During the search for his new offensive coordinator, LSU coach Ed Orgeron ran at least one name by his defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda.

“What do you know about Matt Canada?” Orgeron recalled him asking.

“I bought his house,” Aranda shot back.

Aranda bought Canada’s home when he was hired at Wisconsin in 2013. Canada left the Badgers that same year for N.C. State following his then-boss Bret Bielema’s surprising move from UW to Arkansas.

“Great neighborhood,” Aranda said of the home in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. “We just sold it. Took us a while to sell it.”


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Aranda’s connection with Canada goes beyond real estate, though. In Canada, Orgeron hired the defensive version of himself, Aranda agreed Wednesday — a man that employs a versatile scheme, rife with pre-snap movement, unpredictability and masked schemes.

“The misdirection he does with all of the motions and shifts and the quarterback run. ... As a defensive coordinator, you love to see this offense in the spring because you see everything” Aranda said. “When we come out of spring, there won’t be one thing we haven’t seen.”

Orgeron added: “They’re both great minds. They’re both creative. They both have had success. I just can’t wait for those two guys to butt heads in spring ball.”

Pittsburgh ranked 10th nationally in scoring this season with Canada’s multiple system.

He’s not pro-style, he says, and he’s not spread, either. He doesn’t utilize only a running quarterback or just a pocket passer. He’ll go I-formation or shotgun. He’ll use five receivers or three tight ends.

He’ll even move offensive tackles from one side of the ball to the other before the snap and shift fullbacks out wide to catch passes. He uses shovel passes and throwback passes to — of all players — offensive linemen. Pitt tackle Brian O’Neil, a converted tight end, caught two touchdowns this season.

He even had a walk-on fullback at Pitt this year finish with nine touchdowns.

“I don't like to pigeonhole us: We're this or that,” Canada said. “Power team here. QB run team here. It's the same offense. We find a way to maximize our talents.”

The scheme has changed depending on the place.

While at Indiana from 2007-10, Canada visited with former Oregon coach and up-tempo, spread guru Chip Kelly. The Hoosiers, under Canada, resembled that, throwing the ball upwards of 40 times a game because “we weren’t the biggest and strongest,” he said.

At North Illinois in 2011, he coached a different kind of spread offense, one that used a power running game. The Salukis rolled up 5.5 yards a carry and got more than 1,600 yards rushing from a pair of quarterbacks. One of them was Jordan Lynch, a Heisman Trophy finalist two years later.

“I think we have to utilize our talents,” Canada said. “We do have a spread component. We can be spread.”

How about a huddle?

“We are a huddle team,” said Canada, a 44-year-old native of Indiana. “We believe in huddling. There's probably a game we didn't huddle at all. I believe it comes back to the game, comes back to the situation. We will change the tempo at times. ... But there's merit to going fast.”

Not too fast, though.

“We want to win. And you can go very, very fast all of the time and score a lot of points maybe,” he said, “but you might do this and your defense is out there a lot.”

That probably made Aranda, sitting in the room during Wednesday’s news conference, smile. Aranda is “excited” about Canada’s hire, he said, and thinks “very highly of him.”

Aranda and Canada have met just once, when Aranda's Utah State defense held Canada's Wisconsin offense to 16 points in a 16-14 win in 2012. The Aggies missed a game-winning 37-yard field goal with seconds left.

"I feel like we should have won that game," Aranda said. "We lost at the end. It was a tight game."

Aranda sees the similarities with himself and knows all about Canada’s patented version of a jet sweep. It’s a “big, big component” of his offense, Aranda said.

Meanwhile, Aranda recalls his first dealing with Canada over his old home. Canada recruited his then-new staff members at N.C. State to help pressure Aranda into buying it. They succeeded.  

“Around the time I got the job at Wisconsin, I’m getting all of these texts from (N.C. State coaches): ‘Buy Matt’s house.’ ‘It’s a great house,’ ” Aranda said. 

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.