SPRING STORYLINE: Kevin Steele's new scheme?

TSD continues its preview of LSU spring football, highlighting a different storyline each day this week. Today we focus on Kevin Steele and try to project what schematic changes he'll bring to LSU's defense

LSU Football begins spring practice this weekend, with the Tigers returning to the field on March 7.

We’ve been previewing LSU from several different angles leading up to that date. We’ve counted down the Top 10 players currently on the roster, and you can catch up with today’s post at No. 5, featuring veteran offensive lineman Vadal Alexander.

Each day this week, we’re going to present a different story line facing LSU this spring, and we’ll do our best to try and provide answers.

Today, we’ll take a look at new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and examine what schematic changes he may bring to the LSU defense.


What will Kevin Steele’s defense look like at LSU? That’s been a heavily discussed topic since he accepted the Tigers’ defensive coordinator position, and we’ve received several different answers in the months since.

His defense at past stops has been described as a “4-3 under front.” The word “multiple” was thrown around often when we talked to current LSU defenders earlier this year, giving the impression that Steele also wants to bring some 3-4 looks. Having talked to some recruits as well, Steele has told them that he wants to operate out of both the 4-3 and 3-4, bringing us back to the “multiple” idea.

First, let’s go back to the “4-3 under front.” SBNation’s AndTheValleyShook.com did a good job of explaining what exactly that means from a schematic standpoint. Generally speaking, the strong-side defensive end will line up over the right tackle, and the SAM linebacker stands over the tight end. The weak-side defensive end will line up on the left tackle’s outside shoulder, and can move out wider in pass-rushing situations to give it more of a 3-4 feel.

Many expect Steele eventually wants to go to a true 3-4 eventually, but that’s not likely to happen in 2015. LSU has the personnel for a 4-3 after years of recruiting specifically to that scheme. It will take at least one full recruiting class for Steele to start steering the ship in that direction, but he does have some versatile guys on this year’s team to dip his toe in the 3-4 pool. It’ll be interesting to see this spring what players end up in new positions with different roles compared to LSU’s defenses in the past.

Travonte Valentine seems a good fit to take over as a nose tackle. Athletic DTs like Davon Godchaux and Frank Herron could reasonably move out to defensive end in a 3-4 look. Sione Teuhema could stand up and be a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and someone like Devin Voorhies could potentially drop down from safety and bulk up to play linebacker.

One knock on Steele in the past is that his scheme has been too complicated. Most consider that the biggest reason he was fired at Clemson, with it becoming clear that his defensive players were playing slower as a result of confusion with their responsibilities. This spring will likely be heavy on installation, and how quickly the LSU players grasp the changes could determine how successful that unit is in Steele’s first year.

There will be something that carries over from the Chavis regime to Steele’s. According to several people I’ve spoken to, Steele does plan to keep the Mustang package in LSU’s defense. That’s the look LSU has used often in recent years, particularly in third-down passing situations. It features three down linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs, with at least one of those DBs involved in the pass rush. It caters to LSU’s strength and speed in the secondary, and it’s wise on Steele’s part to keep that in the playbook.

We don’t see a ton from a schematic standpoint in the small window open to the media during spring practices. But there are instances the entire defense comes together — or at the least the front seven — and we’ll be keeping a close eye to see how the Tigers line up and what changes Steele has brought.

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