LSU: Brady Ensminger

LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady (right) asks offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger (left) a question while imitating a reporter at the LSU Coaches Caravan in Metairie.

Joe Brady waited patiently, recorder in hand, then stepped forward when Steve Ensminger finished answering a reporter's question.

"What do you think of that Joe Brady hire?" Brady asked, imitating the role of a reporter.

Ensminger, LSU's offensive coordinator, looked up and laughed: "I told Coach O it's the worst thing he's ever done in his life!"

Brady ducked his head with a smile, said "thank you," and the standard questions at the LSU Coaches Caravan stop in Metairie on Monday evening resumed.

Five months have passed since Ed Orgeron hired Brady to help Ensminger fix the football team's passing game and implement run-pass option schemes, and in their first public appearance before the media, the offensive assistants with a 31-year age gap seem to have already built quite a camaraderie.

Ensminger, 60, said "I have no ego" when it comes to working with Brady, 29, who replaced the retired Jerry Sullivan as LSU's passing game coordinator after spending the past two years as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints.

The addition of Brady was necessary, Orgeron said, a move to finally end the offensive evolution into the spread offense he's wanted throughout his four-year tenure.


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LSU hasn't cracked the top five in scoring in the Southeastern Conference since 2011, and the offense sputtered at times in 2018, when it ranked seventh in the league in scoring with 32.4 points per game.

The passing game also ranked seventh in the SEC (228.5 yards passing per game), and it was limited by injuries and inconsistent play in nearly every position.

Ensminger recognized Brady could help.

"We brought him here to help us with the passing game," Ensminger said. "I told Joe that: 'Look, take it over ... You present it, we'll discuss it, and if I think it fits, it goes.' "

That's how their relationship has been building the offense the past five months: Brady would throw up a play on the coaches office wall and ask Ensminger, "What do you think?" They'd compare it with every possible personnel, and Ensminger would ask every position coach if it works for them, and if it passed unanimously, it went in the playbook.

Ensminger said "we added a lot of things," although the offense started off with basic concepts during spring practice. Things got more advanced once the summer began, and Orgeron said he even held Ensminger and Brady off the recruiting trail for two weeks to work on the offense.

Brady said the offense is now 100 percent implemented, although game situations will inevitably call for new plays during the season.

"From an offense perspective, we were all in there together," Brady said. "I know it's like 'It's Steve's offense, Joe's offense.' This is our offense, and we put it together and it's something that we feel confident in."

At it's base, LSU's new run-pass option offense is a system that leverages a defense's alignment against itself by reading certain defenders during a play.

There will be more slant routes by wide receivers, more tight ends flexed out, or as Brady said Monday, more opportunities to get "speed in space" and give playmakers more opportunities to make plays.

Ensminger said LSU has the depth at each position to be that versatile, and in today's game, he said versatility is essential. He said LSU ran "11" personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) about 60 percent of the time in 2018, and defenses began to restrict what they could do by placing two defensive backs deep in coverage.

"I think we have to be able to do it all," Ensminger said.

The versatility also extends within positions, especially at wide receiver, where Brady said receivers are learning route concepts more than they are a specific position.

That means a player like Justin Jefferson, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior who led the team with 875 yards and six touchdowns last season, can line up  near the sideline, at the slot, or anywhere else on the field and run the exact same play.

Previously, a player like Derrick Dillon, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound senior, would start completely at the slot position, where he'd hope to use speed and agility to get past a less-skilled defender. 

"I feel like if people know exactly where people are going to be, defenses can dictate what they're going to do and can take guys out of the game," Brady said. "So, if we can move guys around and get guys in position that we want to get them into, to attack the people and the coverages, now we're in the advantage."

And as far as play-calling goes, Ensminger is still the guy in charge in the booth on game day. He may call upon Brady's advice, or Brady may suggest a call in the middle of a game, but Orgeron maintained that "Steve's still the boss."

Brady said he's comfortable with that role.

"In New Orleans, I was never going to call a play, but I had plays in my mind that if everybody's headset didn't work, I'd be ready," Brady said. "Steve wants the give and take. ... When you work for a guy that doesn't feel like, 'My way's the only way,' you enjoy that interaction every single day."

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Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.