July 30, 2005

Commentary: A perfect blend at LSU

HOOVER, Ala.- Great moves off the field, combined with a boatload of talent, have made for a renewed anticipation of dominance on it at Louisiana State University.

When Les Miles was named head coach at LSU, replacing national championship winner Nick Saban, many thought that the Tigers' program was set to take a dip.

Sure, Miles had a nice program at Oklahoma State. Most notably, the Cowboys were one of the few teams in the Big 12 that could compete against Oklahoma, defeating the Sooners twice in four seasons. He went to three bowl games in four years and posted a 28-21 record.

At LSU, however, a 28-21 record in four years would be a major disappointment considering the talent that Saban has stockpiled in Baton Rouge. Many felt that the Tigers' job shouldn't have simply gone to a good coach, but a great one.

Well, players make good coaches great and the Tigers have a lot of them as Saban signed top five recruiting class after top five recruiting class. Often coaches that lose with great players make wrong moves by trying to fix things that aren't broken in an attempt to place their stamp on the program.

Most of the moves Miles has made have been the right ones.

"(Miles)is building on what Coach Saban taught us," running back Joseph Addai said. "The guys have adapted and we like him and are excited to play for him."

Miles retained offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, who has coached in the SEC every season but one (1999 when he was offensive coordinator at Cincinnati) since 1993, landed Bo Pelini, arguably one of the top defensive minds in the game, to coordinate the Tigers' defense and managed to keep Louisiana's top prospect, quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, home to play for the Tigers.

Given that the off-the-field moves have made sense, one can reasonably expect that the LSU team that runs onto the field this season will be no different than the high-performance squads that Saban won 22 of his last 26 games with. Fisher's offense will be Fisher's offense and Pelini's defense is sure to be more than solid.

There is no question that the on-field personnel are in place.

Offensively, the Tigers have a stable of running backs, led by Joseph Addai, Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard, are stockpiled with receivers and have a strong line. LSU always is good along the defensive line and at linebacker and the Tigers have plenty of talent, led by LaRon Landry, in the defensive backfield.

"I don't think talent in and of itself will determine where we finish," Miles said. "It will be a character, a style and a chemistry that's develop over the course of a season at LSU that will determine where we'll finish.

"We understand that if we do the things that we are capable of doing, we have a chance to have a special season."

That special season depends on the new staff in Baton Rouge continuing to make solid choices and using the talent that it has inherited. After various sportswriters all summer talked about how Alabama and Auburn could finish 1-2 in the SEC West, LSU was picked by the media to win the SEC West and play in the league's championship game in Atlanta, meaning most of the pundits must be convinced that Miles will be a big winner in Baton Rouge.

He was asked about the Tigers being picked to win.

"I've never really paid much attention to polls and preseason predictions," Miles said.

Another great move.

JC Shurburtt can be reached via email at jc@rivals.com.

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