Rabalais: No matter what, Les Miles cannot win

By scott rabalais

Advocate sportswriter

Saw former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer hanging out at the college football playoff meetings the day after the BCS National Championship Game in Miami.

Fleischer was hired to help the BCS with its image problem. Now that a playoff is coming, don’t know if Ari did an absolutely stellar job or is out of one, but you have to admit college football’s image has improved on his watch after the BCS dragged it down to lawyer/journalist levels of public approval.

Now that Ari is likely to have some more time on his hands, one wonders if he can help LSU coach Les Miles with his image issues.

Miles wins, but he can’t win enough or at the right times, it seems. A 10-3 season in which the Tigers suffered scores of injuries, defections, suspensions and generally bizarre situations — Alex Hurst doing a midseason Patty Hearst vanishing act comes to mind — wasn’t good enough. Not with Alabama hoisting another BCS trophy. A last-second Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson in which the offensive strategy left much to be desired also conspired to flip the collective mood on Miles from sweet to sour again.

Recruiting was supposed to help resuscitate Miles’ image, as he cast his hat out into the rough recruiting waters and scooped up yet another top-10 haul.

But again, Miles can’t catch a break.

University High defensive end Tim Williams committed to Alabama this week, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth around Tigertown.

“How can Les Miles let the No. 1 recruit in his state, from the same city as his university ... wind up in Tuscaloosa?” one online scribe wrote. “Given the fact that LSU will have to replace their entire defensive line next season, the miss on Williams looks even worse.”

Oh, the Landon Collins of it all.

Williams is the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana according to ESPN. Tre’Davious White, a cornerback from Shreveport-Green Oaks, is ranked No. 1 by the other major recruiting services: Rivals, Scout and 24/7 Sports.

ESPN may be the Howard Stern-like self-styled king of sports media. But among recruiting zealots, um, devoted followers, it ranks behind the other three.

Of course, Rivals, Scout and 24/7 between them don’t have one 24-hour cable sports channel. ESPN had, as of the close of trading Friday on Wall Street, about 23.

There is no doubt Williams is a big-time recruit. There is also little doubt in recruiting circles that LSU cooled on him in recent weeks. Last year, you saw LSU continue to put the Frank Wilson full-court press on Collins all the way up to national signing day. It’s doubtful you will see Wilson or any other LSU assistant coaches camped on Williams’ front lawn.

LSU will have a great class. Williams could have a great career at Bama. The reality is both can win, but perception trumps reality, and the perception is Miles has lost to Nick Saban again.

Somebody get Fleischer on the phone.