It took all of two days for LSU to find Kevin Steele's replacement, as LSU announced the hiring of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda as the new DC in Baton Rouge, just two days after his Badgers defeated USC 23-21 in the Holiday Bowl, holding the talented Trojan offense to 221 yards and racking up 9 tackles for loss.
Aranda's 2015 unit led the nation in points per game allowed (13.1) and were top 5 in every major traditional category. In the advanced figures they came in at 7th in S&P+, 14th against the run and 9th against the pass. They checked in at 8th in success rate, 2nd in isoPPP and led the country in linebacker Havoc Rate (you can check out Bill Connelly's stat glossary here).
Miles had previously interviewed Aranda last season as a potential replacement for John Chavis, but felt that Steele's experience, particularly in the SEC, gave him an edge. When Steele departed, I'm told that Aranda was the first name in Miles' mind -- and that Ed Orgeron recommended him as well.
Wisconsin will be LSU's first opponent in 2016, as the two teams square off in Lambeau field.
Most of Aranda's career has been out west. He's served as the coordinator at Hawaii and Utah State, from where he followed head coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin. He does, however, have some time in his neck of the woods -- working at Houston as linebackers coach from 2002-03 (under co-DC Bradley Dale Peveto) and a year at Delta State as co-DC himself.
Talking to a source in the coaching community, Aranda is described as a bit of a different breed of cat compared to many of the coordinators in this neck of the woods. Very quiet and introspective, but a coach who makes a lot of effort to talk to his players and learn how to help them succeed as individuals. That's a bit different from the typical bombast you see from DCs in this area, but coaches like Orgeron and Peveto more than have enough personality to spare in that regard.
What's most interesting is that Aranda runs a true 3-4 defense. It's a very active, aggressive front that moves around and seems to adjust well to its personnel, based on this piece by Football Study Hall's Ian Boyd last summer. If you remember the 2014 season opener in Houston, Wisconsin's defense gave LSU some hell in the running game with a lot of movement pre- and post-snap that threw the offensive line off its assignments. Very curious to see how he'd adjust to LSU's personnel, which fit more of a one-gap style, but has some more bulk coming in if he wanted to change.
Aranda's first job will be to work with the rest of the staff to convince middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith to return for his final season. Aranda coached star linebacker Chris Bourland at Wisconsin, and All-American Joe Schobert this past year, where he had 79 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss including 9.5 sacks with five forced fumbles and an interception.
There's no two-ways of putting it, this screams slam-dunk hire. LSU landed the leader of a top-10 defense just two days after it put a clinic on in a bowl game against one of the nation's most talented offenses. There's a long next few weeks coming for LSU as we head towards National Signing Day, but this seems like a great first step.