LSU: Burrow Manning Passing Academy

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was a camp counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., on June 28, 2019.

THIBODAUX — Joe Burrow had trimmed his shaggy blond hair scalp-tight, and the LSU quarterback flipped up the brim of his tan sun hat as he sat down in a metal folding chair.

Why the hair style change?

"Have you been out there?" Burrow said, grinning as he gestured toward the fields at Nicholls State University, where he is a camp counselor at the annual Manning Passing Academy. "It's like 100 degrees out there. My hair was like if you put a bag over your head. I had to cut that."

It's just another level of comfort for the Ohio native, who arrived on LSU's campus as a graduate transfer from Ohio State just over a year ago.

Burrow said life in Baton Rouge is a "night-and-day" difference from last year, when he only knew about 10 peoples' names on the football team and was still getting used to Cajun culture and the Tigers' playbook.

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Now, Burrow's the veteran quarterback for a potential top-10 team, the home-state hero doling out tips and advice to dozens of teenage campers.

The 6-foot-4 senior is also more comfortable in his skin.

Burrow said he lost about five pounds over the course of the 2018 season, because he "didn't know it was going to be 90 degrees until December." So he's bulking up to 220 pounds — five pounds heavier than his listed weight — by eating "five to six meals a day."

Family has been closer, too.

Burrow said his father, Jimmy, recently retired from 14 years as the defensive coordinator at Ohio University, came down for the weekend to watch the Manning Academy from the stands.

Foster Moreau, Burrow's trusty tight end in 2018, even flew in from Oakland, California. The Raiders' fourth-round pick in the NFL draft walked with Burrow into the passing academy media room, staying only briefly.

Burrow seems more comfortable in the spotlight, which he stepped into long before he officially was named the starter before the 2018 season and felt full strength after he threw the 71-yard touchdown pass that sparked LSU's crucial 22-21 comeback win at Auburn in Week 3.

That comeback win was when Burrow said he started feeling like "I was part of the team." Before coming to LSU, he hadn't played in any game of consequence since high school, and even back then, he'd never taken a snap under center. 

"I was still learning how to play football that way," said Burrow, who'd last taken a snap under center in sixth grade. "I was just kind of scavenging, trying to win games any way that I could."

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You know the rest.

Burrow finished his junior season with 3,181 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions, and he led LSU to its first 10-win season since 2013 with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Central Florida in which he was named the offensive MVP.

Now, Burrow is at the center of LSU's new no-huddle, run-pass option offense, which is being installed by offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and first-year passing-game coordinator Joe Brady.

Both coaches have said they ask for Burrow's input when creating new plays. Burrow said he's "never really been a part of" such an environment, and so far it's "very efficient" and "very collaborative."

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At its 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, and Burrow said he sometimes gives input on what the read is on a play.

"At the end of the day you can really believe in a scheme," Brady said at Monday's coaches caravan stop in Metairie, "but if the quarterback doesn't feel comfortable with it, are you really going to get what you want out of it?"

Burrow's command of the offense comes in handy during LSU's player-led 7-on-7 practices that happen twice a week during the summer.

Coaches' contact with players is restricted during the summer, per NCAA rules. Burrow said players started out the summer re-teaching one another the basic schemes they learned in the spring, then started to add on the more advanced pieces of the offense.

"We started catching on real fast," Burrow said, "and we'll be a lot faster in the fall."

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Burrow said just about every wide receiver can excel in the new-look offense, where receivers are learning route concepts instead of specific positions.

The change is designed to seek out favorable matchups against defensive backs; a player like Justin Jefferson, the team's leading receiver last season, can line up in the slot on one play and go out to the sideline on another, depending on which defender he is matched up against.

Burrow said he's become "comfortable with the timing of the receivers" and is "throwing the ball two steps before they're out of their break."

"I think we're going to score a lot of points, and I don't think a lot of people are used to LSU scoring 40, 50, 60 points a game," Burrow said. "I think if we do what we need to do up until fall camp and continue our hard work in fall camp, we can be one of the best offenses in the country."

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Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.