Daronte Jones’ Instagram account reveals his passion as a bourbon collector.
If LSU’s new defensive coordinator helps the Tigers regain some traditional LSU swagger and pride on defense — or at least what passes for swagger and pride on college defenses in the 21st century — grateful fans will have Jones swimming in gift bottles of the stuff.
If he doesn’t, well, tears in beers will be more appropriate.
LSU’s long and seemingly fraught search for a new defensive coordinator ended Tuesday when Ed Orgeron announced Jones’ hiring. After getting jilted by Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman in favor of Notre Dame, then getting checkmated by the Saints and their strong desire to keep defensive line coach (now assistant head coach as well) Ryan Nielsen on staff, the Tigers have their man.
Considering how quickly Orgeron identified his top targets on offense and landed them, hiring former Carolina Panthers assistants Jake Peetz (offensive coordinator) and DJ Mangas (passing game coordinator), it often seemed LSU lost face in the process of trying to find Bo Pelini’s replacement.
But these kinds of twists and turns are more the norm for coaching searches than the Peetz/Mangas maneuver. Now the question is whether Jones is a good hire. And that’s a question we can't truly begin to answer until LSU’s regular season starts in September (more on that later).
Certainly there are reasons to commend the Jones hire. He has experience at every level of football, having most recently coached secondary with the Minnesota Vikings and before that the Miami Dolphins.
Jones even spent a year in the CFL coaching in Montreal, so his French must at least be decent. His high school résumé has Louisiana ties, notable for a Maryland native, having been defensive coordinator at Jeanerette and Franklin high schools in the early 2000s after a year coaching safeties at Nicholls State. So he knows the landscape and could have recruiting ties and insights that don’t appear at first glance.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron hired former Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones to be the Tigers next defensive coordinator on Tuesday…
Jones has never been a defensive coordinator at the FBS level, having topped out in that regard at FCS-level Bowie State from 2005-09. And the injury-plagued secondary he just coached in Minnesota didn’t exactly set things on fire the way former LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson did for the Vikings.
That said, Jones has gotten glowing words about his talents from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, himself a coach with a defensive background, and got the recommendation of former LSU defensive coordinator (now Baylor coach) Dave Aranda, for whom Jones coached defensive backs at Wisconsin in 2015.
Jones also drew praise from one of his former Vikings players, safety Harrison Smith.
“He definitely has a presence about him that’s very controlled,” Smith said. “Very calculated. He also has juice. He’s not going to have no pulse or anything. He has a very good demeanor on the sideline. I think that’s something that’s huge on gameday. You see so many coaches — especially when I watch college — coaches losing their minds on the sideline.
“He’s just such a good teacher and such a good coach. His demeanor on gameday is great. I think LSU got a steal on this one.”
Jones doesn’t set precedent at LSU but does make news as only the second Black coordinator in the football program’s history, following former defensive coordinator John Mitchell in 1990. Was Orgeron looking for someone relatable to most of his players with this hire? Perhaps. But from this point forward, Jones will be judged on his merits of what he makes of LSU’s defense.
It is vital for LSU, and for Orgeron, that Jones rebuilds the defense that has its roots in the Chinese Bandits and Tommy Casanova, Glenn Dorsey and the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu. The Tigers are coming off a historically bad defensive performance in 2020, one that often left LSU and its fans embarrassed.
Everyone wanted a more modern offense under Orgeron, and he reaffirmed his commitment to that with hiring Joe Brady protégés Peetz and Mangas. Now what they want out of Jones is a defense that is, in a sense, a throwback to those proud defensive days. One who can actually throw an opposing offense off the field.
See LSU's 2021 football schedule.
LSU football schedule released: The Southeastern Conference attempted to cultivate NFL-like fanfare Wednesday with the unveiling of schedules for all 14 of its teams.
It was kind of a poor man’s attempt, really, but in fairness, it’s not the show we all want to see. The big reveal will come at the end if the SEC has been able to get all 14 teams to complete their 12-game regular seasons … and on time.
Wednesday marked 220 days until SEC teams open play on Sept. 4. In a typical offseason, that would stretch out like an eternity. But in the race to get COVID-19 vaccines into peoples arms before the season starts, time will fly by.
Meanwhile, we take the schedule for what it is worth. It starts with a first chance for LSU to play at the Rose Bowl in its first game against UCLA. This is LSU’s only chance to play at the iconic stadium in Pasadena, California, other than catching a CFP semifinal in the Rose Bowl game. The Rose Bowl is not scheduled to host the CFP championship game anytime soon, either.
A few other notes on the schedule:
• LSU doesn’t have a home game from Oct. 16 against Florida (lace up your shoes tight, folks) until Arkansas on Nov. 13. In between are road games at Ole Miss and Alabama sandwiched around the now-traditional pre-Alabama open date.
• The Tigers’ game at Alabama on Nov. 6 is LSU’s last road game before three straight home dates to end the season against the Razorbacks, UL-Monroe and Texas A&M. It’s the earliest LSU gets off the road in 20 years since a 35-21 win at Alabama on Nov. 3, 2001.
• LSU visits Kentucky on Oct. 9, the Tigers’ first game in Lexington since 2007. Fourteen years ago. But if this doesn’t illustrate the utter ridiculousness of the current SEC schedule format, in which teams can go more than a decade without visiting the other’s stadium, I don’t know what does.