NCAA Baseball Championships:
DandyDon is proud to recognize David Toms as a great ambassador of the Tiger Nation.
Q&A with Mike Detillier on LSU Football, January 4th Edition
Scott: Hello Mike and Happy New Year. So far, the year 2016 has gotten off to just about as good a start as one could possibly hope for in LSU football. I'd like to get your thoughts on that, but first let's talk just a bit about 2015. What did you find most encouraging about LSU's 2015 season and what was the biggest disappointment?
Mike: The good was obviously the exploits of Leonard Fournette, who is the best LSU football player I have seen in my 30 years covering pro and college football. The biggest disappointment was the lack of production late at quarterback and again a disjointed offense down the stretch. It was just so predictable and no imagination versus Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. And defensively versus those big boy teams the Tiger front-7 got pushed around pretty good. They lost the battle in the trenches.
Scott: Fast forward to today, and my how things feel different than they did after those three losses in November. In the last nine days, we've seen LSU steamroll Texas Tech in the bowl game, replace defensive coordinator Kevin Steele in a matter of two days with one of the most exciting defensive coordinators in college football, and regain the No. 1 spot in the recruiting rankings with three big-time commitments. Let's touch on each of those topics, if you don't mind.
LSU's offense put up 56 points against Texas Tech. How much should we be encouraged by that kind of offensive showing?
Mike: Yes, I was encouraged, but I also I knew the Red Raiders were not a good defense. LSU had some new wrinkles offensively and it opened things up for Fournette and Derrius Guice. That defense was tailor-made for the Tigers “smash-mouth” approach and I liked the fact that Cam Cameron was on the sidelines to converse with Brandon Harris. That should have been in place all year with a young QB. The Tigers also played with great spirit offensively and some confidence, and it showed.
Scott: Perhaps we should be more encouraged by the fact that LSU's defense played one of its best games in limiting the Red Raiders' high-powered offense to 27 points. Agree?
Mike: Yes, I was encouraged with that part very much. LSU's front really got pressure on one of the most gifted passers in college football and they forced him out of his comfort zone. In the last two games, this team looked like DBU. It was not like that most of the season. Now, the change is coming with a bigger front of recruits along the defensive line and at linebacker. Change is a coming at LSU with a different look and a bigger and a more physical team down the road. 3-4 will be the norm now with Aranda who believes in “pressure” defense.
Scott: Speaking of Dave Aranda… When we learned that Kevin Steele was leaving, many Tiger fans questioned whether LSU would have a hard time bringing in a big-time hire in light of Les Miles's perceived lack of job security. Obviously, that was not a problem. I don't know about you, but I think Coach Miles hit the ball out of the park with the hiring of Aranda as defensive coordinator. You agree?
Mike: Dave Aranda is not a good hire for LSU, but a great hire.
First, he's shown that he has the talent to succeed everywhere he's been. He was an excellent defensive coordinator at Hawaii, Utah State and most recently at Wisconsin. Aranda coaches linebackers and likes the 3-4 alignment, but everything is hybrid today. He is very smart and willing to adapt to the talent on hand, and very aggressive in putting pressure on the quarterback. Like Ed Orgeron, he puts great emphasis on affecting offenses with pressure, and that makes him a great fit.
He believes in being very physical and aggressive to the ball and fully understands you have to stop the run first, but it is a different game today with college teams throwing the ball so much more than at any other time. In today's game, you have to “blow up the launchpad” of QBs and Aranda gets that.
He has not coached in the SEC and I am sure that will be brought up, but neither did Nick Saban when he took over at LSU.
Secondly, I like the infusion of youth on a staff to bring in new ideas. Aranda is smart and enthusiastic, and I've heard from so many that he gets along very well with his assistants. Blending his new ideas with Coach O's expertise gives LSU a very firm foundation, and you can clearly see LSU moving toward much more 3-4 concepts.
Scott: Some of my readers have expressed concern that Aranda's hiring might not sit well with Coach O and that it could drive him away? Any concern about that?
Mike: Believe me, there are no hard feelings there. If Ed Orgeron was going to leave he would have left already. He has had opportunities to coach elsewhere in 2016, but he and his family have decided to stay and he is one of the elite recruiters and defensive line coaches in college football. His oldest son is at LSU already and the twins are graduating from Mandeville. Louisiana is home. The quick hiring of Aranda tells me that Les Miles knew this long ago and was quick to cash in on a very hot coaching talent in Aranda. Coach O will get along very well with Aranda.
Scott: Ok, let's wrap this up with your thoughts on the two commitments LSU picked up this weekend – wide receiver Drake Davis and linebacker Michael Divinity.
Mike: Drake Davis is a huge target with excellent size. He has good body adjustment skills, strong hands and very good eye/hand coordination. He's a good run-after-catch player also. Very much cut from the same mold as Brandon LaFell when he came out of high school. Davis needs to physically get stronger (that is the case for almost all young players), develop a bigger route tree and get out of his cuts and breaks a little quicker, but he is a top-flight prospect.
Michael Divinity reminds me a lot of former Tiger Kwon Alexander. He is athletic, aggressive, a blur up the field and he has excellent football smarts and instincts. He is terrific turning the corner and getting up into the backfield, and he has outstanding closing speed to the ballcarrier. He too needs to physically get stronger, but his up-the-field skills are at the highest level. What he needs to work on is playing in reverse – it's a different game today and you have to match up in the coverage part of the game – but I am a huge Michael Divinity fan. This young man will play quickly at LSU.
Scott: And what about Stephen Sullivan, the wide receiver who committed to Coach Miles earlier in the week?
Mike: It's so funny because I was talking to another college head coach just days ago and Sullivan's name came up in conversation. Stephen in so many ways reminds me of DeMaryius Thomas (star end with the Denver Broncos) when he came out of high school and then off to Georgia Tech. Sullivan is a little taller, but they were both rough around the edges as route runners, not quick to get off the snap, but they both have great size, large catching radius, strong hands and both being basketball players they know how to time their leaps just right to make a catch. Sullivan will need some development in his overall game as a route runner, but he is a huge target with sure hands and he is such a threat in the red zone. LSU has yet to replace Jarvis Landry with a target that will go over the middle and make that tough catch, and Davis and Sullivan just might fill those huge moccasins.
Scott: Thanks Mikes. As always, much appreciated.
Mike: My pleasure. Happy 2016.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier's NFL Draft Report. He's also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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