LSU Tigers hope offensive coordinator Matt Canada can energize offense

By Anthony Gimino, The Sports Xchange  |  July 10, 2017 at 6:35 PM
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LSU needs more offense. Tigers coach Ed Orgeron will trust Canada.

In an SEC chock-full of coordinator storylines -- there were 10 coordinator changes among the 28 such jobs in the league -- there might not be one more critical than the hiring of Matt Canada to run the LSU attack.

The Tigers lost four games last season. They failed to score more than 14 points in each of those defeats.

"Matt runs a very diverse offense -- a lot of shifts, motions, use of personnel, fly sweeps. He makes it difficult to defend," Orgeron said Monday on the first day of SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

"The thing that I like the best about Matt is he talked about being a team player and he talked about being a balanced offense -- 50 percent run, 50 percent pass. I think he's going to do an outstanding job. I have to give credit to Matt to come in during the spring and install his offense with a brand new offensive staff, guys he had never met before. They jelled well."

Orgeron, entering his first full season as LSU's head coach after taking over on an interim basis for fired Les Miles, lured Canada from Pittsburgh. The Panthers averaged 40.9 points last season and totaled 85 points in wins over Big Ten champion Penn State and national champ Clemson.

LSU hasn't ranked in the national top 100 in passing in any of the past three seasons, and it did not crack the top 44 in scoring during that span. The Tigers averaged 28.3 points in 2016, ranking 68th nationally.

Canada signed a three-year contract worth $1.5 million per year, putting him among the nation's highest-paid coordinators.

He can certainly lean on running back Darrius Guice, whose breakout 2016 season included an SEC-best 1,387 rushing yards, with two games of 250-plus. But for LSU to close the gap on Alabama in the SEC West, the Tigers need to be more diverse offensively and have a bigger threat from the passing game.

"When I interviewed Matt, I said, 'Matt, what kind of quarterback do you need?'" Orgeron said. "He said, 'Coach, we can have success with a pro-style quarterback or a dual-threat quarterback.' I said, 'Good, we have both.'"

Returning starter Danny Etling, a senior, brings a pro-style approach but wasn't dynamic enough last season to help the offense produce big plays. He completed 160 of 269 passes for 2,123 yards, with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Other candidates include sophomore Justin McMillan, redshirt freshman Lindsey Scott Jr., and true freshmen Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan.

Orgeron said there will be a quarterback competition in camp, although he added that, "Right now if we were to play, Danny Etling would be our starter."

NOTES

--Arkansas lost standout RB Rawleigh Williams III to retirement after he suffered a second neck injury this spring, and RB Juan Day decided to transfer. The Razorbacks did add South Carolina graduate transfer David Williams in June. He rushed 188 times for 794 yards in his Gamecocks career.

"I knew I wanted somebody with a little bit more maturity in the room," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said of adding David Williams.

Bielema also credited South Carolina coach Will Muschamp for not restricting the transfer within the conference.

--LSU star pass rusher Arden Key won't be ready for the start of camp, Orgeron said. Key, who missed spring practice because of undisclosed personal reasons, is recovering from a shoulder injury.

"We don't know when he's going to be back, but we expect him to be back and have a great season. He's in tremendous shape right now," Orgeron said.

Key, a defensive end/outside linebacker, made 12 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season. He is rated as the sixth-best NFL prospect and No. 1 defensive end, according to NFLDraftScout.com. Orgeron did not shy away from comparisons to 2017 No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett, a former Texas A&M defensive end.

"I recruited Myles; have a lot of respect for Myles," Orgeron said. "Can Arden reach that status and perhaps surpass it? Yes, he can."

--Tennessee has to replace dual-threat QB Joshua Dobbs, who accounted for 85 career touchdowns. Either junior Quinten Dormady or redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano will win the job in camp -- although coach Butch Jones kept alive the possibility of playing both early in the season.

Guarantano is more mobile; the more-experienced Dormady is an accurate passer.

"We talked to our young football team about this all spring -- compete but don't compare," Jones said. "They have been able to do that, but they also have that mutual respect toward each other and have been helping each other out."

--Arkansas C Frank Ragnow on Alabama's defensive line: "They're always talented and genetically freaky, but one thing I would say, bravo to their coaches. They are all so technically sound and so smart. That is one thing that is so impressive about them."

--Media Days continue Tuesday with coaches and players from Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

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