He's not Lane Kiffin, but LSU fans will be happy with new OC Matt Canada
BATON ROUGE, La. — Here was one of the most attractive things about the thought of Lane Kiffin as LSU’s offensive coordinator.
While at Alabama, he turned the Tide offense from a conventional, pro-style one to a spread, pretty much on a drop of a hat. All it took was inserting Jalen Hurts for Blake Barnett in the season’s third series, and just like that, Bama was a spread team for the foreseeable future.
It’s too bad for LSU it won’t get that kind of versatility. … Or maybe they did.
Matt Canada, who will be introduced as LSU’s new offensive coordinator, has a similar story to tell.
It wasn’t so dramatic, but it’s still a story of a guy who can coach.
In 2011, he guided Northern Illinois’ spread offense that was the scourge of MAC defenses behind a quarterback in Chandler Harnish who threw for 3,216 yards and rushed for 1,379 more, the quintessential spread stat line. A year later, he was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, leading a pro-style offense where running back Montee Ball rushed for 1,830 yards and his backup at running back, James White, added 806 yards.
He went from spread-them-out-and-pick-them-apart to line-up-and-run-them-over in about a year.
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Hey, it’s not as dramatic as going from conventional to spread in a heartbeat, but it brings up the point to pound home about LSU’s new offensive coordinator: Yes, he’s the spread guru Ed Orgeron was looking for, but he’s also so much more than that.
Canada can coach offense, whether it’s spread or conventional (it should be noted that these days, the spread is conventional) so LSU should be fine to go whatever direction the talent takes it.
This year, he has guided a Pitt offense that averaged 42.3 points per game, a school record.
The Panthers did it while being neither purely a spread team nor conventional. Quarterback Nathan Peterman, who threw for 2,602 yards and rushed for 282 more, has lined up under center and in the spread. The Panthers ran conventional plays out of one-back sets, featuring 1,000-yard rusher James Conner (above), and they ran misdirection runs out of the spread.
Call it what you want, just call it pretty good.
And while he’s never coached in the SEC — his career has brought the Indiana graduate to stops at his alma mater (twice), Northern Illinois (twice), Wisconsin, N.C. State and Butler — he does have an accomplishment SEC fans will appreciate.
He turned Jacoby Brissett, a guy who couldn’t beat out Jeff Driskel at Florida, into a first-rate spread quarterback at N.C. State. Brissett passed for 5,268 yards and rushed for 902 yards in two years as the Wolfpacks’ starter before Brissett moved on to the NFL.
If the versatility thing doesn’t grab you, LSU fans, that should. Because, you know, if there’s one thing LSU fans have been screaming for, it’s a guy who can coach quarterbacks.
There’s the big numbers Harnish put up. There’s Brissett. And Peterman improved his passing yards and his touchdowns while throwing fewer interceptions than the year before with Canada mentoring him.
So there is plenty on the Canada résumé to like, including being a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach this year.
But these are the takeaways that should matter to LSU fans:
- He has a good history developing quarterbacks.
- He’s versatile.
- Did I mention he develops quarterbacks?
- He’s run good offenses in three FBS conferences.
- And yeah, he develops quarterbacks.
So be happy, LSU fans.
And give him directions to Lowell Narcisse’s house, ASAP.