“It was a defensive night” | Dave Aranda’s defense dominates in spring game

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

The biggest challenge facing LSU’s defense at Saturday’s National L Club Spring Game wasn’t facing LSU’s 2017 offense.

It was replacing LSU’s 2016 defense.

Gone are Jamal Adams, Tre’Davious White, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, and Davon Godchaux. Absent, through injury or leave, were Arden Key, John Battle, Donnie Alexander, and Christian LaCouture.

Many holes to fill, unfortunately

Plenty of talent with which to fill them, fortunately.  

Dave Aranda’s men shone in the half of football open to the public, with the first-team unit in Purple holding the first-team White offense to just 80 yards. Matt Canada’s assortment of pre-snap motions and shifts and post-snap play-fakes and jet sweeps did little to distract LSU’s defense, despite their relative inexperience.

Other than an early Danny Etling-to-DJ Chark connection good for 35 yards, Aranda’s 11 were impenetrable, giving up just 45 yards on 26 remaining plays — a contrast to the prevailing theme of the spring, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said.

“I think the defense was tired of getting their butts kicked all spring,” Orgeron said. “They coaches did a tremendous job of getting them ready, and Dave Aranda is an excellent play caller. He’s had 15 practices to defend Matt, so he knows what hurts.”

Particularly sharp were a trio with big shoes to fill. Kevin Toliver flashed his freshman season form, looking every bit ready to take over for White, a four-year starter on the outside for LSU.

Matched up most of the night against DJ Chark, Toliver was excellent. (He was not the defender guarding Chark on the 35-yard completion.) He broke up a pass, stayed tight to Chark, and even jumped a slant route for a third down interception in the first quarter.

It was Toliver’s first interception since his freshman season, when he grabbed his lone collegiate pick against Eastern Michigan. In all, LSU’s secondary, short three starters from a year ago, held Etling to 4-of-11 passing and incompletions on his last seven attempts.

“I thought they played good,” Orgeron said of the secondary. “Kevin Toliver has has a good spring.”

Toliver wasn’t the only standout in the secondary. Freshman Grant Delpit, inserted in the starting lineup for Battle, played like a savvy veteran with hundreds of snaps to his name, not an early enrollee in his first televised action as a collegiate athlete.

His four tackles matched a team-high, as did his three solo stops. He brought down Chark for a loss on a jet sweep to flash his physicality, then read Etling’s deep post toss to Drake Davis like a book for a breakup to show off his range and quick wits.

“He had a great night,” Orgeron said. (LSU did not make players available after the scrimmage was moved from Tiger Stadium to the indoor practice facility at halftime due to lightning.) “Grant may start for us. He proved tonight he can make plays. I wanted to see what guys could do under the lights. Made plays. He’s a guy we consider may start.”

Delpit is one of several guys Orgeron said “should be at prom” instead of in purple and gold. Days before the NFL Draft, Orgeron handed a friendly future-pro comparison Delpit’s way.

“He was well coached along the way,” Orgeron said. “He’s physical, he’s very fluid. He can move back there. He’s a little like Jamal Adams to be honest with you. He has that type of talent.”

Perhaps the best defensive display of the day came courtesy of Devin White. Taking over Riley’s rover spot in the middle of Aranda’s defense, White flew sideline-to-sideline to finish with four stops, 1.5 for loss. He sniffed out every fake and feint Canada and Etling threw his way, using the speed of an ex-running back recruit to chase down Chark on two end-arounds early in the second quarter.

“I think Dave Aranda did a tremendous job of coaching those linebackers,” Orgeron said. “They played well. Devin is going to be an excellent player for us. He’s matured a lot.”

The rest of the numbers outline further how good LSU’s defense performed. Derrius Guice managed just 12 yards on 6 carries. The White offense converted just 2-of-8 third downs and rushed for only 27 yards on 16 carries.

It was a defensive night, man,” Orgeron said. “It ain’t happened all spring. The offense did a tremendous job all spring, but tonight was a defensive night.”

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Cody Worsham

1 Comment

  1. Motions and fakes tend to soften a defense’s gap soundness, but the O-line still has to block. Saw softness THERE!

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