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Dave Aranda has big plans for the 2017 season, and they include moving LSU's defense more toward the 3-4 system he's known for.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

They call themselves the Bs. Or the Bucks.

Teammates refer to them by other terms.

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LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is pumped about this season - he's got a host of speedy outside linebackers to use in a 3-4 scheme.

“They’re monsters,” says one.

“They’re real dudes,” says another.

Linebacker Devin White doesn’t care what you call them. He just wants help from those rangy, speedy, freakish athletes who defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and coach Ed Orgeron have amassed on the edge of LSU’s defensive line.

He wants help from all of them: Arden Key, Ray Thornton, K’Lavon Chaisson, Andre Anthony, Sci Martin and even Corey Thompson and Michael Divinity. He wants help from them on the same play.

“Hopefully coach Aranda can dial some up where he can have many of them on the field at the same time,” White smiled. “That will help me out.”

Oh, it’s coming.

You only thought last season you were watching the defense that had everyone crowing upon Aranda’s arrival in January 2016. You only thought you were seeing the ballyhooed 3-4 defensive scheme, the one built on deception and movement, a shifting defense with no real shape and size.

You weren’t, Aranda says.

This year, you will.

“Every year it’s going to be different based on who you have,” the Tigers second-year defensive coordinator said. “Now we’ve got guys who can do that naturally, play in space and rush the passer. That gives you a flexibility of having a bunch of athletes on the field.”

At the same time? At the same time.

Chaisson and Key rushing from both edges? Yes, Orgeron said over the summer.

Thornton on one side and Anthony on the other? Yes, according to observations of spring practice.

More than two weeks into preseason camp, something is oh-so clear: Aranda is shifting his unit more toward the one everyone’s so familiar with, something he suggested in December. The Tigers will move away from a “basic” style that the coach operated from last season.

They’ll employ more of the hybrid outside linebacker/defensive ends, those freakish edge rushers mentioned above.

Aranda is after one thing.

“He just wants to get to the quarterback,” cornerback Kevin Toliver said. “We’re going to do a lot more blitzes."

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Why didn’t Aranda operate with this approach last season? His players didn’t necessarily allow it, he said during a school-run interview with the coach published earlier this month.

Aranda took over a team last year whose strength lied at defensive tackle and in the secondary, he said. Think Lewis Neal and Davon Godchaux, and Tre’Davious White, Dwayne Thomas and Jamal Adams.

Now, he’s got the versatile edge-rushing players that a 3-4 normally incorporates. Think Key, Anthony, Chaisson and Martin. Think Divinity and Thompson, too. The latter two play the F-outside linebacker position and not the Buck edge rushing spot, but Aranda is somewhat meshing the two positions this season, Thornton said.

In fact, Aranda said Thompson, the sixth-year player from Texas, is “one of our best pass rushers.”

“Outside linebackers,” Aranda said when asked about the strength to his unit. “I think we’ve got that body type. Even some inside linebackers can fit that mold, guys that are long, lean, can rush and drop. That’s the big difference (from last year).

“A year ago, with Corey (Thompson) injured, we had Arden and … Tashawn (Bower) made some plays for us, but there were times where playing in space, he had to work hard on that. Now we’ve got guys who can do that.”

The coordinator can now utilize the biggest advantage to playing a 3-4 defense: the deception of the fourth — and fifth — rusher.

“Who’s rushing and who’s dropping?” Aranda said. “Whether it’s Arden Key, Ray Thornton, K’Lavon Chaisson, Andre Anthony, (inside linebacker) Jacob Phillips, Tyler Taylor. You’ve got guys who can stand there and you can move them around. This play he’s an outside linebacker, this time he’s a down (on the line) guy, this time he’s rushing, this play he’s an outside guy dropping.”

Even the nose tackle position will see more of a push to rush the passer this season, starting nose tackle Greg Gilmore said. Sometimes, there may not be a nose tackle. During his three seasons at Wisconsin in 2013-15, Aranda sometimes operated with just one or two defensive linemen, utilizing “four, five linebackers in packages,” he said.

He slowly morphed Wisconsin’s unit into the speedy, linebacker-heavy 3-4 he left it in 2015. At first, he took over a program, like here, with “huge guys,” he said. The Badgers played more 4-3 concepts in his first season.

“As we recruited,” he said, “we’d get more linebackers and we played more linebackers.”

It’s a growing trend in college football: less of the 300-pound defensive linemen and more of the 245-pound, speedy outside linebackers on the edge. It’s sweeping the defensive side of the ball, just like the dual-threat quarterback and spread swept through offenses.

Norm Chow, a longtime offensive coordinator in the game, saw this coming in the early 2000s, when he captained Southern California’s offense under coach Pete Carroll. Orgeron was an assistant on that staff.

“I think that happened when teams started having a mobile quarterback,” Chow said. “The QB became effective, the 11th man. Once they made 11 vs. 11, defenses realized they have to match it. They have.”

“With the spread and quick releases, you only have so many seconds to get to that quarterback,” said Verge Ausberry, LSU’s deputy athletic director who played middle linebacker for the Tigers when they used a 3-4 in the late 1980s. “You’ve got to get that guy on that edge.”

Aranda described LSU’s 2016 defense this spring in this manner: "Here we are. What you going to do about it?"

"That was our personality, the D-linemen we had," he said. "Next year is going to be a different year.”

How different? Quarterback Danny Etling smiles when asked.

“I’m not going to tell you, not going to give that away,” he said. “If BYU is listening, we don’t blitz, never blitz.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.