By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
ORLANDO, Fla. — If these are indeed Matt Canada’s final days as LSU offensive coordinator, he isn’t dropping much in the way of hints.
Multiple reports surfaced this week indicating LSU and its first-year assistant will part ways following Monday’s Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame. LSU coach Ed Orgeron said only that Canada is LSU’s coordinator “right now” and confirmed he will call plays against Notre Dame as LSU arrived in Orlando on Thursday night.
Canada gave no indication of an imminent split when asked about his future during an extensive interview session and press conference at the Citrus Bowl on Friday morning.
“I’d love to be here next year,” Canada said.
Canada said he hasn’t spoken to anyone at LSU regarding his future and that his focus remains squarely on beating Notre Dame to complete a 10-win season — echoing Orgeron’s comments from the night before.
He dismissed the notion that the swirling rumors could be a distraction to him or his players as LSU (9-3) prepares to take on Notre Dame (9-3) at Camping World Stadium on New Year’s Day. Still, it’s worth noting that Canada spoke for 10 minutes before fielding an actual question about the Fighting Irish.
“Our players are good with our focus on winning 10 games,” Canada said. “Our players and I have a really good situation going. We’ve all stuck together and I don’t think there’s any issue at all.”
Aside from his own future, Canada spoke at length about the growth of LSU’s two freshmen quarterbacks, Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse, the development of a young offensive line and what excited him about the prospects of his unit in 2018.
“This offense has untapped potential,” Canada said. ”The players that’re here and players recruited to come here are going to add and fill in any voids that might be there for this team. The offense will just explode. I think it’s going to be a great situation.”
He elaborated further in the press conference setting when asked what would constitute improvement in year two of his offense: “Improving in year two would be getting us to a championship.”
Whether Canada’s sentiments are genuine or him campaigning for what comes next is plenty open to interpretation, with clarity unlikely to come until sometime after the Citrus Bowl wraps up.
For what it’s worth, Canada said he plans to spend some off days with his children following the bowl game before getting back to work and hitting the recruiting trail once the staff reconvenes in January.
While mum on the departure rumors, Canada perhaps shed some light on a disconnect that’s grown between him and his boss since LSU’s 24-21 loss to Troy in September.
Canada seemed to affirm Orgeron’s prior admission that he meddled in the offense by ordering him to take out the shifts and motions that’re hallmarks of his scheme. LSU was shutout in the first half before re-instituting the shifts after halftime in a comeback effort that came up three points short.
The coordinator said he feels he has been allowed to run the offense as he liked but didn’t respond when asked if that had been the case all season.
“We went into the game, we had a plan,” Canada said of the Troy loss. “We felt like we wanted to settle things down a little bit, line up and block. Our lack of execution had nothing to do with that. We didn’t execute well.
“We had some young guys in there and we turned the ball over. We’re proud of our (lack of) turnovers (this season). We had four of the eight in that game. That falls on me. We turned the ball over four times. It’s hard to win games when you turn the ball over four times.”
The now-famous meeting between LSU AD Joe Alleva, Orgeron and his two coordinators followed with the stated goal of “getting on the same page,” as Orgeron put it. LSU closed winning six of its final seven games to land a spot in the Citrus Bowl.
As for the rift with Orgeron, Canada didn’t say much to dispel the notion that’s been widely perceived around the program for months.
“Coach O and I have the same goal. We just want to win,” he said when asked directly about their relationship. “That’s our relationship. We just want to win.”
Many on the outside speculated that Orgeron and Canada must have mended fences due to LSU’s strong finish to the season, but speculation began anew once Orgeron said he “hoped” Canada would land a head coaching job following LSU’s regular-season finale against Texas A&M.
Canada reportedly “expressed interest” in several vacancies earlier this month, notably Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette, but all of those jobs have since been filled.
“You don’t apply for head coaching jobs,” Canada said. “People call you. If people want to talk to you about being a head coach, they call you.”
Should make for an interesting next few days here at The Happiest Place on Earth.