by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
As new Tigers hires Daronte Jones, Jake Peetz, D.J Mangas, Blake Baker and Andre Carter are now firmly acquainted with their fellow staff members & the LSU fanbase, it's time for these first-time Tigers coaches to earn the trust and respect of their players ....judging by what I'm hearing from a variety of LSUHQ sources, the process has gone as smoothly as possible:
Defensive Coordinator Daronte Jones is winning over his squad...although there were a few tough moments in the film room on one of his first days:
Just as I'd hoped, one of Jones' first moves was to put on the LSU defense's 2020 game film, chockfull of selected cut ups to galvanize the unit, not in shame but with pride, inspiring a "we cannot let this happen again" type of mentality among the players before him.
Jones has refused to let his new players hide from the truth....usually sentences either began or ended with "we can do so much better..." as he pointed at the screen.
Then he stopped the footage of LSU's 2020 horrorshow and suddenly, images of the Minnesota Vikings' Mike & Adam Zimmer-led defense blowing up the screen. Here was footage of their safeties Harrison Smith (SS) & Anthony Harris (FS) cutting down space, taking the proper angles & adjusting pre-snap...(those two combined for 193 tackles, 17 PDs & Smith's 5 INTs during 2020 alone).
An LSU analyst detailed Jones' speech: "How do we get there? Fundamentally sound football...aggressive playmaking...communication..." Jones rattled off as he stalked the front of the film room. He also reiterated the same quote as he did during his introductory press conference, "we want to do everything as violent as possible..."
Daronte spotted a great piece of footage where every Tiger (sans Stingley and Ricks) are staring at each other before the snap: linemen out of their stances, linebackers gesticulating with their hands in the air and heads shaking full of apparent disgust, safeties far too wide and shallow against Missouri's 5 wide shotgun spread formation...and paused the screen.
Jones then lit into the team about how he went through and analyzed every snap from all 10 defensive performances by the LSU Tigers last year, "we were beaten by the same play countless times..."
An outrageous truth we've all repeated...how many times did they run a scissors route on the outside and run Derek & Cordale into each other, just for example?
For the last hour, I was told Jones demonstrated film of the Vikings' pre-snap adjustments, using LSUHQ's state of the art simulators, schooling and teaching his players about (not Jones' words) identification, dissection and destruction...three keys the Tigers' defense consistently failed at under Bo Pelini (aka the 6 Million Dollar Man) throughout 2020:
Identifying the formation and play that is beating your defense, dissecting where, how & why the play works against you and then figuring out how to destroy & attack...
First off, Daronte Jones made sure everyone in the room understands no more of the soft coverage from last year...no more "10 yards of free space" as Jones called it, which it is.
"We will be pressing...there's no point in playing man coverage if you're going to give the receiver 10 yards off the line...no way," a source within the defensive organization let us know.
The new defensive coordinator then pointed out a series of repeated plays, how even the best offensive minds from the NFL use repetition as part of their rhythmic attack...and how LSU won't be taken for a ride by that sensibility again.
Beat us once, fine, beat us twice it's because we're letting you.... LSU won't be had by the same play over and over and over like last year. One of Daronte's rock solid intangibles is his ability to figure out exactly what an offense is doing, how they're doing it & communicating that to the guys. It's always about how he can put his defenders in a better position on the next play...and he's demonstrated this already.
Jones has spent a lot of time on incoming junior safety Mo Hampton, going a little bit easier on his mistakes in film study than other guys while showing #14 plenty of belief. Daronte immediately identified Hampton as a young man who shows extreme NFL promise, even after making some glaring mistakes throughout 2020.
After all, one of Jones' key assets is his ability to coach the safety position, a factor Coach Ed Orgeron pointed out a few times while discussing Jones. That's a great thing for LSU, because safeties like Todd Harris, Mo Hampton & Jordan Toles will need their new defensive coordinator's confidence & trust now more than ever:
Following Bill Busch's bad year at safeties coach, coupled alongside Pelini's mad-eye-moody tyranny & of course Busch's subsequent absence (the man who recruited many of these players) just think about the confidence levels of guys like Hampton, Harris & even Toles (who's lone big time appearance was getting burned for a long touchdown vs Auburn)...they'll need a strong coach....and it appears LSU have a very astute-minded defensive powerhouse running the shop.
he harped on it just like he said he would...and thank god for that...adjustments are a defense's only hope in the modern game...
Yes...big surprise...you will get scored on in this day and age...in fact, if you hold a team under 35, you should win...that's the bar now...back in the day, I'm talking even 1997, that score was 20...
He's been paying close attention to the significant roles his freshmen defenders can play in 2021, as well as spotting a treasure trove of untapped (and thus far unseen) talent buried deep within LSU's roster, from the defensive line (Eric Taylor, Jacobian Guillory) to linebacker (Josh White, Devonta Lee, Micha Baskerville) corner (Dwight McGlothern) or safety (Jordan Toles)....there's playmakers all over Daronte Jones' defense.
I've heard Jones and DBU Miyagi Corey Raymond hung out among corner Jay Ward and let him know he'd be a key part of the future ahead. Whether that means Ward could transition into a nickel or free safety (two positions he could play) remains to be seen, however it appears with Stingley & Ricks taking both starting boundary cornerback spots, Jones & Raymond are wanting Ward to know they're willing to experiment in order to get him on the field.
I know Jones spoke at length with Eli Ricks, telling him how valued and critical his presence is to LSU's success...I don't know anymore than the existence of this meeting and one talking point.
The entire defensive staff have been meeting together from the outset to bring a sense of camaraderie and cohesion between each position group, a vision shared by everyone from Coach Ed Orgeron (his idea) to DC Daronte Jones, LBs Coach Blake Baker or DL Coach Andre Carter, all coaches are on board with an aggressive, attacking defensive style using the full breadth and depth of this squad.
Based out of the 4-3, utilizing Gaye, Ojulari, Anthony, Jackson, Jones and Carter's pass rushing abilities off the edge, this defensive unit will remain a multi-shifting unit...in every which way Pelini's system last year was not.
It's very simple....Daronte Jones isn't stubborn to the point he won't change something if it's not working on the field...he'll scratch it immediately...
I know Daronte will have no choice but to operate mostly from a 4-2-5 formation when facing spread attacking offenses with 5 receivers, which is perfect for Jones: this is the exact system he deployed at Bowie State for years. He's comfortable coaching against spread attacks...he's battle-tested when facing the onslaught of fast paced offenses...but there will be a learning curve with the SEC...there always is for first time SEC coaches...
Who knows if Jones will win a championship at LSU, as his former Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda was able to accomplish only a little over a year ago...but I can say this: he has definitely settled in nicely alongside these players, from elder statesmen such as Andre Anthony or championship veterans such as Derek Stingley Jr & Mo Hampton, to early enrollee freshmen defenders Landon Jackson, Derrick Davis Jr & Maason Smith, the new coordinator is winning over this group of players day by day...they're buying in.
As far as settling for anything less than a championship?
Daronte doesn't coach like that.
LET'S GEAUX 2021
by Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: WELCOME NEW SUBSCRIBERS H.B FOWLER JR & MATT WILLIAMS! WELCOME! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! LET US KNOW HOW EVERYTHING IS GEAUXING! LET'S GEAUX BREAUXS!!!!