BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ed Orgeron promises to tweak LSU’s football program in his new role as interim coach, particularly on offense, but there is only so much he can do between now and Saturday’s game against Missouri.
“You can expect a new coaching staff, a new style of play on offense,” Orgeron said at his introductory press conference on Monday. “Obviously we don’t have a lot of time to change things, but we are going to tweak things around.”
So what is a reasonable expectation for a reorganized LSU offense with tight ends coach Steve Ensminger -- a former LSU quarterback -- taking over Cam Cameron’s role as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach?
It would probably be a mistake to predict a wide-open, Big 12-style offense from the Tigers, especially with arguably the nation’s top running back, Leonard Fournette, in the LSU backfield. However, Orgeron emphasized that adding some creativity to the Tigers’ run-heavy offense could make a difference.
“We’re going to spread the ball out a little bit, do some different things, change the style of play,” Orgeron said. “There’s a lot of things on offense that we’ve done well running the football. We want to have a different passing game, we want to be more creative, find ways for the quarterback to get the ball down the field throwing it.
“Obviously we know that people load up the box on Leonard and Derrius Guice,” Orgeron continued. “We want to put the ball in our playmakers’ hands. We want to make short, easy throws for the quarterback and move the ball down the field, score points. You’ve got to score points in our business.”
It remains to be seen whether that will look much different than what the Tigers ran under Cameron. It probably won’t. But a massive overhaul is probably not advisable in the middle of a season, anyway.
“I think that’s the biggest thing we can do is execute whatever’s called,” quarterback Danny Etling said. “If you don’t execute it, it doesn’t matter if we have every single person out there as a wide receiver like everyone probably wants. But if you don’t execute it, you’re not going to win games, you’re not going to be successful offensively.”
Etling pointed to consistent problems that halted drives -- penalties, missed assignments, turnovers -- as being the root causes of LSU’s offensive struggles. Only three SEC teams have more lost turnovers than LSU’s seven, and the Tigers have had more penalty yards than their opponent in every game against FBS opposition this season.
Multiple teammates agreed with Etling’s assessment that efficiency will be the Tigers’ offensive goal, not massive structural changes.
“The play’s got to get sent in, people have got to be receptive to the play, they’ve got to match the play up with the defense that’s being run and they actually have to perform it. So in all honesty, I don’t know if you can really overhaul the offense in just one week,” tight end Foster Moreau said. “But I don’t think we’re just going to be taking this offense out and putting this offense in, I just think we’re going to try and run it in a more efficient manner to where we don’t need as much alteration to the plays.”
The bottom line, though, is that LSU’s offensive approach was not working under Cameron. Fournette leads the SEC with an average of 128.7 rushing yards per game, but the Tigers struggled to force opposing defenses to worry about anything else.
They sit last in the SEC in passing offense (147.8 ypg) and second-to-last in the conference in scoring (21 ppg) after Saturday’s 18-13 loss to Auburn.
If Ensminger and Orgeron -- a self-described “pro-style guy” on offense -- are to uncover the secret to making LSU’s attack click that Cameron could not, it will come in developing a more dangerous passing attack.
“If you can pass the ball, plain and simple, they can’t stack the box,” Moreau said. “If you want to have seven in the box, eight in the box, you’re going to leave someone uncovered. It’s just a matter of picking apart the defense and exposing that part.”
Whether it will be Etling or previous starter Brandon Harris delivering those passes, Orgeron wouldn’t say on Monday -- “I don’t know that. It’s my first day,” he cracked -- but whoever it is, LSU needs better results from its quarterback and passing game if the new coaching approach is to make any difference.
“Everyone’s asking me whether I think we’re going to get balls or what the offense is going to be like. I have no clue about any of that,” tight end Colin Jeter said. “It’s different for us to get all this attention because our coach is now the OC, but we’re excited about him getting the job and we’re looking forward to this week.”