Ed Orgeron saw the kind of offense he wanted.
You know. The one that set records, produced a Heisman Trophy winner and helped win a national championship in 2019. The one that former passing-game coordinator Joe Brady took with him to the NFL as the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator last year. The one that Orgeron attempted to reclaim by asking Brady for references when hiring two key staff members on offense.
The one that Jake Peetz, LSU's new offensive coordinator, and DJ Mangas, the team's new passing-game coordinator, began building when they arrived on campus in January.
The one that debuted its revival in Tiger Stadium during LSU's spring game on Saturday — when a series of familiar formations produced deep passes, long runs and explosive touchdowns in a scrimmage that LSU's "White" team beat its "Purple" team by the inconsequential score of 23-14.
Orgeron had said the play-calling for the spring game would be fairly "vanilla." Few motions. Few shifts. Few complicated schemes that would tip off future opponents just what the Tigers are building again.
Still, the subtleties of Peetz's influence on the offense were apparent.
A spread offense — using three wide receivers, a tight end and a running back on most plays — rotated its skill players from position to position. Running backs and receivers motioned in and around the backfield before plays to create different looks and favorable matchups. Quarterbacks hurried the offense in up-tempo speed between plays, morphing its offense into new looks to keep the defense on its heels.
Then there were the recognizable results.
Myles Brennan launching a 39-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Kayshon Boutte.
Max Johnson dropping a 47-yard heave to a spring Jontre Kirklin for another score.
A 28-yard gashing run by Tyrion Davis-Price through an open hole at the line of scrimmage.
And the players say there's still more coming.
"That was just a taste of what the offense is," left guard Ed Ingram said. "I'll just say y'all have a show waiting for you when the season comes."
There were mistakes made, to be clear.
An improved defense under new coordinator Daronte Jones had its share of stops, sacks (eight) and interceptions (five). The offense had a few costly penalties: a block in the back on a long pass, a holding call in the red zone. Failed red zone opportunities resulted in turnovers on down (which are more frequent in scrimmages, with no game to be lost) and field goals.
But notwithstanding the mistakes that are familiar with spring scrimmages, the LSU offense showed flashes of the potential Peetz is hearkening from the program's recent past.
"We showed out today," said Boutte, who finished the scrimmage with 11 catches, 162 yards and a touchdown.
The four-man quarterback battle appears to be a tight race between Brennan, the fifth-year senior, and Johnson, who led the Tigers to comeback victories in his two starts against Florida and Ole Miss last season as a true freshman.
While Johnson struggled in his two series against the first-team defense — completing just 4 of 10 passes for 60 yards while getting sacked three times — he played exceptionally in the second half against the second-team squad.
The 6-foot-5, 219-pound sophomore completed 7 of 7 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Both were strikes to Kirklin, who played on both teams Saturday and led the scrimmage with 16 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Brennan was LSU's most efficient quarterback with the first-team offense. He was 11-of-15 passing for 106 yards and a touchdown in the first half, before completing just 1 of 5 passes for 10 yards with the second team.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior looked poised, accurate and made few errors in his first public appearance since his season-ending abdominal injury against Missouri last season. On his first drive, he completed a 32-yard deep pass down the left sideline to Boutte. The pass hit Boutte in stride, just ahead of All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
Brennan did have his errors. Later in that drive, cornerback Dwight McGlothern jumped a crossing route on third-and-8 and nearly had the pass intercepted. On Brennan's next drive, the offense failed to score a touchdown on the goal line. But Brennan's 39-yard heave to Boutte (which came with a shoulder fake) just before halftime showed he can be the provider of points LSU needs.
TJ Finley, who started in five games for LSU in 2020, didn't establish a rhythm in either appearances with the first-team or second-team offenses, combining for 10-of-19 passing for 84 yards and two interceptions.
Four-star freshman Garrett Nussmeier showed flashes of his potential, mixed in with mistakes natural to a young player who only enrolled on campus a few months ago.
The 6-foot-2, 172-pound Lake Charles native threw three interceptions. One was snagged over the middle by linebacker Antoine Sampah. Another was easily caught by safety Jay Ward in an apparent mix-up when Nussmeier threw short and Boutte ran long.
But Nussmeier rebounded on the next drive, showcasing his arm strength with a well-placed sideline pass to Kirklin for a 13-yard gain on third down. Then, on the next play, Nussmeier fired a 20-yard pass over the middle of the field to a leaping Kirklin.
Orgeron said Saturday that "what you saw out there today" from the Tigers quarterbacks "is what we saw in spring ball." One quarterback would have his day. Another would not. The next day, the outcomes would change.
Orgeron has insisted the quarterback competition will continue into fall camp. So far, each player has split the first team snaps equally. That will change in August, Orgeron said, when the coaching staff ultimately begins to declare a starter against UCLA on Sept. 4.
By then, Peetz and his offensive staff will have implemented the rest of the much-anticipated playbook. Ingram and Boutte both insist they've still got plenty left "up our sleeves."
"Right now," right tackle Austin Deculus said, "This is just our foundation."