Ed Orgeron admitted Monday that he broke a promise last week.
The LSU head coach inserted himself into the offense, defying a pledge he made last fall in a campaign to land the full-time job. He invoked changes to offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s unit, tweaks that were visible during the first half of Saturday’s loss against Troy.
He’s stepping back now, the coach suggested in his weekly news conference with reporters.
“I wanted to simplify only the shifts in motions. I knew we were going to start two freshmen (offensive) linemen, so I wanted the guys to be in place so we knew how to block them,” Orgeron said. “That's all I've ever done. This is Matt's offense. He runs it. He calls it. He scripts the plays. This is his offense.”
The drama surrounding the offense and its quarterback loomed over the football program Monday. Orgeron fielded a half-dozen questions about the unit and the position, and the head man gathered his team leaders for a midday meeting to “foster leadership,” he said.
He explained why he made changes last week to Canada’s system, eliminating much of the coordinator’s staple, presnap movement, and using formations more similar to those used last season under interim coordinator Steve Ensminger.
Orgeron revealed the rotation over the past two weeks between starter Danny Etling and freshman Myles Brennan is not expected to continue into Southeastern Conference play, proclaiming again that Etling is “our starter.”
This all comes two days after one of the worst losses in the program's past 17 years, a 24-21 defeat to Troy in which the Tigers did not convert a third down (0 for 9), did not score in the first half and allowed more than 200 yards rushing.
“We know where we’re at right now. It’s not a good place,” defensive end Christian LaCouture said. “It sucks.”
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Leaders held a players-only meeting after the game, hoping to rally a squad that dropped out of the two major rankings for the first time in a year and enters a tough stretch of games. LSU (3-2) travels to No. 21 Florida (3-1) on Saturday for the first of seven straight SEC matchups.
The biggest question mark entering that rivalry clash with the Gators? The offense, of course.
Less than 48 hours after criticizing his coordinator’s play-calling, Orgeron explained how and why he intervened in last week’s game. And he appeared to hand all control this week and potentially beyond to the man he signed to a three-year contract with a $1.5 million salary.
That change seemed to come at halftime of the Troy game, according to Orgeron.
In a meeting among the coaches, Orgeron agreed to allow the coordinator to shift back to his offensive scheme – and they inserted Brennan at QB, too.
The changes were obvious. LSU’s offense employed about 10 presnap movements in the first half against Troy. The Tigers used 12 presnap movements in the first two drives of the second half alone.
Coordinators have not been made available to reporters since the season began.
“That's totally up to Matt,” Orgeron answered when asked which offense LSU will move forward with. “I'm going to leave that totally up to him. And, again, I will say this, I stepped in last time for the first time. And I wanted to simplify things in order for us to have less penalties, better execution.
“At halftime, he felt like he needed to shift and motion more, which he did. And that's totally his option,” Orgeron continued. “This is totally his offense.”
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The unit is sputtering – not just rotating schemes but quarterbacks too.
Coaches inserted Brennan in the third quarter of each of the past two games, a way of preparing the rookie for potential playing time later in the year. He’s the immediate backup to a fifth-year senior who underwent back surgery in April and is consistently sustaining hits.
“Hopefully we can go four quarters with (Etling) in a very big football game,” Orgeron said Monday. “We've never planned to play Myles in one of the SEC games to just throw him in there. We're just preparing Myles in case Danny got hurt, that he has some snaps and can perform. And I think he has performed pretty well.”
Brennan is 10-for-18 for 160 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown. Etling is 62-for-102 for 921 yards with five scores and an interception.
The end of the unusual quarterback rotation – Brennan, for instance, was inserted with LSU trailing 17-0 Saturday – may bring an end to the scheme changes, too.
Orgeron announced Monday he made the changes to ease the burden on the offensive line, a group struggling with penalties and blocks and playing with two true freshmen last week.
There’s something more, though. The physicality from the group is lacking, the coach said.
“We're not playing the way we want to on both sides of the line of scrimmage,” he said. “That's one of the reasons I wanted to quit shift in motion, be more physical at the point of attack. But you know you're playing two freshmen there. The guys are moving, and they're challenging our two freshmen.”
Orgeron did not specifically address a question Monday about coaches “fighting each other,” as a reporter asserted.
He was, however, asked about Canada’s reaction to Orgeron injecting himself into the offense.
“All fine,” Orgeron said. “I'm the head coach.”
Christian LaCouture does not want to hear anymore about how LSU coach Ed Orgeron should be fired only five games into the season.