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Hobbs Column: Credit Miles with keeping coaches happy

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 10:32 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Now that happy days are here again with the LSU offense, with a quarterback who is all rainbows and lollipops, and with your grandmother no longer able to predict play calls at the break of the huddle, maybe it’s time to give some credit to this awakening where it’s really due.

Les Miles.

Oh, wait. Stupid me.

I forgot. This is all about Cam Cameron, the new offensive coordinator who has turned Zach Mettenberger into a mad-cap surgeon at quarterback, with game plans and play-calling that keep defenses hopelessly off-balance by using every weapon on an athletic roster from any place at any time.

Even the middle of the field is suddenly fair game on pass attempts, which are seemingly dialed up without hesitation.

But Cameron seems allergic to any publicity or credit for his deeds. He was hailed a savior upon arrival in February, but never really came out to take a bow. He avoided the limelight. A lot of media went to the spring game just to get a glimpse of his honor, but after the game we were told he was over at the football operations building, meeting with recruits. He did peek out for a brief chat with a few of us at LSU media days in early August. He seemed comfortable enough, even spoke plain English that didn’t need an interpreter (a rarity in LSU football).

But he has since ducked back deep into his playbook, religiously dodging the limelight.

Not to worry.

Miles sings his praises at every opportunity, almost as enthusiastically as Miles belts out the alma mater in postgame.

This is the same Miles who was often accused (probably unjustly) of meddling in previous offenses to the point of holding it back, floundering in the stone age.

You don’t get to be a head coach at this level without some ego, and Miles’ background is in offense, yet he seems perfectly content, even eager, to step aside and let Cameron get all the credit in the world for this offensive turnaround.

Meanwhile, the deposed offensive coordinator, Greg Studrawa, is still at LSU. But he’s just coaching the offensive line this year.

That’s probably his best fit. He’s an excellent offensive line coach, as good as there is. Maybe it’s no coincidence that, left alone to focus on his specialty, LSU’s young offensive line has been surprisingly efficient — even though these last three games have been the only ones in Miles’ LSU career without a senior starter up front.

Miles, I’m guessing, knew well before last season that whatever it was they were trying to do on offense just wasn’t working. He hinted at big changes in news conferences even before last December’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. But he didn’t want to throw “Stud” out with that foul bath water.

He needed him. But it had the potential to be awkward.

Yet Studrawa seems perfectly happy. He should be. He didn’t have a to take a pay cut at a school that can pay big bucks. But the coaching fraternity has egos, too, and titles must be important or I would not still be wondering what an “assistant head coach” is — the duties are usually fuzzy at best.

Yet Studrawa is a vital piece of what seems to be a machine-like offensive brain trust.

Believe me, it didn’t just happen. Somebody had to massage this arrangement.

That somebody was Miles.

Yes, there’s more to being a head coach than knowing when to call a fake field goal.

Miles has always handled coaches well.

They work long hours, sometimes not so efficiently.

But Miles keeps the peace. He has their backs, and they know it.

Former LSU assistant Bradley Dale Peveto, who later became head coach at Northwestern State, once told me he’d never seen a head coach who coaches the assistant coaches better than Miles.

Assistant coaches are human. They can get frustrated, down in the dumps over a bad game as easily as the fans can.

That, Peveto said, was where Miles was at his best, getting the staff back up and enthusiastic to tackle the next chore.

He’s not afraid to make tough choices.

There’s been as much turnover on his LSU staff over the years as most anywhere, all but a precious few forced out the door when Miles decided a change had to be made. Yet, amazingly, nobody ever seems to get fired in that joint.

Coaches always seem to be leaving for another job before anyone knew they were leaving. Even if it’s transparent, Miles may run you off, but he never throws you under the bus.

It’s a matter of how you handle people.

And, I’m guessing, that’s partly how this new offense was able to come about.

So give Miles some credit, too — before he gives it all to Cameron.


Follow-up

Who says you can’t make a difference? Not that I’m taking any credit, of course, but surely last week’s essay didn’t hurt. From talking to some LSU officials, there were plenty of complaints from individuals of a like mind.

But Tiger Stadium was back to being Tiger Stadium last Saturday night. They all but eradicated the overamped rap and hip-hop music that blared out to torture ear drums and kill the college atmosphere in the season opener. Just some mild stuff during warm-ups which, as I wrote, seemed to feel about right. The marching band no longer had to yield.

Now if they can just find an opponent that keep the fans around after halftime.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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