August 25, 2017
The Six Year Itch
Matt Canada, the latest offensive coordinator for the LSU Tigers, is the new man on the hot seat. He will be asked to scratch the six year itch.
LSU will be the fifth stop for Canada, in the last seven years, as an offensive coordinator.
Last season Canada was the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh. In his only year with the Panthers, his offense was tenth in the nation in yards per catch, averaging 15.25 yards per game. Pitt was also tenth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 41.6 points per game. In 2015, prior to Canada’s arrival, the Panthers averaged 28.2 points per game, which was 68th in the country.
During the early 2016 campaign, the Pitt rushing offense appeared to be ahead of the passing offense. However, halfway through the season, primarily from games seven through twelve, the passing offense started throwing for over 200 yards per game. It also started distributing the ball better, with an average of six men per game making receptions.
Prior to going to Pitt, Canada's longest stint as an offensive coordinator was from 2013 to 2015 at North Carolina State. He was fired after his third season despite the fact the Wolfpack was third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring, averaging 33.2 points per game.
Canada’s offensive scheme has been described as “mysterious” and “creatively simplistic.” It must have a steep learning curve because there have not been any glowing reports on the Tiger offense at the time of this article.
Senior Danny Etling has been named the starting quarterback for LSU. Last year Etling completed 59.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 2123 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had a career high of 324 yards passing against Texas A&M. Those stats may mean something in Canada’s offense, but they may not mean anything.
There are no other quarterbacks on the team with any measurable playing experience at LSU.
The running back position will be in the very capable hands of junior Derrick Guice. His biggest issue was playing behind Leornard Fournette the last two seasons. However, when given the opportunity, Guice has had seven games in which he has rushed for at least 100 yards. Last season he also rushed for over 200 yards twice. He is the second player in SEC history to accomplish the task. Guice has rushed for 1823 career yards and 18 touchdowns, seven coming from 40 yards or longer.
Senior Darrell Williams can run the ball. Last year Williams rushed for over 100 yards against Missouri.
The wide receiver position is as thin as it has been in a long time. D.J. Chark, a senior, is the only player with substantial playing experience. Chark has averaged 17.1 yards per catch in his career for the Purple and Gold. Chark was the third on the team in catches with 26 and second with 466 receiving yards. He also had 122 yards rushing, averaging 10.2 yards per rush.
The Tigers return three starting offensive linemen, senior left tackle K. J. Malone, junior center Will Clapp, and junior right guard Garrett Brumfield. It will be interesting to see how they adjust to the new offense.
The Purple and Gold have some experience on defense, but they also have some concerns. Arden Key, a superb edge rusher had shoulder surgery in the off season. He is still not 100 percent, and will not play in the opening contest against Brigham Young, according to the LSU head coach. Key had 12 sacks in 2016, a school record. Key is a play maker, and more importantly a defensive play maker. He spends more time in the opponent backfield than the opponent. He is a chaos maker, who is able to destroy an offensive scheme, and mask defensive deficiencies.
The defensive front is where the most experienced players are on the team. Seniors Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, and Christian LaCouture are solid if not spectacular players on the defensive line. Sophomore Rashard Lawrence played well last season. Missing are defensive ends Devon Godchaux and Lewis Neal. Godchaux left early for the professional ranks.
The biggest losses on defense was at the linebacker positions. Duke Riley, Tashawn Bower, and Kendell Beckwith are gone. They will be replaced, but with those of less experience and skill sets, maybe freshmen.
The Purple and Gold also lost experienced players in the defensive secondary. Jamal Adams, Dwayne Thomas, and Tre’Davious White are gone. Senior strong safety John Battle and junior cornerback Donte Jackson return with experience.
There will be no easy games for the Purple and Gold in SEC play this season, whether at home or on the road.
The big question, however, is if Matt Canada can bring a scheme to shake up a predictable Purple and Gold offense, and whether it work to scratch the six year itch on November 4 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.