Usually, major turnover on a team that is expected to compete for a national championship should raise some eyebrows.
That is far from the case as it pertains to the LSU Tigers.
LSU lost three members from last year’s coaching staff in just more than a six-week span. However, the shake-up should be considered a positive for the team.
The Tigers lost defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Frank Wilson and wide receivers coach Tony Ball.
In their places have come new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
In other words, LSU hit a home run.
Steele bolted for Auburn in the days following the Tigers’ Texas Bowl victory. Steele spent one season at LSU after John Chavis left for Texas A&M, and didn’t exactly make the impact he was expected to.
In 2014, the LSU defense ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring (17.5 points per game) and No. 9 nationally in total defense (316.8 yards per game). Under Steele last season, the numbers in those categories dropped to No. 41 and 25, respectively.
Additionally, Steele was not as successful of a recruiter as Chavis was. That became all-the-more evident as Texas A&M began to poach some of Louisiana’s talented prospects like running back Kendall Bussey and linebacker Dwaine Thomas and bring them to College Station, Texas.
Instead, Aranda brings a more aggressive defense to Baton Rouge, La., one that recruits are anxious to be a part of, largely because of its versatility. One of the blue-chip prospects in LSU’s 2016 class, five-star defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, told SEC Country it was Aranda that sold him on the Tigers over Ohio State.
While Steele’s tenure at LSU was mediocre at best, there’s no questioning the impact that Wilson had on the program over the last six years.
Wilson, a New Orleans native, was LSU’s ace recruiter in the state of Louisiana and had an unparalleled impact in his hometown. He was responsible for bringing highly-regarded prospects like Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre to LSU, and helping the team gain traction with the likes of five-star cornerback Kristian Fulton.
Equally as important, Wilson helped give LSU a reputation as “RBU.” Sure, that distinction hasn’t made headwaves like the school’s other nickname of “DBU,” but it applies with the success of Fournette and his predecessors Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.
However, LSU found the next best thing, bringing another highly-successful New Orleanian back to The Boot.
Juluke, who spent many years coaching at the high school ranks in the city and the Catholic League, and also made a reputation for himself in his nine years as a state championship-winning coach at Edna Karr High School, was tabbed as Wilson’s successor.
That experience in New Orleans is exactly why many have already drawn parallels between Wilson and Juluke.. Class of 2018 New Orleans wide receiver and LSU commit Devonta Jason told SEC Country he has the same traits that made Wilson so successful, and linebacker prospect Josh Clarke confirmed as much when he told SEC Country Juluke will have an instant impact on LSU’s 2017 class.
Juluke flipped to LSU after about a month as Texas Tech’s running backs coach. He moved to the Big 12 from Louisiana Tech, where like Wilson, he helped mold one of the nation’s top backs in future NFL pro Kenneth Dixon, who’s currently projected to be one of the best at the position in the 2016 draft.
Imagine what he’ll do with a backfield comprised of Fournette, Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette.
The final piece of the puzzle in LSU’s 2016 staff was Craig, who spent time at LSU in 2004 under Nick Saban and has since had stints at Florida State and Auburn.
Craig replaces Ball, who spent one year at LSU. Like Steele, that was not enough time to truly put his stamp on the program.
A record-setting quarterback at Auburn, Craig is considered one of the nation’s premier recruiters. Sandwich that with the addition of Juluke, and LSU actually improved in that area with two All-Stars to pair up with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
Craig also has a chance to work with a young, talented crop of wide receivers, and his experience under coach Gus Malzahn should give the Tigers something to lean on as they transition to an offense based on more spread principles.
With Aranda, Craig and Juluke, LSU will have a lot of new faces to get accustomed to in 2016. But for a team with national title aspirations, LSU pulled out all the right moves in order to ensure it remained in that conversation.
Recruiting should continue to improve, while both the offense and defense are set to make necessary adjustments.
The new-look staff combined with its stalwarts in place has generated a lot of buzz, and for all the right reasons.