LSU made the changes to the way it practices the passing game not in spring practice but in bowl game practices in December, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says.
The Tigers are no longer relegating their walk-throughs to the run game like they used to. They’re walking through the passing game, too, Cameron said.
They’ve shifted their quarterbacks’ focus in practice from zone-read and other QB runs to tossing the ball from the pocket – just like they did in Cameron’s first season in 2013.
In a 20-mninute interview with The Advocate on Friday, Cameron discussed the practice shifts in the passing game, how that group is catching the ball better than the previous two years and how the quarterback competition is moving along.
And what about the pay reduction in his new three-year contract? He talked about that too.
“Pay raises, pay cuts mean zero to me,” he said.
It’s interesting. I sent them a little text I had gotten from somebody. It said, ‘Look in the mirror – there’s your competition.’ That’s how we’re approaching it. I get the outside looking in. At some point in time, two quarterbacks aren’t going to walk out there. I guess they could.
Our focus and my focus as their coach is focused on becoming as good as you can be. We want starter No. 1, starter No. 2, starter No. 3. I’ve been approaching it that way since 1984. I think that’s why we’ve had success of everybody in the system, for the most part – there’s an exception here or there – that they tend to be able, especially once they become juniors and seniors and fifth-year seniors, to play at a high level. Sometimes as freshmen and sophomores, it’s a little bit of a roller coaster ride.
That’s our approach. I want them all to be working together. I love the approach all of those guys are taking. There are other guys in the room, too – Caleb Lewis, Trey LaForge.
Les has talked about how you have changed the way you practice the passing game. What things are different?
I think we went back and looked at what we did with Jarvis, Odell, Zach. Now, Zach was just a pocket passer. It was a little bit easier to practice the passing game when you weren’t working on zone read, out-of-pocket, mobility throws. With Zach, you had no boots and nakeds, basically. No sprint-outs, no zone read. We were able to hone in on a very specific part.
What’s a little bit different now is our guys aren’t 6-5. The pocket passing game is not our strength. Now, we’ve kind of tweaked it. The practice schedules are very similar now to what they are then. We still do some of the zone read stuff. Brandon’s obviously good at it.
You’re always as a coach trying to grow and get better. I’ve been around a little bit. Our sons are being recruited, we have sons in college (playing football). We get a lot of information. Talking all of the time. Talking to Manny (Miles), talking to Danny (Cameron). Talking to coaches. Every day for us is football. Lot of good ideas, and you bring in Jabbar Juluke and you bring in Dameyune Craig. Dave Aranda’s got some good thoughts. Les likes to listen to all of our thoughts.
A lot of changes we made were in the bowl practices. I think that was reflected in the bowl game. I was on SEC Network today (for a pre-taped interview). I said, ‘We’ve really tried to move on from that slump we had and got a lot of things changed and solved in bowl practice.’
Our players, when we were on the road recruiting, if you listen to our players, they say we’ve had the best January and February that we’ve had. We’ve got more leadership now. Brandon’s older. Danny’s older. We were ahead of the game going into spring. We’re just trying to get better every day.
Are the changes only the intense focus on pocket passing and less on the zone read?
Not really. Really, how we structure our meetings. Our walk-throughs changed dramatically. Most of our guys are walk-through experiential learners. Coach (Bob) Knight used to always say, ‘The mind can only endure what the (butt) can tolerate.’ That’s vintage Bob Knight.
Some guys can’t sit on their rear end and learn nearly at the level they can when they’re walking through things. We took our passing game … we like the video component and teaching off of video, but we really started walking and detailing it more going into the bowl game.
Our guys are wired that way. The teacher needs to be able to have multiple ways to teach, but you also have to recognize how your guys learn best, and most of our guys learn best by doing and not sitting in a chair in a meeting room. We shifted everything that direction. We followed through that this spring, a ton of walk-throughs.
Now, players get to watch video on their own because they all have their iPads. They do more of the video on their own. We as coaches do more of the hands-on. We’re getting both done, but we shifted it in the passing. We always detailed the running game tremendously with walk-throughs, but now it’s 50-50 run and pass.
Danny Etling is a workaholic, many say around the program. How has that affected the quarterback room?
Brandon is having the most consistent spring he’s had. We’ve always seen the flashes, but he (was) a freshman and a sophomore. (If a) freshman and sophomore is not flashing then you’d be concerned. Now it’s time to keep maturing, growing. You develop more consistency as you get more experience.
Danny has never been a guy that hasn’t been willing to encourage or work with teammates. There are stories I’m hearing – they don’t tell me this; I hear it from other people – our QBs meeting at somebody’s apartment and going through football and calling each other at night when they have questions.
We’re hearing a lot about WR D.J. Chark for a second straight spring practice. How far has he come?
Very similar to Brandon. Talented, inconsistent early on but now he doesn’t necessarily flash anymore. It’s consistently high level play. He doesn’t have the ups and downs he used to have. He’s just maturing and growing. He’s got great speed and explosion.
That receiving group is really, really, really … I like where they’re headed mentally and like where they’re headed from a toughness perspective. We’re catching the ball the best that we’ve caught it since Jarvis and Odell left. Dameyune’s brought a mental approach, technical approach those guys enjoy, and he’s catching some of those guys at the right time. They’re on fire right now.
Fans and others see that you took a pay cut. Do you see it like that?
Cameron’s 2015 salary was $1.5 million, part of his first three-year contract with LSU that totaled $3.4 million. He signed a new three-year deal paying him $1.2 million in the first year, $1.25 in the second and $1.3 in the third. It’s worth $3.75 million.
I’m in a job where, truthfully, in 34 years I’ve never felt like I worked a day in my life. My dad worked 25 years and never made more than $25,000. I never got into this profession for any other reason for the love of the game and give the game back a lot of what people who impacted my life gave me.
The business side of sports today is just the business side. I think people can compartmentalize that. Pay raises, pay cuts mean zero to me. They’ve never had meaning to me. That is just my way of looking at it. I’ve got a job to do here. I’m excited about the opportunity to do it. It’s a job that, when I started out, I’d do it for free and then I started a family. There are other factors obviously. And now obviously I’ll be paying some pretty high state tax now, it looks like. To me, I’m a half full guy. Basically, I’m going to make a nice contribution back to the state.
That’s the way I look at it and hopefully over people can do the same.
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