ORLANDO, Fla. — LSU quarterback Danny Etling prepared at least one answer to a question he knew was coming during Friday’s Citrus Bowl news conference.
It was the one about his offensive coordinator.
“It’s been business as usual,” the senior said. “Coach (Matt) Canada has been at the practices and calling all the plays and put together the game plan. He did a great job doing it with the coaching staff. I know all of the players have really embraced coach Canada and liked him throughout the season.”
The topic du jour of LSU’s trip to Orlando — Canada — made his own appearance Friday during a mandatory Citrus Bowl news conference that featured two players and the coordinators from both LSU and Notre Dame.
Canada would “love” to be at LSU next season, he said, and he has not spoken with anyone at the university about his future.
This came two days after reports surfaced that he would not return as LSU's offensive coordinator next season. Multiple sources have told The Advocate for the past several weeks that the school plans to split with the first-year assistant after the bowl game.
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Canada, a 45-year-old Indiana native whom the Tigers hired away from Pittsburgh last December, suggested he has not held total control of his offense this year and stepped around questions about his reportedly poor relationship with head coach Ed Orgeron.
All of this came in a somewhat unusual setting — Canada surrounded by local reporters while seated at a small table in a wide hallway of the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, three days before the 16th-ranked Tigers (9-3) tangle with No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3) at Camping World Stadium.
There were awkward moments, too, and one specific revealing exchange. A reporter asked Canada whether he felt like he controlled his offense this season.
“Yes,” he responded.
Another reporter followed, “All year?”
Canada sat mum, declining to answer. He also offered a window into the internal battle with his boss.
“Coach O and I have the same goal — we just want to win,” Canada said.
Pressed, he said, “That’s our relationship — we just want to win.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda sat down with reporters Friday to talk about the season and preparing for Notre Dame in …
At $1.5 million per year, Canada is the highest-paid offensive coordinator in college football. LSU would owe him about $3 million if the school fired him, an amount mitigated by his pay if he were to get another job.
While Canada spoke to reporters in one corner of the window-lined hallway, Etling talked in another, delivering an opening statement to one media member about questions concerning Canada’s future.
“I’m really going to answer one question about it so we can focus on the game,” he said.
Etling agreed to field questions about Canada’s scheme and his coaching philosophy. He raved about his offensive leader, touting a “versatile” system that, Etling said, he thrived in during his fifth and final year of college.
Etling talked about Canada and his family’s “professionalism” during this uncertain time and spoke in a somewhat certain tone about his offensive coach’s fate.
“When he first came in, we felt like he really believed in us and (would) take us to the next step as an offense. We think we did that,” Etling said. “We had our goals set for this year, and we kind of accomplished all of them that we really set out to accomplish. That’s something that we thought we’d take the next step and keep going toward all those things.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Canada would "love" to be at LSU next season, he said, and he has not spoken with anyone at the university about his future.
Like Etling, Canada pointed out the positives in his unit’s play, with a reference to Orgeron. Canada and Etling both said the offense accomplished its four goals this season: winning, being balanced, protecting the football and spreading around the ball.
“Coach O talks about 'One team, one heartbeat,' ” Canada said. “You look and we’ve won nine games, 6-2 in the SEC. On offense, we had eight turnovers, which is No. 1 in the nation. We have balance and talked about wanting to be balanced. We were 210 rushing and 201 passing (per game).”
Said Etling: “I feel like I’ve really played well underneath him. He’s taught me a lot of things and really made the game slow down and put us in a position to be successful. He does a really good job coaching, and he’s so versatile what he can call plays with. We have so many different aspects — spread aspects, pro-style aspects and things like that.”
Canada acknowledged Friday that his players are aware of his situation and that they’re “good.”
“I feel like our players and I … we’ve got a really good situation going,” he said. “I think we’ve all stuck together.”
Asked about spring practice and the future, Canada spoke like a coach who wishes to remain in Baton Rouge. He described the Tigers’ offense as having “untapped potential” that will “just explode.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — Notre Dame wants that 10th win.