Derrius Guice is excited ... and so are his LSU teammates about versatility in Matt Canada's offense
BATON ROUGE, La. – Since Matt Canada was hired as LSU’s offensive coordinator in December, the Tigers have poured over film, in cut-ups of and full game form, from every stop Canada has made in his coaching career.
LSU junior tight end Foster Moreau has found himself studying the offense, even when he doesn’t intend to.
Being roommates with presumed LSU starting senior quarterback Danny Etling and sophomore quarterback Caleb Lewis, Moreau is used to being quizzed on the offense while playing NBA 2K on his Xbox and even while eating cereal.
“I joke about it, but that’s kind of how you’ve got to be,” Moreau said. “It’s got to be second nature. If you hear something like (Etling and Lewis calling out reads on plays) and you’re doing something or you are eating cereal, you just got to say it.”
Along with an increased workload in the film room and pop quizzes by teammates, Moreau and company have bought into Canada’s system, throwing themselves into mastering its complex schemes and motions.
“It’s a completely different offense,” senior wide receiver Russell Gage said. “(It’s) not anything that any of us are used to, but Canada does a great job of getting everybody excited and getting everybody on board for what’s going to happen. His accolades speak for themselves. He’s a great coach. Everyone is pretty excited to jump right into it. Yeah, it’s different, but we’re going to attack it.”
One major difference between Canada’s offense and the Tigers’ previous system lies its use of players in a multitude of ways.
Like the rest of their tight end and fullback teammates, Moreau and senior fullback J.D. Moore have spent the majority of their careers paving the way for the Tigers’ elite running backs.
Under LSU interim offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger last season, both the fullbacks and the tight ends became a focal point of the offense at times. They combined for 29 catches for 356 yards, averaging 12.3 yards per catch, during Ensminger’s eight-game tenure.
Part of the transition into Canada’s offense for the tight ends and the fullbacks has been learning different positions as they expand their role in the offense beyond blocking.
“You can do anything except for throw the ball,” Foster said. “Honestly, that’s really the only thing I really haven’t seen. I’ve seen them get handoffs, reverses. I’ve seen (Canada) do a lot of different stuff. Obviously, the shuffle pass is something that he does. … You can just do whatever. That’s the cool part of the offense. … I could line up as the half back and wind up as the No. 1 receiver, motion in to the other side in the slot and run a dig.”
During the spring, Canada has created more versatility in the passing game by featuring LSU junior running back Derrius Guice.
Last season, Guice tallied just 9 catches for 106 receiving yards. With his ability to make defenders miss in the open field, Guice can be a menace to defenses as a receiver, a role he throughly embraces.
“I will be at receiver a lot now,” Guice said. “Those linebackers are in for a treat. That’s all I got to say. As far as me running the ball from out of the backfield, it’s not really different. The only difference is me going out to receiver and putting on some moves to linebackers.”
Even offensive linemen might get into the action. Last season, Pittsburg right tackle Brian O’Neill scored a touchdown on a lateral against Georgia Tech.
But trick plays aside, the versatility of the offense depends on every Tiger understanding the offense from every position.
Although learning the schemes from all angles can be daunting, Moore said he embraces the challenge because it means he is more involved in the offense.
Besides producing opportunities for players throughout the offense, Canada’s offense is designed to keep defenses guessing before the snap, making reading coverages much easier for the quarterback.
“When guys are moving around, it makes it easier for an offense because you can see what they’re trying to do,” Etling said. “Those motions and stuff undress a defense and make things a little easier for you to comprehend and attack them.”
Under former head coach Les Miles, the Tigers struggled to make defenses guess, allowing elite opponents to lock onto the run, making LSU one dimensional in crucial games.
No one opponent exploited that lack of imagination more than LSU’s SEC-West rival Alabama.
The Tigers averaged only 91.6 rushing yards per game during their five losses to the Crimson Tide since 2012, averaging 120.4 yards fewer than their season rushing average for the past five seasons.
For Etling, Canada’s shifts and motions give the Tigers’ offense an advantage in keeping an aggressive mentality.
“When everything is so still over there, (the defense) can mess with you,” Etling said. “Sometimes you stop playing offense and start playing defensively. You’ve got to react. (Canada’s motions and pre-snap shifts) helps us attack and act like the actual offense.”