Dave Aranda has the video tapes all ready for his freshman linebackers.
The tapes are for teaching and technique, and that's exactly what the LSU defensive coordinator refers to them as.
"I feel like once they get here in the summer time — we’ve got teaching tapes already made, technique tapes already made — we’re going to get to work," Aranda said. "I’m excited about that challenge."
Aranda spoke to reporters Monday ahead of the Tiger Athletic Foundation's Tiger Tour stop at Lod Cook Alumni Center in Baton Rouge.
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The coordinator spoke about his second year of spring practice and how, technically, it wasn't so much different than his first. In fact, because of the youth, Aranda said he's "starting all over" in installing his defense. It's even moving at a "slower pace" this year because of the reliance on freshmen and redshirt freshmen at key spots like inside linebacker, safety and potentially nickel, Aranda said.
Aranda will heavily rely on linebacker signees like Tyler Taylor, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen — guys he's talking to by phone on a weekly basis. The Tigers have just two scholarship inside linebackers: Donnie Alexander and Devin White. (Coaches moved Michael Divinity to inside linebacker in the spring, but it's unclear if he'll remain there.)
"I’m excited to be able to have some depth," Aranda said. "I go back to spring ball, and we had few scholarship players. Thank goodness (during spring) for the walk-ons we had (Jonathan Rucker and Layton Garnett). They were our 2s and subbed in a lot of times with our 1s."
Aranda also discussed Duke Riley's impact on White and how midyear enrollee Grant Delpit could play early.
How was Year 2 of spring for you different than Year 1, as far as what you installed, etc.?
It’s very similar. We’re starting all over. I’d like to be able to say … I look back at last year and the basics were really stressed. I thought we really emphasized teamwork and everyone knowing their role and playing to their health and playing as a team. We really played three defenses throughout the year (defensive calls), about less than a fourth of what we had in Wisconsin.
So you’d like to be able to come back in Year 2 and naturally going to add this, add that and expand, but we’re starting all over. We didn’t have Arden (Key) in the spring obviously, so we’re (at) eight new guys. Whether they’re freshmen or redshirt freshmen. We have a fair amount of seniors that haven’t played a lot of football as well. So starting from the ground up, just really teaching. It’s very similar in a lot of ways to last spring, in terms of getting lined up, where your eyes go, how to play technique.
The difference is last year we had guys who played a lot of football. So if there’s a 100 percent capacity in terms of knowledge and savviness, some of them were 60-70 percent filled. We could fill in our 30 percent with what we’re doing and then try to work with the other 60-70 percent they had, try to make it work as best we could.
Now we’re talking about guys that are 5 percent, 10 percent because they’re brand new. They don’t know that they don’t know, so you’re continuously adding in. When you are approached with something like that and then (going against) an offense like what Matt is doing, there’s going to be some ugly days early on. I thought we got better and better.
Do you like that in some capacity? Like, this is an empty mind I’m going to fill with my system? There are perks to that right?
There is. There’s benefits the other way too. I think this way, like, you don’t realize the things you have to teach when they’re that young and that new. Whether it’s third-and-1 and expect a QB sneak under center.
There would be times last year that I wouldn’t make a big deal about (that). Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley and (Davon) Godchaux, they’d see it and they’d play it. They had been there and done that before. Coach (John) Chavis or someone had mentioned that (to them). Guys we’re dealing with now, I don’t say it, they don’t know it. You’re coaching everything. So it’s even a slower place than a year ago.
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What are expectations for linebackers arriving this summer?
I think our goals are still in front of us. I feel like the guys coming in have a great opportunity to play. I think we’ve been sending them information. I’ve been talking to them weekly on techniques and defenses. They’re very much involved.
The want-to from this group is very strong. I think it’s the biggest, greatest attribute we have. They want to be good. They know there’s an expectation of being good on defense. When you have that and have athleticism and have talent, you’re going to end up being good. It’s just putting in the hours and working through it.
I feel like once they get here in the summer time — we’ve got teaching tapes already made — technique tapes already made, we’re going to get to work. I’m excited about that challenge.
Ed Orgeron, during this Tiger Tour, mentioned that you told him earlier this spring that you guys had more kickers on scholarship than inside linebackers. How good is it to know you’ve got three inside linebackers arriving in the summer, just the fact of having more depth?
To be able to get more scholarship guys in and guys who are going to compete from the beginning — along with, frankly, a lot of the walk-ons really performed well and earned themselves a chance — I think we’ve got some depth now. I wouldn’t have said that in spring.
What positions do you expect freshmen to have major impacts this fall?
Inside linebacker. I expect safety would be two. I think nickel, there’s a great chance for a young guy to be in the nickel position. In the front, there will be some rotation at the nose guard. Hopefully at the 4i (a position lining up just inside the offensive tackle), there will be some rotation. Overall, I think we’re going to see a lot of redshirt freshmen play, true freshmen play this year.
The advantage of that, you know they’re talented, know they want to work hard. It’s just a matter of putting in the work.
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Grant Delpit can make an impact right?
He can. He did. I think Grant has a savviness about him. I think football comes easy to him. Some of the plays he made, he didn’t know exactly what he’s doing when he’s making those plays. The thing to do now is to frame that play and detail out that play so he knows, ‘Well, I kind of cheated this play and had a big play for us, but that’s risky business.’ Got to get down to the ground level to that. It’s always good when you have the opportunity to do that though. We have that.
Talk about Devin White’s development from last year.
He’s talking. He’s communicating. God bless Duke Riley and what Duke Riley brought to our team last year. He made a really big impression on Devin from the (jersey) number, to communication, to the way he handles himself, to the way he prepares. Duke really rubbed out to a real positive way on Devin.
Devin is in a position where as a young guy he’s taking a leadership role, along with Donnie Alexander. I think Donnie has really upped his profile as a leader, communicator. Guys are following him. He’s working hard in the weight room. There’s a lot of positive things coming from the inside linebacker group that I’m excited about it.
At nickel, do you prefer a corner or safety or do both?
The best player there. If it’s going to be a corner, we can play around that and use his strengths. If it’s more of a linebacker, we can use that as well. If it’s a blitzer or a cover guy, we’ll build what we got around that. We’re still in the process of trying to find someone for that spot.
You and Ed Orgeron have both said that the defense this year will look different than last year because you don’t have some of those versatile defensive linemen like Lewis Neal and Davon Godchaux. Will it just be different in that you’ll play with more outside linebackers?
I think that’s part of it. I think … when that’s mentioned to me, that just shows you all of the work that has to be done. We’re still at the level where guys are understanding base calls, understanding where their eyes are at, how to play their assignment and be accountable.
'If you’re going to send the ball back, I’ve got to send the ball out to you, spill it to you and you leverage to me.' To be able to have that type of commitment and dependability, you’re still at that level.
Once we have that, then it becomes … last year, with the group we had, that’s all we needed. We had some guys that felt comfortable, put their hand in the ground, play fast and make plays. Is that what we are this year? I don’t know that yet. We’re not fully comfortable yet where we’re playing fast where that can really show.
The clearest picture I have of that was the spring game. Is that enough? Do we need more? Do we need more pressure and blitzes? Those are all things I’d love to get into, but it’s a matter of is it needed? Is it too much? Those are things we’ll have to figure out here sooner rather than later.
The linebackers coming in and then (nose tackle Tyler) Shelvin, how much will true freshmen make up the middle of your defense?
Yeah, yeah. I go back to Wisconsin my last year there. We had a true freshman nose guard, true freshman inside linebacker, redshirt freshman at inside linebacker and then we had some freshmen rotating in at DB. Right up the middle, there was freshmen here and freshmen there and we were No. 1 in the nation.
We play to our strength and try to identify (our defense). That’s what we’re talking about right now. If we can do that and identify it and not do too much and stay away from doing too little, find that balance, then — those guys are good players — it gives them an opportunity to do what they do.