Our long Baylor-National nightmare is apparently over. Nine days after Matt Rhule departed for the greener pastures of the NFL to take over the Carolina Panthers with $60 million guaranteed on the table, the Baylor Bears have agreed to terms with LSU Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to be the 28th head football coach in program history. The Aranda news comes less than 36 hours after Pete Thamel’s report that Baylor was “targeting” VT head coach Justin Fuente for the job and about 5 or 6 hours after Fuente pulled the classic move to make it seem like he turned the job down when he probably wasn’t offered. Those anti-Fuente-ers incensed by Thamel’s initial report can now hand your torches to the pro-McGuire-ists, although I imagine there is substantial overlap between the two camps.
Aranda, 43, has been with LSU for the last 4 seasons (after replacing Kevin Steele, now at Auburn) and was one of the highest-paid coordinators in college football at $2.5 million per year, if not the highest paid. He’s also one of the most well regarded, having orchestrated the #2, #8, #5, and #20 defenses in the country according to SP+ over the last four years (One note—I traded messages with Bill C, now at ESPN, about LSU’s defensive ranking this season. He said that over the last 5 games, LSU was “easily” in the top 5 in defensive SP+, so it would seem that initial struggles could be due to injuries and acclimating to an offense the likes of which they’d never seen before). If you prefer FEI from FootballOutsiders, LSU has been #2, #26 (that was their 8-4 year), #11, and #13.
A two-time Broyles Award nominee (2015 and 2016), Aranda is also considered to be an elite recruiter, although some of that is likely attributable to the fact that he’s been at LSU. His name has been at least mentioned in connection with virtually every major DC opening in the last few years, including Texas A&M as recently as 2018. He’s that good, and you may have seen him on your television on Monday night when his unit held Clemson’s high-powered offense to 25 points, including just 8 in the second half, in the National Championship game.
And now he’s reportedly set to become the Head Coach of your Baylor Bears according to Bruce Feldman on Twitter and SicEm365.com (and now KWTX, DCTF, and, as seen below, Smoaky from ESPN1660), which followed up on earlier reports (that we detailed in a separate post) that Aranda could be the guy. At this point it’s not clear when we’ll get an introductory press conference since it’s already Thursday afternoon, but I would guess that could come together rather quickly since there’s not much else going on in the Ferrell Center right now.
For my money this is an absolutely phenomenal hire for Baylor. It was only a matter of time until someone lured Aranda out of LSU, but even after rumors started to swirl Tuesday night (around the same time as the Fuente furor, actually), I never really thought it would be us until reports started coming out from the national writers this afternoon. The only reason he wasn’t in my stated top two (Fickell and Napier) from the beginning is that I didn’t think we’d have a real shot at him. I should have known better than to underestimate Mack Rhoades.
As mentioned above Aranda brings an elite defensive reputation to Baylor from his time as DC at LSU and Wisconsin, and I would expect that to translate well to our circumstances in the Big 12. The biggest question will obviously be how he builds his offensive staff as a first-time head coach, particularly how much power he gives his chosen OC, whoever that is. Given his experiences at LSU the last few years, where it always seemed like the offense just wasn’t good enough until this year (when it was elite, and they went 15-0 as a result), I would hope that he won't be as conservative offensively as you might otherwise expect from a defensive coach, but we just don’t know. I would have considered former Maryland and LSU OC Matt Canada an option if he hadn’t taken a job with the Steelers as QB coach earlier this very same day (plus his departure from LSU was hardly amicable, although it’s hard to know if the problem there was with Orgeron, Aranda, or some combination of both).
With the January dead period ending tonight at midnight (meaning coaches can be on the road to visit recruits in-person Friday morning), it was absolutely critical for Baylor to get a hire in place now. We have something between 5-8 spots left to fill in this case, maybe as many as 10 now, and several spots of critical need. Aranda will need to hit the ground running, and it will be interesting to see whether he retains any of the existing staff (Joey McGuire and/or Evan Cooper perhaps?) to help him do that and who he brings over/in from outside immediately.
I’ll update this post as more information becomes available. For now let’s just end with Welcome to Baylor, Coach Aranda!
UPDATE: David Smoak has confirmed that Baylor and Aranda have agreed to terms, and Aranda WILL be the next head coach of Baylor Football.
I have confirmed the @BruceFeldmanCFB report that Dave Aranda will be the next head football coach at #Baylor. He has agreed to terms and Baylor and Aranda and agent are now working on signing Memorandum of Understanding. #CFB— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) January 16, 2020
This is a huge day, Baylor fans. #SicEm
UPDATE #2: Matt Mosley says that Aranda will target LSU safeties coach Bill Busch as DC and Utah OC (and former Wisconsin assistant, hence the connection with Aranda) Andy Ludwig to come to Waco.