BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) New LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda wasn't going to let recent uncertainty surrounding his new boss dissuade him from seeing what he could do with a Southeastern Conference defense in Death Valley.
''It was always a goal of mine to coach in this league,'' Aranda, who spent the past three seasons at Wisconsin, said during his formal introduction at LSU on Tuesday. ''I always looked at this conference as an elite conference. You see the skill level and the intelligence level at these schools. You know the teams are coached well.''
Immediately following Wisconsin's Holiday Bowl victory against Southern California in San Diego last Wednesday, LSU coach Les Miles contacted Aranda about being a replacement for Kevin Steele, who took the defensive coordinator's position at Auburn. By Friday night, Aranda was hired.
''I was excited with the offer,'' Aranda said. ''I drove back to my home (in California) with my family from San Diego. We talked about it.''
It did not take Miles long to make the job offer to Aranda. Steele informed Miles following LSU's Texas Bowl victory against Texas Tech that he was leaving for Auburn. Miles, whose squad went 9-3 this season, said he knew right away which person he wanted to take over for Steele. Aranda had been interviewed by Miles early last offseason before Steele was hired.
''A pretty extensive search took place a year ago,'' Miles said. ''The absolute choice (now) was Dave Aranda. I had seen his defense first hand. His defense was the toughest for us to scheme against on the year. It is no surprise that his defenses are nationally-ranked year in and year out.''
The Tigers opened the 2014 season with a 28-24 victory against Wisconsin in Houston. That game gave Miles a firsthand look at Aranda's work. Miles didn't pass up a second chance to bring Aranda to LSU.
''He was going in a direction on defense we wanted to go. He used a style we wanted,'' Miles said of Aranda. ''Kevin (Steele) knew the conference well, so that's why we went with him (last year). Once I knew Kevin was going, there was no other choice'' but Aranda.
Aranda's system has been characterized by some as complex, but he said his over-arching goal is simple: To put his players in an advantageous situation.
''You want to put your best player on their worst player and do that over and over again,'' Aranda said. ''You have to identify who your best players are and what their strengths are. Then, you put your best players in the best spots to make plays.
That approach has resulted in his Wisconsin defenses being ranked in the top 10 in the nation each of the past three seasons. Aranda describes his style as smart and aggressive.
''I want the defense to play with an offensive mindset, but in a way that's intelligent,'' he said. ''You have to keep big plays to a minimum.''
In his three seasons at Wisconsin, Aranda directed a defense which gave up 16.9 points and 289.4 yards per game. However, the Badgers did not have that type of success against SEC teams. In four games against SEC opponents, Wisconsin gave up an average of 32 points - the fewest being LSU's 28.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who made inquiries about a replacement for Miles in November, supported his head coach and his selection of Aranda.
''I am really excited about the future of our program and the direction it is going,'' Alleva said. ''My conversation with coach Miles about this hire was very simple: Get the best we could get. I think we've done that. Coach Aranda is a young guy who can guide our defense to win championships.''
Notes: Miles said talks have begun with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron about extending his contract, which expires at the end of March. Cameron has been with LSU for the past three seasons, starting with the 2013 offense that featured 3,000-yard passer Zach Mettenberger at QB and 1,000-yards receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry at receiver. The past two seasons, LSU QBs Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris have struggled to perform consistently.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org