New LSU OC: 'We have to be more of a fastball team'
It remains to be seen exactly what the LSU offense will look like in 2018, but it probably won’t feature as much shifting or as many jet sweeps as it did in 2017.
Those were signature elements of former offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense, which didn’t seem to satisfy head coach Ed Orgeron. The Tigers and Canada parted ways after one season and, on Thursday, LSU tight ends coach Steve Ensminger was promoted to coordinator.
“I totally trust Steve and he totally trusts me,” Orgeron said.
Orgeron appointed Ensminger, an LSU quarterback in the late 1970s, as interim coordinator to replace Cam Cameron after Orgeron was named interim head coach when Les Miles was fired after a 2-2 start in 2016.
Under Ensminger, LSU averaged 465 yards and 32 points per game and Orgeron and Ensminger co-existed better than Orgeron and Canada did.
But Ensminger was content to return to his position as tight ends coach when Canada was hired away from Pittsburgh to give Orgeron a bigger name.
Now Ensminger inherits an offense losing its top two running backs (Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams), its starting quarterback (Danny Etling), its top two receivers (D.J. Chark and Russell Gage) and three starting offensive linemen (K.J. Malone, Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby).
“I understand this team,” Ensminger said. “I understand the talent we have coming back on this team. I understand what I feel like we have to do to be successful with this team.”
The projected starter at quarterback is Myles Brennan, who saw very limited action as a true freshman last season. The Tigers also have Lowell Narcisse, who redshirted as a true freshman last season, and rising redshirt junior Justin McMillan, both of whom bring a running dimension to complement Brennan’s passing ability.
“We have an excellent, and in my opinion, one of the best pure passers coming out of high football in a while that we signed here at LSU in Myles Brennan,” Orgeron said. “We have to have a short, quick, controlled passing game … throw the ball to the tight end, take shots, throw the ball deep and utilize what he does best.
“We are going to put our players in space, put the ball in their hands and let them make plays like Steve did when he took over last year. We will have quarterback runs. We have two guys that are excellent runners at quarterbacks. We will run from a spread offense with those guys, the quarterback runs.”
Ensminger plans to spread the defense with three or more receivers and still have the strong running game LSU has been known for. He emphasized a desire to run or pass effectively out of any formation, thereby avoiding predictability based on personnel groups.
“You can be in three-wide but you still better be able to be physical and run the football and play-action off it,” Ensminger said. “Every formation we get in, every personnel we get in, I plan on (throwing quickly). I plan on being able to do the (run-pass option). I plan on being able to throw the intermediate pass routes, to throw trick plays and everything else.”
Ensminger raved about the Tigers wide receivers, though they have limited experience. The top returnees are Derrick Dillon (14 catches for 125 yards), Stephen Sullivan (11 catches for 219 yards), Drake Davis (three receptions, 134 yards and two touchdowns) and Dee Anderson (three receptions, 45 yards).
Waiting in the wings is Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles, who sat out last season after catching 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns with the Red Raiders in 2016, and five-star wide receiver Terrace Marshall, who signed with the Tigers in December.
“The strength of our offense right now is our receivers,” Ensminger said. “We have depth at receivers, which we haven’t had in the last couple of years. I think we have to put three or four wide receivers on the field. We have to be more of a fastball team. We have to go no huddle. I still think that there’s reasons to huddle, then get out of the huddle and go fast again.”
Ensminger will have help designing and implementing the passing game after Orgeron announced Thursday that Jerry Sullivan, a long-time NFL and college assistant, will be a senior offensive assistant and passing game coordinator.
Sullivan was LSU’s wide receivers coach from 1984-90 and spent last season as a consultant with the Tigers.