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Tag:Chad Jones
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Why Les Miles could succeed as an NFL head coach

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



No, we haven't done any scientific surveys or hired Gallup to conduct a poll. But we have an edcuated guess as to how most college football fans would react to this CBSSports.com Mike Freeman report that several NFL teams are looking at Les Miles as a serious head coaching candidate. And that reaction is: WHAAAAA?

Even amongst college football fans -- heck, even amongst LSU fans -- Miles is rarely viewed as some kind of coaching savant. There's the late-game clock mismanagement. The years of underachieving offenses. The inability to gets his uber-talented teams over the hump to an undefeated season, national title or not. (Say it with us, Miles skeptics: "You can't spell Les Miles without two L's.")

But even if you aren't impressed by Miles' record -- and with a national title, two SEC West titles, and four seasons of 11 wins or more in only six tries, you should be -- the wildly successful start to his team's 2011 season should be evidence enough that he's doing something right. Several somethings, in fact, somethings that could very well make Miles a success even after making the leap to the NFL.

And if you've missed them along the way, these are them:

He coaches to win. Sounds simple, right? But truckloads of coaches base their in-game decisions on not losing rather than winning, and the end result is that their record in close games hews to the .500 mark you'd expect when allowing luck to be the deciding factor. Not Miles: whether it's throwing the famous last-second bomb to beat Auburn in 2007, calling the last-minute fake field goal that helped down Florida in 2010, or a dozen other examples, Miles is committed to calls that give his team a chance to win, not just a shot at avoiding a loss.

The proof is in the pudding of his record in close games: 22-9 in his six seasons in games decided by a touchdown or less. In a league by nature even more conservative than the college game, Miles's go-for-broke approach could pay even bigger dividends.

He surrounds himself with the right coaches. Not every move Miles has made on his staff has been gold; after defensive coordinator Bo Pelini left to become Nebraska's head coach following the 2007 national championship. Miles promoted Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto as co-coordinators to fill that spot ... and promptly watched the Tiger defense take a massive step backwards in a disappointing 8-5 2008 season.

But Miles didn't wait around to see if Mallory and Peveto could get it together. He promptly went out and hired respected ex-Tennessee coordinator John Chavis, and the LSU defense has never looked back. Even many of Miles's less popular hires have paid dividends--look no further than Steve Kragthorpe, the widely reviled former Louisville head coach brought on as offensive coordinator this offseason to general disdain. But it's Kragthorpe having the last laugh: former pick-six machine Jarrett Lee is playing the best quarterback of his life and the Tigers have been ruthless in the red zone.

Assuming Miles learned the pro game well enough from his two-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys to have an idea of who he'd want on his NFL staff, that same eye for coaching talent should serve him well.

His special teams are dynamite. For years, LSU has boasted some of the best-coached, most consistent and most explosive special teams units in the SEC. Much of that success has been chalked up to the Tigers' string of top-notch return men: Trindon Holliday, Chad Jones, Patrick Peterson. But after watching Morris Claiborne emphatically end West Virginia's second-half rally with a kickoff return for touchdown last Saturday (and Tyrann Mathieu do much the same to Oregon with his forced fumble and reutnr-for-touchdown on punt coverage), it's time to acknowledge that LSU's special teams success runs deeper than just the guys asked to field the ball.

He connects with his players. It's not worth belaboring the point already made by Freeman in his report, but no one has ever accused Miles's teams of not playing their hardest for him, nor Miles himself of being unable to reach recruits or manage his star players. Motivating and focusing college kids is a very different task than doing the same for seasoned professionals, but Miles's homespun charisma and willingness to trust his players to win games (see the first item on this list) should go a long way towards helping him make the adjustment.

Miles would no doubt have a lot to learn about the NFL -- two years as a tight end coach doesn't seem like an ideal level of pro experience for someone being asked to take over his own team -- but he appears to have a foundation in place that would serve him well should he make the leap. With NFL teams apparently willing to offer him the chance, the question is: will he?

Posted on: September 15, 2011 2:24 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:




Mississippi State: can you finally avoid losing an SEC West game with turnovers and/or special teams breakdowns? More than a few wags skeptical of Dan Mullen's burgeoning reputation in Starkville have noted that he has yet to beat any division opponent other than downtrodden in-state rival Ole Miss, dropping to 0-9 after last week's loss in Auburn. But that agonizing defeat wasn't the first time Mullen has come tantalizingly close to making the breakthrough, and never has he been closer than LSU's last visit to Starkville.

In that 2009 meeting, the Bulldogs outgained the Bayou Bengals 374-263, held LSU to one (1!) yard per their 31 carries, and enjoyed a first-and-goal at the Tiger 2, down six, with under three minutes to play. But that possession ended with quarterback Tyson Lee tackled at the 1 on a botched option play (sound familiar?) and the Bulldogs fell 30-26. While much of the postgame chatter focused on that late goal-line failure, the larger story was State's four critical turnovers (one of them an interception returned for a touchdown) and a punt that bounced inside the 10 and was somehow still returned by LSU's Chad Jones for a backbreaking touchdown.

Those kinds of breakdowns have been a recurring theme for the Bulldogs, as last week's performance proved again. Chris Relf maybe could have scored on the game's final play, but the Bulldogs wouldn't have even been in that situation if Relf hadn't bounced a first-quarter pass off a defender's helmet (a pass eventually picked and housed), or if the Bulldogs hadn't allowed Auburn kick returner Tre Mason to repeatedly set his team up in excellent field position. Even in last year's 29-7 loss to LSU, the Bulldogs played the Tigers to a dead heat in the box score ... except for the 5-to-1 negative turnover margin that broke the game open.

With LSU's offense again unimpressive statistically in their week 1 win against Oregon (273 yards total, 3.9 yards per-play), Jarrett Lee unlikely to make major headway against a veteran Bulldog secondary, and State getting a boost from what should be a rabid Thursday night home crowd, the Bulldogs seem a good bet to once again play an SEC West opponent to a statistical stalemate ... or better. But if they once again lose the turnover and special teams battle that Les Miles's team specializes in winning, it's not going to matter any more than it did the first nine times.


Tyler Bray: can you do to the Gators anything like what you did to Cincinnati?
Let's be up front about this: Florida is going to score points against Tennessee Saturday. The injury-ridden, inexperienced Vol front seven gave up an incredible 6.4 yards per-carry against Cincinnati, and the combination of a revitalized-looking Gator offensive line and the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag-team is far more fearsome than anything the Bearcats had to offer. And the Vols likely won't be able to answer with a strong ground game of their own; despite having faced Cincy and FCS Montana their first two weeks, Tennessee ranks dead-last in the SEC in yards-per-carry. Facing the Gators' loaded defensive front -- now including the newly-reinstated Sharrif Floyd -- is hardly going to be the cure for those issues.

Which means whatever hope the Vols have of keeping pace rests firmly on the shoulders of Bray. But to look at his remarkable performance last week -- 34-of-41, 405 yards, 4 TDs, no INTs -- he might be capable of fulfilling that hope all the same. It won't hurt that the matchup of dynamic sophomore duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers against a Gator secondary starting two true freshman is one that overwhelmingly favors the Vols.

Attempting to win a shootout on the road with a one-dimensional offense isn't the typical recipe for victory in the SEC. But if Bray comes out as on fire as he has been the first two weeks of this season, we're not going to put it past him.



Auburn's defense: are you actually improving? Ask any Auburn fan (or coach, or maybe even player) about the team's defense before the season, and they'd have told you that with just two starters back and underclassmen all over the two-deep, it was going to be a work-in-progress. But no one expected it to be quite as much "in progress" as it's been through two weeks; the Tiger D ranks last in the SEC in yards allowed per-game by nearly 100 yards over next-to-last-place Georgia.

Some of that is the quick pace of the Auburn offense, but much more of it is the Tiger defense's near-total inability to get off the field. Utah State converted a mind-boggling 13-of-20 third- and fourth-downs, and Mississippi State wasn't far behind after going 12-of-21. The result? Auburn's D has been on the field for 181 plays already this season, the highest total in the nation. Until the Tigers start getting some stops on third down -- despite the presence of pass-rushers Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae, Auburn has just two sacks on nearly 70 opponents' dropbacks -- the defense isn't going to get legitimately better, and eventually an opponent is going to make the Tigers pay for that weakness.

Clemson may or may not be that opponent; the South Carolina-bred Tigers have flashed issues of their own in sluggish wins over Troy and Wofford. But Chad Morris's Gus Malzahn-like offense should provide a good measuring stick regardless.

Also worth asking: Is Ole Miss, Vanderbilt or Kentucky the SEC's worst team? (With the Rebels and Commodores battling in Nashville and the Wildcats taking on a reeling Louisville team, someone is going to be a definitive No. 12 by the weekend's end.) What does Arkansas look like against an opponent that almost-sorta has a pulse? (Troy isn't great, but they're better than Missouri State or New Mexico. The Hogs should break a sweat, at least. Anything more could spell trouble down the road.) What on earth is Georgia going to do at inside linebacker? (Coastal Carolina won't be anything more than cannon fodder, but the Dawgs have to figure out what they have at their injury-gutted ILB positions.)

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com