LSU plans to split with Matt Canada after the Citrus Bowl.
Canada, the 45-year-old offensive coordinator the Tigers plucked from Pittsburgh last December, is not expected to remain on the LSU staff for the 2018 season, multiple sources told The Advocate.
Officials at LSU have been in discussion with Canada's representatives on a potential settlement for a split with the coach, according to multiple sources. A possible replacement is longtime assistant Steve Ensminger, something Orgeron revealed himself during a news conference after the regular season finale against Texas A&M.
The 16th-ranked Tigers (9-3) meet No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3) on Monday in Orlando, Florida. LSU departs for the bowl site Thursday, and coordinators are scheduled to speak with reporters Friday morning.
Canada signed a three-year contract last December paying him $1.5 million per year as the highest-paid offensive coordinator in college football. The school would owe him about $3 million to be paid in monthly installments over the life of the contract, through 2020. That amount is offset by any future compensation Canada earns at another job, according to a copy of his contract.
Canada is accustomed to quick stops during his coaching journey. LSU is his fifth school in the past seven seasons, including Pitt (2016), N.C. State (2013-15), Wisconsin (2012) and Northern Illinois (2011).
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Canada’s exit comes after Orgeron, following the win over Texas A&M, said he “hoped” Canada pursues and lands a head coaching vacancy this offseason. Orgeron even mentioned the potential replacement for Canada in Ensminger, who coordinated LSU’s offense in the interim last season when Orgeron took over for the fired Les Miles.
The marriage between Canada and Orgeron started as many do, with an upbeat and positive news conference, two smiling coaches posing for photographers and speaking glowingly about one another. At some point, though, things changed. Their relationship turned icy, sources close to the situation told The Advocate.
A disconnect grew during the first month of the season, when the head coach admitted to meddling in Canada’s offense by removing the presnap movements in the first half of a game against Troy. The 24-21 loss to Troy sparked a meeting involving athletic director Joe Alleva, Orgeron and both coordinators, Canada and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, a gathering that got them “all on the same page,” Orgeron said that week.
Ed Orgeron does not regret using one of his precious 25 spots in the 2018 signing class on a kicker, even though it left LSU “tight” on number…
Canada was Orgeron’s first significant hire as permanent head coach, bringing in a Midwesterner with a unique offense built around presnap movement and the jet sweep motion. Canada turned a record-breaking 2016 season at Pittsburgh — the Panthers finished 10th in scoring — into a multimillion-dollar gig in the Southeastern Conference.
He was expected to enliven an archaic LSU offense and a struggling quarterback position, a pair of problems that eventually resulted in the firing of Miles.
However, Canada will get only one crack at that solution. Now, LSU’s schematic future and quarterback situation is uncertain. Canada’s scheme provided flexibility in using a dual-threat or pro-style quarterback, part of the reason Orgeron said he hired the coach.
Freshman Myles Brennan is the heir apparent to senior Danny Etling, many believe. In fact, the starting QB battle during camp was a tight one, with Brennan holding a physical and talent edge while Etling possessed the experience of a fifth-year player.
Coaches rotated the two during non-conference games in the first month of the season. Many believe Canada leaned toward playing the rookie more often.
Either way, Canada’s 2017 offense produced its share of highs and lows.
The Tigers scored at least 27 points in eight of 12 games, and they controlled the ball in a 17-16 win at Florida and were inches away from completing pivotal, long passes in a 24-10 loss at Alabama. The unit produced the best passing offense in three years at LSU but still finished toward the bottom in the country, averaging 201 yards passing per game (85th nationally).
Etling, a Purdue transfer who battled through injuries, threw 14 touchdowns to two interceptions, and Canada’s offense, in general, excelled in ball security. The Tigers’ eight turnovers in the regular season ties Alabama for the national lead and ties the school record.
"I think it's been fantastic," Orgeron said when asked Wednesday about Canada's offense. "I think the offense has done what we wanted them to do. I think it's been good. For us to win nine games, go 6-1 after the Troy game, I think things have been great."
Arden Key hasn't made any official announcement as to whether he'll return to LSU next season or enter the NFL draft.
There were problems, starting with the red zone.
They were 71st nationally scoring touchdowns on 60.78 percent of their trips in the red zone and 101st in overall scoring percentage inside the 20 — much of that because of nine missed field goal attempts.
The Tigers finished 53rd in total offense, 28th in rushing and 71st in scoring in a season in which they consistently played two true freshmen on the offensive line. Along with that, a knee injury suffered in camp hampered star running back Derrius Guice for the first half of the season.
Meanwhile, Canada’s jet sweeps worked in the league.
Through the first nine games of the season, LSU averaged more than 7 yards per carry on jet sweeps in conference games. They were critical in wins over Florida (10 for 89 yards) and Auburn (5-93) and commendable in games against BYU (10-53) and Ole Miss (7-42). They also helped the Tigers hog the ball (34 minutes) at Alabama, running 10 sweeps for 35 yards.