On this Monday afternoon, LSU practiced in its indoor football facility.
The head coach stood by and watched, his offensive coordinator at his side, observing and critiquing the unit while also calling plays.
This is nothing new, of course. It happens every Monday during football season.
Different on this day: the head coach and offensive coordinator.
“It’s a new day,” guard Will Clapp said, “and a new way around here.”
Ed Orgeron ran his first practice Monday as LSU’s interim coach, replacing Les Miles after the university fired him Sunday as the Tigers slipped into a 2-2 hole. University leaders also fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, replacing him with Steve Ensminger, previously tight ends coach.
Ensminger shouted play calls to his offense Monday, with Orgeron nearby watching the unit and reporters looking on from afar. LSU opened the 30-minute walkthrough to media members; it was believed to be the first open in-season practice in at least 10 years, one of many changes unfolding around the program.
On that list: the offense.
“You can expect … a new style of play on offense, and obviously we don't have a lot of time to change things, but we are going to tweak things around,” Orgeron said in his introductory news conference.
“We're going to spread the ball out a little bit, do some different things, change the style of play,” he said later Monday.
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Gone are Miles and Cameron, close-knit friends who ran a pro-style, run-heavy offense that floundered through the air since the departure of Zach Mettenberger in 2013 — a primary reason for their ouster.
In are Orgeron, Ensminger and Steve Kragthorpe, the chief of staff and former offensive coordinator who’s battling Parkinson’s disease. Orgeron called Kragthorpe a “liaison” to him and Ensminger. The trio has “meshed ideas” and is in agreement on the type of offense they want to run.
“They are currently putting it together right now,” Orgeron said.
What are they putting together? Don’t ask the players. A host of them spoke Monday afternoon, just before team meetings and ahead of that 30-minute walkthrough.
“There are a lot of unknowns, but myself and all of the guys are trying to keep an open mind and embrace all of these changes,” fullback J.D. Moore said.
“I haven’t been told too much,” tight end Foster Moreau said. “I listen to Coach O. I’ve heard from (reporters that) we’re going to open up the offense, or something of that nature.”
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said he would consider the rest of the season “an audition”…
No player wants to give away any secrets, and reporters didn’t see any noticeable differences during the walkthrough Monday. But there will be differences in a unit ranked 119th nationally, Clapp insisted.
“I definitely feel like we’re going to open it up,” he said. “Y’all have heard that a million times. If anything, this is the time to believe it. Things have changed. Things are different around here. Players are excited for a new way of doing things.”
"Boy do we have a surprise for y'all," receiver Jazz Ferguson wrote on his Twitter page Monday night.
The shroud covering the offense is set to be released Saturday night in Tiger Stadium when LSU (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) meets Missouri (2-2, 0-1).
Overhauling an offense in a week is nearly impossible, especially for college players who must juggle football and their studies. The terminology of LSU’s offense, for instance, will have to remain the same, players said.
The way in which plays are routed from the booth — Ensminger will call plays from there, like Cameron did — to coaches on the sideline and then signaled to the players on the field likely won’t change, either.
Even individual plays aren’t likely to change. Orgeron admitted he’s still a “pro-style guy,” and Cameron and Miles began opening up a portion of the playbook with the insertion of quarterback Danny Etling three weeks ago.
Moreau provided the best answer about how the offense will change: The coaches plan to simplify it, for starters.
“I don’t think we’re just going to be taking this offense out and putting this offense in,” Moreau said. “I think we’re going to try to run it in a more efficient manner where we don’t need as many … alterations to the plays.”
A streak was broken on Monday evening: LSU opened practice to reporters.
Cameron’s NFL-style system was more complicated than your average spread-style college scheme, former offensive coaches have said. It’s especially complicated for the quarterbacks.
“We don’t know if anything’s going to change at all,” Etling said. “It’s different because you have a different coach. You have a lot of different things going on. Lots going on.”
One thing potentially not changing: the starting quarterback. LSU’s depth chart released Monday shows no “or” between Etling and Brandon Harris, as it had in the past. That said, Orgeron sidestepped a question Monday when asked whether Etling is his starter.
“I don't know that,” Orgeron chuckled. “It's my first day, you know?”
Ensminger has been in this role before. The former LSU quarterback was offensive coordinator or passing game coordinator at six schools: McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Georgia, Texas A&M, Clemson and Auburn. He took over as offensive coordinator in an interim role at Auburn in 2008 after Tommy Tuberville fired Tony Franklin.
Now, here he is — elevated from managing a small group of players to running and calling plays for such a large group.
The tight ends, of course, are happy.
“Everyone’s asking me whether we’re going to get balls,” a smiling Colin Jeter said. “I have no clue on that.”
They’ll at least be trying.
“I bet you (Moreau) is pumped,” Clapp said with an eye roll. “I’m sure Foster has already texted Ensminger 100 times. Probably (saying), ‘I want another touchdown.’ ”