Despite a record-breaking night against Missouri in Week 5, setting the school mark for yards (634) in a Southeastern Conference game, LSU’s offensive overhaul is still in the works.
With the overhaul comes new challenges, including who is present on the sideline during games. Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who coached tight ends prior to his promotion, is calling plays in the booth. Ensminger is also joined by the new tight ends coach, Eric Mateos, in the coaches’ box.
That leaves the tight ends without face-to-face contact with their position coach, which isn’t commonplace among the rest of the LSU position groups.
“The biggest thing for us is just trying to get communication and stuff on the field,” said tight end Colin Jeter. “We don’t even have a coach on the sideline right now because Mateos and Ensminger are both upstairs. But we do a great job. We go headset now, and he tells me everything I need to know.”
LSU running back Leonard Fournette will miss another game, interim coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday.
Quarterback Danny Etling is still building a rapport with Ensminger, who is only in his third week of coaching quarterbacks and calling plays.
Though the postponement of the LSU-Florida game may have given Ensminger more time to tinker with the offense, Saturday's game against Southern Miss will be only the second time he's worked with Etling in live action.
“He’s been able to assess what I do well and what I don’t do as well maybe,” Etling said on Ensminger. “He’s going to try to create game plans around me and understanding that. I’m going to understand how he calls plays and why he calls plays and try to get inside his brain a little more.”
Etling completed 19-of-30 pass for 216 yards against Mizzou but misfired on a few deep balls, a recurring theme in recent games. Through four games played this season, Etling is averaging only 6.4 yards per attempt.
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LSU’s top two receivers, Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, are averaging less than 10 yards per catch and neither has a reception of more than 17 yards.
Fellow wide receiver D.J. Chark, who is often targeted down the field because of his speed, believes connecting on some of those big plays will open things up for Dupre and Dural.
“I feel like the coaches are implementing a lot of things to get us down the field,” Chark said. “I feel like if me and Danny could’ve hit a few of those (big plays against Missouri), the game probably could’ve been totally different, just from coaches feeling comfortable calling more play for more people.”
There are three sets of former high school teammates that will be on opposing sidelines on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
LSU running back Derrius Guice, who is expected to start in Fournette’s place, was a teammate of Southern Miss center Cameron Tom at Catholic High in Baton Rouge.
Tigers right guard Josh Boutte played with Golden Eagles linebacker D’Nerius Antoine at Westgate High School in New Iberia. LSU linebacker Devin Voorhies – the only current Tiger from Mississippi – and USM wide receiver Allenzae Staggers were teammates at Wilkinson County High School in Woodville, Mississippi.
LSU’s Tiger Stadium and Southern Mississippi’s M.M. Roberts Stadium are only 170 miles apart, but the Tigers and Golden Eagles have been comparative strangers on the football field.
Saturday’s game will be just the third meeting between the two programs. LSU won 13-0 in 1951, but USM sprung a 20-18 upset in 1994 as Chris Pierce made a 52-yard field goal with two minutes remaining. The loss sewed up the firing of LSU coach Curley Hallman, who came to Baton Rouge from USM four years earlier.
First-year Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson was a graduate assistant at LSU under Hallman in 1994.
LSU special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto coached special teams and outside linebackers at Southern Miss from 1992-93. USM special teams and wide receivers coach John Wozniak was an offensive graduate assistant at LSU in 2005 and returned to the program as an offensive quality control coach in 2007.
LSU is trying to extend its string of 46 straight non-conference wins in Tiger Stadium. LSU’s last home non-conference loss was 13-10 against UAB in 2000. … LSU is 66-15-5 against current members of Conference USA.