Remember when Les Miles was being pushed out the door at LSU?
LSU’s coach — or the Dean of the SEC, as he has been so eloquently nicknamed — did not not sound like a coach on the hot seat when he took the podium Thursday at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
Instead, Miles was a coach that answered the burning questions before they could even be asked. He accepted blame for last year’s late-season collapse before reporters could even request the microphone. He stated the team’s expectations for this coming season as clear as day, and boy, is he welcoming them.
If Miles was somebody coaching for his job in 2016, then he should consider turning his cameo role as a police offer into a full-time gig. Miles spoke with confidence and craftiness, and really shined at the podium in usual fashion.
That’s something you simply can’t expect from any coach other than Miles, who stated his own goals for the coming season and sounded like the coach ready to lead the Tigers there.
“We were 9-3 last year and it should have been a 10-win season,” Miles said. “We were 7-0, ranked No. 2 in the country, in position to finish … and we did not. Our goals have not changed: 100 percent graduation and we want to win the West and play in the conference championship and go onto the playoff and win the national championship …. again.”
That’s not only what Miles wants to do, but also what is expected of him this fall.
If you were looking for the coach to cast some sort of doubt about his coaching staff or his team’s ability to reach the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta or to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, you came to the wrong place.
Miles’ biggest issue heading into fall camp is depth. I can name 13 other coaches in the conference claiming they have the same problem.
LSU returns 18 starters, including a quarterback entering his third year, a Heisman Trophy front-runner in the backfield and two potential first-round draft picks at wide receiver. There are more future NFL stars littered across the defense, including a bevy of seniors who opted to return and try to lead this squad to the promised land.
Star players returning for their senior seasons has long been an issue for LSU. But you best believe that Tre’Davious White, Ethan Pocic, Travin Dural, Kendell Beckwith and Christian LaCouture, among others, did so to ensure that Miles’ team in 2016 did not have any “flat tires” to fix.
“I don’t think there’s any flat tires to this point,” Miles confidently said. “It’s more of finding the best pieces and getting them on the field in the right personnel groups … There’s nothing broke at this point, just getting your best to the front.”
As Miles stood at the podium without conveying an ounce of trepidation concerning his job security, his players continued to stand behind him. There’s not a player in uniform on the LSU roster that would campaign for someone else to lead this team.
That’s the sign that a coach is doing something right.
Where would LSU turn anyway? Athletic director Joe Alleva admitted to reaching out to Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, but is he truly an upgrade to Miles, who as he prepares for his 12th season in purple and gold is the program’s second-winningest coach and displays two SEC titles and a BCS championship in his trophy case?
The answer, simply, is no.
That’s why Miles is being touted as the Dean of the SEC. He isn’t going anywhere, and don’t expect Alleva to make that same mistake twice.
If LSU flops in 2016, we can have this discussion again in the future, but Miles’ track record has indicated that isn’t something we should expect. More likely is the chance that Miles actually follows through on his proposed attire in his newly acquired role — LSU’s coach, the Mad Hatter and the SEC coach’s Dean.
“Being called the dean, I should get like a robe,” he smiled. “Fortunately, I’ve been through some great times and I represent a wonderful institution at LSU, and to be able to be here the length of time I have with some very quality coaches having come and gone in that time, I’ve been very fortunate, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the membership of being a part of this group of SEC coaches.”
We expect Miles to continue to be a member of that fraternity for more years — and perhaps championships — to come.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.