Bo Pelini’s time at LSU Should Be Over

When former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left to take the head coaching job at Baylor it left a glaring need to find a valid replacement. Candidates were interviewed and ultimately LSU head coach Ed Orgeron decided to hire Bo Pelini who was LSU’s defensive coordinator from 2005-2007. Since Pelini’s return to Baton Rouge the LSU defense has been a complete disaster. The first game of the season the Tigers’ defense allowed Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello to throw for over 600 yards passing. Only a couple games the defense showed signs of improval, but nonetheless still just abysmal. 

 The Tigers’ defense ranks towards the bottom in defensive ranks in the FBS and here are a few defensive stats. Opponents points per game is right around 34 and that ranks 91st. Opponents yards per game is at 469 yards and that ranks 112th. Opponents average yards per play is close to 7 yards a play that ranks 122nd. So, as you can see the Tigers’ defensive has been atrocious beyond belief. My opinion is that I do not think Bo Pelini can coach a modern defense. What worked in 2007 when teams mostly ran Power-I/I-Formations will not work against teams in the modern era who primarily run Spread and Air Raid offenses, it just will not work. 

 I’ve devised a list of potential replacements should Bo Pelini be fired, and here are my top candidates:

#5 Charles Kelly, Alabama Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties

Before being hired to Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama, Kelly was the defensive coordinator at Florida State from 2014-2017. During his time there, the Seminoles defense ranked 64th in 2014, 18th in 2015, 20th in both 2016 and 2017. After leaving Florida State he was hired as Tennessee’s Safeties and Special Teams coach. Now he is currently at Alabama as their current Co-Defensive Coordinator and Safeties coach. I feel with his résumé he would make a pretty decent hire.

#4 Marcus Freeman, Cincinnati Defensive Coordinator/LB

Marcus Freeman, who only at the age of 34, is the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bearcats and he has been their defensive coordinator since 2017. As stated, Freeman is only 34 years of age, but that shouldn’t steer LSU away from trying to poach him from Cincinnati. He played Linebacker at Ohio State and was also a fifth-round selection in the 2009 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. He was cut four times and was forced to retire in May 2010 due to a heart condition. He first got into coaching in 2010 as a graduate assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff. In 2011 he would be hired as the Linebackers coach at Kent State, then would be hired at Purdue in 2013 to be their Linebackers coach then in 2016 was promoted to defensive coordinator. In 2017 he would be hired as the Cincinnati Bearcats defensive coordinator. Since taking over in 2017 the Bearcats have ranked 95th, 12th, 35th, and currently 10th in total defense. As a former linebacker it would help bring another eye to the defensive side and of the football and grit here in Baton Rouge. 

#3 Charlie Strong, Alabama Defensive Analyst

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone how good of a hire this would be or even about Charlie Strong’s great coaching résumé, but here it comes anyways. In my opinion his best work as a defensive coordinator came during his Florida days under head coach Urban Meyer, but going back to his first year at Florida starting in 2003. In 2003 the Gators ranked 55th in total defense with opponents averaging 378 yards per game. Not that great right? Well, let me reel you back in. Fast forward to 2008 where he did his best job as a defensive coordinator, the Gators ranked 8th in total defense and held their opponents to 282 yards per game. Since leaving Florida he has been a head coach at Louisville (2010-2013), Texas (2014-2016), and South Florida (2017-2019). Currently serving as just a defensive analyst for Alabama I think Charlie Strong is ready to lead a defense again. Coaches all over the country have praised Strong over the years. If coach Orgeron wanted to hire a man who gets the most out of his players then Charlie Strong is the right man for the job in Baton Rouge. 

#2 Jim Leonard, Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator

When Dave Aranda left to take the defensive coordinator job at LSU in 2016 Jim Leonard was the defensive backs coach for the Badgers. In 2017 he was promoted to defensive coordinator after Justin Wilcox left to be the head coach at California, Berkeley. In his first year as Wisconsin’s DC the Badgers ranked 2nd overall in the FBS in total defense. During his time at Wisconsin, Coach Leonard has coached some pretty stealthy defenses. Since 2018 his defenses have ranked 24th, 4th, and this season they currently rank 4th as well. Poaching Jim Leonard away from his alma mater would be a pipe dream, but not completely crazy enough he wouldn’t consider. 

#1 Kris Richard, former Seattle Seahawks DC/former Cowboys Pass Game Coordinator/Defense assistant

Kris Richard would be the perfect coach and most ideal defensive coordinator for LSU. I don’t think I have to say much about Kris Richard for you to like him and want him for the job, but here I go anyways. First off, both Ed Orgeron and Kris Richard have worked under Pete Carroll. It wouldn’t be hard for Coach Carroll to make a call to Coach O and recommend Kris Richard because his résumé speaks for itself. What Kris Richard is most known for is his time in Seattle being the mastermind behind the secondary that was called “Legion of Boom”. Before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015, he was the Seahawks defensive backs coach from 2012-2014. His defenses were always ranked in the top of the NFL. In 2015 his defense would rank first in the league in total defense, 2016 would rank 3rdoverall, and 2017 would rank 14th. After being let go by the Seahawks he served as the Pass Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018-2019. If LSU were to hire him I feel not only would the secondary improve greatly, but the defense as a whole. It’s not everyday you can hire a coach who coached a bunch of NFL Hall of Famers, but also won a Super Bowl. Hiring Kris Richard would be an absolutely great move and would make this the best offseason hire in college football in a very long time, and bring the swagger back to Baton Rouge. 

Honorable Mentions:

Rocky Long, New Mexico DC

David Reeves, UAB DC

Glenn Schumann, Georgia Co-DC

Joe Rossi, Minnesota DC/LB coach

Antonio Pierce, Arizona Stae Co-DC

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