LSU Spring Practice Report #6: Blake Baker Breaks Down the Tigers Defense With Veteran & Young Players Emerging

An entire new defensive coaching staff has emerged from the fold in Baton Rouge led by new play caller Blake Baker. Recently coming in from Missouri as the defensive coordinator there, the former Tulane linebacker and Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator is excited to be back in the state where he has spent a lot of his football life in.

“We are really excited. We really did enjoy our time in Columbia and Coach Drinkwitz was absolutely phenomenal. It made for a tougher decision to be honest with you, but at the end of the day, the opportunity to be close to home and close to family, especially at a place like LSU. This to me has always been a dream job when I first got into coaching. I’ve always dreamed of being the defensive coordinator here and when the opportunity rose, I took everything and thought it was the best decision for my family. Very happy to be back.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on being the defensive coordinator

Despite being a new defensive coordinator at LSU, this is not his first stop in Baton Rouge as he was the linebackers coach back in 2021 where he helped Damone Clark have an All-American season. This time around, he is tasked with helping another star Tiger linebacker in Harold Perkins to get to that All-American status this fall.

“Perk has done a phenomenal job of buying into what we want to do. You can use Harold in a variety of different ways. He is so explosive. He’s got an innate ability to turn the edge. We are going to do what he does best and we are going to utilize his skillset. That is something we use in the scheme and that is finding out what our best players do best. We will use him in a variety of different ways because I think he can do it all. You can bring him off the edge. He can play inside linebacker. We are not going to put him at just one spot and say that this is what you are going to do. There’s not much that he can’t do. We just can’t overload him, but he has done a really good job of learning the defense and learning how to play inside linebacker. We got a lot of big plans for him, but we got to crawl before we walk. We are proud of him and the work that he has done so far.”

“Inside linebacker is an instinctual position and the way you get better at it is by getting reps. The more reps he gets, the more he continues to grow. That is what it is going to come down to just making sure that he maxes his reps and sees different looks and playing off of that. When you go back to 2021 with Damone Clark and people were saying that he couldn’t play inside linebacker. If you simplify if for any kid, they can do what they ask you to do.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on Harold Perkins Jr.

Going back to Louisiana Tech where he helped Jaylon Ferguson to become the NCAA’s all-time sack leader, Baker has always been known for his aggressive defenses that have been productive in getting sacks and TFLs. Pairing his aggressive mentality with highly talented players can be the recipe to solve the Tigers’ defensive problems from last season.

“I think the style of defense that we play helps, but I also think that allowing our kids to be free. There are a lot of opportunities to make plays within the scheme. We want to be a vertical one gap defense and creating havoc in the backfield. Keeping it simple for our guys and trying to make it complicated on the offense. It’s an attitude and a mindset in how we attack every single day. I have been pleased with our guys. They are enjoying it, but they have really taken to it as far as a culture standpoint.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on his style of defense

“At its core, it’s very consistent about how it’s always been. Every year, you have to recreate yourself. As a coordinator, a big part of my job is making sure that we put our guys in the best position based on their skillset. You got to be able to adapt your scheme based on your personnel. At its core, it is still the same of what we want to be. We want long guys that can run and are physical. I don’t think that will ever change.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on his defensive scheme

Baker will certainly have help in getting his message across as new, but familiar names return to LSU in cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond and defensive line coach Bo Davis, but Baker has coached with every defensive coach on the current staff in the past already forming a great bond with his assistants.

“When Coach Kelly and I got together and started talking about names we want to hire, I am blessed because I have worked with every single one of these guys at previous stops. I knew how each guy was individually. I knew what kind of people they are so I know that they would gel very quickly. We have really good staff camaraderie.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on the rest of the defensive staff

Baker is also reuniting with Greg Penn, who he coached as a freshman. As one of the true veteran leaders of the defense, Baker has loved with what he has seen from the Tigers’ starting linebacker and how he has improved since last time that he has been around him.

“Number one is leadership. He has played a lot of football. I always knew that he had that in him, but it’s kind of hard to do that as a freshman. Number two is that he has played a lot of football. He played inside linebacker in high school and I thought he always had good instincts by the time he got here. He has improved as far as backfield recognition and has really improved on how an offense should attack you.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on Greg Penn

Besides figuring out where he is going to line up Harold Perkins Jr., defensive line depth has been another question for the Tigers as today, former offensive lineman Kimo Makane’ole was taking first team reps in practice alongside Jacobian Guillory.

“I think they are getting better everyday. Coach Davis is doing a nice job with them and we got some pieces in there that have played some football plus some new faces and some guys that we have moved from the offensive line. I would say that is a work in progress, but I will say that they are improving daily.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on the defensive line

The biggest headliner today from spring practice on the defensive side of the football is that freshman PJ Woodland is taking first team reps at cornerback. The early enrollee has impressed both Corey Raymond and Blake Baker on how he has approached the spring.

“Competitiveness. PJ Woodland is a competitor. He is feisty and will throw it in there. He is physical and he can run. For a freshman or really as a high school senior, we threw him out there against our top wide receivers and he competes. He has the physical tools and he can run. I have been very impressed with him. It wasn’t easy. The first three days, he was probably thinking what in the world did I do coming in early, but he has been very impressive the last couple of days.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on PJ Woodland

According to Baker, the secondary has been the most improved unit since the first practice on the defense. While Woodland certainly has rocketed up the depth chart, Javien Toviano and Ashton Stamps have been the consistent leaders on the first team with Jyaire Brown, Jeremiah Hughes, and JK Johnson being great fill-ins. At safety, the two veterans Sage Ryan and Major Burns have showed why they have played the most football in the room while Jardin Gilbert, Dashawn McBryde, Ryan Yaites, and Kylin Jackson have shown flashes as well.

“I’ve seen some ups and downs. The one thing is that we have guys that attack the football. We have done a great job in the backend creating turnovers. Sage Ryan sticks out to me. He has made a couple of interceptions this spring. Major Burns has had a really good spring so far. The corners have grown more than any group from practice one to now. Those corners have gotten so much better as a unit. I have been pleased with them and we got to continue to grow. That is going to be the motto through summer workouts, but we have some good depth as well. I have been pleased with that group back there.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on the secondary

The spring portion is wrapping up with the spring game approaching next week, but when asked about his goals for the spring, Blake Baker states that everything is pointed in the right direction.

“The number one goal is to play with energy, passion, and effort. That is something that we talk about in every single meeting. Defensive football, you can make up for a lot of plays with energy, high effort, and tackling. That’s our number one goal and I told our guys after practice that we can’t be result oriented. I am worried about how hard you are playing. The execution will come, but the guys are buying in. We are a work in progress, but we are much further ahead than a week ago. They are headed in the right direction.”

LSU DC Blake Baker on his goals for spring

With the Gridiron Football Elite Camp being this Saturday, there will be no practice report for Saturday’s practice, but the next one will be next Tuesday.

Check out all of our LSU spring practice reports below!