The defensive coordinator of the LSU, Dave Aranda, could not start. Not even for a 10- or 15-minute conversation for this story. Not even with the extra week to prepare. He had a clicker in his hand he simply could not part with.
Talking had never been his thing anyway. He also had work to do.
To be clear, that's not a hit against Aranda or the school's public relations department. It's about the simple fact that he had no time to chat in Aranda's eyes, what to consider with Tua Tagovailoa and his Heisman Trophy caliber arm. A home game against Alabama No. 1 was such a big deal that it naturally required two full weeks of undivided attention.
Think about it: Besides Tagovailoa's otherworldly quarterback talents, Aranda had to represent Jaylen Waddle and a triumvirate of super-second receivers, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and DeVonta Smith; He had to study an assembly line of traffic jams, including Damien Harris, who had twice struck 1,000 yards in his career; and he had to figure out what to do with an offensive line that contained at least one future franchise tackle in Jonah Williams, lying across the line at an average of 6 feet-5 and 310 pounds.
In addition, Aranda had to do all of this while he knew the implications for the SEC Championship and the college football playoffs. In addition, he had to do it basically with one hand behind his back, as Devin White, his star-line defender and caller of the defense, had to suspend half a match (controversial) penalty.
No, the ESPN was politely told that Aranda can not get the phone right now. He was downcast somewhere, taking care of White's potential substitutes, NCOs Patrick Queen and Micah Baskerville, who have a total career start. No pressure, but if they mess up that for just half, the game could be over. After all, Alabama has an average of 38.7 points per game in the break. That's about 8.4 points per game more than LSU has on average in all four quarters.
Do not cry for Aranda. That's why the LSU is paying him big money. Alabama and his seemingly unstoppable offense are the ultimate challenge to the Tigers' $ 10 million Tigers Coordinator – his record-breaking four-year deal is guaranteed.
Is he worth it? Of course, that depends on how you look at higher education. But if you sit high on Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, wearing purple and gold and praying for every third stop, it's worth every penny. Just ask LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who proudly named "the best defense coordinator in the country" this SEC media days this summer.
Like many surveying engineers, Orgeron is thrilled with Aranda. He once called him a "mad scientist" and boasted that he was "a cool cucumber".
That's certainly true when talking to players and former coaches. They say that Aranda has a talent for defense and stakes, and statistics support that. But you have to start with the aura of cool intensity that he possesses. He has a shaved head and blinking eyes. He looks like a sergeant. He never really seems to smile when he thinks about it. He is adamant and methodical, a stark contrast to Orgeron, who is a ball full of energy and emotions.
It sometimes feels like a monk standing next to a carnival market. But somehow it works for the third-placed Tiger (7-1, 4-1 SEK).
Gary Andersen, who hired Aranda as head coach in Utah State and Wisconsin as defense co-ordinator, knows this personality dynamic better than most. In those years when the fiery former center flared up his emotions, Aranda was a reassuring influence, a yin in Yang's head coach.
Andersen, who is now an assistant coach in Utah, was a self-described "emotional playcaller". Meanwhile, as he put it, "Dave will be Dave." "He's consistent in his approach, and that approach works," Andersen tried to explain. "It's not a fire department, it can not be turned on and off."
Andersen recalls the early days in the state of Utah and can see the outlines of what Aranda is becoming. He is still amazed at the way Aranda, who knew how to defend the four quarters of the Lineart district, led the transition of the program to the odd front (three Linem). Aranda went out, studied it and came back with a few extra folds, which Andersen called "creepers."
But more importantly, Aranda knew what he had learned. Although he has a detailed playbook and is "extremely detailed", he has the ability, according to Andersen, to integrate complex schemas into simple concepts that players can understand. The result: In 2012, the Aggies moved from sixth in the 73rd defense of the previous season to sixth.
"Dave was the guy who went out and studied that," Andersen said about the change in defense philosophy. "He's just a stubborn student, he's very good in the way he teaches, he's very profound, there's no stone that does not spin."
He added, "I got a lot of respect for Dave when we went through this transition in the state of Utah, these are not easy transitions because you've been so long you've been so long and now you." I'll improve that because you work to get your best kids on the field. "
From Utah State via Wisconsin to the LSU, Aranda has adapted to his staff. But his productivity never failed. In each season from 2012 to 17, from the Mountain West to the Big Ten to the SEC, he coordinated the defense, which was allowed in the top 25 in points and yards per game. This season, the LSU ranks 24th in yards per game (330.3), seventh in points per game (15.1) and sixth (19).
Despite an otherwise lackluster run – with Arden Key is gone and K & # 39; s Lavon Chaisson leaves the season with an injury. The LSU has only accumulated 18 sacks – the tigers are tied to the FBS for most interceptions (14) and have given up only half of the passing touchdowns (seven).
"I call him Mr. Brainiac," said John Battle, defender of the LSU. "I do not know what's going on in his head, but whatever it is, it works."
Linebacker Michael Divinity said: "Coach Aranda is a great coach, and the program he introduces gives us all the keys, and we go out and run them."
Tagovailoa, who Orgeron has compared to Michael Vick, said the LSU has the best seven places and The best secondary Alabama has made it so far. And for those who count at home, that means the tigers have the best defense, point against which the Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0) must have fought.
"I think that in many ways they are very elitist in their way of defense," said Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Saban congratulated Aranda in particular and said he has "a really good system" and "their players understand and play really well in the system."
This system, which still relies heavily on the odd front, is being tested by Tagovailoa & Co. Even on the road, Alabama is the unaffordable favorite. The sports books of Las Vegas give the Tide a 14-point lead over the Tigers.
But if someone can slow Tagovailoa's march to Heisman, it's Aranda.
The LSU began studying Alabama in the summer, and Aranda and his staff had two weeks to lock themselves up and devise a plan to tackle the plan of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who plays hard on run-pass option games ,
"Now we have to play a full defense game to end their run play and passing game, so far nobody has done anything," Orgeron said. "If anyone can, it's our defenses, I believe in them."