Canada looks to resurrect LSU's offense

Kyle Riviere
New LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Photo by Steve Franz.

After a full-scale search that spanned more than two weeks, LSU finally has their man at offensive coordinator, and it’s Matt Canada.

When Ed Orgeron was named the permanent head coach on Nov. 26, he promised that he would assemble the best coaching staff in the country.

The first step in that process was handled almost immediately as first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda signed a new extension that kept him in Baton Rouge and awarded him a $600,000 pay raise.

The search for an offensive coordinator proved to me more difficult.

Orgeron had his eye on Alabama OC Lane Kiffin. The two served on the same staff at USC for years and are still good friends today.

LSU waited out Kiffin as he pursued head coaching positions.

He interviewed for the Houston job and was reported to be their top choice, but they ended up promoting offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.

The vacant Oregon job was filled by South Florida’s Willie Taggart, and his old job in Tampa was taken by former Texas head coach Charlie Strong.

Kiffin then surprised everyone and took the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.

This move immediately prompted LSU to go to Plan B. Just two days after Kiffin agreed to coach the Owls, the Tigers hired Canada—who served as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator this year.

In his introductory press conference last Wednesday, Canada said, “We have a real opportunity under Coach Orgeron to propel LSU football to another level. The chance to put together a high-powered offense with the athletic ability available at LSU and the leadership of Coach ‘O’ is incredibly exciting.”

Orgeron said that before Canada took the job, he turned down offers from multiple Power Five conference teams. After taking a look at his resume, it’s pretty obvious why he was such a hot candidate.

In his only year at Pittsburgh, the Panthers set a school record for most points in a season. They have averaged 42 points per game in 2016.

This included a 43-42 victory over Clemson—the Tigers only regular season loss over the past two years. In their final two games, the Panthers scored 56 and 76 points, respectively.

Quarterback Nathan Peterman reaped the benefits of operating Canada’s offense. He has thrown 26 touchdown passes this season, opposed to just six interceptions.

Peterman’s emergence is no anomaly. For the most part, Canada has a knack for getting the best out of his quarterbacks.

Canada’s QBs have thrown at least 17 touchdown passes in eight of his 11 seasons as an offensive coordinator.

In the past three years, LSU has started three different quarterbacks. In that time period, they have combined to throw just 40 TDs.

One of his biggest accomplishments was the way he was able to help Jacoby Brissett evolve.

At Florida, Brissett could never win the permanent job at QB. In two years, he threw just three touchdowns and four interceptions, before transferring to NC State.

In two years under the tutelage of Canada, Brissett threw 43 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions. He’s currently a backup quarterback for the Patriots.

“With the talent already here and what we will recruit, we can put together one of the best offenses in the country,” Canada said. “We’re going to develop quarterbacks, score points and bring some excitement to the offense here at LSU.”

Canada is known to bombard defenses with multiple formations and lots of pre-snap motions. Misdirection is also one of the hallmarks of his offenses.

Canada said that he has no fixed philosophy. He constructs his offense based on the personnel he has.

He has run spread concepts as well as pro concepts. He has had pocket passers, but he has also had his quarterbacks run for more than 300 yards on five separate occasions.

On Wednesday, Canada said he will most likely mix in the spread, but he won’t run it exclusively. He said he will also mix in up-tempo, but it won’t be a staple.

Canada also said that the Tigers will still be very dependent on the running game. When asked about returning running back Derrius Guice, Canada smiled and said, “that’s a really good perk.”

The hire of Canada has already had an impact on recruiting.

When LSU was in limbo with no offensive coordinator, quarterback commit Myles Brennan (fifth-ranked pocket passer recruit, according to ESPN) announced he would be re-opening his recruitment.

The day Canada was hired, he called Brennan. Less than 24 hours later, Brennan announced he was re-committing to LSU.

After talking to Canada, St. James quarterback Lowell Narcisse also decided to re-commit to LSU after de-committing just a week earlier.