Dave Aranda tried to escape.
LSU’s new defensive coordinator weaved through players, staff members and fans on Tiger Stadium’s field after the spring game Saturday, his eyes focused on the exit tunnel and with a throng of reporters behind him.
It wasn’t that his defense didn’t perform well. The X’s-and-O’s whiz they call “The Professor” probably was headed to the film room.
“Summer is going to be a lot of work for us,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Aranda flashed his new 3-4 defense during Saturday’s spring game. Much of it was expected.
Former defensive linemen like Arden Key, Isaiah Washington and Tashawn Bower were standing up at the snap in outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid roles.
Some of it was unexpected. Davon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture swapped roles. Godchaux played nose tackle, and LaCouture played end — a switch made just two weeks ago.
That’s a good example of where Aranda’s defensive installation is — not done yet.
“Packages-wise,” LaCouture said, “we’ve only gotten three (installed), but I know there’s a lot more coming.”
How many — 10, 15, 20?
“Easy” that many, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said, smiling.
“He’s got a lot of stuff,” Orgeron said. “A bunch.”
The moral to this spring-game story: Aranda installed a small percentage of his defense over 14 spring practices and showed a defense that, yes, looked like a 3-4 and is hardly the finished product.
The Purple team won 17-7 on a cool April afternoon in front of 21,000 fans who filled half of Tiger Stadium’s lower bowl, many of them to check out this new snazzy defense.
LSU hired Aranda away from Wisconsin in January, plucking away what many call a rising star in this business. Aranda’s first-string unit gave up 10 points in a first half in which coach Les Miles pitted the starting offense against the No. 1 D.
He didn’t show all of his cards — because he couldn’t.
“We had three calls in all spring. We got to know those three calls pretty good. There’s a foundation there. We have to build off that,” Aranda said after slowing toward that exit and speaking to reporters for more than 15 minutes. “In terms of situational defense, we don’t have any in. There’s a lot to be built upon, but I’m proud of the foundation built.”
That building begins now for the coaches. For the players, summer workouts begin in early June. Coaches can meet with players for two hours each week for an eight-week period starting then.
“That’s not enough,” Miles said of the two-hour rule. “Basically, what has to happen, they have to study on their own. I think (they’ll) use the iPads. They’ll use it a bunch of different ways.”
The three packages, or calls, Aranda said he has installed are specific to the secondary: quarters (a zone defense normally linked to a prevent style), three-deep (a zone defense in which three defensive backs cover a third of the field) and man (man-on-man defense).
“Now we’re just trading jobs” within those three defensive calls, Aranda said.
What does that mean exactly? The answer came Saturday.
LSU opened in a 3-3-5 formation: three defensive linemen, three linebackers, five defensive backs. A few plays later, defensive back Saivion Smith raced off the field, and on came Tashawn Bower. Bower gave LSU the fourth outside linebacker for that traditional 3-4 formation.
The Tigers showed their pass-rush front, too, with Bower trading jobs with LaCouture. LaCouture exited the play, and Bower switched from his outside linebacker spot to a defensive end position.
On the field then was LSU’s speed package: Bower, Lewis Neal, Arden Key and Davon Godchaux.
“We’ve got the base down,” linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. “You start from the bottom, and you work your way up.”
Aranda is still moving players around. LaCouture and Godchaux only switched positions after the team returned from spring break two weeks ago, they said.
There’s probably more to come. Meanwhile, the Tigers signed seven front-seven position players who will arrive this summer.
“Part of it is still figuring out what we’re best at,” Aranda said. “I think there’s a better understanding now than there was before. But a lot of times, that goes all of the way through the summer; that could be Game 1 or Game 2 at seeing at who’s best at doing what.”
Said Miles: “We’re now in a position where we add some bells and whistles to the defense.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.