He’s considered by many to be one of the best young defensive minds in the sport of college football.
One of the oft-used terms associated with his name is “mad scientist,” but first-year LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme doesn’t just make headwaves on the field.
Aranda’s exotic blitz packages and unique, aggressive style of play have also helped the Tigers make progress on the recruiting trail.
The addition of Aranda late in the 2016 recruiting season helped LSU improve its stance with some of the elite prospects that wound up signing with the purple and gold in February.
Yet again, Aranda’s defensive philosophy has appealed to some of the nation’s elite recruits both in Louisiana and nationwide, further proving his value to the Tigers, not only as a defensive mind, but as a recruiter as well.
Last January, five-star Louisiana prospect Rashard Lawrence was on the fence with LSU, as Ohio State was making a strong push to pry the nation’s No. 5 defensive tackle out of The Boot.
While Lawrence had to digest plenty of criticism of Aranda and how Lawrence would fit into his system, the defensive tackle took matters into his own hands and analyzed the film.
What he saw instantly impacted his decision.
“He’s like a mad scientist,” Lawrence said of Aranda. “In a good way. He’s a great coach. A lot of people said negative things about the 3-4, but I watched the film and he didn’t have many dominant defensive linemen. He showed me what he’s doing at LSU, and it’s going to be pretty special.
“For the longest time, people thought it was just LSU and Alabama, but it was always 50-50. Coach Aranda helped swing it and bring it to LSU.”
Lawrence isn’t the only defensive tackle that’s been impressed by LSU’s new defensive coordinator.
Marvin Wilson is the No. 1 prospect at the position in the Class of 2017, and while defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has spearheaded his recruitment, Aranda’s impact is undeniable.
The Texas native has been in Aranda’s ear questioning his scheme, and thus far, the reviews have been glowing.
“I like Coach A and I talk to him a lot about the defensive scheme and how I would work against the pressure,” Wilson told SEC Country. “He knows what he’s talking about, and I actually love it. I love to watch what he does, how he sets up schemes, and I like how he coaches.”
Defensive tackle may be the most integral piece on the defensive line, but under Aranda, it’s the linebacking corps that is vital to the unit’s success.
Aranda inherited a near-depleted group of backers with LSU after the graduation of two starters following the 2015 season.
After some mixing and matching along the front seven, Aranda has some of the Tigers’ top defensive weapons in new positions and taking on expanded roles to stay on the field.
That kind of ingenuity has appealed to many, including the nation’s No. 1 linebacker in this year’s class, who was already familiar with LSU but is now soaking in an entirely new experience thanks to the addition of Aranda.
“I just went into the coaching meetings and went over schemes with Coach Aranda, and I decided to put them back into my top five,” the five-star Dylan Moses told SEC Country. “I really like the defensive scheme after talking to Coach Aranda … (Playing for Aranda) intrigues me a lot, being able to listen to him talk. I think he has a quiet demeanor and that he’s a thinker, and I really like that.”
There’s more to like, too.
Some of LSU’s top linebacker targets, like Texas four-star K’Lavon Chaisson, praised Aranda’s aggressiveness as a playcaller.
Chaisson has held an offer from LSU for nearly a year, but it wasn’t until Aranda arrived on the scene and he got to watch some of the Wisconsin defensive film that he named the Tigers as one of his top schools.
“(The linebackers) aren’t sitting out there in space like it’s boring,” Chaisson explained. “He’s sending them out on blitzes 40 or 50 percent of time, rushing and getting to the quarterback, and that’s really what I like to do.
“(Aranda) has given another boost to love LSU even more. Coach (Les) Miles is fun to be around, and now to hear that they’re now getting a defense that you want, I mean. …”
Aranda’s gutsy play calling is complimented by his coaching style.
He isn’t the loudest coach. He isn’t a yeller. Instead, he’s a teacher who ensures his players are absorbing technique and design.
That’s why the nation’s No. 7 outside linebacker, Christopher Allen of Baton Rouge, La., has re-affirmed LSU in his top three.
“I wanted to see more of the defense and how Coach Aranda was coaching his players, whether he was a hands-on kind of guy,” Allen said. “I really think he was at the point and real active with the players. (I’m looking for a coach who) teaches, but also he makes sure that I know what I’m doing and doesn’t go onto the next thing.
“I like how he (Aranda) is a hands-on coach and makes sure that everyone gets with what he’s teaching, and he’s a good guy.”
Aranda has yet to coach his first game in the purple and gold, but already he has made his presence felt on the field, in the meeting room and on the recruiting trail.
LSU looks poised to make a run at the SEC championship and perhaps more in 2016 as Aranda looks to take the defense to new heights in his inaugural year with the team.
Even without a game under his belt, Aranda has already made playing for LSU all the more desirable in a matter of weeks. If and when the coach has success on the field in 2016, expect prospects’ interest in the Tigers to increase exponentially.