Matt Canada isn’t running the toss dive any time soon.
He’s not lining up in the I-formation or building his passing game around just one of two receivers, either.
His offense isn’t about one person or two or three. It’s about 10 or 15, he suggests.
LSU’s first-year offensive coordinator wants everybody involved, and he means it — from the left tackle running an end-around (K.J. Malone) to a converted cornerback (Russell Gage), who has caught five career passes, potentially leading the receivers.
That fullback LSU used little over the past two years (David Ducre) is now surging at the newly created H-back position, running routes and taking handoffs. Those tight ends (Foster Moreau, Jamal Pettigrew and Jacory Washington), known for mostly blocking, are being used down the field in the passing game.
No, this is not your grandfather’s offense. It’s not the one, Canada suggests, you’ve seen at Tiger Stadium over the past decade, either.
“I think our guys like it because it gives them all a chance to play,” Canada said Monday during a rare news conference. “It’s not like we line up and the only guy who gets the ball is the tailback, and we’re going to throw it to this one receiver.”
The media think LSU is a top-15 team, too.
Canada wasn’t necessarily directly referencing the Tigers’ previous scheme — the pro-style, run-heavy offense that has left this program in the cellar in passing for so long, the one that chased the last coach out and that’s, arguably, at fault for this school’s five-year championship drought.
But, boy, it sure sounded like it. LSU’s former offense was described by even some in coaching circles as predictable, archaic and too reliant one just one or two players.
Canada’s scheme is almost described as the opposite — by players, by himself and by his counterpart.
“He’s got a great mind to him,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. “I think he understands defenses and how they’re built. He attacks that, you know? It’s a smart way to go about it. People are going to have to adjust to play him. I don’t think you can just come out with what you got because he’s going to outnumber you and out-leverage you. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
The coordinators held a joint news conference after LSU’s practice Monday, spending a combined 45 minutes in front of more than 50 media members fielding questions about preparations ahead of the 2017 season.
Canada, of course, is the more unknown of the two, hired in December to overhaul LSU’s offense, the guy who’s paid $1.5 million a year to improve a unit that’s struggled so much over the past three years.
He broached a great many topics and even cracked some jokes, an Indiana native holding court in the deep south, less than two weeks before he calls what may be the most pressure-packed game of his career. LSU, ranked No. 13 in the AP preseason poll, and BYU tangle Sept. 2 in Houston.
How will he prepare for such a momentous occasion?
“We’ve got a dartboard up there, and I throw at it,” he joked. “Whatever it (hits), is what comes out.”
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No, but really, Canada dived into his play-calling method and how he, midgame, combats the defense’s approach.
“I try my best to be creative, try my best to take what the defense (give us). If we have something we’re trying to do, the defense can decide how they want to stop you. We’re going to try to adjust and adapt,” he said. “Sometimes, you do a good job of that. Sometimes you don’t.
“We know what (the opponent) did before they played us. We have a plan. They’re going to change, and we have to adapt to that. That’s where having multiple guys who can make plays and multiple guys you can get the ball to in different ways gives us an advantage.”
Playmakers, Canada says, that’s what he needs. Not just one, two, three or four. He plans on spreading it around.
Just ask Aranda. He sees it every day in practice.
"You look at some of the people we’re playing (this season)," Aranda said. "And after playing Matt, you’re like ‘Oh, that’s all they do?’"
The defensive guru uses football lingo to get this message across: Canada’s offense is an unpredictable, variable scheme.
“The teams we’re going to play early don’t do the multitude of stuff Matt does,” Aranda said. “With Matt, you may get six runs out of an unbalanced formation, five runs out of a tackle-over formation, three new empty (backfield) plays. Just such a multitude of things.”
To listen to Ed Orgeron, it’s not difficult to envision a vault deep in the recesses of the …
Canada's system has "contorted" Aranda's defense during spring and camp, he admits. It's had his unit back peddling at times.
The core of his offense has been installed, Canada said, and, no, he’s not divulging whom coaches have chosen or will choose as the starting quarterback. That’s a “Coach O question,” he said referring to coach Ed Orgeron.
Many expect Orgeron to announce, potentially at a scheduled news conference Tuesday, that fifth-year senior Danny Etling will be LSU’s starter.
What LSU isn’t revealing: its offensive identity, exactly what it will specialize in. Canada’s offenses have varied through his many coordinator stops: a QB-run spread at Northern Illinois (2011); the power run system at Wisconsin (2012); the pass-leaning spread at N.C. State with QB Jacoby Brissett (2013-15); and a power-run, spread mixture at Pittsburgh last year.
What’s in store here?
“I’m probably not going to give it to you before we play a game. We’re where we want to be,” he said. “I feel like our identity is coming along. We’re excited to reveal that here in a couple of weeks.”
A mystery, it remains.
What is certain: Canada will spread it around, using an assortment of players in a variety of ways. Some of these guys have little to no production during their LSU career, too.
One of his “favorite” players, for instance, is backup running back Darrel Williams, he said. Gage and Derrick Dillon — they have a combined five career catches — have surged past more physically intimidating receivers, locking up starting spots with D.J. Chark.
“Those three guys have done a great job of moving around and being a big part of what we do,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ducre, former fullback J.D. Moore and tight ends like Moreau, Pettigrew and Washington are specializing in something other than blocking. Some O-linemen like Malone and Toby Weathersby could even see touches in Canada’s patented tackle end-arounds or throwback passes.
It’s all an effort to just get everyone involved.
“Trying to teach them a system where they call, can move around a little bit, where they can all have a chance to be involved, we believe keeps them engaged, keeps them excited,” Canada said. “Everybody likes to be involved. Everybody wants to have a chance.
“Hopefully,” he said later during the news conference, “we don’t just line up and (say) ‘Here we are.’ We’re going to try to make it a challenge.”
Matt Canada’s voice rings in Will Clapp’s ears, and the words are always the same: “Quick! Q…