Good news, bad news

Kyle Riviere
New LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. Photo courtesy of

LSU has a new offensive coordinator. Yes, again.

So, here’s the bad news.

Head coach Ed Orgeron has made a total mess in his quest to finally help the Tiger offense escape the shackles of mediocrity.

They were supposed to have a respectable, productive offense in 2017. They didn’t. It was the same old Tigers.

Orgeron hired one of the brightest offensive minds in the game last year when he snagged Matt Canada. He said that it would be Canada’s show and that he would not interfere, but that’s exactly what happened.

After the loss to Troy, Orgeron admitted that he made Canada alter his offense and simplify things.

That’s when the bridge was burned.

After that, the two were never on the same page. The relationship got so tumultuous that the school agreed to pay Canada nearly $2 million just to disappear.

So, for the second straight year, Orgeron was back to trying to find a new offensive coordinator.

When he was hired, he promised to bring in the best coaching staff in America. That would lend you to believe that he would pursue guys like Dan Enos, Steve Sarkisian or Tee Martin. He didn’t.

Orgeron went with a guy in Steve Ensminger that hasn’t been a full-time play-caller in 20 years.

What makes it even more baffling is that Orgeron even admitted that Tee Martin reached out to him, expressing interest in taking the job.

But here’s the good news: It’s not the end of the world. I do think Ensminger will do a fine job with the offense.

Orgeron tried the flashy, popular hire last season with Canada, and that didn’t produce a lot of results on the field. They averaged just 27 points per game. They only scored 17 combined in losses to Alabama and Mississippi State.

To be fair to Canada, LSU’s offensive line and receiving corps were both very thin and very inexperienced in 2017.

Now, let’s be fair to Ensminger.

He was forced to take over as offensive coordinator five games into 2016, after both Les Miles and Cam Cameron were fired. Ensminger couldn’t just overhaul the offense in the middle of the season. He had to use the Cameron system that was already in place.

In the four games prior to Ensminger taking over the offense, LSU averaged just 21 points and 342 yards per game. In the eight games he called the plays, they averaged 32 points and 464 yards per contest.

This run included 42 points and 634 yards against Missouri. This was a school record for yards against an SEC opponent.

They also hit the 600-yard mark against Texas A&M and scored 54. In games against Ole Miss and Arkansas, they scored 38 and rushed for over 300 yards.

Sure, you can point at the two losses to Alabama and Florida that saw the Tigers produce a grand total of 10 points, but that’s deceptive.

Against Alabama, LSU’s offensive line was massacred. There were no lanes to run the ball, and Danny Etling had defenders in his face virtually every time he went back to the throw the ball.

I don’t care if Tom Herman was calling the plays, with the huge mismatch in the trenches, LSU’s offense wasn’t going to be very effective.

Against a solid Florida defense, the Tigers moved the ball well. They had 423 yards of total offense, and Etling went 14-25 passing for 204.

Red zone mistakes are what killed the Tigers that day.

A botched snap on a chip-shot field goal took 3 points off of the board. On a first-and-goal from the Florida 6, Derrius Guice fumbled the ball away.

On the final play of the game from the Gator 1, LSU got exactly what they wanted.

It should have been an easy winning touchdown run by Guice, but he went the wrong way. By the time he re-directed, it was too late. He was stuffed for no gain.

What I’m trying to say here is that Ensminger has proven that he is a credible play-caller. The proof is in the pudding.

And now, he can actually run the kind of offense he wants to run, instead of being forced to use someone else’s playbook.

Unfortunately for him, he’ll be responsible for quite the rebuilding project in 2018.

There is no Derrius Guice, no Darrel Williams, no D.J. Chark and three offensive line starters are gone. Oh by the way, they’ll be replacing their starting quarterback with a sophomore or redshirt freshman with very little to zero experience whatsoever.

I’m trying to be understanding. I’m trying to see the glass as half full, but apparently, I’m one of the few.

There is a large segment of the Tiger faithful that is totally underwhelmed and even angry over Ensminger’s hire.

He has very little margin for error in 2018—at least amongst the fans. LSU better start scoring some points, or he will quickly become another failed Orgeron OC experiment.