In a Q&A posted Saturday, new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda spoke about his Xs and Os, his defensive scheming and pass-rushing philosophy.
In the second part of that Q&A, Aranda dives into his history with LSU and Baton Rouge, reflects on his meteoric rise through the coaching profession and says he’ll be a good fit in Southern Louisiana.
Here’s our story on Aranda and Part I of this Q&A.
Have you ever been to Baton Rouge?
When I was at California Lutheran University, where I went to school, I was injured. It’s a Division III school so you basically pay to play sports. Pretty high price tag. Private education and whatever else. Loans, years down the road to pay it off. I was going there and playing. I was coaching at the start of my freshman year all the way to my senior year. My freshman year, I was the video guy and all that. But my sophomore through my senior year, I was coaching a position, had meetings, ya know.
Any ways, long story long, I left Cal Lu during the spring for a week to go to LSU. We had a girl that went to school at Cal Lu who was a graduate assistant LSU trainer. I just stayed, like, on her couch and visited with Lou Tepper, was the defensive coordinator. The D-line coach, Joe Cullen and then Gerry DiNardo was the head coach.
I was there for the whole week. I remember walking around. There’s like CC’s Pizza. Made sure I ate because I didn’t have any money. I had no money. I knew this girl and she was able to drop me off at the football facility and I’d walk back to her (house). I’d scrape enough to eat, but I was studying football the whole time. Pretty cool.
What position did you play in high school?
I was a Wing T pulling guard and a linebacker.
What happened your freshman season at Cal Lutheran? You suffered a career-ending injury right?
I think I’ve had six operations on my right shoulder. Now, a lot of times, it’s not as evasive as it was then. Then, they’d open you up and do the whole thing. I had six of those. That was all in high school. In high school, I never really played in high school. I mean, I played. I was on the team, but I was always injured.
I played my sophomore year. Junior year was totally out. Senior year was injured and tried to play, but I was more or less the mascot. I wasn’t very functional.
After that, I coached JV, was going to junior college. Was coaching JV. Got my grades up to where they were adequate (after) going to junior college for a full year. Then went to Cal Lu.BX209_28D4_9
I tried to play. It’s going to be a comeback and that. That lasted, maybe, two weeks and then injured again and started coaching.
What was great about those days … I was at Cal Lu and I’d drive to Arizona State and Johnny Barr (now at Oklahoma State) was the linebackers coach. I’d drive to UCLA and Jason Tarver was the defensive grad assistant. Jason is with the 49ers now and was the Raiders DC. I’d drive to USC and Coach (Ed) Orgeron was the D-line coach and Dave Doeren was the defensive grad assistan.
Doeren would give me all of the USC film. Jason Tarver would give me all of the UCLA film and I’d take it back, look at it and try to use it to help the guys at Cal Lu. Everything was so close, I’d just drive. Drove to the San Diego Chargers. Paul Chryst, the guy I was just with, was coaching with them at that time. I’d go visit with Wayne Nunnely, the D-line coach. Such a cool time, man, being able to … I was still in school, but really I was studying football.
Did you drive to LSU from California for that visit in 1999?
No. I don’t know how I saved up. I think I saved up to fly. Once I got there, that was it. All of the money I had was for the flight. I can’t think of the girls name. I had, like, $2 a day. I remember that pizza place, it’s like a buffet there. I’d do whatever I could to get something to eat and make sure I drank water at the practices out of the Gatorade bottles.
I remember there was a baseball game, and I just remember standing-room only for that stadium. Just a cool thing. It’s way different than anything I’ve seen.
Tell me about your childhood in Redlands.
My mom and dad are (still) here. I have a younger brother, Mike. He’s a basketball coach at the high school here in Redlands. He’s married and has kids. It’s great being back here. My wife and I right now are hanging out staying in the room I grew up in. It’s weird, a weird deal.
I’ve not been back since I’ve been in Hawaii. That’s a long time ago now. Times goes back quick. It’s good to be back, see people you haven’t seen. We had a big dinner last night. Just really cool. A lot of people went to the (Holiday Bowl) game versus USC. I need to do a better job of staying in touch with family, I guess. This has been good.
When you look at where you came from and the tough times you endured, is it tough to wrap your mind around how far you’ve come in just a few years?
You’re blessed. I look at the people who have helped me, ya know. I look at … it’s hard because there’s been so many. That’s what’s great about the professions we’re in. Such great people. There’s people who have been down the road that we’re talking about right now, people have been down that road and had their time. They help you, ya know. You go all of the way back. Ron Harris at Texas Tech. Greg McMackin at Hawaii. I go to Ron Roberts at Southeastern (Louisiana) who was at Delta State.
We were fired in Hawaii and for two weeks I’m kind of sitting around making pots of coffee all day long because I have nothing else to do. And I get a call from Gary Andersen saying he’s interested in talking to me.
I remember the relief from that call, man, my family. It was like a life line because I didn’t know what we were going to do. So much of it is football. My skill set is very limited. There’s not a whole lot.
I’ve been on the other side of it. These last couple of years have been crazy with the amount of the opportunities, but I’ve been on the other side when there’s two weeks and there’s no opportunities. You get that one call and it’s like a life line man. I will always been indebted to Gary for that. I’m indebted to (Wisconsin AD) Barry Alvarez and Paul Chryst for keeping me there when we wanted to stay last year and for letting me be me.
BX205_5C7F_9I called a lot of the defensive players last night when the thing was breaking because it’s not my fairy dust or anything sprinkled on the guys. Any success I’ve had is because of them and because they go out as a group and they play hard and they don’t quit.
I told them that. It’s because of you guys. It’s a lot of help along the way.
They say you’re not an emotional guy, but was that emotional for you – calling your players and telling them good-bye?
Definitely. You know, the time you spend with those guys, you kind of open up to them. It’s been a while since I’ve been in other peoples’ meeting rooms and seeing how they handle it. I don’t know. Maybe I handle it different.
You try to get to know your players the best you can and then you approach them all differently, the best way to reach a guy. Sometimes you need to open it up and sometimes it means one-on-one. There’s a lot of that. You build a relationship that way, for sure. It’s difficult to break that. Obviously, it’s all good. They understand.
They all want to be my a** when we get up there.
The call from Gary Andersen came after the Hawaii staff was fired, right?
Yeah. In 2010, we led the nation in takeaways, right up there in sacks. Right up there in interceptions. We might have led the nation. Had a good year on defense. We were still trying to get it together, still too many points we allowed. We won 10 games and went to a bowl game. Figured we’re OK. In 2011, we get fired. It’s hard to be fired in Hawaii. It’s probably the hardest place to get fired, the time change. I think people kind of forget you’re up there. I’ve never been one to work the phones or call. I’ve never done that anyways. You’re basically kind of sitting around and no one calling.
I remember my wife didn’t work and my kids really …. School is out. We’re all hanging around the little apartment. I just get up, because there’s nothing else to do in this little tiny apartment, and I just make coffee the whole day. Just something to do. It’s a bad deal.
Once you get the call, man, you almost break down because you don’t know what you’re going to do. When you’re on that side of it, it teaches you whenever opportunities come to pay much attention to it and be filled with it because there are times you ain’t going to have opportunities.
Have you been prepared for the culture of Southern Louisiana?
I’m looking forward to it. I’d imagine there’s going to be things, a bunch of things that I don’t know about that are going to be new. But the little I do know, I very much enjoy. I enjoy the food, enjoy the culture, enjoy just the music, enjoy all of it. Enjoy the weather.
I think it’s going to be a great fit.