Danny Etling's back injury was painful enough that he could've sat out spring practice, offensive coordinator Matt Canada said.
Instead, Etling, the senior and projected starter, insisted on practicing so he could learn Canada's new scheme.
"He certainly showed he’s tough," Canada said. "He easily could have begged out, easily could have said, ‘I can’t go.’ Probably wouldn’t have had some things look quite as good or bad as they did before.
"A lot of credit to him for his toughness. He wanted to learn the offense. (He) certainly believed, ‘Hey, if I do this, I’m going to learn the offense fast, better (than) if I sit there and tap out and don’t do it.’ Really proud of him for that."
Canada spoke to reporters Monday ahead of a Tiger Tour event at Lod Cook Alumni Center, discussing his quarterback competition, spring practice, offensive installation and summer work.
The topic of the offseason so far has been the back surgery Etling underwent two days after the spring game, a procedure coach Ed Orgeron called "minor."
After the surgery, Etling "felt much, much better right away, even before he should have," Canada said. The coach declined to discuss Etling's timetable to return, aside from saying that the QB will be at "100 percent full strength by the time we get to camp. And that’s all we’re worried about."
Canada talked about much more, including the other quarterbacks in the mix with Etling, how no day of practice is ever good enough for the demanding coach and how each quarterback had highs and lows based on what plays coaches installed on a given day.
He explained some of the spring game issues, touched on a "second spring" coming for LSU's offensive players this summer and revealed the unit's leaders: Etling, tight end Foster Moreau, tackle K.J. Malone, running back Derrius Guice and receiver D.J. Chark.
How did you coach the quarterbacks during spring? Hard on them in the beginning and maybe dialed it back in the end?
I think I’m dialed back all of the time. I don’t think I’m very hard any time. Obviously there’s a point of getting to know each other. I do believe that. I don’t think I was hard on them.
There’s a standard of excellence at LSU. There’s an expectation of what we want in our entire program in all facets of our program. I don’t think there’s any difference in the quarterbacks. It was a great spring. We had a tremendous spring. I was really happy with the way it went. Got a long way to go.
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Did the quarterbacks live up to your expectations?
Our expectations are really high. Some days one guy did and one guy didn’t. I think the day you decide it’s OK, (the) day you decide that this was good enough, is the day you’re not getting any better. To me, it was never good enough.
They did everything we could have wanted, worked extremely hard, bought into the system. Each guy in our room has a different skill set; they’re better at certain things than others. Obviously, how we coached them early — each day it got a little bit better and a little bit different because we had different guys doing things they like better than others.
We were putting in QB-run stuff one day, and that was great. The other stuff was better with a guy that’s more of a dropback guy. Each guy had a better day sometimes based on the offensive plays we were putting in at the time.
Fans shouldn’t judge from what they saw in the spring game? You guys were pretty vanilla, right?
We had four scoring drives. Game was about 2½ quarters. We actually scored 20 points with our ones against a great defense. We didn’t run up and down the field maybe like we had thought we could. We missed some plays. Again, I’m disappointed every time we don’t score.
What everyone thinks matters. We want to represent LSU in a class way, want everybody to be proud of who we are. We had as good of a spring as I’ve ever been around — the way our kids acted, way we installed the offense, the way we were productive in certain aspects of the game, from red zone to third down, I was thrilled with that. As a staff, we were thrilled. Our players couldn’t have done more. Our coaches couldn’t have done more. We had four coaches on offense that I’d never met until I got here.
You look at what we did by getting it all installed, being efficient, I was thrilled. We were thrilled as a staff. (In the) Spring game, we went inside (to the indoor facility) and did some things y’all didn’t get to see. Too bad the weather came. Everybody got to see a little bit. We’re getting ready for BYU.
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When evaluating the quarterbacks’ performance during the spring, how do you take in account Danny Etling playing injured?
He certainly showed he’s tough. Had the procedure that there that Monday (after the spring game). He felt much, much better right away, even before he should have. The fact he wanted to do it ... he easily could have begged out, easily could have said, ‘I can’t go.’ Probably wouldn’t have had some things look quite as good or bad as they did before.
A lot of credit to him for his toughness. He wanted to learn the offense. (He) certainly believed, ‘Hey, if I do this, I’m going to learn the offense fast, better (than) if I sit there and tap out and don’t do it.’ Really proud of him for that.
Enjoyed coaching him. Enjoyed coaching them all up. Not going to pick a favorite right now.
Where is he in returning to throwing?
The medical guys will take care of that. We know he’ll be 100 percent full strength by the time we get to camp. And that’s all we’re worried about.
Ed Orgeron has mentioned ‘football school’ during the summer. Tell us what that is, and how you’ll use summer to advance installing your offense.
When you look at the rules. We’re allowed to talk football (two) hours a week (with players). We can continue to work through that. For a team that just put an offense in, the summer is huge. We need the summer to almost have a second spring. We have those eight weeks we’re allowed to work with them. They’re going to work hard.
Summer’s always about the players. Everything is about the players, but the summer is about the leadership of your team taking your team over and saying, ‘This is who we’re going to get be.’ The identity of your football team is determined by your leadership.
We’ve got great leaders. Look at the guys on offense right now. D.J. Chark couldn’t be a better guy, the way he worked. (Derrius) Guice — when he crosses the line, he works. Danny (Etling) works. Foster (Moreau) at tight end works. K.J. (Malone) is leading those guys. We have the right guys, the players who have the right makeup to make us have a really good summer.
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How important is it to have the offense installed by the fall?
Every day you get better at it, no matter what job you have. If you do it once, you ought to be better the next time. Every day they run a play, every day they hear the terminology, they’re going to get better and better.
It’s really important, but it’s going to keep going. We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but we are farther along this spring than probably anybody could have hoped we would be.
Can you put a percentage on how much of the offense you installed in spring?
It’s going to depend on our players. What our players ... can handle, what they do well. We’re going to do enough hopefully to score enough points to win.
What did you see from Myles Brennan on tape, and what kind of opportunity does he have here?
On film, he’s a very accurate quarterback. You like that about him. He’s a smart quarterback. He’s a winner. He has the same opportunity everybody else has. He’s going to come in and compete. If you go out there in practice and ... at our position, you cannot put us in a bad place. Our offense is based on getting zero or more yards every play, not having negative plays.
We really don’t want to have any third downs at all, but if it’s third-and-1, third-and-2, we like those. Third-and-12, third-and-13, that’s not a good situation, not good odds. Whoever is playing quarterback has to come in and manage the game. When there’s an opportunity to make a play, you’ve got to be able to make it, but you can’t give them anything.
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What about the other quarterbacks?
I thought Justin (McMillan) did a great job. He went in there in the spring game (inside and) y’all didn’t get to see, and went with the ones a little bit, had two good scoring drives. He got better every day. He’s got a skill set where he can move, very strong arm. Certain days was very, very accurate.
Lindsey (Scott) is a smart player, has to do what he can. He can move around. He’s a dynamic guy. Those guys all had moments that were good, moment that were down.
(Lowell) Narcisse hasn’t played. ... You guys know better than I. Had two knee surgeries. Just the fact that he was out there was great. The job he did was tremendous. He got better. This summer, who knows how far we’re going to jump? Who knows how it’s going to change?
How good is it to have a backup running back behind Derrius Guice?
It’s important. I thought those guys did a great job — Nick (Brossette), Darrel (Williams), Lanard (Fournette). All those guys came in and really had moments when they played very well. You’ve got to have more than one of everything. Competition is the greatest thing in the world. You have to compete. It makes you better. If you’re the only guy, it doesn’t.
To your question about that guy, Guice works. He is a guy. Excited to be around him, love coaching him. Talk about him and Chark, two guys everybody talks about: For them to work the way they work, for them to lead the way they lead. ... I was very, very excited about that. Very fortunate to be a part of it. I’m excited to watch them play like y'all are.