Well, the news finally broke this afternoon. Alabama linebackers coach and director of player personnel Kevin Steele is LSU's next defensive coordinator.
I suspect you probably hear some crickets chirping at the moment. I suspect his hire will go over like a fart in church.
Steele is an old hand in the coaching world. Been around the block a ton, from stints on Tom Osbourne's Nebraska and Bobby Bowden's Florida State staffs, to some time in the NFL and even a disastrous tenure as head coach at Baylor. He's served Nick Saban at Alabama in three different capacities in recent years, from coordinator, to an off-field administrative job to a promotion to linebackers coach last year. And of course, there was a tenure as Clemson's DC from 2009-2012, which most remember from the 70-point shellacking in the 2012 Orange Bowl by West Virginia.
There's no way that this hire will be well received. Not sure that I should bother, but here's what I know about Steele. He's worked for a lot of good coaches and coached in a number of systems, from 3-4 to 4-3 and so on. His reputation is somewhat similar to John Chavis' as a nuts-and-bolts, fundamental type of coach. He coaches an aggressive style and likes to bring pressure. He's also known as a very active recruiter.
I feel very safe in saying that he's much better than what we saw in his final game at Clemson -- it'd be silly to judge Chavis solely for his defense's performances against Auburn and Mississippi State this past season as well. But there's no doubt this hire is going to take a lot of heat. The pressure is going to be on Steele to deliver and deliver quickly. Top shelf defense in 2015 or the cries will only get louder.
Steele's name seemed to linger through the search, and I'd always been told that Miles really liked the guy. His son served as a grad assistant here a few years back, and Steele was around the program a lot in 2012 after Clemson fired him. There was some thought of hiring him to coach defensive backs, but Corey Raymond got the job instead. Again, he's a "you know what you get" guy in the coaching community -- Football Scoop even indicated that he's not really a guy you interview. Coaches know what he's about and you either want that or you don't. It's also known that he's very close with Chavis, going back even longer than their coaching careers. Some speculated that given how the Chief's departure went down, it'd be kind of awkward to replace him with his best friend. But clearly Steele and Miles are comfortable with it. As for the perception, well...Miles doesn't care. And really never will.
I also know that Saban thinks enough of this guy to hire him three different times. Has to count for something. There are still some other balls in the air as well. Brick Haley wanted the defensive coordinator job himself, and reportedly may still get some offers for similar advancement elsewhere. Still, LSU waited two weeks to hire a guy it could have had from the beginning, after spurning, or being spurned by, several higher-profile candidates.
Is there reason to think this will work out? Sure. Steele will help bring in talent, and that can go a long way. But nobody will believe much until they see the on-field product in 2015. And Steele will be held to an incredibly high standard right out of the gate. We'll see what happens.
If I can find out some more I'll pass word along.