that he was an OL coach with some TE sprinkled in.) After a successful three-year stint, he spent three years in Dallas as a position coach before being named Oklahoma State's head coach. At Oklahoma State, he took over a program that had gone 5-6, 5-6, and 3-8 in the three years after Miles' term as offensive coordinator. Accomplishments at Oklahoma State:

2001: OSU upsets Oklahoma 16-13 in the final game of Miles' debut season.

2002: The Cowboys are 2-4 midway through 2002 but turn the season around with their first win over Nebraska in 41 years.

2002: OSU defeats Texas A&M the week after the Nebraska win. It's the Pokes' first win over A&M since the conference was formed.

2002: Miles is the only coach in the nation to defeat OU coach Bob Stoops twice when the Cowboys roll past the Sooners 38-28 in the 2002 regular-season finale. With his second consecutive Bedlam win, Miles becomes the first OSU coach to defeat Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same season.

2002: Miles is named Big 12 Coach of the Year.

2002: The Cowboys win their first bowl game since 1988 with a 33-23 win over Southern Mississippi in the Houston Bowl.

2003: OSU defeats Kansas State, the eventual Big 12 champion, to end a nine- game losing streak against the Wildcats.

2003: The Cowboys post only their second win over Texas Tech since the Barry Sanders era.

2004: OSU plays in the Cotton Bowl, the Cowboys' first January bowl game in 55 years. OSU loses 31-28 to Ole Miss.

2004: The Cowboys open the season with a road win over UCLA, OSU's first season-opening win in the Miles era.

2004: OSU plays in its third consecutive bowl for only the second time in school history.

After a 4-7 first year, Miles was 24-14 at a school that had experienced very little success... ever. Stassen comparables for the span from 1990-2000:

74 Indiana 0.41935 51 71 2 124
75 South Carolina 0.41870 50 70 3 123
76 Northwestern 0.41667 52 73 1 126

82 Missouri 0.39113 47 74 3 124
85 Oklahoma State 0.37805 45 75 3 123
86t Kentucky 0.37097 46 78 0 124
86t Minnesota 0.37097 46 78 0 124

Oklahoma State's 9-4 2004 was their best year since back to back 10-2 years in 1987 and 1988 driven by Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders.

On the strength of this excellent performance at Big 12 Kentucky, he was hired to replace Nick Saban at LSU. In about two and a half years at LSU, he's lost four games. The Tigers are #1 in the blogpoll and face Florida this weekend; win and a trip to the national championship game is likely. It's not often you can pick off a coach coming off a national championship run.

Xs and Os Proficiency: This is the great unknown with Miles. His three years as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator came before 2000, the point at which comprehensive statistics are available online via the NCAA, so we're left with only season totals from James Howell's database:


That appears to be a nice upward trajectory, but even the 8-4 '97 season featured a couple stinkers: a 27-3 loss to Texas Tech, 21 points in a season opening win over 1-10 Iowa State, 20 points against Purdue in a bowl loss (though this might have been a year when Purdue had a surprisingly stingy defense).

The numbers at right are those of LSU and Oklahoma State with Miles as head coach, provided on the assumption that as a former offensive assistant and coordinator he has something to do with them. They're good but not Tedford-good; the interesting thing is that there seems to be a clear disconnect between Miles' scoring offense and total offense. Each Miles team is significantly better at the latter than the former (save last year, when it would have been hard to be better), occasionally by remarkable margins. Is this luck? Turnover margin? (In the case of 2005, yes, as OSU was second in the country. Other than that, no.) Excellent special teams? A refusal to punt from inside the opponent's 40? I don't know. It does seem like an indicator that Miles is doing something subtle right that most coaches are not.

That's nice, but the most appealing thing about Miles is that this section might be something of a moot point. Miles, like Mark Richt and Bobby Bowden, has positioned himself as a CEO sort that does not get into the nitty-gritty details of coordinating. Instead, he goes out and hires the best available guys to coach his offense and defense, then replaces them with the best available guys when they get poached. Witness defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and offensive coordinators Jimbo Fisher/Gary Crowton. No hiring your buddies despite some clear evidence they aren't Michigan-caliber tactically.

Recruiting: It would be nice if Miles had a stop somewhere between recruiting purgatory and recruiting Nirvana to evaluate, but he does not. At LSU, things have been outstanding. Miles signed the #4 class last year, the #7 class the year before, and the #22 class in 2005 despite only having 13 scholarships to give.

Is this entirely an artifact of LSU's status as the lone major football school in the nation's most talent-dense state? Let's break it down:

20051384----1 (FL)
200626133127 (3 GA, 1 FL, 1 AL, 2 MS)
200726115----10 (1 MI, 2 AL, 2 FL, 1 GA, 2 MS, 1 NC, 1 TN)

Survey says... sort of. Anytime you can load up on 11-13 instate kids and have 8 or so of them be four or five stars, you are starting ahead of the pack. But Miles' most recent class has 15 out of state recruits, every one of them four stars or better save two(?!) kickers and a three-star tight end out of Texas. This includes potentially huge flake Joseph Barksdale from Cass Tech, a guy the Michigan coaches either screwed up with or passed on because of the potentially huge flake thing. You can spin this as a Miles negative if you want, but LSU doesn't seem to have more problems than most teams with bad apples. They were a nonfactor in the Fulmer Cup -- Michigan finished like fifth -- and don't appear beset by internal strife like the current Michigan team is rumored to be.

One other note: Miles' distinct lack of JUCO/prep guys is a positive. The prep guy, Keiland Williams, went to Hargrave Military for a year; the two JUCOs were offensive linemen to plug a hole. Michigan went to the prep route for Marques Slocum and took a JUCO last year; Miles might take the occasional guy from these sources and that will probably be fine.

Potential Catches: There are many. One: the maelstrom of rumor and innuendo suggesting that Miles is a nefarious win-at-all-costs type who will tie Michigan's virtue to the train tracks and skitter off into the night. This can be uncleverly dubbed the "Loose Morals" issue. Said maelstrom has its genesis in the current coaching staff and the insiders attached to them. This is a group of people with every motivation to tar potential external candidates who are likely to clean house, so chances are things are exaggerated or really old -- the last time Miles was around the program was 15 years ago -- but that isn't. Even if the accusations levied turn out to be false or piddling, they serve as an indication that the entrenched regime would prefer a dead gopher to Miles. And I don't mean Glen Mason.

There are some indicators Miles might not be the best fit that have better documentation, though. From a post this summer titled "Les Miles Isn't A Candidate For Anything":
When Mike Gundy replaced Les Miles as coach he instituted, um, something other than anarchy:
"Several players said the day [new OK State Coach] Gundy replaced Les Miles as head coach he established guidelines that players attend class, be on time for team meetings, adhere to workout routines, represent the program well and play hard."
Nine kids thought these were ridiculous guidelines and left the team.
Um... not good. Maybe this is sycophantic reporting that chooses to phrase things in a way maximally flattering to Gundy and maximally insulting to Miles, but when a new coach comes in and has to clear out 10% of the team that's not a good sign. Then there were the dual outbursts of this summer:
First of all, the guy has a verbal diarrhea that fits in at Michigan about as well as John L Smith controlled his emotions. This very week Miles said a bunch of intemperate things about the Pac 10 on a radio show that stand in marked contrast to Carr's reticence to do anything that could be construed as campaigning during the Michigan-Florida election window last December. A few months ago he told an alumni gathering that LSU has "a new rival in fucking Alabama," which is not only a sentence that can change directions radically based on punctuation ("we have a new rival in fucking: Alabama!") but the sort of public utterance that would cause the Michigan establishment to get woozy and collapse, Southern Belle style, into Mary Sue Coleman's arms.
I don't care if Miles opens every press conference with more profanity than "It Hits The Fan" as long as he never punts from inside his opponent's 40, but I am not the man with the plan here. Others may see this as a major hurdle.

I dunno... do you want your head coach to sound like this? (Not a rhetorical question; I don't know if I do or not.)

(Miles, not Godzilla.) This is after getting thrashed by Oklahoma 52-9. He seems pissed, which is a change, but all in all he holds it together in what must be a difficult moment.

Relative Compensation: As of November, Miles made $1.5 million, which is approximately equal to Lloyd Carr's current salary. Michigan will have to up this significantly. There is also the hurdle of $1.25 million buyout should he take the Michigan job. Miles would be expensive-ish. Probably less so than Tedford and Ferentz but not Brian Kelly cheap; this should not be a concern for an athletic department seeking to maintain its cash cow.

One potential hitch: Miles' success seems more tied than most to his ability to locate (and pay) high profile assistants, so the true cost of hiring him might be higher than just his salary. Dollars to donuts Michigan lays out more for an OC under Miles than they would under Tedford.

Would He Take The Job? Yes. Local columnist Scott Rabalais:
Since Michigan’s 39-7 embarrassment Saturday against Oregon, just about everyone I’ve spoken to in and around the LSU program (except Athletic Director Skip Bertman) believes Miles would take the Michigan job if offered should Lloyd Carr retire or resign.
And The Valley Shook at, weirdly, ND blog Her Loyal Sons:
I personally think Les absolutely leaves LSU for Michigan (assuming the season unfolds such that they still want him by the end of it), and I wouldn’t blame him at all. Michigan is his alma mater. He’s a Bo Schembechler guy, and who WOULDN’T take the opportunity to pay tribute to his hero by following in his footsteps?
Former teammate and close friend John Wangler:
“When and if the opportunity comes up, I think Les will consider it strongly,” said John Wangler, a former Michigan quarterback and a close friend of Miles. “I don’t think there’s reason to tap dance around it. He’d have to look at it seriously.”
This is such a slam dunk that all coaches clearly less attractive than Miles need no consideration, assuming institutional hurdles don't eliminate him... and after Appalachian State I think the chances of that are slim.

Overall Attractiveness: I don't know. Obviously what he's done at LSU has been impressive, but pockmarked by things like this:

That is not encouraging. On the other hand, I don't care that Okie State lost this game 52-9...

...the idea of a Michigan head coach saying, let alone meaning "let 'er rip" gives the tingly bits some tingle.

Accusations that he's living off Saban's players ring hollow. This is his third year, and while the guys playing may have been recruited by Saban they have largely been coached by Miles. Tyrone Willingham is not responsible for Notre Dame being 0-8 and Nick Saban is not responsible for LSU being #1. Maybe he's not a super genius like Weis E. Coyote, but he's forged a gorilla with a chainsaw for a penis out of an acknowledgment of his own limitations, a willingness to defer to those more expert than him, and general good management of players and coaches. There is a skill in that generally gets you paid lots of money, be it on a football field or in a boardroom, and it should not be dismissed.

Meanwhile, Miles has proven in the past couple years that his recruiting is not solely because of LSU's status as the flagship program of Louisiana. He can recruit monster classes to a school with a lot of built-in advantages. Michigan is one of these programs. There is unlikely to be a huge dropoff if Miles should leave; will they accuse the next coach of winning with Miles' players?

Improprieties proven are insufficient to disqualify him from the job, and those rumored are just that: rumored. Miles has never been in trouble with the NCAA; he played and coached at Michigan for a total of 15 years; he knows what the program and the school are about. Unless there is some proof he he cutting corners, the insiders should be ignored and Miles should be a strong candidate for the job. Just hire someone (me!) to call timeouts.