WEST MONROE — Ed Orgeron made it clear who will be calling plays for LSU in 2019, but he is well aware there is also a young and talented assistant on his staff with a bright future as an offensive coach.
Yes, there has been much said and written about LSU's offense and its transition to using more run-pass option schemes — from the January retirement of passing game coordinator Jerry Sullivan to the hiring of his replacement Joe Brady, the 28-year-old offensive assistant who studied the RPO offense at Penn State and with the New Orleans Saints.
But what is the working relationship between Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger?
Ensminger, 60, spent six seasons as a tight ends coach at LSU before Orgeron promoted him to interim offensive coordinator upon the firing of former coach Les Miles. And after the one-year experiment with Matt Canada leading the offense ended in Canada's departure in 2017, Orgeron once again brought up Ensminger to build the offense he wanted.
Only after the 2018 season, which was filled with injuries on the offensive line and at tight end, did Orgeron finally get the offense he was looking for.
Orgeron said he was "fired up" about the offense during spring practice, which was using four wide receiver sets and splitting out fullbacks wide to the sideline, using short slants and RPO pass patterns that Brady brought over from the Saints and Nittany Lions.
And Orgeron said Ensminger knew he couldn't make the full transition alone.
"Steve came to me and said, 'Listen, I want this. I want to go to the spread,' Orgeron said Tuesday night at Walk-On's in West Monroe, the second leg of the LSU Coaches Caravan. 'I want some help. Let's learn how to do it.' And he's doing a great job of it."
Orgeron said Brady and Ensminger's working relationship is "outstanding."
"You know, Steve's getting older now," Orgeron said. "Joe's 28. They lean on each other. Joe is tremendous in the meeting room. When Steve has a question, Joe always seems to have an answer. They're up in the press box. Steve is calling the plays, but you know what? Joe has the next play ready for him. If he needs Joe, Joe is going to give it to him."
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So, Ensminger will remain the play-caller for the Tigers, and Brady, a coach who hasn't yet had full-blown responsibility of an offense at a high level of football, has a unique position where he can learn to eventually be a coordinator.
"No question," Orgeron said. "(Brady) does a lot of the stuff a coordinator does today. He's in the office, implements stuff. The guy is very good. Obviously, Steve's going to control the whole offense."
And could Brady's opportunity be seen as an audition for an eventual coordinator position?
"Well, no question," Orgeron said. "I mean, if something ever happens to Steve, Joe would be high to consider as my offensive coordinator. He's that talented."
Brady, the youngest football coach on campus, swiftly moved up in his short career by impressing coaches with his commitment and atomic knowledge of the game, earning two bachelor's degrees in business and kinesiology while he was a wide receiver at William & Mary, where he eventually began his coaching career.
And Brady is mastering an offense that is coveted across college football and the NFL. Rooted in turning defensive blitzers into liabilities, Brady learned the offense under Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, who was the offensive coordinator at Penn State from 2016-17. Moorhead's offenses averaged 29.4 points per game and vaulted the Nittany Lions to a 22-5 combined record with appearances in the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
And the collaboration of Brady and Ensminger has a steady jumping off point with the return of starting quarterback Joe Burrow, who passed for 2,894 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2018.
Burrow said during the spring how comfortable he is in the new RPO offense, which he's been running since he was at Athens (Ohio) High and his tenure at Ohio State, and Burrow said he's been able to give input with the offensive coaching staff at LSU during its transition.
Orgeron said there's trust between Burrow and the coaching staff, and there are audibles they allow Burrow to call at the line of scrimmage, which were some of his duties during the 2018 season.
There hasn't been such consistent play at quarterback at LSU in Orgeron's tenure, and the 57-year-old coach has seen good play at the position, from Matt Leinart when he was an assistant at Southern Cal from 2005-07 to Drew Brees when he coached defensive line with the Saints in 2008.
Could Burrow have the command of someone like Leinart in 2019?
"He's up there," Orgeron said. "Now let's see where it takes us this year. But he's a great young man with toughness and he's very smart."