Throughout the 2019 season, DJ Mangas worked as an analyst at LSU, assisting passing game coordinator Joe Brady and the rest of the offensive staff as LSU won a national championship.
Mangas returned after a year with Brady and the Carolina Panthers, filling Brady's old role as the passing game coordinator to go with offensive coordinator Jake Peetz.
On Wednesday, Mangas held his first press conference since LSU hired him. Speaking on a video conference, he discussed Brady's influence, his rise from William & Mary, his offensive philosophy and more.
See the full transcript of Mangas' introductory interview below:
I appreciate you guys having me. I'm obviously beyond fired up to be back. You guys are well aware that I was here in 2019 so to know that I've got the opportunity in a greater role to be a part of a program like LSU and a program that's capable of doing the things that we did in 2019 and an offense that is capable of doing what we were able to accomplish then, it's obviously an opportunity that I couldn't say no to. I'm beyond excited to be here.
How much did Jake (Peetz) lean on you in this process for feedback on what coming to LSU would look like for him? And then how much did you guys talk with Joe (Brady) about the opportunity?
Obviously I got some insight being here in 2019. I know Jake leaned on a lot of people. There's a lot of people that have been involved in this process. But there was communication between the two of us. I had, as you can imagine, nothing but great things to say about this place and this program. There was definitely conversation. I know between him and I. There was obviously conversation with Joe as well. I leaned on him as well thinking about different things going into it. There was constant communication throughout the process.
You were an OC at 28 years old. Maybe that didn't go to plan, but what did you learn from that 2-year experience and three years later, to be here?
In a lot of cases, you can learn from some of the hard times more than you can learn from the good times. It's crazy to look back and think on maybe it didn't necessarily go as planned, but to walk into an opportunity where I was able to be a part of that at William & Mary and obviously there was a lot of good that came from that experience. And then walking to LSU, where you're a part of one of the greatest — arguably the greatest — offense that college football has ever seen and a 15-0 team and be able to see what it takes to be playing at that level as an offense and as a team. And then to go to the NFL and be able to experience that at the highest level, there was a lot learned in that time to see what it takes to be that good. Those were clearly the biggest takeaways for me that have prepared me for this opportunity.
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How anxious and how excited are you and Jake to do some things in spring? In a broad sense, what do you want to accomplish in spring football?
I'm fired up. It's one day at a time here. Obviously, I'm looking to get on the field with these guys and get the ball rolling, but as Jake touched on, it's relationships. It's building those relationships with the staff and the players leading up to that. My focus is there right now, getting to know the players. Even though I was here a little over a year ago, there's still a lot of guys that were young or that we recruited who are now part of the roster that I'm looking forward to getting to know better so we can figure out what they're capable of on the field and put them in a position to succeed.
From your time here as an analyst and then working with Joe Brady again in Carolina, now that you're the passing game coordinator here, what are the things you're taking from those past experiences?
What Joe and Steve were able to do in 2019 was maximize the talent that we had. The talent is always here at LSU. I think with Joe — just observing it and being around it and being a part of it — that's the biggest thing: putting your players in position to succeed. Using the whole field from sideline-to-sideline, making all 11 defenders defend the field and then putting your players in position to succeed like I said, taking what the defense gives you and maximizing the talent you have. Keeping it simple, but applying pressure on the defense at the same time. Between that at LSU in 2019 and this year with the Panthers, that's the biggest takeaway for me. That's what I look forward to doing with Jake and the rest of the staff.
Coming from William & Mary, how were you all able to get this ball rolling, take college football by storm last year and now continue this evolution of where offenses are kind of moving in college football? What was the genesis of all that?
If you look at William & Mary — Mike Tomlin, Sean McDermott, amongst others — it's got a pretty rich tradition of coaches out there that are doing really well. Unfortunately, I wasn't good enough, I wasn't talented enough to keep playing, but the passion was always there. To go to William & Mary, you kind of have to be pretty smart. I think when you combine the smarts with the willingness to work and the passion for the game, I think you can see that with Joe Brady and hopefully you can see that with me. That should take you places. Usually, you walk away from William & Mary and you see a lot of graduates, the intangibles those people possess. A lot of them apply to doing well in life and doing well as a coach. I think those things have carried over. You just take it one day at a time, one job at a time. That usually adds up and leads you to good places and great places like LSU.
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The last couple years, the passing game coordinator handled third down and red zone. Over the last couple years, what have you learned about what it takes to be most efficient in the red zone and on third down?
I think on third down you have to be able to protect first. We can come up with the best concepts in the world. But if you can't protect and give your quarterback time to throw the ball, it's irrelevant. I think it starts there with having a great protection plan. And then obviously the concepts — putting your players in position to succeed — based upon what the defense is giving you, based upon their trends and tendencies. In the red zone, it's the same type of thing. Just having a plan, preparing and putting the work in and figuring out what the defense likes to do down there. And again, putting your players in position to succeed when it comes down there. You've got to get a little creative and look into it maybe a little bit more than you would in your base downs, your core plan to do well down there.
As you well know, it's not just about schemes. It's about players. Here, at least half the battle is recruiting. What's the importance of it? Do you have a philosophy? What kind of players will you be looking for?
You can see it as a battle. I think of it — Jake and I were talking yesterday about how rewarding it can be getting to know the families, the parents, the players and developing that relationship and seeing them grow as men. Eighteen to 22-year-olds, obviously there's a lot of growing they have to do, not just on the field but off the field. I think looking for high character players beyond the talent is first and foremost and the type of families and backgrounds they come from. That can help build this program and help this program win. And then obviously you want to seek players that are playmakers and looking to make plays and possess the talent as well. But in my mind, it's those types of things, the intangibles. I think that's where you start and that's how you build a great offense as well.
You've been in college for so long that spending a year in the NFL, what's the biggest thing you learned?
My time at William & Mary and LSU prepared me pretty well. You're coaching the type of talent that's going to be seen in the NFL. It wasn't as much of an adjustment on that end, coaching those types of players in the NFL. As we just talked about, the recruiting and class checks, those types of things, you don't have to worry about at that level. But I felt very prepared being in Carolina with the Panthers because of my time here at LSU.
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Coach Peetz mentioned speaking face-to-face with players and you touched on recruiting. Have you spoken to any players that might've opted out earlier or might be on the bubble about leaving?
I'm just concerned with the players that are here right now. Those are the guys I've talked to and I'm looking forward to getting to know. That's where my focus is.
It seems like with any scheme, a lot of it comes down to in-game adjustments. You were obviously a part of that in '19. How have you and Jake talked about organizing that? What is the strategy there?
I think you have to know your answers ahead of time. It's the preparation right now that adds up during the season. You're preparing for something going into a game, and if you guys remember, in 2019, the second half of the season we saw some defenses that I don't know anybody's seen before. You have a core set of your offense and you lean on that. When you see something you haven't anticipated, you know your answers already because you prepared. You prepared in the offseason. You prepared in the summer. And the players know it. You can go to those things. To me, it comes down to preparation and knowing your answers.
That's all we have time for.
Appreciate you guys. Geaux Tigers.