The hot new commodity of the LSU football program was introduced to local media on Tuesday morning. And while that feels a little weird to say about a defensive coordinator, it's very safe to say this is probably the most universally praised move Les Miles has made, outside of landing Leonard Fournette.
So what impressions did yours truly gather from the man in person? Well, for starters, what you see seems like what you get with Aranda. He has a very reserved tone, which speaks to somebody like me. But you get the feeling he's one of those guys that can go on at length when it comes to talking about football -- which again, is something I identify with very well.
Also, this holds up.
It seems pretty clear that Miles made this call quickly. He noted that Aranda was "the absolute star" of last year's defensive coordinator search, and that once Kevin Steele approached him about leaving it wasn't a hard decision. Aranda, for his part, said that he and his family made the call driving back to his hometown of Redlands, Calif., after the Holiday Bowl win.
It also sounds like the timing worked out perfectly to jump on Aranda before another school could.
Some will ask "well if he was the absolute star why did LSU hire Steele in the first place," which has fed a lot of speculation about contract clauses and the like, but my read, based on some conversations, is that when Les Miles has a thought he tends to go with it. Steele was his first thought based on his experience in the conference, recruiting chops and ease of transition, so he ultimately went with that, even with Aranda apparently nailing the interview. So this time around, the first name on his mind was Aranda, and here we are.
For his part, Miles specifically mentioned the 2014 season opener with Wisconsin as something that put Aranda on his radar.
"We were fortunate to finish on top in the one match that we had with him," said the coach. "But that defense was the toughest defense for us to scheme (for) and go against on the year. "
In terms of staff connections, Aranda had some experience with all of LSU's defensive coaches in some way, shape or form.
"When I was a coaching at Cal Lutheran, and I used to go visit USC, Coach Orgeron was there," Aranda said. "We talked about get off and pass rush and that. When I was at Houston, I was linebacker coach. Coach Peveto was just leaving, so had a couple talks with him and was awfully impressed with him and the recruiting he had done. When I was at Utah State, we played a lot of man coverage, blitzed a lot of people, had some success. Were able to do that with a lot of the DBs that Coach Raymond recruited, I think three of the four are in the NFL. So the people I worked with at Utah State all worked with him previously and spoke the world of him. Those have been the associations so far."
Corey Raymond was defensive backs coach at Utah State from 2009-10, so most of Aranda's DBs from his time there as DC from '12-13 would have been recruited by his now current DB coach.
As for the mechanics of how this new defensive staff will work, I think that's an interesting thing to watch. John Chavis, famously, worked largely with his linebackers, with limited oversight of the rest of the staff. Steele had more of a big-picture approach, working with the entire defense while Bradley Dale Peveto handled the day-to-day work with the linebackers.
Aranda also worked from the sidelines at Wisconsin, but has done both sideline and booth coordinating. Ed Orgeron is certainly not leaving the sidelines, meaning that either Aranda, Peveto or Corey Raymond would wind up working in the booth. Steele worked up top. That's mostly a communications and comfort situation for the staff.
"I've been up and I've been down. Past couple years I've been down but it's per those staffs, that because the best fit," he said. "Previously was always up and so I think it's the same thing, you try to be able to use your staff as best you can and so if you're up, obviously the view is better, it's a little bit calmer, get to see all 22. If you're down, you'll be able to feel the energy of your players a little bit more and look them in the eye and see what's what. You've got someone up top that can see all 22 and help you with the things you can't see. So those are things that we have not gotten to yet but we will."
In terms of scheme, Aranda was appropriately non-committal. He's only had limited opportunities to watch film of this defense, pick the brains of his new assistants and figure out exactly how many upper classmen he's going to have back on defense. If I had to guess, we'll see a one-gap style similar to what LSU was already running, maybe with some minimal changes in alignment. But that's part of why this is a good fit.
For Aranda's part, he did a good job of explaining how he tries to simplify the complex.
"I think so much of football is playing with a clear mind and I think the less checks you have, the less double calls you have," Aranda said. "Meaning versus this you're playing; if it's pro, we're playing this, if its slot, we're playing this. The less empty checks you have, the more play; it's this call, this is what it is and no matter what they line up in, is what we're playing.
And then that, combined with -- in the past, we've been a field defense, so we get guy aligned to the field (note: i.e., the wide side of the field), get guys aligned to the boundary (short side). It's been very simple. I think that's been key, because it allows guys to play fast. Within that structure, you're talking about how now everyone has a job, everyone has a 1/11th that they pretty much have to do, and I think that 1/11th is easier to comprehend and easier to complete when it's simpler on the front end, when I'm lined up here, this is whatever happens back there, doesn't affect me, and I can play. So that's what it's been, whether it's been at Hawai'i, at Utah State, at Wisconsin and we're obviously looking at that here. So I'm excited moving forward."
So are we coach.
Other impressions on the day:
- Yes, Les Miles mentioned working on a new contract for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. That's no surprise based on the rumor mill in the last two weeks or so. Cameron's move to the field offered him a bit of redemption after and up-and-down 2015, and there's reason to be excited about this offense moving forward with a lot of pieces back. There will likely be extensions for a number of other assistants as multiple contracts are due to expire following the 2016 season as well.
- Dillon Gordon -- word seems to be that he was alright, and for Miles, it seems like the last straw re: Tigerland. "I'm cutting it off. It's just not worth it. The reason you go out is because you want social interaction. Social interaction can take place at home, at class, can take place at a number of places. You don't have to go to a fight night club."
- Interestingly regarding Brandon Harris, Miles noted that he did not notice that his quarterback was in pain from his sports hernia. Either that kid's a helluva actor with quite a bit of pain tolerance, or that's just standard coachspeak from Miles and injuries.
- You'll probably be able to spot me behind Miles in most of the standup shots on the evening news. Yes, I need a haircut. And the vest was a Christmas present. And it is very warm.