On his big day – the one on which LSU planned to introduce Dave Aranda to the world – the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator woke up, drove to his new office and began watching film.
“Was awfully excited about getting up and getting into the office to watch some tape,” Aranda said. “Looked at a couple of games.”
They don’t call him “The Professor” for nothing.
Aranda’s introduction Tuesday on the fifth floor of LSU’s administration building eliminated two of the Tigers’ four current off-season issues:
- They hired a defensive coordinator.
- They are in the process of securing a new contract for the other coordinator.
Athletic director Joe Alleva and coach Les Miles confirmed after Aranda’s news conference that the school is working to extend the contract of Cam Cameron, who’s in the final months of a three-year contract that ends on March 31.
The uncertainty around Cameron addressed and a defensive coordinator in place, LSU and Miles can move on to its other off-season matters: retaining draft-eligible juniors and strengthening its No. 1-ranked 2016 recruiting class ahead of the Feb. 3 National Signing Day.
Miles believes Aranda can make an immediate impact on at least one of those issues. The 39-year-old is soon expected to meet with at least a few of LSU’s draft-eligible junior defenders – a list that includes linebacker Kendell Beckwith, cornerback Tre’Davious White and defensive linemen Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal.
All four players requested evaluation grades from the NFL College Advisory Committee, along with offensive linemen Jerald Hawkins and Ethan Pocic. The deadline for underclassmen declarations is Jan. 18. None of the players have publicly announced.
Hawkins, who nearly left after last season as a draft-eligible sophomore, is the most likely to leave and many expect him to do so, but things are unclear on the other five.
Miles started re-recruiting the juniors after LSU’s bowl win over Texas Tech with a meeting with Pocic, his parents and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes in the team hotel in downtown Houston.
Aranda is ready to join in on the re-recruitment – when Miles and staff members visit with players and their families in an effort to convince them to remain in school.
“I think moving forward with the juniors, that’s something that I know that I’m excited about and I’ve already made a couple overtures there,” said Aranda, known by some as “The Professor” for his Xs and Os mentality. “I’m going to continue to do that. I think that’s a big part of where we’re at right now.”
LSU has lost 23 players early to the NFL draft in the last four years – believed to be the most in college football. The departures are a serious hit to the squad’s depth, especially the front seven. Of the 23, nine were either defensive linemen or linebackers.
Miles feels his new hire could sway at least a pair of defenders to return and increase their stock under Aranda’s successful defense. The coach specifically mentioned Beckwith and White, both of whom are projected as second-round NFL draft picks, according to CBSSports.com.
“A guy like Tre’Davious White, I think the style of defense, wanting to continue to teach, walk-up-on-you and play man coverage is just what he needs, and what he needs to do for the next year if he were staying,” Miles said. “I think the aggressiveness that he speaks to about linebacker play in Kendell Beckwith … again, that’s the style. This is a guy who’s trained some of the best linebackers in the conference that he was in and has brought a defense that will really look to maximize linebacker positioning. It’s a knowledge base that Kendell will enjoy.”
On the same day that LSU introduced Aranda, Auburn introduced his predecessor at LSU, Kevin Steele. Steele told reporters in Auburn that he left LSU for a number of reasons, saying it was a “very easy decision.”
“From a personal standpoint, it’s the state and this university has a large part of me in it,” Steele said.
Miles did not know of Steele’s discussions with Auburn until the night of Dec. 29, after LSU’s Texas Bowl win over Texas Tech. About 12 hours later, Steele flew from Baton Rouge to Auburn to take the job.
Miles says he immediately focused his attention on Aranda, the hotshot Wisconsin defensive coordinator. Miles contacted Aranda on the night of Dec. 30, after Wisconsin’s Holiday Bowl win over Southern Cal, likely offering him the job at some point on New Year’s Eve. According to a story posted on uwbadgers.com, Miles gave Aranda a deadline of Jan. 1 night to take the job.
LSU announced the hire at about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 1.
“As soon as we knew that Kevin was gone, (Aranda) was absolutely the choice,” Miles said. “We were fortunate that he was available. He was in a position of decision making right there.”
Several schools were making overtures for Aranda, namely Southern Cal, multiple sources told The Advocate.
Aranda agreed to a three-year contract paying him $1.3 million in the first year and then escalating, according to FoxSports.com. The contract does not include a clause tying Aranda to the tenure of Miles - like all other assistant coaches. Athletic director Joe Alleva did not reveal contract details, but said the FoxSports.com reported was “pretty accurate.”
Aranda has some familiarity with LSU.
He was the last candidate that Miles and director of football operations Dean Dingman interviewed during last year’s search for John Chavis’ replacement, meeting with him just two days before hiring Steele on Jan. 13. Miles declined to answer Tuesday when asked if Aranda was offered the job last year.
Either way, Aranda took less than 48 hours to accept the position this time around, giving LSU its third defensive coordinator in 24 months.
In less than nine months, Aranda meets his former team at Lambeau Field in a season-opening duel.
Said Aranda: “They all want to beat my (butt) when we get up there.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.