Foster Moreau might be eating breakfast or playing Xbox when it happens.
One of his two roommates interrupts the quiet of their apartment by screaming a play call that the three LSU football players learned earlier that week.
“ ‘What do you got on such and such X-Jet?’ ” Moreau said walk-on quarterback Caleb Lewis barked recently from their apartment’s second-floor loft.
Moreau shouted back with his duties on that play, and senior quarterback Danny Etling, from down the hall, followed with the same. They all then return to doing their own thing — homework, video games, eating, napping.
A few minutes later, Etling started the chain with another play call or formation. They go round and round, these three.
“It’s weird how all that works,” Moreau laughed Tuesday. “You got to know it. It’s got to be routine. You’ve got to be playing with the Washington Wizards against your buddy down the hall playing (a basketball video game). You’re trying to hit a 3-pointer as you’re answering a question.
“I joke about it, but that’s how you got to be. It’s got to be second nature. If you hear something like that, doing something, eating cereal, you’ve just got to say it.”
This is where LSU football players are in learning new coordinator Matt Canada’s offense. They’re studying for it like an exam or quiz, using the mental version of index cards.
They’re in the “introductory” phase, fullback J.D. Moore said, of learning a scheme that they described Tuesday with words like shifting, very fast, motion-filled, balanced, nonstop moving and attacking. Starting Saturday, they began to juggle the mental studying with the physical part, using what they’re acquiring in meeting rooms on the field.
The Tigers held their second spring practice Tuesday following Saturday’s opening day of drills. But something has been noticeably absent from the Charles McClendon practice fields.
Said Moore: “We don’t run nearly as much I-formation stuff.”
It is indeed a new era of offense for the LSU football program, one known over the past decade-plus as playing power, I-formation football, relying on a fullback and a pair of tight ends to out-muscle its competition.
Welcome to the new LSU offense, the one led by a fiery 45-year-old whose energetic personality matches his fast-moving, multiple scheme.
There are changes everywhere.
Fullbacks, like Moore, have been moved to the tight end meeting room under the tutelage of Steve Ensminger. The tight ends and fullbacks are morphing into an H-back position, though they don’t refer to it as that, players said.
No position groups on LSU’s offense are changing as much as these two. They’re learning how to play on the outside as wideouts, in the slot as receivers, in a backfield role like a tailback and more.
“You could line up anywhere. Anywhere,” Moreau said. “It’s kind of cool.”
So much more has changed.
Practice is faster. Passing drills are quicker. Everything is moving fast. There’s a huddle, yes, Moore said, but the high volume of pre-snap movement gives Canada’s offense a no-huddle feel.
“You’ve got to get guys organized and get in and out of the huddle a lot quicker,” Etling said. “Those are the main things we’re going to need to do to get the play call in. That’s the main thing we focused on last practice. The mechanics are going to be different.”
Said receiver D.J. Chark: “All of the moving pieces.”
The LSU roster lists JaCoby Stevens as being from Tennessee.
How much motion and shifting is there? A lot, players said.
Tackles are sliding from one side of the line to the other, at times lining up out wide. Fullbacks, running backs and tight ends can line up at any position. Tight ends are even aligning at the tackle spot.
It’s all about confusing the defense and forcing it to reveal its scheme. When the offense moves, the defense has to answer. Defenders show their hand, Etling said.
“Those motions and stuff undress a defense and make things a little bit easier for you to comprehend and attack them,” he said. “When everything is so still, they can kind of mess with you. Sometimes you stop playing offense and you start playing defensively. You’ve got to react. This helps us be on the attack and act like the offense.”
Canada is installing his offense in increments, which players call “installs.”
“It’s our set of plays that we’re installing on a particular day,” Moore explained. “It’s kind of like, you can’t eat a whole sandwich in one bite. We’ve got to take little chunks at a time, and that’s what we’re doing. You’ve got to install it in little segments.”
Tuesday might be the two-minute drill package, and Thursday could be a short-yardage group of drills. Saturday might be the short-passing game or the deep ball package.
Etling said he has “the basics” down — “the who does what and where.”
Canada’s lingo — he used animal names, for instance, during Saturday’s practice — is different than anything Etling has ever encountered. The scheme is most similar, Etling said, to one Purdue attempted to run in Etling’s freshman season — motions and shifts, trying to out-think and out-maneuver the defense instead of out-muscle it.
Given its personnel, Purdue’s offense never materialized, Etling said. Will this one work?
“Our offense, personnel-wise,” he said, “is set up to do this kind of thing.”