LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron “could have done a better job” with the quarterbacks this season, and the Tigers’ offensive philosophy will continue to be a mesh of traditional and zone-read schemes, Cameron said earlier this week.
Cameron, in speaking to the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club on Monday, suggested that he might have overloaded LSU’s two young quarterbacks, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris, early in the season.
“We had young guys. They were different than a fifth-year guy like Zach Mettenberger,” Cameron said. “Having a Drew Brees in the National Football League, or Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers. I’m evaluating how I’m teaching and try to streamline some things to help Anthony play better, help develop Brandon Harris. I think both of our guys are going to be really productive quarterbacks, but I’ve got to do a better job.”
No. 22 LSU (8-4) enters its next game, the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 against Notre Dame (7-5), with instability at quarterback and inconsistency in its passing game.
In Cameron’s second regular season leading the Tigers offense, LSU’s passing unit finished ranked 116th of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Jennings’ completion percentage of 48.8 would be the worst for an LSU starting quarterback since 2002.
The Tigers failed to throw for at least 200 yards in their past seven games. That’s the longest stretch under 10th-year coach Les Miles.
During a question-and-answer segment in New Orleans, Cameron took blame for the quarterback and passing woes while speaking about the future of the program’s offensive philosophy and how the Tigers’ identity changed throughout the 2014 season.
LSU changed its offensive identity “after a loss early on,” Cameron said, and began to use freshman running back Leonard Fournette more in an effort to try to establish more of a running identity.
The run-heavy attack worked — the Tigers won three straight Southeastern Conference games midway through the year — but the philosophy eventually “caught us,” Cameron said. LSU lost 17-0 at Arkansas on Nov. 15, as the Razorbacks stuffed them for 36 rushing yards, the lowest against an SEC team since 2009.
LSU changed its offense again entering the regular-season finale against Texas A&M, a 23-17 victory. The Tigers used more zone-read keepers for Jennings and a handful of jet sweeps for receiver Travin Duralm who had 49 yards on those runs. Jennings ran for 112 yards on nine zone-read keepers.
The offense seemed different than the one LSU showed in the first 11 games. So which one will it be?
“We’re going to be both: underneath the center and in the shotgun. You saw that more in the A&M game. Are we going to be a huge zone read team? I don’t know, but the threat of the zone read helps you in so many ways,” Cameron said. “It’s a little bit of a balancing act for us because we do believe in some traditional things, and a guy like Leonard (Fournette) benefits from those traditional thoughts where we can put him 7-8 yards behind the quarterback and let him run down hill on people. We’re going to continue to do that. Mesh those two things together.”
LSU meshes its play-calling as well. It’s a collaborative effort, Cameron said.
In fact, Miles — not Cameron — called the touchdown pass from Jennings to tight end Logan Stokes that won LSU the game against then-No. 3 Ole Miss earlier this season, Cameron said.
“That’s Les Miles’ call. Les made a great call. He phrased it as a suggestion, but it was a great thought,” Cameron said. “Great head coaches understand how to work with a play-calling coordinator throughout the course of the game.”
Cameron, in the press box during games, specifically mentioned Miles and running backs coach Frank Wilson when speaking about play-calling. He called Wilson his “mouthpiece” on the sideline.
“I can hear two or three guys and I’ve got to filter in my brain, ‘What do I feel like is the best call?’ Or I get a suggestion from Frank,” Cameron said. “Yeah that’s a great call, but I wouldn’t call it now. But I set up his call. You’ve got to know how to set up a guy’s suggestion or sometimes you really don’t have a great call. ‘Hey fellas, give me some help here. Anybody got a good thought? That’s the one I need. Bang!’ And now you’re back rolling.”