For LSU, it appears the third time really is the charm when it comes to hiring a defensive coordinator.
The job will be filled by former Vikings assistant coach Daronte Jones.
The Tigers had twice before appeared primed to fill the post vacated by Bo Pelini after one season in Baton Rouge. LSU interviewed former Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman for the job with reports indicating the two sides were close, but in the end he opted to become the next defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.
Less than two weeks later, the Tigers appeared on the verge of handing the job to Saints linebackers coach Ryan Nielsen, but that move didn't pan out with Nielsen returning to the Saints in that role and with the added title of assistant head coach.
But there were no such issues with Jones, who returns to the college ranks as as a member of Ed Orgeron's LSU coaching staff after a half-decade spent with a trio of NFL teams.
So who exactly has LSU landed as its new defensive leader? Scroll below for five things to know about Jones' coaching history, Louisiana ties, drink of choice and more.
HE'S FAMILIAR WITH LOUISIANA
Jones is a native of Capital Heights, Maryland, but his football career has brought him to several coaching stops in Louisiana. Jones spent the 2002 season coaching safeties at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.
Over the next two seasons he served as the defensive coordinator at a pair of Louisiana high schools. The first stop was at Jeanerette High School in the 2003 season, with Jones relocating by about 20 miles to Franklin High School the following year, where he again served as defensive coordinator.
PLAYING CAREER ENDED EARLY
Jones played collegiately as a defensive back for one season at Temple in 1996, then finished his career at Morgan State University in his home state of Maryland. But his playing days ended following his second season with the Bears after repeated injuries led to nerve damage in his neck, according to a report from Madison.com.
That's when his coaching career got its start, as he began assisting his position coach for the remainder of his time there.
“It was kinda to get me out of my slump mentally from not being to play,” Jones told Kaitlyn Veto of Madison.com. “It was a blessing in disguise.”
From there Jones had coaching stints at Lenoir Rhyne University, the Louisiana stops mentioned previously, Bowie State, UCLA, and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Later Jones would serve as the secondary coach for the University of Hawaii, then as the defensive backs coach for the University of Wisconsin before a jump to the NFL. He spent two seasons as assistant defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins beginning in 2016, then two seasons as the cornerbacks and secondary coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. He spent the 2020 season as the defensive backs coach for the Vikings.
CHARACTER REFERENCE? 'TERRIFIC'
It's not bad when you can list NFL mainstays as references on your resume, and Jones has at least two he can write there: Mike Zimmer and veteran safety Harrison Smith.
The current Vikings head coach described Jones's work as "terrific" in his season-ending press conference, according to a report from Sports Illustrated, and here's what Smith had to say about his former position leader.
"He’s been earning his money this year," Smith said, in SI's report. "He does a really good job of communicating exactly what we need to get done and things that we can expect while also not overloading the group with things that can bog you down. There can be a balance there based on just experience levels. He’s been doing a great job of starting at the fundamentals and expanding from there and giving us enough information to grow without handicapping us."
Last week, LSU coach Ed Orgeron spoke confidently about the pursuits of his top candidates for the main vacancies on his coaching staff, sayin…
But possibly the most influential recommendation came from a more familiar source: Dave Aranda, LSU's former defensive coordinator and the current head coach at Baylor.
Orgeron spoke about the hire in a radio interview on Tuesday morning, during which he described a call with his former assistant coach to discuss potential candidates. Aranda recommended Jones for the LSU job during that call, with the pair crossing paths during the 2015 season at Wisconsin. Both men also have ties to the University of Hawaii, but Aranda left to become the head coach at Utah State before the 2012 season, the same year Jones joined the Rainbow Warriors' coaching staff.
Despite the positive reports, Jones' NFL stops haven't corresponded with team success the past four seasons. The Dolphins went 10-6 in his first season in Miami, but fell to 6-10 in 2017. The Bengals struggled to a record of 8-24 in his two seasons there, and the Vikings slogged through a difficult season to finish 7-9 in 2020.
IN NEED OF A TWITTER REFRESH
Jones still has 1,477 followers on Twitter despite not tweeting since 2016, but the account is more of a time capsule than social media these days.
Despite making a pair of coaching stops since that point, his profile photo still features a photo of him in a red and white hat with a Badgers "W" on it, and his handle remains @BadgersCoachDJ.
His most recent post touts Wisconsin's recruiting achievements across 14 states.
Nationwide Recruiting pic.twitter.com/Ubv5y2v5Ol— Coach Daronte Jones (@BadgersCoachDJ) February 3, 2016
Some notable states not highlighted on that graphic? Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia -- four states that accounted for 63 of the 97 names listed on LSU's 2020 roster.
But Jones is far more active on his Instagram account, where he's posted as recently as November and with his Vikings role listed in his bio and featured in his profile image.
DARONTE JONES: A BOURBON MAN
There's little personal information to be found about Jones on the internet. He's yet to have his own Wikipedia page -- something that will likely change with a premier coaching role at LSU -- but he's made one thing clear: He enjoys some good bourbon.
...View this post on Instagram
But in a recent post Jones noted that his "bourbon season is officially over."
Maybe a new season could kick off with a Sazerac? If so, he could share it with his fellow new hires out of the NFL ranks on the opposite side of the ball. LSU filled its offensive coordinator vacancy earlier in the offseason with Jake Peetz, and also hired DJ Mangas as its passing game coordinator, with both arriving in Baton Rouge by way of the Carolina Panthers coaching staff.
LSU took a big step toward remaking its offense on Wednesday, announcing the hiring of Carolina Panthers quarterbacks coach Jake Peetz as the …