F linebacker? Buck, rover, mack? Q&A with new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda watches players at LSU's second practice of spring football drills, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

Dave Aranda scribbled the word “Boomer” on a lit plastic slide.

It appeared on the massive projection behind him for hundreds of high school coaches to see.

Boomer is short for Boomer Esiason, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback now a color analyst for CBS Sports. Aranda, LSU’s new defensive coordinator, names his defensive packages after star NFL quarterbacks like Esiason.

There’s “Favre” and “Bledsoe” and “Montana” and “Marino.”

As he installed his defense at previous coaching stops, players didn’t always recognize the names.

“They didn’t know who Marino was,” he said to laughs from the crowd.

Boomer was another name that escaped many of them, Aranda later said.

Ah, the joys of implementing a new defense. He hasn’t yet had to explain any of the names to LSU’s crop of players – they haven’t even learned some of them.

Halfway through LSU’s spring practice, Aranda says he’s slowly implementing his variable, 3-4 defensive scheme. It’s not your normal defense.

First off, LSU hasn’t run a 3-4 since Les Miles took over in 2005. Secondly, the defense features things like the F-linebacker and the Buck, the Rover and the Mack- all linebackers and some defensive end/linebacker hybrids.

Some of them are new to many LSU fans – and, of course, the players.

“New is always new, but this is a different new,” he told The Advocate in a brief Q&A after his speech Thursday night in the PMAC, part of the annual LSU Football Coaches Clinic.

If you’re wondering, the F linebacker is most similar to a strong-side linebacker, Aranda said. It’s a place that Tashawn Bower, recently moved from defensive end, will play. The Buck is a stand-up defensive end (think guys like Arden Key, Isaiah Washington and Sione Teuhema). The Rover and Mack are the two inside linebackers.

Here’s more from Aranda on his new defense.

I heard you say “Grab them by the nose to kick them in the tail.” What does that mean?
Aranda: A lot of it is trying to be able to create looks where we can get the looks we want to attack. I don’t think it’s any different than what an offense does. An offense will create and present formations to get alignments to run against or to get coverages to throw against.
That’s the same thing we’re doing. We want to create a look so that we can attack it.

Three weeks into spring, what have you learned about your defense?
Aranda: They’re improving. I’m awfully proud of our players. I’ve got a lot of respect for all of our guys because of the amount of time they put into, not only the athletic part, but the mental part in studying it. I’m really happy to see it.
I’m really proud of the coaches. They’ve been grinding hard when something’s new. It’s probably harder when it’s new again. We’re going to get better. Last two practices have been our best practices. I think we’re starting to come together. I think it’s difficult when it’s new. New is always new, but this is a different new.

How do you approach installing a new defense and where are you at halfway through spring?
Aranda: We’re not very far. I think that’s the smart thing to do. I don’t really know. I feel it is, though. We want our guys playing fast, and we want them gaining confidence. It was fun talking about all of those things (in his speech in front of the high school coaches), but we’re not doing any of those things right now.
We’re just getting lined up, the leverage. The identity of a defense is stopping the run. Run techniques, the alignments that we’re in, that is where our work is in. The coverages are in. Guys are learning the adjustments in the coverages and the techniques to go with that. The rest of it is going to be built upon.

Are you basically installing a little bit at a time, adding more and more to their plate each day?
Aranda: Now we are. We have not in the past. The previous two weeks prior to spring break, we only installed, maybe, three times. We just wanted to rep and get good at what we’re good at. Here these last couple of days, we’ve installed every day. We’re at the stage we can do that now because we’re adding on to what we already know.

We saw Devin White on Thursday running as one of the two top inside linebackers with Donnie Alexander. What do you see from Devin?
Devin White is a mid-year enrollee moved from running back to linebacker
Aranda: Great instincts. Physical presence there. He’s got the ability to decipher plays. I think there’s a feel you want those guys to have, inside guys, and he has it. He’s got a hunger to learn. He wants to get better. It’s an honor for me to coach him.

Y’all moved Tashawn Bower from defensive end to the F-linebacker position. Why and what’s he bring there?
He’s got great length, and he’s got good athleticism. He’s got the ability to set the edge in the run game, got the ability to rush the passer in the throw game. Both him and Arden Key off the edge is formidable.
I think we’re still in the process of moving guys around, seeing what they can do best. In the spring, especially when you’re making the change like we are, there’s going to be an element of guys moving around. I’ve talked to all of those guys about it. I’d like to say, ‘Hey, this is the end of it.’ I don’t really know if it is.
We need to find who the best guys are doing the best things, and I think there’s a step in the right direction.

Bower says he’s playing the “F” linebacker role. What would that be in a normal 4-3 defense?
Aranda: It would be close to a SAM linebacker. He rushes a little bit more than what the SAM does, though. You’d like for the outside guys to have some good length to them and the ability to set the edges. I think he brings that, gives us that ability, along with Arden, who can really lock out guys and set edges. I think he’s got the ability to be a real special player.

Key, Isaiah Washington and Sione Teuhema are playing the Buck role. How would that translate into a normal defense?
Aranda: There’s the F and the B(uck). The F is to the field and the B is to the boundary. The B is more pass rushers as well. Earlier (in my career), the B was the pass rusher and the F was the dropper (into coverage), but we’ve changed that now where it’s 50-50, and the ability to have that has made us better so people aren’t always working one way and not working the other.

Michael Divinity is another mid-year enrollee who you’ve got at outside linebacker. How’s he looking?
Aranda: Good. He’s gotten real comfortable in his pass rushing. I think he is improving in run defense. He’s got to continue to improve. Coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto is doing a great job with them. He’s picking up the techniques and applying them.
He’s up all of the time wanting to learn as well. There’s a positive hunger coming from him.

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