Ed Orgeron leaned back in his chair and smiled.
Making the final stop of the LSU coaches caravan Monday afternoon, Orgeron chuckled as he discussed how much defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has enjoyed planning LSU’s defense with so many versatile players at his disposal.
“He loves it,” Orgeron said. “Look at all the speed we got. I'm telling you we have more speed in our defense then we've had since we've been here. Dave's going to use it.”
If they had been charging admission to the LSU Coaches Caravan stop at the Metairie Walk-On’s restaurant Monday, it would have been new passin…
With one month left before the beginning of preseason practice, LSU’s coaches believe they have dynamic players across the second level of the defense. Aranda can move the Tigers around the field, particularly safeties Grant Delpit, JaCoby Stevens and Marcel Brooks.
Delpit established himself as one of the premier defensive backs in college football; Stevens played well at the end of last season; and Brooks, a freshman, has impressed the coaching staff.
Aranda mentioned all three players when he broke down the “quarters” position, one of the most fluid and versatile within LSU’s defense. Aranda used it for the first time last season. Delpit started the year there, John Battle mixed in, and by the final game, Stevens had emerged in the role. Stevens played there during spring practice.
“When they stuck me in there and I began to make plays and make a name for myself, it wasn't hard for them to find a place for Grant to play because he can play the quarter, he can blitz, he can cover and he can play the middle of the field,” Stevens said. “To have both of us on the field, I don't think that was a hard decision.”
Can't see video below? Click here.
Aranda called the quarters position a “glorified linebacker.” It takes a safety, one who's physical enough to play near the line of scrimmage, and moves him around the field. The quarters position can play man defense on tight ends or blitz off the edge.
“You have to be a smart player to play it,” Stevens said, “or you expose the defense a lot.”
Stevens, who played offense early in his career, started the last four games of the 2018 season after an injury sidelined Battle. Stevens has worked on his pass rush, and Aranda said he understands the intricacies of the defense.
“Having JaCoby on the field is an absolute plus for us,” Aranda said. “We'll continue to build to highlight him and put him in spots where he can really excel.”
Joe Brady waited patiently, recorder in hand, then stepped forward when Steve Ensminger finished answering a reporter's question.
LSU will use Delpit, a unanimous All-American safety who led the Southeastern Conference in interceptions, all over the field. His instincts have allowed him to attack run plays, and he moved further back in the defense when Stevens took over the quarters position.
Delpit can rush the passer or drop into coverage in obvious passing situations, but Aranda said LSU wants to “be selective” when it uses Delpit in the deep.
The junior does so many things well, Aranda has the ability to use him in different ways, depending on the situation.
“When we're expecting pass, there's a lot of merit to Grant rushing, but if he isn't rushing, there's a lot of merit to having him in the middle of the field,” Aranda said. “His ability to do both and move around I think will feature him. I think it will show his value.”
Two weeks in Guinea and two more in Mali led Badara Traore to a fuller view of his family.
As LSU’s coaches take a brief vacation before Southeastern Conference media days and the beginning of preseason practice, they continue to scheme for ways to use their best players at the same time. The quarters position has helped.
“We're continuing to add to that (quarters) position,” Aranda said. “It tests the creativity to find plays where we can play with a lot of those guys at the same time.”