LSU football: Joe Brady, Derek Stingley will take center stage at spring game
The LSU spring game on Saturday should have something for just about all observers of the Tigers.
You’re wondering about the offense? Well, the schemes implemented by new passing game coordinator Joe Brady will be on at least limited display.
You’re wondering about the defense? Well, the star of this year’s recruiting class is expected to be cornerback Derek Stingley and he’s an early enrollee who has been opening eyes and turning heads.
You’re wondering about the special teams? Well, Stingley can help there too as coach Ed Orgeron has pegged him as the person most likely to ignite a moribund punt return game that averaged just 5.82 yards per return last year.
Of course there are newcomers who haven’t arrived on campus, veterans sidelined or limited by injury and Brady isn’t going to show off his best stuff in an open scrimmage in April.
Nonetheless, this is the closest thing to a football game that the Tigers have participated in since beating UCF in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day, so there’s a lot of interest in it as the first hint of what might happen in the fall.
The person who has generated the most buzz is someone who doesn’t play and that’s Brady, who worked with Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead when Moorhead was the offensive coordinator at Penn State.
More relevant to locals is the fact that Brady worked with New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and quarterback Drew Brees on one of the perennially most productive offenses in the NFL.
Orgeron called Brady’s hiring as passing game coordinator to assist offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger “a game changer,” but some LSU fans are skeptical about just how much has changed. This alleged game-changing stuff pre-dates Orgeron’s tenure as head coach.
Les Miles brought in Cam Cameron to update the LSU offense and even though Zach Mettenberger threw for more than 3,000 yards in 2013 the Tigers never blended consistent offensive production and championship contention.
One of the first things Orgeron did when he replaced Miles four games into the 2016 season was dump Cameron in favor of Ensminger, who had been tight ends coach. The offensive production improved dramatically but not enough for Orgeron to resist the temptation to hire a “name” coordinator, so he brought in Matt Canada.
That union lasted exactly one season as what Canada ran and what Orgeron envisioned never meshed.
That brought Orgeron back to Ensminger last season and the offense had its moments, but mostly against average and poor defenses. Against Alabama and Florida, not so much.
The offseason retirement of passing game coordinator Jerry Sullivan, who had been elevated from a consultant’s position after Canada’s departure, gave Orgeron another opportunity to take a crack at this game-changer thing.
And thus the arrival of Brady, who has also assumed Sullivan’s duties as wide receivers coach, inheriting the most under-achieving unit from last season.
The highlight of Saturday’s scrimmage figures to come when quarterback Joe Burrow and Brady’s passing game take aim at Stingley.
If Burrow and the receivers get the better of Stingley, it will bring validation for the game changer and gnashing of the teeth about Stingley. If Stingley picks off Burrow or shuts out the receivers to whom he is assigned the reverse will happen.
The same goes for Stingley’s success or lack thereof in the punt return game.
But the beauty of spring games is the good stuff can validate the most optimistic of expectations – and the bad stuff can be written off as being poor predictors of what’s likely to happen in real games that are several months away.