By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
Mack Rhoades, Baylor Vice President and Director of Athletics, took a page out of his former coach’s playbook and chose LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to be Baylor’s new head football coach.
Rhoades and university president Dr. Linda Livingstone, introduced Aranda to the Baylor community in a press conference Monday morning at McLane Stadium’s Baylor Club.
Aranda comes to Waco on the heels of building a national champion defense with the Tigers, but the opportunities to lead were cut short by his position. They were also hindered by working at a public school, so he couldn’t let his faith shine through all the time.
“To have the opportunity to coach with your Christian faith out front was a big pull,” Aranda said. “Unfortunately, most schools, that’s not looked upon as something to be. At Baylor, I can coach being myself. And I can coach from the heart alongside kids who have their hearts wide open.”
His identity as a coach isn’t just faith-driven. President Linda Livingstone acknowledged his reputation “as cerebral, a philosopher, a student, a ninja.” Aranda’s defenses have ranked in the top 30 in yards per play allowed for the past seven years, and he said there are certain ideas behind that success.
“I have always wanted to be part of a program that was smart, tough and dependable,” Aranda said. “And to be around people that believe in those same values, that are built in those values, you can go anywhere you want to go.”
Aranda will be the fourth head coach in the past six years for Baylor, and that can take a toll on the student-athletes that have come through this program. Junior quarterback Charlie Brewer said the players understand that opportunities come along, and they should look to the future rather than dwelling on past success.
“College football is a business at the end of the day and Coach Rhule got an awesome opportunity,” Brewer said. “And usually, you know, when the head coach leaves a lot of the other pieces kind of fall apart, new guys come in. But I think we have an awesome staff, from the strength staff to our coaching staff. I think everything’s going to be great.”
The coach has his work cut out for him on the defensive side of the ball. With only two starters returning, there is a lack of experience that most coaches lean on. Aranda did say, though, that with the recruiting classes in the wings and the depth that was already on the team, the defense “will be a strength this year.” Sophomore linebacker Terrell Bernard also said the defense can handle anything thrown at them after mastering Snow’s scheme.
“It’s really exciting for a defensive guy,” Bernard said. “You know he’s put a lot of linebackers in the NFL. He’s a great defensive coach. Everybody I’ve talked to said he’s a really smart guy, really cerebral. So, being able to learn from Coach Snow, Coach Siravo and transitioning to Coach Aranda is going to be special.”
And Aranda said that the opinion of the players matters to him. He wants to be a players’ coach and motivate them because they are the driving force behind a team’s success.
“I think of players first,” Aranda said. “This is a player’s game. Players play this game. Players win games.”