Well, the news cycle doesn't stop for LSU football, as FootballScoop broke the word this evening that LSU's director of player personnel Austin Thomas will be leaving for a job within the USC athletic department. This is a pretty big blow for the program, as Thomas has been one of the most indispensable resources to Les Miles and staff in recent years.
Thomas was known to keep files on hundreds of players, and would help former recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson identify future recruits in their freshmen and sophomore seasons to help LSU get a leg up in offering and building relationships. More importantly, he was a supremely organized and very hard worker, often sleeping in his office in the weeks leading up to signing day. He even did some road work for the staff after Wilson's departure. This 2016 recruiting class was very much Thomas' baby -- he worked on it for years.
That said, it was always clear that a time would come where Thomas would either move into the professional personnel evaluation ranks or into some higher administration position somewhere else. Best of luck to Thomas, who has absolutely earned his success.
As far as his replacement, I expect the search to be pretty extensive among a lot of football minds. No names, but anybody from the professional scouting ranks to high school officials. I do know that there's no natural successor in the way that Jabbar Juluke fit in to follow up Wilson. And this will be an incredibly important hire going forward for the program.
Speaking of Juluke, he and Dameyune Craig were introduced to the media yesterday, as PodKatt detailed. Yours truly could not make it due to #dadlife, but I did have some thoughts on the coverage from some of the beat crowd.
YOU KNOW WHAT COACH
Okay Auburn MIGHT have gotten a little shafted on that call.
If I seem a little testy with the new wide receivers coach, well...
Craig threw for 352 yards on that night, including a 10-play, 80-yard game-winning drive. LSU ran for more than 300 yards and lost.
No YOU'RE still bitter.
Anyways, as Ross Dellenger detailed here, Craig had previously sought out a full-time job with Miles when he arrived in 2005, but things didn't quite work out. Very interesting that he now seems to view LSU, and working with Miles, as more of a step towards his eventual goal of being a head coach than staying with Gus Malzahn and Auburn.
As for Juluke, Delly has an outstanding feature on the running backs coach here.
One thing that's really clear is that there will definitely be some new energy flowing through the Football Ops building in the next few months. Miles gave some relatively cagey, yet pointed comments regarding changes to how the Tigers want to operate this spring. There's been some talk of visits to other programs by the offensive staff, and its still not totally clear how Craig will mesh with Cam Cameron, who still doesn't have his new contract yet. What's all that mean? I don't really want to speculate too much, certainly not about "new offenses" or philosophies or anything like that. But change is coming -- and that's before we even get to whatever changes Dave Aranda wants to make on defense. It's not hyperbole to suggest that Les Miles is truly moving into a new era of his time as LSU's head coach.
Even Juluke will bring a different energy to the running backs room. He's much more of an energetic guy, compared to Wilson's more fatherly vibe. Frank Wilson was "Uncle Frank" for a lot of high school players AND coaches in New Orleans, not just the ones he coached here. Juluke will be different. That doesn't mean worse necessarily, but it does mean different.
Miles hasn't even decided who exactly will serve as recruiting coordinator yet. Although that doesn't necessarily matter too much until the next round of junior days and the spring evaluation period after the spring. It's largely an administrative title, who needs to keep tabs on which coaches are where and helping to get the travel set up. Craig held it at Florida State, and Juluke or Bradley Dale Peveto could be possibilities as well. Ed Orgeron isn't particularly interested -- think of the world-class chef who would rather be doing what he loves and does best versus managing the kitchen.
All-in-all, spring football is a little more interesting this year, to say nothing of the whole "18 starters back" thing.
On another note, I appeared on The Southeasterner Podcast today, with Charlie Burris of Fox Sports out of Knoxville -- talking the LSU budget mess, Les Miles and Johnny Jones. Check it out here.