Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has finally been able to expand his defense in year three.
He installed some of the building blocks in 2016 as the Tigers defense moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and he had to reinstall those blocks and the rest of the base sets in 2017 when LSU introduced a host of new starters to the defensive lineup.
“As a defense, we’re definitely more comfortable as a whole because we had guys come back,” sophomore safety Grant Delpit said. “Guys know what they’re doing, so I feel like the game moved easier, moved slower at some times, and I think it showed.”
Having so many guys return has allowed Aranda’s defense to evolve, and Delpit’s role is a part of that evolution.
Against Miami, Delpit and fellow sophomore safety Jacoby Stevens debuted the new “quarter” position — a hybrid spot that lets Delpit and Stevens play as either the nickel back or as an outside linebacker that allows them to look in the backfield and read run or pass if they’re not called to blitz.
The new sub-package features a traditional 3-4 front, but instead of a field linebacker, Aranda used an extra safety against Miami.
The position was new for Delpit, who has always played safety. He watched extra film and looked at other defenses who ran a similar sub-package in preparation for his new role.
Delpit (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) and Stevens (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) are LSU’s most physical safeties and fit the role the perfectly. Their athleticism in space gives them advantages over a linebacker, while also being physical enough to play the run.
Coach Ed Orgeron said that it was a new substitution package and that they felt Delpit could do some things at to affect the game at the line of scrimmage. Delpit did more than affect the game — he dominated, finishing with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, and a sack, while also forcing an errant throw by Miami’s Malik Rosier that led to an interception by senior safety John Battle.
“It is a lot of outside linebacker, just learn the techniques of pass rushing, but at the same time nickels and stuff like that will nickel blitz off the edge, it’s more of that type of stuff,” said Delpit, and added that he spent a few minutes here and there in practice during individual drills working on pass rush moves.
The package not only had one of the safeties down in the box, but it moved LSU’s true nickel back, either sophomore Kary Vincent or senior Terrence Alexander, back into a more traditional safety position. LSU ran the sub-package six out of the first seven plays on defense, and Delpit even audibled out of it at times during the game.
“[Vincent and Alexander] are pretty fast guys, and [Miami’s Jeff Thomas] had pretty good speed so we just wanted to match up the speed with speed and with me in the post sometimes like that, and when I’m going down and stuff like that,” Delpit said.
The quarter position not only allows Delpit or Stevens to blitz and get after the quarterback or running back, but it can also cause confusion for opposing quarterbacks because if the quarter reads pass he can drop into an underneath zone coverage that protects against crossing or post routes.
Delpit was lined up at the quarter position most of the game and said that the situation can be reversed with Battle or Stevens close to the line and Delpit back deep.
That versatility was on display Sunday against the Hurricanes, especially when Battle went out for a few plays in the first quarter.
“That definitely helps because maybe if it is hurry up offense we can get to our side we can definitely play each other’s position, so I feel like that helps,” Delpit said. “Just John being there for a while he definitely knows what he is doing. He can tell me and Jacoby what we are doing if we mess up one play and stuff like that. I feel like we can all play any safety position.”
Delpit didn’t need anyone to tell him he messed up when he dropped what would have been his second career interception late in the game against Miami.
“That would’ve been the easiest interception of my life to be honest. I don’t think anymore are going to get easier than that, so I definitely have some stuff to work on.”
He heard from the guys on the sideline afterwards, and even one former Tiger, who was notorious for calling his teammates “PBU guys” because of their struggles bringing down interceptions, made sure to reach out.
“Donte [Jackson] called me after,” Delpit said while laughing. “He said he had a whole message written up to me, but he just deleted it.”
Expect to see Delpit have more chances at getting his hands on the ball and opposing quarterbacks as LSU continues to add to its defensive schemes.
“Y’all got to see and find out,” he said. “We are just getting started.”