First-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady, fresh off a two-year stint as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints, is bringing a new look to LSU’s offense. He has been tasked with helping the Tigers convert to more of a spread attack, predicted on the run-pass option plays he learned at Penn State from then offensive coordinator and current Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead and the passing game principles he gleaned from the Saints.
While Brady as been adding plays to LSU’s repertoire, coach Ed Orgeron stressed Monday at the LSU Coaches Caravan stop in Metairie that current offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger will continue to call the plays. However, Coach O said, Ensminger may defer to a play suggestion from Brady, who will be with him in the coaches’ booth in the press box.
What did Brady have to say to reporters during the caravan stop in Metairie? Here is a Q and A with the most talked about member of LSU’s staff going into the 2019 season:
What is the learning curve for this offensive system?
I think the first thing we had to do was put together a system that was easy for the guys to implement in the run game but that was easy to match up with the passing game. In the spring we were being very generic in what we were doing. If you equate it to college (classes) we were in the 100, 200 levels.
We didn’t want to put a lot on the guys in a short period of time. In terms of our passing game we threw some ideas out on the table that are easy for the quarterback to process, easy progressions. Quick gain. You might not see it in the fall but just throwing those ideas out there allow you to expand on more packages. From a system standpoint we were just trying to find a way to get our speed in space.
We didn’t have a lot of time to do that from the time I got there, finding out what we did last year then getting with coach Ensminger in terms of what we are trying to do. It wasn’t a lot of time, but I think we did a good job of putting together an identity.
The offense we’re installing right now isn’t just the generic, very baseline easy offense. We’re asking a lot of our receivers, our quarterbacks, our tight ends, our running backs. It’s been impressive.
If they had been charging admission to the LSU Coaches Caravan stop at the Metairie Walk-On’s restaurant Monday, it would have been new passin…
His thoughts on senior quarterback Joe Burrow:
Joe Burrow is everything you want in a quarterback. If you give me 11 Joe Burrows we’re going to be a winning football team. Having Joe behind center you have a chance to win every single game. He makes everyone around him better.
I know we don’t huddle, but he’s that type of quarterback where if he got in a huddle and looked everyone in the eyes they’d be ready to go. Every offensive person would run through the wall for him.
He always wants more. Sometimes as a coach I have to say, ‘We could put this play, this play, this play in and it’s not going to be a lot for Joe, but can the receivers and tight ends handle it?’
His thoughts on LSU’s wide receiver corps:
It may seem like we a veteran receiver group, but last year a lot of these guys were true freshmen. I’ve never seen anybody work like these guys do. There’s nothing these guys waiver at, so it’s a fun group to work with.
How much do you tailor the offense to what Burrow can do?
We’re always asking Joe for what his thoughts are. At the end of the day you can really believe in a scheme, but if the quarterback doesn’t feel comfortable with it, are you really going to get what you want out of it?
I don’t think you should ever force plays. We’ve gone through this summer putting in some new plays, some new ideas. This Wednesday we’re going to sit down and at least with the passing game go through it and say, ‘What do you feel comfortable with? Are you seeing it the same way we’re seeing it?’ And vice-versa.
I think it’s important going into games sitting down the night before and going through it with the quarterback and asking, ‘What are you comfortable with? On third and four-to-six, what are your favorite plays?’ We can call it, but he’s got to execute it.
The perk of Joe is he picks things up so fast. He’s not a rep guy or has to mess up to figure it out. He can take meetings to indy (individual drills), indy to 7-on-7 to team. If he does make a mistake, he knows as soon as he throws it.
On working with Ensminger:
All he wants is for LSU to have success. So, when you work for a guy who doesn’t believe in ‘My way is the only way,’ you enjoy that interaction every single day. He’s a character. He’s a personality. He’s what I envisioned being Louisiana, him and Coach O.
What will you do to help construct the game plan?
In New Orleans I was never going to call a play, but in my mind I had plays that if everybody’s headset didn’t work, I was going to be ready. I think every coach on our staff is going to be ready for a play call.
Steve wants give and take. We’re sitting there actively seeing what the defense gives us.
Why did leaving the Saints for LSU make sense for you at this point in your career?
I’ve always been one that my head is where my butt is. I’m never looking for the next job. If you take care of where you’re at everything will take care of itself.
I saw LSU as an elite opportunity. I know LSU is an elite program. The receiver unit at LSU, it’s hard to find a better unit to coach from a historic standpoint or the unit I’m coaching right now. I felt like having the opportunity to put a stamp on an offense and help take LSU to the next level is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
More on LSU’s receiver corps:
Every receiver we’re looking for and everyone in that room thinks they’re the best wide receiver. If they don’t, we’re not recruiting the right guys. You don’t have to motivate the receivers at LSU. That was something I was looking for in this opportunity. There’s a mentality in that wide receiver room, a physicality, a mentality, that willingness to compete every single time. It’s the Jarvises, the Odells the Bowes who set that foundation.
I tell these guys every single day, ‘This team is going to go as the receivers go.’ There’s not a day we can take off. I want them to have that mentality. I’ll be damned if the receivers before us turn on the games on Saturday and don’t see that physicality and mentality from this wide receiver unit.
We don’t ever have to push them. We understand in this offense, everyone is going to have their opportunities. We say, ‘Everyone is going to eat.’ We embrace that culture and everything will take care of itself.
On his offensive philosophy:
I think when the defense has to defend all 11 players on the field it limits what they can do. Statistically it’ll show when you’re in five-man protections you’ll give up less sacks. A lot of people think that when you’re getting a lot of pressure you need to bring the box in and get in max protection, seven-man protections. But when you actually go five-man protections and you can get the ball out fast it limits what the defense can do. As an offense, we want to get the offense out in routes.
Running backs are here to run the ball and catch passes. They’re not signed to play at LSU because they’re dynamic blockers. That’s what offensive linemen are for. Are they going to have to do it? Yes. But the more we can get them in the routes, the more defenses limit the packages they can do and it allows us to do what we have to do.
We can’t allow teams to continue to send pressure. If we can keep them off base by throwing screens, then we’re doing our job instead of waiting for a defense to apply pressure to us.
When you and Steve got together to talk about crafting this offense, what were the most important things?
Sometimes it’s like, ‘Is it Steve’s offense? Is it Joe’s offense?’ This is our offense. We’re all in this together. At the end of the day we want to get our speed in space. If our guys can win their one-on-ones, the rest will take care of itself. We believe that we have the athletes in our building where if we can get them in a one-on-one situation, they’re going to make us look good and they’re going to make themselves look good.”
How do you plan to utilize the fullback?
It’s hard to take a guy off the field like (LSU fullback) Tory Carter with his type of mentality. If you watch New Orleans from a historic standpoint, what they do better than anyone in the league is they can go in any given set with every personnel group. So the more personnel groups we can run to keep defenses off guard – whether it’s rotating on the field, spread formations with the fullback, in-line formations with the fullback – it limits again what the defense is trying to do.
Are there any differences in what you like to do with your receivers compared to past LSU teams?
At the end of the day, receivers at LSU have always had success. I think it’s important for a receiver to have fun playing football. I played wide receiver and it was very, ‘I have to do this, I have to do this,’ and it was very black and white. I think the game of football is very gray. So we’re very attention to detail in the things we have to do, but at the same time we’re not going to coach the athletes out of our football players. We’re going to let them have fun. We’re going to allow them to do what they do best. I think from that standpoint, when we go out to practice some of the drills we do are unconventional, but we’re trying to bring that athletic ability out of our guys.
We don’t want any of our guys learning a position. They’re learning concepts. We can move everyone around the field. Ideally, the receiver you’re recruiting can play all three or four positions. Now we have the ability to move a guy from the boundary to the slot, the slot to the field, motion them. At the end of the day his job doesn’t change, he just knows the scheme. We’re not teaching, ‘You’re strictly an X receiver or you’re strictly a Z receiver.’ I feel if people know exactly where people are going to be, defenses can dictate what they want to do and take guys out of the game. If we can move guys around, if we can get guys in positions that we want to get them into to attack people in the coverages, now we’re at the advantage as opposed to defenses knowing exactly where our guys are and now they’re at an advantage.
What exactly can fans expect to see different from LSU’s offense compared to years past?
You’re going to see an up \-tempo offense that’s going to get our speed in space. When you can do that, good things are going to happen. When you can get the best players on the field the ball in their hands, we’re sitting back there enjoying and watching.
I say, ‘Get your popcorn.’ When you’re sitting there enjoying a movie and everything is good, that’s what you’re going to be doing when you see this offense this fall.
How much of your offense remains to be installed?
Everything is in now. I say that … one thing coach (Sean) Payton taught me is the hay is never in the barn. We’d put plays in the Saturday before a game. I know we’re all getting away in July, but there’s no way I can go away without thinking of some things. It’s our job to tinker with some things. What things can our guys do well? Cut back some stuff we have in. But from an offensive perspective after this summer, I feel good about where we are. Then we’re going to go into fall camp, figure out our identity, what we do best, and roll with that stuff.
What has it been like on the recruiting trail?
When you walk into a school wearing the LSU logo, it carries some weight. It’s fun. At LSU you have the opportunity to recruit the best players in the country. You don’t have to settle at LSU. Everything you recruit is elite. I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it. I’ve been able to travel to some countries I’d never been to. I’ve been able to travel all over the United States and just find out what’s the vision for them in this offense.
LSU speaks for itself. People want to play for LSU.
When Coach O says this is the offense he has been waiting to have, how does that correlate with the offense you want to run?
Coach Orgeron has always wanted an offense that is going to get the best players on our team the ball in their hands. When you try to create the perfect play against the perfect look all the time, that’s hard. If you’re utilizing your tempo and the athletes you have on the field at the time, good things will happen.
What do you want from the offensive linemen in your system?
The main thing I care about is their mentality. I’m not an offensive line guy. I’m the first to admit that. But I think you have to be a different type of person at the SEC level, the NFL level. You’ve got to have the mentality that whether I’ve got to go 70 or 100 plays and I have the nose tackle in the SEC on me for 80 plays I’m going to give it all I’ve got.
Got any good Steve Ensminger stories?
Every day at the office you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. Sometimes I don’t understand what comes out of his mouth, but I enjoy it. I know that guy loves him some LSU football. I love the way he calls a football game. I’m starting to figure out how he flows with it. There’s nothing he’s scared of.
A lot of people think you’re at LSU to be the heir apparent at offensive coordinator. How do you respond to that?
It’s not about me. I still have the mentality that I’m a graduate assistant, that I’m an offensive assistant. I’m still trying to learn. We’ve got great coaches on our staff, and anything I can pick up from them is only going to make me a better coach.
As long as I take care of what I do as a coach and our players take care of the rest, everything will take care of itself.
You seem to bring things to the offense that Coach O wants to see, so has it been a good mix?
I think every coach in our room wanted this same type of offense. I think we have the right pieces to run it. You can’t force a system. As long as we can get our speed in space we’ll be good to go.
Will the transition be difficult for the players from what they did last year?
I don’t think so. Usually the transition is harder going the other way. You have less time to meet with them so you have to limit what you want to fit in. We’re making a collective system that everyone believes in.