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Miles begins 2016 in impressive fashion

If LSU coach Les Miles is nothing else, he is definitely quite resilient.

In late November with numerous reports flying around that his boss Tigers Director of Athletics Joe Alleva was trying to replace him with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Miles simply went about the job of preparing his team to defeat Texas A&M.

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LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles holds the Texas Bowl trophy after his Tigers defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 56-27
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The LSU players delivered a workman-like performance in halting a three-game losing streak with a 19-7 victory against the Aggies. Then, Miles received the news following the game from Alleva and LSU President/Chancellor F. King Alexander that he would still be the leader of the Tigers football program.

Miles then set out to have his team ready to take on a mediocre 7-5 Texas Tech team in the Texas Bowl. With negativity coming from a faction of the Tigers fan base, Miles had his club prepared for the Red Raiders. There would be no upset as LSU pulled away for a 56-27 victory.

However, Miles couldn’t enjoy the victory very long.

Less than 24 hours later, Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was hired by Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Now, Miles had a challenging task – finding a talented defensive coordinator willing to work in a somewhat unstable situation.

Unstable may be a somewhat kind term.

What individual would want to join the staff at a school where the athletic director had just tried to remove a coach? Everyone in the college football world knows that Miles is far from a guarantee to be the LSU football coach for the 2017 campaign.

A 9-3 record in 2015 was not viewed that highly by athletic department officials – primarily due to the three losses against Southeastern Conference Western Division teams. It certainly would seem that anything worse than a 10-2 worksheet in 2016 ends Miles’ tenure in Baton Rouge.

But, the Mad Hatter came through with one of his best coaching hires in his time at LSU. It took Miles just one day to get Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda locked up for the open position on the Tigers staff.

Aranda, a defensive coordinator for the past six years at three schools, has put together an impressive body of work. In three seasons at Wisconsin, Aranda had its defense ranked in the top ten nationally each year.

Aranda will be preparing for a different style of athlete in the SEC than he did in the Big 10. Remember that the Tigers’ mediocre 2015 offense put up 28 points against Aranda’s Badgers defense in the season opener at Houston. But, Aranda is a proven defensive coordinator.

When John Chavis left LSU for Texas A&M at this time last year, Miles met with Aranda. So, Miles had no need to do any more investigation of the young coordinator. Aranda was making about $500,000 per year at Wisconsin.

Alleva apparently is working with Miles in helping him have the best chance at succeeding in 2016. Reportedly, Aranda is getting a three-year contract with a starting salary of $1.3 million.

Moreover, there are reports that Aranda will receive his money even if Miles is not the LSU coach – the bone of contention which led to Chavis’ departure to Texas A&M.

One can definitely say that Miles went against his model when hiring Aranda. Normally, Miles desires to hire veteran coaches. Many of his recent coordinator hires have followed this pattern – Steve Kragthorpe and Cam Cameron on offense and Chavis and Steele on defense.

This time, Miles is going with a 39-year old coach who has the reputation of having a different approach to defense. Aranda is more cerebral – a coach who is willing to try varying schemes which best suit his personnel.

But, Miles has gone young in a defense hire before at LSU. Coming from Oklahoma State, Miles intended to bring Bill Clay as his defensive coordinator. Miles was advised to go in another direction. Miles then picked a 38-year old co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma named Bo Pelini.

Pelini did not possess the same makeup as Miles. Pelini was considered to be a ‘loose cannon’ as exhibited during his time as the head coach at Nebraska. However, Pelini was a great fit at LSU under Miles. Pelini’s three Tigers defenses all performed quite well.

Miles has broken away from his mold in selecting Aranda. Miles could have done a lot worse in picking a defensive coordinator in the current environment enveloping the LSU football program. But, Miles put his nose to the grindstone and found who may be the perfect individual to run the Tigers defense.