<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Despite talented individuals, the 2011 USU defense wasn’t the most consistent unit, as the Aggies gave up 366.23 yards per game (50th in the nation) and allowed nearly 28 points per game (68th in the nation).
However, where the Aggies really struggled, was in the turnover department. On the season as a whole, the USU defense caused only 15 combined turnovers (11 fumbles, 4 interceptions), which was one of the worst totals in FBS and good enough for No. 105 in the country.
USU head coach Gary Andersen, who is a defensive minded coach, started the season as his own defensive coordinator, but started to relinquish those duties as the season wore on. Now in 2012, Andersen has brought in a new mind, Dave Aranda, to help improve the Aggie defense.
Aranda comes to the Aggies from former WAC foe Hawaii, and though the Warriors aren’t typically known as a defensive juggernaut, Aranda certainly helped Hawaii while he was there. In 2010, Aranda’s first year as the defensive coordinator, the Warriors led the nation in turnovers caused with 38 (23 interceptions, 9 fumbles) – something he plans on bringing to USU.
“What we want to be able to do on defense is create a defense that gets the ball out … the more that we can do that, the more we’ll get the ball back to our offense and I think the better off we’re going to be,” Aranda said. “The defenses that I’ve been associated with have gotten takeaways, and that’s our goal here, so we’re trying to get that ingrained. It’s really a mindset, it’s a want-to by the players.”
The Aranda led defense certainly made an impression in the first scrimmage of fall camp. The Aggie D forced five turnovers – all interceptions – and recorded nine sacks during the roughly 100 play scrimmage. If USU’s offense is even remotely as productive as last season, and the defense shows that improvement in games, opponents could be in for a long season.
“That’s been a huge emphasis especially since coach Aranda came in,” redshirt freshman linebacker Kyler Fackrell said of the turnovers after the scrimmage. “They’ve showed us a lot of tape of professionals and taught us a lot of techniques and we work on it every single day. It’s paying off.”
Aranda said it’s simply in his nature to be aggressive, and that translates to his job as a football coach and how he calls the plays.
“I want to be aggressive and I want the players to play aggressive, so the scheme has to be flexible enough to where you can do what you do and have the adjustments built in,” Aranda said. “It’s a system where we are trying to get our guys to play fast, play free, and attack.”
Off the field, Aranda is simply trying to adjust to life back on the mainland after four years in Hawaii with his family. He and his wife Dione have three children – all seven or younger – and have settled into Hyde Park since arriving in the valley.
“We bought ourselves a house over there, and it’s a great neighborhood and we got to know all of our neighbors,” Aranda said. “I’m picking weeds, barbecuing stuff, and trying to fit in. It’s been a good setup, my kids love it, my wife loves it, and so far so good.”