SEC Media Days 2019: LSU could shake up SEC West with successful transition to spread offense
Is this the year that the Tigers will actually open up the offense?
HOOVER, Ala. -- The final years of the Les Miles era and beginning of the Ed Orgeron era at LSU have shared a common theme during "talkin' season" -- the offense. The one thing that has prevented LSU from emerging as a true contender in the SEC West since it last won the division in 2011 has been the inability to adapt and play outside of its conservative comfort zone.
Or, to put it simply: "stubbornness."
The possibility of LSU's offense getting out of its comfort zone was the hot topic as the Tigers made the rounds at SEC Media Days on Monday. Orgeron swears that this will finally be the year that the spread lands in Baton Rouge
"It better," he said with a boisterous laugh. "It's in the playbook."
Enter: Joe Brady. The 28-year-old passing game coordinator joined the Tigers staff after two seasons with Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints, and is tasked with bringing the offensive success of the Saints up the road to Baton Rouge with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
"He's a really sharp guy," quarterback Joe Burrow said. "I'm really excited to get to work with him. I think he can bring a lot to not only our offense but to my game."
Brady's offenses in New Orleans averaged 8.1 and 8.0 yards per passing attempt in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Both of those teams qualified for the playoffs, and the Saints were on the cusp of making the Super Bowl last season prior to the controversial non-pass interference call that helped the Los Angeles Rams win the NFC. That Saints offense looked familiar to Joe Burrow, who's entering his second season as the Tigers' starting quarterback.
"That's something I've been doing my whole life and that I'm really comfortable with," Burrow said. "I think that's what the game is turning into -- spreading defenses all over the field, finding your matchups and getting the ball in playmaker's hands."
The long and winding path to this moment is actually two full seasons in the making. When Orgeron was hired full time prior to the 2017 season, he named Matt Canada as his offensive coordinator. That relationship fizzled after just one year, and Ensminger took over to run an offense that finished 12th in the SEC in yards per play (5.5). But the philosophical change Orgeron made when he took over on a full-time basis still was part his plan -- a plan that is just now coming to the surface.
"It took a while to get there, no question about it," Orgeron said. "I knew the spread was going to score more points. I had to hire somebody to help us implement it. Joe Brady is the guy to do it, and he's done a tremendous job."
What makes this LSU team even more interesting is the talent Burrow has around him. Its top six receivers return from last year, including junior Justin Jefferson, who caught 54 passes for 875 yards and six touchdowns. The staff also expects Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall and Dee Anderson to play big roles in space, as well. The star of LSU's stout secondary has already seen a sneak peek of what's in store, and he's impressed.
"Dealing with them in spring ... they gave us a little trouble," safety Grant Delpit said with a wry smile.
It's understandable if outsiders are in "I'll believe it when I see it" mode regarding LSU's switch to a more dynamic offense. If this isn't the year that the offense becomes a threat, it will be news to Burrow.
"I will be surprised if that's not us."
If it is, Alabama might have its hands full in the SEC West in 2019.
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