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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Les Miles named AP coach of the year

By Edward Aschoff

Add yet another accolade to LSU's tremendous 2011 season.

A win away from the school's first 14-0 season and a third BCS championship, coach Les Miles was votedThe Associated Press coach of the year Tuesday.

Of the 56 votes cast, 30 went to Miles. Kansas State's Bill Snyder was second with 16; Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy had six; Michigan's Brady Hoke got three and USC's Lane Kiffin had one.

It really should come as no surprise that Miles took home the honor. Miles has been through a lot in order to get his Tigers to a 13-0 record. For starters, LSU and Miles had to deal with a handful of off-the-field incidents that could have easily derailed the Tigers' special season.

Things started when Steve Kragthorpe stepped down as offensive coordinator during the offseason and became the team's quarterback coach after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Kragthorpe had reportedly done wonders for embattled quarterback Jordan Jefferson's game during the spring and offseason, but when Kragthorpe stepped down, questions surrounded how Jefferson would play this season.

Even more questions arose after Jefferson was involved in an off-campus bar fight that got him suspended for the first four games of the season. Starting wide receiver Russell Shepard was absent for three of those games, after talking out of turn about an NCAA probe.

LSU never missed a beat on the field and eventually became the No. 1 team in the country. Even with LSU playing the best ball around, the Tigers weren't free from off-field distractions. Halfway into the year, star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, starting running back Spencer Ware and talented third corner Tharold Simon were suspended for a game after each reportedly failed a drug test.

Remarkably, LSU stayed the course, but felt adversity again when the Tigers met double-digit deficits to Arkansas and Georgia in consecutive weeks.

However, all the Tigers did was pull off back-to-back 40-plus-point runs to catapult into the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

This season might not only be the best in LSU history but it could be the best in SEC history. Of LSU's 13 wins, 12 have come by double digits and seven by 30 or more points. The Tigers beat eight ranked opponents, with seven of them coming by double digits.

If LSU beats Alabama in the national title game, the Tigers will be the first team to beat nine AP Top 25 teams in one season.

More is made of Miles' quirky behavior than his actual coaching ability, but he has more than proved himself this season. Honestly, Miles has more than proved himself before, but this year he and his team were front and center for so long -- and not always for the right reasons -- yet never fell to the pressure and Miles was a major part of that.

Miles didn't score any touchdowns or intercept any passes for the Tigers this season, but he did a wonderful job of pushing and motivating those who did.