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LSU Tigers Football: Les Miles is Safe, Has Staff Decisions to Make

Just because the head man is back, it doesn't mean anyone else necessarily is.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Les Miles will be the head football coach for the LSU Tigers in 2016. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll also be the head coach in 2017.

The trigger happy boosters who've been leaking things to the press for a month will still be around next year. For now, it seems like the AD who let Miles twist in the wind for all that time, Joe Alleva, will also still be around. His silence was deafening, particularly in the week leading up to the Texas A&M game, and he may look at a move just as much next year as he did this one if the Tigers don't hit whatever benchmark he's looking for.

It's possible that some of Miles's assistants may move on of their own accord. There are enough head coaching jobs open this year that either the first round of jobs or the second round that comes from those first round ones are filled may result in Ed Orgeron and/or highly regarded RBs coach/recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson taking over their own programs.

Beyond that though, Miles must make big decisions about his coordinators.

DC Kevin Steele is the more likely one of the two to be in Baton Rouge next year. His defense was never a lock down unit this year, and it began to tail off towards the end. It also wasn't as deep top-to-bottom as LSU defenses tend to be, and a fade towards the end is usually a symptom of that. The defense came up big in holding down Texas A&M on Saturday, so Steele will probably stick around. It's also relevant that LSU didn't fire anyone to get Steele, as he was a replacement for John Chavis leaving last-minute a year ago.

OC Cam Cameron is a different matter. The general consensus about the Tigers in 2014 and 2015 is that the offense has been holding the team back. He's been operating on a three-year contract since he arrived three years ago. If Miles wants to make a change at offensive coordinator—and he was noncommittal on that matter over the weekend—that contract can just expire. There won't be a costly buyout.

For what it's worth, advanced statistics don't hate the Tigers' offense. LSU is 21st in S&P+ offense and 16th in offensive FEI (though this once hasn't updated to include last week's games yet). LSU's scoring average in league play is up a touchdown over last year, despite overall scoring in the SEC being down a field goal per game over last year. The Tigers are about even with Mississippi State in points per game, despite MSU having one of the conference's best two quarterbacks.

Of course, everyone is convinced of the merit of half of the offense. The run game has largely been fine, with Leonard Fournette setting the school rushing record in just 11 games. It's the passing attack that has been the problem. After taking Zach Mettenberger to heights in 2013, Cameron has seen Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris struggle passing the ball under his tutelage.

Now, LSU is still in the dead center of the league in passing efficiency in SEC play. That puts the team ahead of Texas A&M and Georgia in that regard. The Tigers are also 38th in passing S&P+, which isn't great but isn't horrible either.

This is one place where the stats fall down some, though, as they don't measure the magnitude of failures. When Harris throws a swing pass into the grass five yards short of Fournette, it counts the same as when Brandon Allen floats the same throw a little too much and it skips off of Alex Collins's fingers. When Harris overthrows Malachi Dupre by 20 yards on a go route, it counts the same as when Dak Prescott throws the same pass to De'Runnya Wilson right on the money and a defender just makes a great play to knock it down.

The eye test does count for something, and Harris still failed it last Saturday despite it being the end of the season. He's turned in some ghastly performances, and it's not just his 6-for-19 against Bama's fearsome defense. He also went 4-for-14 against Eastern Michigan, and he went 7-for-21, 4.0 YPA, and 0 TD/1 INT against A&M. He threw for just 5.1 YPA against Mississippi State and 4.4 YPA against Auburn in his first two games of the year, which were ultimately fine thanks to Fournette carrying about 80% of the load. But as November taught us, even Fournette can't do that against everyone.

If Miles can find someone who can get Harris straightened out, then 2016 should be a monster year for the Tiger offense. If Travin Dural turns pro—he probably wants to, but his hamstring injury may change things—everyone who has registered an offensive stat save him and senior TE Dillon Gordon (one catch, eight yards) will be back. Vadal Alexander is the only senior starter on the offensive line, but Jerald Hawkins and Ethan Pocic could declare early. Plenty of young guys have played, though, so there will be talent to fill in there.

It won't be easy for Miles to find a true pro-style offensive coordinator—particularly one known for quarterback development—if last year was any indication. Mark Richt hired milquetoast NFL OC Brian Schottenheimer because, in so many words, it was hard to find anyone else to take the job who would run a traditional, non-spread scheme. Oh yeah, and it didn't exactly work out. Bret Bielema found a guy after Jim Chaney left for Pitt, but it was highly unusual with Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos becoming his coordinator. I don't think Miles will hire Charlie Weis, but he's an available pro-style OC known for developing quarterbacks. The list of guys checking off available, pro-style, and QB groomer ahead of Weis isn't that long.

Miles has two jobs this winter: keep the recruiting class together, and make staff choices. Despite the negative recruiting bound to follow the recent uncertainty surrounding Miles, the former is probably the easier task thanks to Louisiana prospects' general affinity for staying in-state. Whether to keep Cameron, or more likely who to replace him with, is going to be a tough task.