The defensive side of the ball took longer to come together in a year of change for the LSU coaching staff, but Tigers coach Ed Orgeron officially named a trio of defensive leaders taking the reins for the 2021 season.
That group includes former Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Carter as the Tigers' new defensive coordinator, former Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Blake Baker as the Tigers' new linebackers coach, and former Jets defensive line coach Andre Carter in the same role for LSU.
Here's what Orgeron had to say Tuesday morning as he introduced those three and answered questions about the defense -- which he says he'll be more heavily involved with heading forward -- as the team looks to rebound from a shaky 2020 season.
INTRODUCING DARONTE JONES
“Proud to introduce these outstanding, three new staff members for Louisiana State University, the fighting LSU Tigers. I want to start with our defensive coordinator Daronte Jones. He’s going to be the defensive coordinator and coach the safeties.
"Very impressive young man. The one thing that was really critical for me in all these hires is when I listened to them on the interview, how they would speak to our players and how they would connect with our players, and all three of these guys did a tremendous job in that area. Daronte Jones came highly recommended by Dave Aranda, who we all have a lot of respect for here at LSU, and also Mike Zimmer, who is a great coach of the Minnesota Vikings and is from the Dallas Cowboys family.
"Daronte has already done some tremendous stuff in the office, it’s going to be his first day with the team today. He’s talked to a lot of members of our defense, and they’re excited to have him."
Blake Baker was formally introduced as LSU's new linebackers coach on Tuesday, just under a week since the 38-year-old assistant agreed to a t…
INTRODUCING BLAKE BAKER
"Second guy, linebackers coach Blake Baker, comes from the University of Miami as the defensive coordinator. Has a lot of experience here in Louisiana –from Houston.
"Outstanding coach, very knowledgeable, very energetic and an outstanding recruiter. His wife is from Mandeville, she played soccer here at LSU and they’re excited to come home. Blake wanted to be here as much as we wanted him. So it was a great fit, he did a great job in his interview, and it didn’t take long to figure out he’d be an outstanding coach for us here at LSU."
INTRODUCING ANDRE CARTER
"The last guy, Andre Carter: defensive line, we got him from the New York Jets.
"Me an Andre go back to 1997 when I tried to recruit him. I was at USC, he went to Cal. I remember playing against him, he had the best get-off and one of the best rushers I’ve ever seen. I followed his career, 80 sacks. A tremendous coach, tremendous young man.
"Joe Vitt, who I respect a lot with the Saints, highly recommended him. He worked with the New York Jets, and also Davon Godchaux. Davon called me about Andre Carter and Daronte Jones. He worked with both of those guys at the University of Miami. So excited to have all three of these guys, our first day, they’ve been hard at work.
"We’ve got football school today. They’ll be running the meetings. They’ll be coaching their positions. And it’ll be exciting to get them on their first day of work.”
During his introductory press conference, new LSU defensive coordinator Daronte Jones discussed his scheme and vision for the defense, as well as his personal ties to Louisiana and coaching philosophies.
ON IMPORTANCE OF MINORITY HIRES/RELATING TO THE PLAYERS
“Yes, it was important to get minority coaches on our staff that can relate to our players – but also great coaches. And these guys fit both those categories.
"And one of the things I did on the interview, Mike, is I wanted to make sure that those guys were OK with me getting involved in the defense, and that I’m going to be involved with the defense. I want to be involved – especially when it comes to the front. I’ve let that go a little bit, and I wish I wouldn’t have done that. And so I’m going to be more involved with the defense, and every time that I interviewed every guy I told them ‘listen, here’s what I expect, here’s what I’m going to do. Do you agree to it?’ And obviously they agree to it, so I get my chance to give my expertise on the defense along with these coaches.”
ON EXPERIENCE OF BLAKE BAKER
“It helps, it’s already helped in the meetings. And someone for Daronte to have a sounding board off, ‘Blake, what’d you think about this?’ And then guys that can make adjustments, especially at the college game, it comes down to adjustments, fast football, basketball on grass. And you know, Blake has a wealth of experience and we’re going to use it.”
ON DARONTE JONES’ SCHEME
“We’ll be based out of a 4-3, and one of the reasons I hired Daronte is because of the defensive ends that we’ve got coming back. I didn’t want Ali Gaye to run a 4-technique. There were a couple of great candidates, they wanted to run a 3-4 defense. I thought that our personnel right now is suited more to a 4-3 defense, with BJ Ojulari, Andre Anthony coming back. And I do believe we have some good young inside guys, some older inside guys coming back. So that was a big decision in hiring Daronte.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
“We have two solid commitments right now, and we have a couple guys that we’re 50/50 with -- could go either way. We’ll see how it goes tonight. But I also want to keep a couple for transfers, we’re looking for graduate transfers or transfers at need positions, and one of them is a linebacker position or best player available.
"It doesn’t hurt to maybe have two or three scholarships with all the transfers that we have to fill those specific needs.”
THOUGHTS FROM CURRENT PLAYERS ON NEW COACHES
“They’re excited. They’ve met with most of their coaches. Everyone’s come back with great reviews.
"I think the average age of coaches on the staff have dropped like 20 years. So, you know, I’m the old man on the staff now. These guys are young guys, they can relate to our players. They’re energetic. They want to be here. I think that makes a difference when you’re young, you’re energetic, you want to prove yourself at a school like LSU. You’re going to do a great job.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron finalized his coaching staff with the hiring of linebackers coach Blake Baker and defensive line coach Andre Carter, and,…
VISION FOR DEFENSE/BEING MORE INVOLVED
“All of our guys want to go to the NFL. All of our guys come here, they want to win championships and go to the NFL. And those guys who are coaching them, they know – they’ve been in the NFL. So they say ‘here’s what you need to do,’ and those guys are going to listen to them. Taking Andre Carter for example, he’s played 13 years in the NFL. And he’s teaching the defensive lineman something they don’t want to do and he’s going to say ‘OK, you ain’t gonna make it to the NFL,’ I think they’re going to listen to him, stuff like that.
"But the vision for the defense is getting back to playing LSU defense. I grew up watching LSU defense, getting 11 hats to the ball, being physical, being tough, not giving up big plays and making it tough to score. That’s the type of defense that we want.”
HOW HAS COLLEGE DEFENSE CHANGED?
“It has changed. You know, when I grew up the goal was hold them to 13 points or less. That’s not happening nowadays. Really if you hold an opponent to under 30 points you have a chance to win in every game, with an offense that scores 45-50 points. You never want to say that, but that’s reality. And I think that the thing that I want on defense is for us to keep the ball in front of us, keep our eyes on the quarterback, play more zone coverage, continue with a great pass rush and make it hard for them to go downfield, and not give up explosive plays."
ON FORMER LSU PLAYERS IN SUPER BOWL
“Proud of them. We say all that to our recruits, and every recruit I talked to this week – I’m proud of them. People ask me who I’m pulling for in the Super Bowl, I’m just pulling for the Tigers, man. We’ve got Tigers on both sides, I’m pulling for them.”
EXPERIENCE GAINED FROM NATIONAL SIGNING DAYS THE PAST FEW SEASONS
“Well, the experience tells me to save a couple of scholarships to get great graduate transfers.
"I wouldn’t want to go into the spring not having spots for great graduate transfers or anybody in the transfer portal. I do believe we’ll have at least two, or maybe three, and that we’re looking at specific needs – especially at linebacker. If we feel that there’s some linebackers that can come in here and help us immediately, we’re going to go after ‘em."