LSU defenders excited about spring progress under Dave Aranda

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU is a few days away from unveiling its new 3-4 defense, although what the Tigers show at Saturday's spring game is sure to be a dumbed-down version of what they'll play against Wisconsin on Sept. 3.

New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has not even finished installing everything, but his players seem unanimously optimistic about the possibilities this fall.

"I like it already and we haven't even put a blitz in yet," senior linebacker Kendell Beckwith said last week. "I think it's going to be something special. We've got a lot of the base stuff in and we'll continue to build and go from there."

Indeed, the Tigers realize that the more exotic looks that Aranda was known for in three ultra-successful seasons at Wisconsin will enter the playbook. All in due time.

"I think we're just trying to get settled in," safety Jamal Adams said. "We're trying to get the foundation of the defense put in and once we get that, then we can start exploring and looking at new blitzes and techniques."

It has been a spring full of change for LSU's defense, switching from their traditional 4-3 to Aranda's 3-4 -- a makeover that included plenty of positional adjustments.

For example, defensive ends like Arden Key and Tashawn Bower are now playing outside linebacker. Defensive tackles Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux are adjusting, too, with Godchaux getting some work lined up directly over the opposing center at nose and both players getting time at end.

"It's rough," the 298-pound Godchaux said of playing nose. "You've got to be a man. You've got to do all the dirty work. That's the kind of position Coach O [defensive line coach Ed Orgeron] put me in, so I'm up to the challenge each and every day."

LSU coach Les Miles seemed to believe he was up to the challenge in last Saturday's scrimmage, praising Godchaux afterward for his performance. Miles also singled out Key for his pass-rushing excellence, continuing a strong spring for the sophomore.

Not only has Key continue to rush the passer well, he even picked off a Brandon Harris pass in a recent practice and returned it for a touchdown.

"Really the biggest thing is dropping into coverage," Key said of the obstacles at his new position. "Reading the tackle, you still got to read him. If you get a high hat, you drop into coverage. Low hat, then you do your run fits. But it's second nature now."

More and more LSU defenders have made that kind of comment as spring progressed and Aranda eased them into new roles. The defense is nowhere near a finished product -- and even if it was, Aranda would not show off much on Saturday at Tiger Stadium -- but the Tigers have seen enough to know what is in store for opponents this fall.

"We've put in a lot of the installs and we really want to get the base stuff down and take things and master them one by one before we get into more complicated things where we could possibly switch positions or just hide things," Bower said. "I think we're doing a great job of that, really taking everything day by day where we can master each piece that gets put in. I think if we keep that up, we'll be fine."

In Godchaux's view, they'll be better than fine.

"It's going to be very difficult to stop us," he predicted.