LSU players: New defensive coaches have made transition easy
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) The LSU Tigers don't expect to have any problems grasping their new defensive assignments as they get ready for the first game under coordinator Kevin Steele and line coach Ed Orgeron.
Whether that makes LSU's defense an elite one again remains to be seen, but it appears the Tigers have comfortably moved past the departures of former coordinator John ''Chief'' Chavis and former line coach Brick Haley.
''Everybody got on the same page very quickly,'' junior linebacker Duke Riley said. ''Coach Steele's scheme is pretty similar to Chief's scheme. He just uses different terminology. We just have had to get used to using (Steele's) words instead of Chief's words.
''We all feel comfortable out there now,'' Riley stressed. ''Coach Steele is making it easy for us. I know I feel comfortable just like I was with Chief at the end.''
Chavis had been LSU's coordinator since head coach Les Miles hired him in 2009 to rescue a poorly performing defense. As his line coach, Chavis hired Haley, a former Alabama A&M linebacker when Chavis was a coordinator there nearly three decades ago.
For six years, Chavis and Haley were constants on a staff which produced high-ranked defenses.
In 2013, the Tigers allowed more than 18 points per game and 330 yards per game. But LSU still managed 10 victories, thanks to a high-powered offense featuring quarterback Zach Mettenberger, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and running back Jeremy Hill - all now in the NFL.
Last year, Chavis was involved in a contract dispute. He wanted three guaranteed years while the LSU athletic administration held firm at two. That led to Chavis' abrupt departure for Texas A&M following the Tigers' loss to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. Dueling lawsuits followed and Haley left for Texas, where he became the defensive line coach.
It was an adjustment for LSU defensive players. Miles wanted to ease the transition by replacing Chavis and Haley with coaches that he thought the players would respect right away.
Orgeron, a Louisiana native, had an exceptional record as a defensive line coach at Miami and Southern California. He also had recruited against LSU while he was an assistant at Miami and Southern California, and the head coach at Ole Miss.
''I am so excited about this year,'' junior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. ''Coach O has produced so many NFL defensive linemen. He brings us more confidence.
''Coach O stresses that communication is what leads to confidence,'' LaCouture added. ''No matter what the scheme is, we just have to do our job of getting up the field and attack.''
Although Steele's scheme is similar to the one employed by Chavis, Steele's approach to teaching it is different. The practice field is now a place for repetitions, not for asking questions. Steele wants all teaching to occur in the meeting rooms - a philosophy he brought with him from Alabama.
''You have to know what you are supposed to do before you get on the field,'' senior linebacker Lamar Louis said. ''Now that we're in camp, it's no talking and all eyes on'' Steele.
Steele will be under considerable pressure to at least match the standard Chavis set for most of the past six seasons. The Tigers are coming off their worst record since 2008 and fans are getting restless with the Miles regime.
Yet Steele seems to have impressed upon his players that they shouldn't worry about story lines swirling about the coaching staff.
''There is no pressure on us,'' senior safety Jalen Mills said. ''We all have to trust each other on the field. You can't do anybody else's job. You have to do your own job.''