Miles not ready to shuffle offense

BATON ROUGE, La. -- As its beleaguered offense has looked for answers to injury and ineffective play this season, LSU has found itself shuffling players around.

The Tigers have started three running backs at least one game this season. Because of injury, three players have started at least one game at left tackle and two at right tackle. Alex Hurst has started at both right tackle and left tackle and Josh Dworaczyk has spent time at guard and tackle.

But even with a recent trend to struggle offensively against SEC opponents, including an anemic 200-yard offensive performance in last week's 14-6 loss to Florida, there are two shuffles LSU coach Les Miles isn't considering: his offensive coaching staff and the Tigers' offensive approach.

Asked if he would consider any changes in game-day responsibility for his offensive staff heading into this week's game against No. 3 South Carolina, Miles said, "We're all doing the things we've been doing for the last number of years and there's no reason to change responsibilities in my mind."

That's not exactly the case. Offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa was promoted from offensive line coach after then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in August 2011. Kragthorpe is now quarterbacks coach and coaches from the field while Studrawa calls plays in the press box.

Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is available to deal with the linemen on the sideline during games.

In recent games against SEC opponents, the approach hasn't worked well. While the issues were often masked by a forgiving early schedule in which the Tigers piled up points in wins over North Texas, Idaho and Washington, LSU has managed 18 points and one touchdown in two SEC games this season.

Dating to last season's 21-0 loss to Alabama in last season's BCS championship game, the Tigers have 18 points, one touchdown and 643 yards in their last three games against SEC opponents.

"In our view," Miles said, "we have to run it and throw it better."

And maybe call plays better.

Miles second-guessed some play calls against Florida, specifically two passes called after LSU had first-and-goal at the Florida 7 shortly before halftime. On a second-and-goal, roll-out, play-action pass designed for fullback Connor Neighbors, the play was covered and quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw it away. On third down, the Tigers tried a gadget play, pitching it to little-used running back Terrance Magee on a play that was designed for him to throw a jump pass.

But the receiver was again covered and Magee plunged into the line as LSU settled for the field goal and a 6-0 halftime lead.

Miles didn't throw Studrawa under the bus, saying the goal-line plays, while not necessarily by his design, were discussed and agreed upon by Miles before the game.

"I wish we had dialed up some different plays just before half when we got the ball down on the 7-yard line," Miles said. "Certainly I think we could have picked some better things."

Specifically, he said if he had it to do over again, he'd run it.

That is classic Miles. To him, the staff doesn't need adjusting and the play-calling only needs tweaking when it strays from the tried and true.

"I'm not going to say we're not going to be a really good football team in the near future," Miles said. "It's just that we need to do the things that we can do and extremely well.

"We need to execute them at a high level and make our opponents deal with it."

Is Studrawa better for the Tigers at this point in the press box, the traditional spot for primary play-callers, or would he do more for the team in its current circumstance on the sideline, hands-on with an increasingly young offensive line?

Right guard Josh Willford left the Florida game with an apparent head injury and might not be able to play. LSU could start two freshmen, Vadal Alexander at right tackle and Trai Turner at guard. LSU has already given up 15 sacks this season and is headed for its toughest test yet this week against South Carolina, which leads the SEC and is fourth in the nation with 25 sacks. That's the most for a team in a BCS automatic-qualifier conference.

Miles said there are tweaks that can be made throughout the offense that won't require any changes in coaching structure. The obvious one involves players.

"We are playing young players," Miles said, adding, "That is no excuse."

He suggested the offense needs to focus on certain players who haven't had enough touches, singling out running back Spencer Ware, who he called "a pretty dangerous weapon and someone we have to use more frequently." He shot down the idea of looking at a different quarterback, saying Zach Mettenberger "gives us a great advantage."