Dig Baton Rouge

Defensive Reboot

By Casey Gisclair

The coordinator coaching carousel spun wild and out of control in Baton Rouge last week.

In a bit of a shocker, the Tigers’ first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele announced a day after the AdvoCare Texas Bowl that he was bolting for an SEC Western Division rival, opting to sign a multi-year deal to hold the same position with Auburn.

Steele’s departure marks the second-straight season that LSU lost its DC to an in-conference rival, and it’s the second-straight season that a first-year man will lead the Tigers’ defense for a season.

Usually that would spell big-time bad news and a serious cause for panic.

But unlike Steele, who was sort-of a Plan C for LSU after several other coaches said no last offseason, Les Miles finally got his man – a coach who just might be able to make the Tigers a top-flight defense once more.

Meet new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda – the guy who single-handedly might be the best coaching hire for any program in the entire offseason.

This cat can flat-out coach.

Aranda is relatively unknown in college football coaching circles, though it’s not because of a lack of production or output from the defenses he puts out on the field.

In his previous post, Aranda was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at the University of Wisconsin. His tenure was glittered with nothing but success.

In the 2015 season, Wisconsin wasn’t in the national picture, but it wasn’t because of its defense. The Badgers were No. 2 in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 13.7 points per game, a mark that trailed only Alabama.

The Badgers were No. 4 in the country in total defense and were able to limit everything on the field. Wisconsin was No. 3 in the country against the run and was also among the best in the nation at defending the pass.

The 2015 success wasn’t just a one-hit wonder for Wisconsin, but was more of a continuation of the norm. In all three of Aranda’s seasons with the team, the Badgers were among the best in the country defensively — something that made the young, upstart coach a hot commodity and someone that LSU couldn’t pass up on.

Those who have spent time around the new LSU defensive coordinator tout that he’s young and energetic in practice, but is a stickler for detail on the field.

Around Wisconsin, he was known as “The Professor”, a nickname that he earned because of his quiet personality and love for the details of the game.

Aranda is a football nerd – pure and simple. He loves to watch film, study matchups and survey the chess match in an effort to help his team win.

That’s what LSU needs.

With Ed Orgeron on staff, the LSU football team didn’t need a hoo-rah guy to be defensive coordinator. Orgeron has plenty enough passion to cover that end of the spectrum.

The Tigers needed a tactician — a guy who could take all of the program’s elite-level talent and put it in positions to thrive. That’s something LSU had with John Chavis, but didn’t have with Steele.

No offense to the guy, but Steele never felt like a good fit for LSU. He was hired after about a dozen other guys said no, and it just felt like a bad mix all-around, and it showed on the field.

The LSU defense was far from dominant in 2015, and it’s not a bad thing that change is taking place.

As long as it’s change for the better, of course.

But Aranda seems to be exactly that – a guy who will push the envelope and do whatever it takes to help the Tigers’ defense thrive.

I think it’s a good fit.

I think Aranda will do for LSU exactly what he did for Wisconsin – give a low-powered offense a chance to win games with dominant defense.


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