Scooter Hobbs (American Press)

Of course, it's always possible that LSU's defensive calamities last season were due as much to the young shavers on the field as they were to the greybeards on the coaching staff.

But head coach Ed Orgeron, now the self-styled "old man" on the staff, wasn't taking any chances with this staff makeover.

It still plans to use the 4-3 alignment that the Tigers so often got Lost in Space in last year, but Orgeron now says you have to be more flexible.

Mainly, its leadership is a lot younger now.

Maybe that's a coincidence.

The three new defensive coaches Orgeron took to streaming media to introduce Tuesday weren't exactly wrapped in diapers. But they were as Zoom-friendly in this new age of insta-information as the high-tech gizmo offenses they now have to defend.

They probably know their way around the confounded Twitter machine.

New defensive coordinator Daronte Jones is 41, as is incoming defensive line coach Andre Carter, while linebackers coach Blake Baker is 38.

Again, not exactly whippersnappers — average age 40 — so it's doubtful they get ID'd too much.

But the three departed coaches they replaced, including embattled, take-the-fall coordinator Bo Pelini, averaged 58 years of age.

Jones, famously, was hardly Orgeron's first choice for the coordinator spot. At least two others couldn't be landed. But maybe it wasn't an accident.

Orgeron wanted some fresh faces, some new ideas, some new pizazz to battle the game's current offensive tomfoolery.

"These guys are young guys; they can relate to our players," Orgeron said. "They're energetic. They want to be here. I think that makes a difference when you're young, you're energetic, you want to prove yourself at a school like LSU. You're going to do a great job."

The offensive staff also got a lot younger — 37-year-old Jake Peetz replaced 62-year-old Steve Ensminger (although the resident staff Yoda will still be around as an analyst) and 31-year-old D.J. Mangas replaced 57-year-old passing game coordinator Scott Linehan.

But offense wasn't really the biggest problem last year.

Orgeron had to do something about a defense — long a staple at the Old War Skul — that ranked 124 in the nation with 492 yards per games, 97th in the nation with 34.9 points per game.

So he chose enthusiasm and vigor over grizzled experience and wisdom.

New-age thinking for souped-up offenses.

"When I grew up the goal was hold them to 13 points or less," Orgeron said. "That's not happening nowadays. Really, if you hold an opponent to under 30 points you have a chance to win in every game … You never want to say that, but that's reality.

"The thing I want on defense is for us to keep the ball in front of us, keep our eyes on the quarterback, play more zone coverage, continue with a great pass rush … and not give up explosive plays."

He just described the defensive woes of 2020 in one paragraph.

In this age, I'm not sure you shut anybody down. But mitigating it will be a big part of next season's recovery.

Maybe it won't be a fair comparison. LSU on both sides of the ball, particularly in the trenches, will be as ridiculously experienced and battle-tested in 2021 as last season when it was desperately trying to fill gaping holes from the 2019 national championship.

And we might need a ruling on just how young this new defensive staff really is.

That average age will trend upward when Orgeron sticks his the 58-year-old nose into it, which he promises will be much more than a year ago. He's still a tough-nut Cajun defensive lineman at heart.

It was actually in the job description for the youth wave to get its foot in the door.

"I wanted to make sure that those guys were OK with me getting involved in the defense, and that I'm going to be involved with the defense," he threatened. "I want to be involved, especially when it comes to the front.

" I've let that go a little bit, and I wish I wouldn't have done that. And so I'm going to be more involved with the defense, and every time that I interviewed every guy I told them, "Here's what I expect, here's what I'm going to do. Do you agree to it?' Obviously they agreed to it, so I get my chance to give my expertise on the defense along with these coaches."

But it sounds like what Orgeron was really looking for was better communication from a more relevant staff to young players, which might translate to better youth-on-youth communication in, say, the secondary.

Orgeron said a key in the interview process was "how they would speak to our players and how they would connect with our players. All three of these guys did a tremendous job in that area."

In fact, Jones used the term "over-communicating" at least a half-dozen times during his Zoom session. I gathered it was a good thing, all the better to, as he said for "an attacking-style defense where we can dictate terms and play fast."

Hiring new assistants is always a bit of a dice roll.

But it sounds like Orgeron had a clear plan and stuck to it.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

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