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LSU Wins The Press Conference

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On paper, this is Miles' best hire ever.

That's how you play defense
That's how you play defense
Eric Francis/Getty Images

When LSU hired Kevin Steele, Paul and I engaged in an argument in the comments here over the wisdom of the hiring. I argued that Steele was the Gary Crowton of DC's, prone to starting off with one good season, only to get progressively worse until he reached his nadir. Paul, on the other hand, thought this evaluation was way off base: Steele just sucked outright, and we would not even enjoy that one good season.

Looks like in the spirit of Trading Places, I owe Paul a dollar. LSU's defense wasn't a trainwreck lack season, nor was it any good. LSU posted program lows in the Miles era in defensive rankings in SEC play last year, and it's not like this was a banner year for the SEC in the first place. It's not that everyone else got better and caught our defense. We fell back to the pack.

LSU ranked 10th in scoring defense, 6th in yards/play, 6th in rushing average, and 12th in passer rating. The anemic pass rush showed signs of life for the first time in years thanks to the addition of Orgeron, but otherwise, this was a mediocre defense at best. Given the amount of talent on that side of the football, these results were plainly unacceptable.

This also follows a pattern of poor results in the national rankings. Here are Steele's defensive ordinal rankings in each of his past four seasons as a DC:

Steele

YPP

Scoring

Rush Avg

Pass Rating

2009

20

24

30

21

2010

19

13

17

26

2011

71

81

73

74

2015

25

41

33

51

So when Kevin Steele came to Les Miles and told him he had an offer from Auburn, Miles worked hard to match the offer and keep Steele. Wait, what?

Often times, when a head coach saves his job from internal pressures, the first thing he does is fire some of the staff. It's the scoundrel's way out, but it makes sense. You have to give the mob something. It is to Les Miles' credit that he didn't save his job by sacrificing someone else's. Even someone like Steele who probably deserved it.

Fans are way too quick to call for people's jobs, not stopping to realize that this is an actual person. I honestly admire that Miles did not want to fire Steele. Basic human decency came first, and Miles was not going to preserve his own neck by offering someone else's to get lopped off. I find it hard to criticize a man for that kind of decision, despite Steele's demonstrated lack of results.

However, once Steele rebuffed Miles' offer to stay on, Miles wasted no time in getting the man he wanted. Think back to how haphazard last year's search was. Yes, Chavis left at a bad time, but it was the same timing as Steele's departure. Yet this time, in a matter of days, LSU already announced that it had landed one of the biggest names on the market.

Why is Dave Aranda such a hot name? Just look at his track record of success, first at Utah St. for a year then the past three at Wisconsin:

Aranda

YPP

Scoring

Rush Avg

Pass Rating

2012

3

7

7

8

2013

8

6

9

18

2014

21

17

28

32

2015

4

2

4

2

That's a lot of single digits. He's also doing that with rosters that do not have nearly the same number of blue chip recruits as LSU's. Yet he is the guy who coached the conference linebacker of the year two of the past three seasons. He can identify talent, but most importantly, he knows how to deploy it.

Even the slight step back he experienced in 2014 looks pretty strong. All of those ranks would have ranked among the best seasons that Kevin Steele has had, and this was Aranda's bottom of the barrel. Aranda has not yet posted a rank outside the top 25 in scoring defense or yards/play in his four years as a co-ordinator. He's had a top 10 defense in both of those categories in three of the past four seasons. That's flat out amazing.

The SEC is engaged in an arms race for coaching talent, and LSU is right at the front of it. Finally, they found a guy who is worth spending over $1 million on. Aranda has gotten results wherever he has gone, and now he gets to play with a roster with guys like Arden Key and Jamal Adams.

There is no limit to what he can achieve here. I have not been this excited by a coaching hire at LSU since... honestly, I don't know when. This wasn't a home run, this was a grand slam.