The final hour

Kyle Riviere
LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Photo courtesy of

Disaster averted.

For several nerve-wracking hours last Wednesday, it appeared LSU was on the verge of enduring one of the blackest weeks the program has seen in recent memory.

The wounds were already fresh from the late-game collapse that resulted in a heartbreaking Citrus Bowl loss to Notre Dame. That loss prevented the Tigers from achieving a 10-win season for the first time since 2013.

The defeat also marred what was a tremendous feel-good year for the program. The Tigers rebounded from one of the worst losses in program history against Troy to win six of their final seven games—including a comeback from 20-0 down against Auburn.

Prior to the bowl game, reports surfaced that Texas A&M (under new head coach Jimbo Fisher) made a run at LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda “spurned” them.

However, two days after the Tigers’ disappointing loss in the finale, reports surfaced that the Aggies were making a second push on Aranda, and this time, they were going for broke.

Some of the figures being thrown out there were astronomical. There were some people saying they were going to pay Aranda $3.5 million a year. That’s what LSU head coach Ed Orgeron makes.

By the time the evening came around, the reports had graduated to Aranda being all but out of the door. They were saying that he was “unlikely to stay in Baton Rouge” and “likely to join Texas A&M.”

This spelled certain doom for LSU.

Orgeron, Athletic Director Joe Alleva and the Tiger brass had to move in fast, or they would have their names attached to one of the worst debacles in school history.

If Aranda left, the Tiger faithful may have been riding Alleva out of town on a rail by sunset.

Thankfully, there was no need for that to happen. They pushed just as hard as Texas A&M, and in the final hour, they got the job done.

Though, it came at a cost. Literally.

To keep Aranda in town, they ponied up some serious dough. He was already making nearly $2 million per year. Now, he will reportedly make $2.5 million, which makes him the highest-paid coordinator in the country.

That’s a lot of money. A lot. But it had to be done. The consequences of losing Aranda would have been devastating to the program.

LSU is already set to lose offensive coordinator Matt Canada after just one season. Rumor has it that he and Orgeron just could not get along and were not on the same page. So, their marriage was as short-lived as one that involves a Kardashian and an NBA player.

I don’t like the flux this kind of move creates. I don’t like how they couldn’t make it work with one of the brightest offensive minds in the country. I don’t like the fact that they will have to install a new offense for the second straight off-season.

With that said, replacing Canada isn’t the end of the world. It’s not like the offense had turned into world-beaters in 2017. Quite the contrary. Although, that wasn’t all Canada’s fault. LSU had a young and depleted offensive line and an inexperienced receiving corps.

Defense has always been the foundation of the program. It has always been what LSU has been able to hang their hat on.

Who knows when they will finally fix the offense and make it respectable? Until then, you need a defense that is good enough to keep opponents out of the end zone and keep you in games.

That’s where Aranda comes into the picture.

The guy is a defensive genius. There’s a good reason why they call him “The Professor.”

He’s the best defensive coordinator in the country. You can’t let somebody like that walk away. You certainly can’t let him end up with an SEC West rival.

LSU has had their way with Texas A&M. They’re 6-0 against them since they joined the SEC, but with Fisher now taking over, that reign of dominance is likely over. If you add Aranda to the mix, things may have pulled a 180 in their favor.

To have to replace both an offensive and defensive coordinator would have been disastrous. Not only would it have been hard on the players already in Baton Rouge, but it would have been detrimental to recruiting.

Aranda has proven to be an excellent recruiter over the past two years, but with him jumping ship to A&M, LSU would be in danger of prospects giving them the cold shoulder and joining Aranda in College Station.

The Tigers were able to land a commitment from Kelvin Joseph on Saturday (No. 1 safety in Louisiana), and they appear to be the front-runners to sign Patrick Surtain, Jr. (No. 1 cornerback in the country).

If Aranda left, kiss those guys goodbye. Now, LSU has a legitimate chance to get both of them.

One crisis has been avoided. Now, if we can just sure up that offense. Finally.