LSU Football: Kevin Steele LSU’s new defensive coordinator


After two weeks and countless names from the college and NFL ranks, LSU football has officially announced Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele as it’s new defensive coordinator.

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Steele comes to LSU after spending the past two years as Director of Player Personnel (2013) and outside linebackers coach (2014) under Nick Saban at Alabama. Kevin Steele has coached for over 35 years, recently as defensive coordinator at Clemson from 2009 to 2012 (fired in 2012 after 2011 season) and as head coach of Baylor around the turn of the millennium. He also served one season as Alabama defensive coordinator in Saban’s first year in 2007.


You over there, LSU fan.

Yes, you near that very large drop. Please, step away from the ledge.

At least, step away from it for now. At first blush, this is not an exciting hire. Actually, at any blush, fifth date, after 10 years of marriage…this is still not exciting.

The most recent memory of Steele is of his defense getting absolutely shredded by West Virginia to the tune of 70, seventy, points. OK fine, 63 were scored on the defense. Still, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

His defenses while coordinator have been solid if unremarkable. His only truly disastrous year was 2011, which including the woodshed beating by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

Nationally, his defenses finished 20th, 19th, and 71st in total defense while at Clemson and 28th in 2007 at Alabama. Clemson’s 71st ranking improves by 10 spots if you throw out the West Virginia game.

His defenses have been similar as far as scoring defense is concerned, ranking 24th, 13th, and 81st (60th without WVU) in his three years at Clemson and 29th in his lone stint as Alabama DC.

It’s worth noting that Alabama’s defense was better in 2006 the year before he arrived with Nick Saban and markedly better in 2008 (Saban’s first title year at Alabama) once he was moved to associate head coach and removed as defensive coordinator.

There’s no need to speak of Steele’s time as Baylor head coach. It was before Art Briles, so you know it wasn’t great.

Steele has been nothing if not unremarkable in his years as defensive coordinator. He’s rarely had truly top-notch units, but he’s also never worked with the talent available at LSU. It’s reasonable to expect the Clemson results (non-2011) as a baseline for his performance.

Steele is noted as ex-coordinator John Chavis’ best friend, so it’s a curious hire considering Miles and Chavis just parted ways. There must obviously be no long-term ill effects from Chavis’ departure from LSU.

It’s unfair to judge him negatively before he’s coached a single game for LSU. Indeed, LSU is incredibly loaded on the defensive side of the ball for 2015. He’ll have plenty to work with once he arrives in Baton Rouge.

Plus, he’s a top-notch recruiter. He’s currently a top-50 recruiter according to 247 Sports, which tracks recruiter strength. John Chavis was never really much a  recruiter himself, so it’s a notable upgrade in that department. LSU still has roughly 10 open spots for this year’s class. With a month left before national signing day, he could make an early mark and endear himself to LSU fans by reeling in top-level recruits that were previously off the board.

Steele comes in and immediately becomes one of LSU’s best recruiters and further bolsters an already fantastic recruiting staff.

It’s worth mentioning as well that Nick Saban did hire Steele on three separate occasions. Saban, despite the recent success of Urban Meyer, is still the best coach in college football. If he’s been good enough that many times for him, he has obvious value as a coach.

Now, LSU turns to see what defensive line coach Brick Haley will do, as he’s being courted by other schools for defensive coordinator and line positions. There could yet be more upheaval on the coaching staff, paving the way for LSU to possibly add former USC and Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron to the staff.