First-year LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron and his football team during fall camp. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of LSU Sports Information)
LSU eagerly awaits debut of new offense in 2017
If LSU suffers more bouts of offensive stagnation like those which ultimately sank the previous coaching regime, it won’t be because successor Ed Orgeron didn’t try to change it.
For much of the past decade, LSU and former coach Les Miles took criticism for being too predictable and not embracing more modern, spread-out game plans to better showcase the supremely talented athletes they’d recruited.
So Orgeron, who replaced Miles last season, has radically overhauled the offense by bringing in new coordinator Matt Canada.
“It’s definitely a world of difference from the offense we ran here previously,” said fullback J.D. Moore, a senior leader who’s had to evolve into a hybrid tight end just to retain a prominent role. “It’s a big change and it’s been a lot of fun to learn just a whole different offensive system and be able to be involved in some different types of things.”
Moore made his name with vicious blocks for former LSU star running back Leonard Fournette out the power-I formation. But Moore won’t be doing that type of blocking for running back Derrius Guice, who emerged as a star in the making last season when Fournette was nursing injuries. Guice called the new offensive scheme “the story of LSU” this season, although his perspective is that of a player who thrived in the old system — particularly against Texas A&M late last season, when he rushed for a single-game Tigers record 285 yards.
“I feel like it’s something that we can adapt to, buy into,” Guice said. “I can’t wait to see what it holds for us.”
Then Guice added wryly, “It’ll make me a better team player,” insinuating that the Tigers will try to be more balanced and not hand him the ball as much.
Orgeron stressed that he’s by no means deconstructing everything built by Miles, who won 114 games during 11-plus seasons. But the program has a fresh look. Orgeron is in his first full season in charge, Canada is new, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is in just his second season, and special teams coaching duties have been split among several assistants who are aided by “consultant” Greg McMahon, a former New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator.
“To me, it feels like everything is new,” Orgeron said.
But not unfamiliar.
Orgeron, after all, is a Cajun who’s come home to Louisiana after a coaching career that has taken him around the country.
Here are some key story lines surrounding LSU in 2017:
While LSU has a lot of experience returning to a defense that was among the nation’s best last season, the unit lost some NFL talent. Safety Jamal Adams, cornerback Tre’Davious White, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive lineman Davon Godchaux were drafted — with Adams and White both going in the first round. Young players could fill some voids. Freshman Grant Delpit, for example, is a leading candidate to replace Adams. Another freshman, outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, is expected to play in pass-rushing situations.
Danny Etling, who took over as starter last season, is in line to retain that spot in his senior year and expects to perform better following offseason surgery to relieve back pain.“I was able to make some runs and move around in the pocket and able to transfer some of the weight in my throws” after the operation, Etling explained. “Then you get a little more sleep at night not having to deal with a lot of pain.” Mentally, Etling said, it helps to “have more rest and have more confidence that you can make some throws that might have been tougher last year.” Etling will be pushed by freshman Myles Brennan, whom Orgeron said is a talented enough passer to play this year, but not ready yet. DEFENSIVE KEY:
After setting LSU record with 12 sacks in a season, Arden Key missed spring practice for personal reasons and also is coming off of shoulder surgery. Still, Orgeron said seeing Key back “gives me a lot of confidence, I promise you that. ... He is just an extra ordinary human being. He brings the fire.”
With the recent transfer of former starting guard Maea Teuhema, LSU must replace two starters on the offensive line, likely both guards with former starting guard Will Clapp working at center lately.
CATCHING ON: With receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural turning pro, D.J. Chark, who had a breakout season in 2016, must show he can handle the attention defenses give to a No. 1 receiver. Behind Chark, there’s not much experience. No. 2 receiver Russell Gage was a defensive back until last year.