Updated: Feb 10, 2021
"I want to thank Coach Orgeron, athletic director Scott Woodward and the administration for this opportunity. I am blessed and thankful to be part of the LSU family, community, and the strong traditions of this program. Geaux Tigers!"
- Daronte Jones' statement upon joining the Tigers
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
PLAYING CAREER: 4 years @ Morgan State
2001- Lenoir-Rhyne (GA)
2002- Nicholls State (safeties)
2003- Franklin High, Louisiana (DC)
2004- Jeanerette High, Louisiana (DC)
2005-2009 Bowie State (assistant head coach / Co-DC)
2010- UCLA (cornerbacks coach)
2011- Montreal Alouettes (DBs Coach)
2012-2013 Hawaii (DBs Coach / "Secondary Coach")
2014- Hawaii (Assistant Head Coach / Secondary)
2015- Wisconsin (DBs Coach)
2016- Miami Dolphins (DBs Coach)
2018-2019- Cincinnati Bengals (Secondary/CBs Coach)
2020- Minnesota Vikings (DBs Coach)
The news is now official...after a month and a few days, two high profile misses on "home run hires" Marcus Freeman & Ryan Nielsen, Coach Orgeron's Tigers now have their man...recommended by former LSU DC Dave Aranda & WRs Coach Mickey Joseph (who also mentored Jones)...
Minnesota Vikings' DBs Coach Daronte Jones will be moving back to the college ranks after 5 years in the NFL....and his job won't merely be LSU's defensive coach, Jones will be tasked with burying our beleaguered memories of 2020's Worst of All Time defense, he'll be responsible for maximizing the obvious talent from this potential top 5 defensive unit & at the end of the day, he'll also carry the weight & fate of Orgeron's administration on his shoulders.
For $1.3 million annually following a one time $150,000 payment from the university that extends for two seasons (reported by Brooks Kubena), Jones is now sealed as the Tigers' new coordinator after a topsy turvy search.
Still, there are many out there right now who are blasting Coach Orgeron and his staff for this hire...why???
Daronte Jones wasn't going to be a sexy, headline-grabbing, eye-widening hire once you heard the name...but he doesn't have to be.
I always found it funny how it seemed top-echelon programs were expected to only hire big names with big egos who must be paid big money when they find themselves searching for new coaches. Look at Michigan for example, throwing godless amounts of money at Jim Harbaugh for little more than Brady Hoke 2.0...and Harbaugh was a guy who took the 49ers from missing the playoffs to the Super Bowl....
Harbaugh's situation just geauxs to show: coaching hires are about how well you fit more than glorified status...
LSU's 2021 defensive coordinator search was never about getting some big name, LSU already have enough big names: Outside of Nick Saban, Coach Orgeron is the most recognizable head coach in college football....Corey Raymond is as good as it gets when talking about DBs...the respect for WRs Coach Mickey Joseph around college football mirrors Raymond's....Kevin Faulk can walk into the living room of any running back in America and leave with a firm commitment:
The most important defensive coordinator search in Tigers' history wasn't concerning itself with starpower or the value of a name....from Freeman to Nielsen and finally ending with Daronte Jones, this was all about getting the right guy....and his journey tells us all we needed to know:
The pursuit began based on the recommendation and suggestion of long time Tigers' WRs Coach Mickey Joseph; Daronte also worked with Mickey's brother Vance as well as former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (Aranda was the DC at Wisconsin during 2015, Jones' single year as a member of the Badgers' staff; after the conclusion of 2015, Aranda took the DC job at LSU and Daronte Jones followed suit, accepting the Miami Dolphins' DBs Coach offer. He would be replaced by Wisconsin hero Jim Leonhard).
Jones' past involvement with Tigers' coaches, especially Dave Aranda & Mickey Joseph intrigued Coach Orgeron plenty....enough to "bury his exaggerated hatchet" with Aranda and call up his former defensive coordinator to ask him what he thought about Daronte Jones.
When Mickey Joseph & Dave Aranda both suggested he was an "elite man manager & teacher", Orgeron asked special assistant Derek Ponamsky to call and see if Jones would be interested in an interview. Once Coach O also heard that Daronte played for a smaller school, Morgan State (just like Coach O did at Northwestern State) he felt this was headed for a serendipitous direction...remember the makeup of LSU's coaching staff...guys who've had to grind for decades to get where they are now, specifically Coach Ed Orgeron, DBs Coach Corey Raymond, new Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz...Santa Barbara Community College...McNeese...Bowie...these guys had to grind on the fringes of college football for decades to get to LSU...
Jones is just like them...
Despite the fact Coach O was now hiring his third major first-time coordinator in a month, both Peetz & Mangas lacking any formal play-calling experience on offense and now handing Daronte Jones the keys to a defense who ranked 124th the year before, Orgeron still had good initial vibes towards the notion of hiring Daronte.
Coaching at every tier of the sport, from Louisiana high school football to Bowie State, at the NFL level with the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings, in division I at Wisconsin, Louisville, UCLA and Hawaii, as well as in the Canadian Football League... now, after some intense work and grind at the NFL level, he's getting the defensive coordinator job of a National Champion SEC program, all with a squad full of top-tier collegiate talents looking for a leader....
I have no doubt in my mind Daronte Jones is the right guy....as long as he brings the same energy (if not far more) as he brought to his coaching pedigree in the NFL or at Wisconsin, then the Tigers potential top 10 defense are in good hands....here's why we feel confident:
#1: HIS PROFILE FITS
Daronte Jones not only fits the profile we've been looking for, he geauxs a step further as an under-the-radar name who still possesses the ideal resume, experience and energy for the LSU defensive coordinator gig.
This is a man who will walk into LSU's HQ unafraid, ready to greet the challenge of turning around the 124th ranked defense in the nation. He won't be scared to tell Eli Ricks not to showboat on his way into the end zone if a flag costs LSU and Eli a defensive score, Daronte won't shy away from polishing technique with the DBs....he will command the classroom and the practice field...
At 41 years of age (5 spent in the NFL), Daronte is still young, but he's also well traveled...not to mention his NFL experience & 20 years of consecutive coaching years will raise eyebrows and create a sense of buy-in from LSU's extremely talented 2021 defensive squad.
The future of the game is geared towards equipping your offense with an expansive passing attack, but equally on defense, success in the modern game relies on being able to force incompletions or turnovers in coverage....and LSU were nearly dead last in that category last year nationally, allowing 9.98 passing yards per attempt...a first down every snap...
To combat this, Orgeron went with a DC sporting a coverage background.
Daronte's profile fits the intangibles LSU were searching for: Jones is an advanced X's & O's guy, he's a specialist who's still versatile as a coaching force, the players can relate to him and he's a proven success at every stop along his journey.
#2: A GREAT TEACHER
Daronte is an explosive man, a very intense coach with passion tethered to commitment and nonstop enthusiasm raging out of his every pore, each rep, every practice, during every game...
He walks into a room with a presence about him which cannot be easily quantified and won't be making the headlines anytime soon...yet these are the intangibles which win championships and create our greatest coaches.
Will Jones favor a 4-3 or a 3-4, will he be a big man to man proponent and were these key points in Coach Orgeron's hiring decision? He's had experience coaching behind both fronts, although he favors a 4-2-5 base as we'd suggested the other night on our Mark Rogers' appearance. Jones is going to use hybridized schemes while leaning to a four man front on most snaps....no matter that, it's the positioning of the safeties, linebackers and nickel guys which crushed LSU's 2020 defense time and time again, far too many gaping holes in coverage for receivers & quarterbacks to attack at will, even with Stingley or Ricks on the outside.
Whether or not Jones can get his messages across will dictate LSU's 2021 season, as we watched LSU's high octane 30+ points per game offense stymied for 5 losses due to the worst defensive performance in program history exhausting everyone on the field, sidelines and fanbase.
Defense may not directly win championships anymore, but you better damn well be able to get stops when it matters, especially in the red zone...how hard Jones' defenders are willing to sacrifice and play for him will tell a lot about how he's settling in as a coach at LSU, but so will his intensity during practices...
If he's gameday ready for practice, then on gameday he'll be ready to kick maximum ass.
#3: MAXIMIZES TALENT
Although he hasn't had one roster after another filled out with top NFL or collegiate talent, LSU's new Defensive Coordinator has a brilliant track record turning fringe talents into breakout Pro Bowlers....just imagine what he'll be able to do with a starting lineup of: GAYE, SMITH, ROY, OJULARI, CLARK / LEE / STRONG, BASKERVILLE, RYAN, RICKS, STINGLEY, HAMPTON, HARRIS as a base nickel package unit, with Jay Ward, Josh White, Devonta Lee, Saivion Jones, Andre Anthony, Neil Farrell Jr, Glen Logan, Landon Jackson and Greg Penn III etc coming off the bench?
Let's geaux through his brief high profile history:
Daronte Jones' time as the DBs coach at Wisconsin (under Dave Aranda) saw his star rise: His unit led the nation with only 7 passing TDs allowed. He was replaced by Jim Leonhard the next year when he departed to the Miami Dolphins.
The next year in 2016 as the DBs Coach at Miami, the Dolphins picked off 16 passes (3rd in the nation according to ESPN stats) and in 2017, Jones' star safety Reshad Jones went to the Pro Bowl after leading the team with 122 tackles.
When Jones moved to Cincy, 2nd-year CB Darius Phillips exploded for the Bengals after suffering on the fringes before Jones' arrival. Previously a 5th Round draft pick in 2018, he played just 8 games in 2019 & still posted 4 INTs & 7 PDs with Jones as his DBs Coach....in 8 starts & 12 appearances throughout 2020 (without Jones), Phillips has 1 INT and 2 forced fumbles to go with 12 PDs...
Can he give the struggling Mo Hampton, Cordale Flott and Damone Clark that missing dose of confidence and footballing salvation?
#4: LOUISIANA / LSU TIES
Coaching at Franklin & Jeanerette High from 2003-2004, Jones also has roots in Louisiana...basically, this is where the man learned how to coach football, mentored by Vance Joseph, younger brother of WRs Coach Mickey Joseph.
He knows the landscape, he's experienced the love and passion for the Tigers within the state of Louisiana, he's lived here for at least a few years, moreover, he understands the weight of this opportunity.
Can he recruit throughout the state of Louisiana?
That will also spell his fate as LSU DC...and we believe there are stronger indications than many are allowing to be perceived.
#5: THE KIDS WILL RESPECT HIM
This group of younger players and older, wiser veterans given the chance of a second senior season will be the perfect mix for this coach to man manage, develop, support and maximize.
Jones has a humor about him, a sense of vibe and chill demeanor, however no coach will work harder, comes more highly recommended (not just from Dave Aranda or Mickey Joseph, but Mike Zimmer) or will demand more of himself as much as his players...
Is this the hire to win all hiring competitions?
From the outset, no...
And yet I have a sense that's exactly why Daronte Jones will be successful during his time in Baton Rouge if given the chance to lead this top 10 potential defense.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS; THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU WHO STAYED GLUED TO THE ODYSSEY THROUGHOUT THE DC SEARCH. STAY TUNED FOR FAAAR MORE. WE HAVE A BIG 2021 RECRUITING STORY PACKED WITH NEWS...COMING VERY SOON