BATON ROUGE – Whether LSU’s offense moves forward in 2017 under new coordinator Matt Canada remains to be seen.
But it will at least be legally moving before the snap, which could help the movement toward the goal line after the snap. Motion, shifts and an overall faster pace are major changes that have been happening on the practice field this spring and may catch more than a few eyes when LSU plays itself in the spring game at 7 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium to end spring drills.
“Fans will finally get to see some shifts,” senior to be offensive tackle K.J. Malone said.
“There’s a lot of misdirection. The passing game is definitely revamped,” senior to be safety John Battle said.
“Really, it’s going to be just a non-stop fast pace,” LSU senior to be wide receiver D.J. Chark said. “It’s going to make defenses think because it’s going to be hard to scheme against. All the receivers play all the positions because there are so many shifts and way more pre-snap responsibilities. The offense has completely done a 180.”
New head coach Ed Orgeron has pointed out frequently throughout the spring that the passing offense has had the better of the defense, which lost several star players from 2016 such as NFL first round projections Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White in the secondary in addition to other players expected to be drafted next week such as linebackers Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith, defensive linemen Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal and defensive back Dwayne Thomas. In addition, sophomore defensive end Arden Key, who set the school record with 12 sacks last season, did not participate in spring for personal reasons, though he is expected back for the season.
But a good passing offense is a good passing offense, and at LSU that has not happened much for the most part since the last national championship in 2007. Canada is expected to change that after successfully leading a variety of passing offenses in a variety of ways at Pittsburgh, North Carolina State Wisconsin and Northern Illinois
“I’m really pleased with our offense - the motions, the shifts. The diversity of the offense is really good,” Orgeron said.
“We’re more explosive,” Chark said. “We’ve got a lot of different passing routes. We can go short. We can go medium or deep.”
Much of the spring game will feature the first team offense against the first team defense, which is a bit of a change from recent years. No. 1 quarterback and returning starter Danny Etling is expected to receive most of the snaps as he has not been challenged. No other quarterback on campus has any experience, other than sophomore Justin McMillan, who threw all of one pass last year. The others are redshirt freshman Lindsey Scott and freshman signee Lowell Narcisse. Signee Myles Brennan will not be practicing until August.Etling completed 13 of 17 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns in LSU’s last spring scrimmage as the other quarterbacks did not receive significant time or put up any appreciable numbers.
“I think we’re ahead of maybe where we thought we would be,” Etling said. “We put in a lot of things exciting and some new stuff for us. We’ve actually run it pretty well. We’ve done a pretty good job of executing so far.”
Etling also seemed to think fans may see some “exciting” and “new things” in the spring game, which were kept very vanilla during former head coach Les Miles’ regime.
“Oh, you’ll see ‘em, trust me,” he said. “You’ll see plenty of them. Just different things than we’ve done in the past. We’ll just throw a wrinkle here or there based on an older kind of play that we’ve already done. We’ll be just adding things here and there to make it more fun and more difficult for defenses to stop.”
Etling will be throwing to several tall receivers who have caught few or zero passes in their career, such as sophomores from the 2016 class – 6-foot-6 Stephen Sullivan, 6-3 Drake Davis, who caught one pass last season, and 6-2 Dee Anderson, who caught four. There is also 5-11 sophomore Derrick Dillon, who did not catch a pass last season. The most experienced returning receiver will be Chark, who caught 26 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns last season as a junior. The second most experienced? Russell Gage, who caught five for 62 yards as a junior.
“Russell Gage has done a great job. Drake Davis has done a great job,” Etling said.
“It’s going to be about getting more guys the football,” Etling said. “We want to get as many guys who are playmakers the ball in as many ways as possible, and however we can do that. We’re going to continue to grow. Coach Canada has done a great job of teaching everybody and explaining how he wants things done. This install has been easy for me to grasp.”