After a historically bad season on defense, LSU football is looking to bring a new mentality to its defense later this year. With new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, the Tigers are looking to put a defense on the field that is “mean, tough and nasty.”
In a forgettable 2020 season, LSU finished the season with its worst winning percentage since 1999, with most of the problems stemming from the Tigers’ horrendous defense. LSU gave up just under 35 PPG, which led to former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini getting fired after just one season with the Tigers. With Jones replacing him this offseason, Head Coach Ed Orgeron claims he has already noticed a difference in the defense since the beginning of spring practice.
“I do see a difference,” Orgeron said. “I see our guys with their cleats in the grass, I see better communication, I see the defense simpler and I see our guys playing attacking football.”
Orgeron himself plans to take a bigger role in running the defense in 2021 after admitting to staying out of things more in 2020. Before becoming the head coach at LSU, Orgeron was the Tigers’ defensive line coach and has decades of experience coaching defense.
“I’ve coached defense for 40 years and last year I kind of stayed out of it, but this year I’m not,” Orgeron said. “If I see something I don’t like, we’re not doing it.”
Experience will be a major advantage for the LSU defense in the 2021 season. The team is returning nine of its 11 starters from 2020, including arguably the best cornerback partnership in the country. Derek Stingley and Elias Ricks already showed glimpses last season of how well they can play together, and with a year of experience together and a new, simpler scheme, the sky is the limit for their production this season.
The defensive line is another position group with plenty of returning starters next season. All four of LSU’s starting defensive linemen will be back for the Tigers in 2021 while adding extremely talented freshman Maason Smith to that mix. Smith was the No. 1 player in Louisiana in the class of 2021, and Orgeron believes that he can make an early impact for the Tigers on the defensive line.
“He’s our best pass rusher inside right now,” Orgeron said at his weekly spring press conference. “I do believe that he is going to play a lot as a freshman and he’s going to be one of the best freshmen on our team.”
With the amount of talent that LSU has on its defense, the coaching staff is entering the new year with the mindset of putting the players in the best position to make plays. Communication and simplicity are two huge things that LSU’s defense lacked in 2020 and are things that Jones is trying to emphasize going forward.
“We want to put our guys in the best position to make plays,” Jones said. “We want to minimize error, make sure we are overcommunicating and have an attacking defense where we can play fast.”
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Looking back at the problems with LSU’s defense in the 2020 season, a focus on simplicity will be huge for the Tigers in improving this season. Coverage busts and allowing players to run free down the field was a common occurrence for the LSU defense last season. The scheme looked to be over complicated and there was a clear lack of communication both on the field and on the sidelines. The players-first mentality that this new defensive staff brings will look to reverse these things and change the culture of this LSU defense.
On top of everything, the focus of the defense going into the 2021 season will be to return to the toughness and viciousness that LSU defenses in the past have been known for. Both Orgeron and Jones have made it clear that the goal next season will be to return to that style of play, and the team has done all the right things so far this spring to get there.