Six coaches LSU should look at to replace Les Miles
Les Miles' days as LSU head football coach seem to be numbered. A decision on Miles' future will likely be determined following the regular season finale against Texas A&M, but it's hard to imagine LSU holding onto him after everything that's unfolded. Change appears almost inevitable now.
The LSU administration undoubtedly wants to go big game hunting for a replacement. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, TCU's Gary Patterson, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles have all been thrown out as possibilities. The problem is that FSU, TCU and Oklahoma State are not stepping stone jobs, and Kelly is not going to leave Philadelphia unless the Eagles fire him, which isn't a certainty. Plus, they would all command big money that LSU may not be able or willing to dish out after paying the up to $20 MM buyout of Miles and his staff.
If the administration and donors can check their egos and not worry about winning the press conference, they might find the perfect candidate with an outside the box hire. LSU is a college football blue blood with a rich talent pool and no instate recruiting competition, making it one of the most desirable jobs in the country. Plenty of candidates would be lining up if or when it becomes available.
Below are six coaches I feel would be ideal fits for the job based on the supposed desired traits for the next coach: their ability to upgrade LSU's stagnant offense, develop quarterbacks and, of course, beat Alabama. Do not be troubled by some of their less than stellar records at their current positions; both Miles and Nick Saban had pedestrian records at their jobs before LSU hired them (Miles was 28-21 at Oklahoma State and Saban was 34-24-1 at Michigan State). With that in mind, let's start the countdown.
6. David Shaw
Shaw is probably the "safest" coach on this list. He runs the same pro-style offensive system Miles does. The major difference is that Shaw has a better track record with quarterbacks. He oversaw Andrew Luck's final season at Stanford, and Luck's successor, Kevin Hogan, has improved every season since. Only once in Shaw's five seasons at Stanford have the Cardinal averaged fewer than 200 passing yards per game (197.9 in 2013) compared to three times for LSU over the same span. Shaw features the quarterback prominently in the running game, something Miles has experimented with the last two years, but never fully embraced. He's also a great recruiter, pulling in high ranking classes while competing with instate rivals USC and UCLA.
5. Dana Holgorsen
Now we start moving towards a total system overhaul. Holgorsen has a diverse offensive background, having worked for Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin and Mike Gundy before landing the head job at West Virginia. He runs an air raid version of the spread offense that balances the run and the pass and helped turn quarterback Geno Smith into a second-round draft pick. The system relies on athletic quarterbacks, so LSU's roster should be able to adapt without too much trouble. It is worth noting this system that has given Alabama trouble in the past (Oklahoma in 2013 and Texas A&M in 2012). The one hangup with Holgorsen is that he's an SEC outsider, so he may need a season or two to firmly establish a recruiting pipeline.
4. Justin Fuente
Memphis football is back on the map thanks to Fuente. The Tigers are 18-6 over the last two seasons and ranked in the top 3 in the American Athletic Conference in both yards and points per game each of those years. Fuente coaches right in the heart of SEC country and should have no trouble bringing in talent at LSU. He's also great with quarterbacks. He helped develop Andy Dalton as co-offensive coordinator at TCU and current Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch might be the first quarterback selected in the 2016 NFL draft.
3. Larry Fedora
Fedora is the first coach listed with SEC connections; he worked as an assistant at Florida from 2002 to 2004. His four years as head coach of Southern Mississippi were the best offensive seasons in the Golden Eagles' history, and he's resurrected the North Carolina program from probation to a chance at an ACC championship. The Tar Heels rank first in the ACC in points and second in yards this season while showing great run-pass balance. Fedora likes to get the quarterback involved in the running game - Marquise Williams led the team in rushing yards in 2013 and 2014. He would probably rank higher on this list if not for his age; at 53, LSU might not view him as a long-term solution.
2. Tom Herman
This rapidly ascending star might be the most likely coach on this list for LSU to hire. Herman doesn't even have one full season of head coaching experience, but Houston has already given him a big pay raise for fear of losing him. He might be inexperienced, but he checks off all the boxes LSU is looking for. Herman and his 10-1 Cougars have the second best offense and the best scoring offense in the AAC. He previously worked under Urban Meyer as Ohio State's offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014. The Buckeye's Big Ten scoring offense rankings during those seasons: second, first and first. He was instrumental in Ohio State's winning the national championship last season with their third-string quarterback, defeating Alabama along the way. Their quarterbacks have looked lost in Herman's absence this season.
1. Kliff Kingsbury
If LSU wants offensive upgrades and quarterback development, they would be hard pressed to find someone better than Kingsbury. A former Texas Tech quarterback, Kingsbury learned from the "mad scientist" Mike Leach and brought the same philosophy to his alma mater. Texas Tech's offenses have averaged over 500 yards per game in each of Kingsbury's three seasons as head coach and the Red Raiders are second in the nation in scoring offense this year. His system utilizes dual threat quarterbacks, and even passers that are not marquee recruits can produce in it. Kingsbury served as Texas A&M's offensive coordinator during Johnny Manziel's Heisman season, and like Tom Herman, has a win over Alabama on his résumé.
Do you agree with my list, Tigers fans? Which coaches do you think LSU should look at if they can't land a big name? Cast your vote in the poll or leave a comment below.