Updated: May 24
OFFENSIVE PREVIEW I:QBs / COACHING
How does one recreate lightning in a bottle?
Do you trap it, dissect it or harness whatever you can from the dying energy before moving on like a callous reptile?
Does one simply continue to reinvent themselves until the face in the mirror looks unrecognizable?
Or do we give everything to turn back time and relive the past through our present vessels (a common failure)??
That is the big question for the 2020 LSU Tigers' offense, and most definitely the biggest Coach Orgeron must answer in his career...how can one top a Paul Bunyan-weighted mic drop?
Should LSU try and replicate last year's high octane aerial odyssey, this time under 2019's quarterbacking student Myles Brennan?
Or will the reigning national champions hunker down and return to their traditional values, acknowledging the "end" of 2019's one-season free for all?
If Coach O led that charge for regression, it would've curtailed our G.O.A.T offense's progress after only one year, damning us back to the kicker / punter / running back obsessions of our pre-2018 schemes in the process.
But thanks to the stability of Coach Ensminger's offensive system, we were able to hold on to receivers coach Mickey Joseph, even as Jorge Munoz followed Dave Aranda to Baylor; then, once the hiring of Scott Linehan was finalized, LSU fans heard the answer of their ultimate desire:
The only option forward for this program was to GEAUX ALL IN with the spread attack...not a regression, not some throwback to Cam Cameron or Studrawa (who was Ensminger's boss on the 2011/12 staff...no wonder we didn't score a single TD in two games vs Alabama).
It's this passing game which so perfectly compliments the ground and pound... It's the
unpredictability of Ensminger's hair of the dawg offense that's currently exciting millions of college football fans, enraging every one of our SEC rivals, and has already caused a wave of blue blood jealousy to run rampant throughout CFB's Funyun-fingered / basement laptop landscape;
It was the marriage of Ensminger, Brady and Burrow that made every diehard LSU fan feel like they were high on a combination of LSD and Jesus....and in turn, this new offense made thousands of non-traditional recruits (QB, TE) look at Louisiana as a perfect destination for their talents to flourish...
This passing game not only gave Joe Burrow the Heisman, Joe Brady the Broyles Award three months after turning 30, Ja'Marr Chase the Biletnikoff as a sophomore, or Ed Orgeron the Coach of the Year award he so richly deserved: without the impetus and psychological weaponry of the first real unstoppable offense, LSU doesn't win the national title in 2019.
This foot to the throat phenomenon is now part of our tradition and our offensive DNA...as long as Orgeron is coach:
Much like this program under Joe Alleva or the inoperable offensive disgustitude of Cam Cameron...we can't geaux back.
There was a lot of debate and speculation as to who would take Joe Brady's vacant passing game coordinator role; we knew Orgeron had hookups, we're aware of his ability to call upon a variety of connections throughout the football world....and just as he had to replace Dave Aranda with Bo Pelini, Ed Orgeron hired the right guy to take over from Joe Brady:
Scott Linehan, a former NFL head coach and coordinator, will now take the reigns of our passing game. Linehan led multiple teams to the playoffs and improved three Pro Bowl QBs from three different teams under his stewardship.
When speaking about the hire on Off The Bench, Coach Orgeron proclaimed "he was everything we were looking for..."
After some consideration, trepidation, and finally, mentally-damaged reflection, the ringing endorsement from Coach was all I needed to hear.
When the news came out that Linehan would be Orgeron's guy for the gig, many immediately dismissed him and highlighted his horrendous results in St. Louis and mixed bag as part of Jerry Jones's Dallas Cowboys.
However, we're talking about two franchises in the bottom barrel as far as mental capacity: St. Louis was desperate to move to L.A and became a despicable failure until finally moving to the West Coast, and then there's the Dallas Cowboys...an institution of dysfunction that'll never be stable...Linehan, just like Zeke and Dak, didn't have a chance there.
It wasn't Linehan's time in Dallas that caught my eye anyway, what attracted me most was his years spent in the NFC North jettisoning aggressive passing teams.
Linehan's work in Detroit and Minnesota had to be the blueprint for his LSU hire and future Baton Rouge success:
From 2002-2004, Linehan was the PGC and receivers coach of the Minnesota Vikings' elite unit, led by Daunte Culpepper's rocket arm and the receiving majesty of Randy Moss.
Later, he did even better for his own resume in Detroit:
The former St. Louis Rams head coach guided a young, injury-ravaged Matthew Stafford into becoming the most entertaining passer in the NFL (during the era of Brady-Brees-Big Ben and Aaron), all while buoying the luckless Lions into a winning position they hadn't experienced since Barry Sanders retired.
This Stafford-led Lions squad stormed into the playoffs twice under Linehan (Stafford attempting an NFL record 727 throws in 2012). Detroit only made the playoffs once since he left, and it was due to the system he left behind.
During that run, Linehan's aggressive offense vaulted Matthew Stafford from bonafide bust labels to Offensive Player of the Year nominations, escalating to unanimous MVP candidacy. Around the same time, the former UGA QB became the only NFL QB to ever pass for 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns in a 4 game span.
So...what can Linehan offer Myles that Joe Brady couldn't?
Under Linehan we'll have just as much attention to detail, and if guys like Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall responded to Brady's youthful exuberance and inexperience by posting record years, then they'll absolutely love working with a seasoned NFL vet who can swap Randy Moss and Megatron's secrets.
On the field, LSU's 2020 starting quarterback Myles Brennan has a very similar profile to Stafford, from his imperious arm to his lack of escapability.
Watching Brennan, we see his quick release, thorough progressions, the fast decision-making, and despite being labeled "un-athletic", he can pull off the occasional sly movement in the backfield.
Luckily, Myles is in a rare situation as a back-up quarterback turned starter: the scenario bizarrely mirrors the Joe Burrow saga in many ways, except for one key difference: he never transferred.
Although Myles was the expected starter going into 2017 and 2018, Brennan sat and watched Danny Etling and Joe Burrow for two complete seasons, becoming a forgotten man among fans...but in the midst of this legendary unit, Myles belonged:
He never waited or watched...Myles remained active in the quarterback room, discussing matters with Burrow or Jorge Munoz on the sidelines and Ensminger / Brady on the headset.
These last two years supplied Brennan with an encyclopedic knowledge about the innards of the offense, and due to Myles' preparation and readiness:
Our pedal to the metal attack is going nowhere.
Using Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady's choice route playbook as our offensive basis, Scott Linehan's intelligence and pedigree will expand the techniques of our NFL-ready receiving corps; and with Coach Ensminger already working closely alongside Myles Brennan for three full seasons, we have every reason to be confident about LSU's 2020 offense.
We don't know if Myles Brennan can throw 60 touchdowns this season, but in this elite offensive structure established by Steve Ensminger, possessing the two best receivers in college football: he really doesn't have to...but he still could.
Since the offensive scheme is primarily based upon the speed and athleticism of our skill positions, plus the constant outlets in the running / screen-pass game, Brennan will be successful.
For any serious Myles Brennan doubters, which there are many, one example tells us everything we need to know about the work ethic and talent of #15:
When the late great SEC Network / ESPN reporter Ed Aschoff asked LSU's players and staff "who the most improved player was coming into 2019", they didn't say Joe Burrow, nor were they firmly on the Edwards-Helaire bandwagon, they all said:
Now a year later, Brennan just witnessed the ins and outs of how a previously unknown quarterback became the greatest living college football legend outside of Reggie Bush or Archie Griffin.
Myles didn't just see another sloppy, game-managing LSU quarterback come in and take his place, he looked on as Joe Burrow became the first true LSU QB, taking no prisoners on his way to an inspirational Heisman Trophy.
📷 Burrow showed Myles all that's possible when clad in purple and gold, including how to break nearly every record in the book, how to beat seven Top 10 teams in a season, and how to finish off a marathon campaign with a national championship...all accomplished against the odds, the doubts, the media talking points about LSU's "arrogance", their "path to the NFL or nowhere else" etc...and here we are still currently putting up with these mechanized murmurs yet again.
For all these underclassmen, not just Brennan, there couldn't be a better teacher than the experience of 2019.
Every LSU quarterback now has Joe Burrow to look up at: he's the bar;
Every running back will feel compelled to watch Edwards-Helaire's performance against Alabama again and again and say "that guy's the bar...maybe I could try flying over Saban's Tide myself?"
Arik Gilbert will look up to Thaddeus Moss's incredible rise and say "Why can't I do this, too?"
The absolute pure confidence the 2020 team has received (from the previous squad's departing members) helped smooth this transition period, made the fans delirious, and took root in the hearts and minds of all our players...and to besiege his boys with motivation, Coach Ed Orgeron constantly ignites this aura surrounding the program, bleeding the vibe of an honest to gawd champion: he's able to convince the players, the staff, even the fans, that we're all born champions.
Now the pieces to the 2020 puzzle begin to fall into place:
Our defense has its replacements in D-line coach Bill Johnson and coordinator Bo Pelini, the two not-so-newbies completing an all star staff bookended by program cornerstones: Bill Busch and Corey Raymond.
Now, the offense under Steve Ensminger and Scott Linehan is ready to resume its professional ethos, and the Silver Fox has weapons galore to make it happen, especially throwing the ball to Chase and Marshall, the key returning specimen from 2019's all-encompassing conquest.
The only major concerning factors when evaluating Brennan is his soft spoken, light and fluffy mentality and his lack of athleticism.
Could he be susceptible to a rebuilt offensive line which lost center Lloyd Cushenberry and right guard Damien Lewis to the draft?
Or will the presence of 5-star signee Marcus Dumervil, returning leader Austin Deculus, and the carousel of unstoppable backs keep him upright?
Meanwhile, the center position will be hotly contested in spring practice, but we believe Chasen Hines will do everything possible for Cush's spot.
Or is it possible Myles has worked on his movement and footwork within a collapsing pocket, using Burrow's unparalleled timing as a successful blueprint of how a QB should escape?
We know he'll give it everything.
Though we're left wondering about the kid's quiet demeanor during the heat of fiery SEC battles, we also don't think it's fair to question the young man's mentality as the silent Silver Fox; his personality may be the opposite of Joe's flamboyant badassery, however it's obvious the Heisman / national title winner's sexgawdultra vibe has rubbed off on the stoic statuesque #15.
We believe in Myles but we're also experiencing a new phenomenon in Baton Rouge, options at quarterback:
Aside from Myles, we have two elite freshmen QB talents, the massive T.J Finley and versatile Max Johnson.
A significant grab for the LSU recruiting staff, T.J Finley boasts a pure arm combined with the size and profile of a young JaMarcus Russell, minus the ego and adding the work ethic. He's as impossible to intercept as he is to tackle; still, his mechanics are at the embryonic stage, his footwork remains raw, yet the future has no ceilings...2020 may be too soon for T.J.
While Max Johnson is an RPO kid in the same mould of Trevor Lawrence (minus the arm strength) or Tim Tebow (subtracting the Biblical ego), our current system may be too complex and professional for him to grasp at such a young age...though I'll never count any Tiger out.
But after years of waiting, it's Myles' turn to run the show.
Over the next week, we'll unveil the inner-workings and rumblings of LSU's offense; and since our roster contains such incredible depth, we'll be focusing on a position in each piece (Find Our Receivers / TEs' preview here
Follow us along as we descend into the heart of LSU football's quest to defend their national title...join us as we geaux through the unfathomable greatness littered within the Tigers' depth chart.
Sporting NFL-ready superfreaks out wide, 5-star backs John Emery Jr, Chris Curry, Kevontre Bradford and Ty Davis-Price in behind, the returning veterans of James Cregg's Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, and the most aggressive coaching staff holding on to the highest octane playbook in college football's history, we'll leave you dear reader with a warning from Joe Brady:
"You better get your popcorn ready..."