OPINION

Bo knows defense

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Plaquemine Post South

There was plenty of anxiety after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left LSU to become the new head coach at Baylor.

There was even more worry among Tiger fans when he brought a bunch of coaches with him--most notably, defensive line coach Dennis Johnson.

Well, push those worries aside. Baton Rouge, it's time to Bo-lieve.

This upcoming season, LSU will be partying like it's 2007, as their defense is led by new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. Well, he's not exactly new.

Pelini is no stranger to Baton Rouge. He coached the Tiger defensive unit for three years from 2005-2008. In his final year there, LSU brought home their second BCS title.

The hire of Pelini has elicited mixed reviews since last week. Some love the move, and some are a bit apprehensive.

Personally, I think it's a great hire by head coach Ed Orgeron and Athletic Director Scott Woodward.

LSU just won the national championship. They are currently at the top of college football, which means they cannot settle for a defensive coordinator with marginal experience or success. 

They also can't take a chance on giving someone their first job as defensive coordinator. This isn't the right place to get on-the-job training.

The Tigers needed to get someone with years of experience at defensive coordinator. But most importantly, they needed someone with years of success at the craft. 

They have that with Pelini.

In the three years in which he was the D-coordinator in Baton Rouge, LSU had one of the most dominant defenses in the country. They ranked in the top 10 in almost all of the major statistical categories.

They were fierce, they were fast and they were hard-hitting.

In his first season in Baton Rouge, LSU went 11-2 and destroyed Miami, 40-3, in the Peach Bowl. The defense surrendered just 15 points per game.

In his second year, the Tigers went 11-2 again and crushed Notre Dame, 41-14, in the Sugar Bowl. LSU gave up just 13 per contest.

In the 2007 national championship year, LSU's defense was hurt by costly injuries all season, but they still gave up just 21 a game, which was less than what the Tigers' defense gave up in 2019. And that number included two triple-overtime games.

Bottom line, the guy knows a little something about defense.

He left LSU in 2008 to become the head coach at Nebraska, and he had some success there. His Corn Husker teams never won less than nine games, and they played in two Big 12 title games and one Big Ten Championship.

His 2009 team that featured Ndamukong Suh finished the year ranked first in both scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.

After being fired by Nebraska in 2014, he went to Youngstown State, where he led them to the FCS Championship game in his second season there.

Sure, I hate to lose Aranda. I considered him and Clemson's Brent Venables the two best defensive coordinators in the country.

The way LSU's defense played during the home stretch of 2019 was sensational. They gave up just 18 points per game in their final five contests, and their performance against Clemson in the national title game was amazing.

But I believe we're replacing him with the next best candidate. Pelini has tons of experience both in college and in the NFL, and he has a championship pedigree.

He hasn't been a defensive coordinator in over a decade, but I don't feel that's much of a concern. Even though he wasn't the defensive coordinator by title at Nebraska and Youngstown State, he was still heavily involved in that aspect of the game for each team.

I also trust Coach Orgeron. After the past two seasons, how in the world couldn't you?

I believe he learned his lesson with the Matt Canada disaster and he hired someone he knows he can work well with, someone who can produce results.

I don't fear a transition from the 3-4 to a 4-3. LSU has enough talented, versatile players on that side of the ball to make the transition work.

The only thing I do worry about here is Pelini jumping ship for another head coaching job if LSU's defense has the kind of high-level success we hope they have under him.

But as we saw this offseason, that's just the price you pay for being the best.