METAIRIE, La. — For much of the LSU staff, a Football Caravan stop in Metairie was a final item on the agenda before departing for a much-needed vacation between prospect camps in June and fall camp in August.
Ed Orgeron is headed to the Caribbean with his family in a couple days. Dave Aranda will be taking his family to New York City, where he’s got plans to see Hamilton on Broadway and take in a Yankee game on the 4th of July.
Unlike his colleagues, Steve Ensminger won’t be spending many days at the beach or taking in any musicals this July. Instead LSU’s new offensive coordinator will be in the office four days a week making sure his attack is ready to roll for the start of fall camp on Aug. 3.
Ensminger told reporters Thursday that LSU has installed roughly 50 percent of his offense up to this point. The veteran coach didn’t hide from the fact that there will be a lot of uncertainty on his side of the ball when LSU hits the practice field for the first time as a complete team.
“We’re a very young offense. I know nobody wants to hear that, and I could give a damn about it,” Ensminger said. “And I probably won’t say that again, but we don’t know who our quarterback is right now. We don’t know who our running back is right now.”
That in part explains why Ensminger will spend much of his vacation in the office hammering out the details. He’ll be joined by a different offensive assistant each week to work on specifics relating to their position group.
Offensive line coach James Cregg will be first up, Ensminger said, and then running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph will go next followed by senior offensive assistant/passing game coordinator Jerry Sullivan.
Ensminger shared that LSU wasn’t able to implement 20 personnel (3 WR, 2 RB, 0 TE) this spring or work on a “jet” package. He mentioned that 20 and 12 personnel (2 WR, 1 RB, 2 TE) will be two of his go-to personnel groupings, along with some empty backfield looks.
“There’s a lot we have to get through in July and August, so let’s just see where we’re at,” Ensminger said. “I think we’ve done a good job of evaluation our talent. We’ve done a good job of finding out our No. 1 personnel is three wide. Our No. 2 personnel is two wide and two tight ends. But we can’t be predictable in those sets. I’d like to run every formation we have with three different sets of personnel.”
Putting this in layman’s terms, Ensminger wants LSU to be able to switch seamlessly between various formations without substituting personnel, meaning the defense doesn’t have time to substitute either.
Achieving such versatility would allow LSU to spread the field with running backs and tight ends in the game or bunch in without taking any receivers, who Ensminger calls the strength of LSU’s roster, off the field.
If LSU can execute at such a level, it’ll greatly increase the effectiveness of the tempo Ensminger plans to add into the offense.
Ensminger has made it clear LSU doesn’t want to go fast all the time, both because doing so risks tiring out his own defense and because he believes defensive coordinators have become comfortable playing against teams that exclusively go no-huddle.
Instead he’s articulated a plan to vary tempo, meaning sometimes LSU will huddle up and sometimes it will operate as fast as possible at the line of scrimmage. It’ll be up to Ensminger and Orgeron to have enough feel for the game to decide when to do which.
“I’ve talked to people inside and outside this state, and the thing I’ve learned is that defensive coaches now a days are pretty comfortable with tempo,” Ensminger said. “What they don’t like is a changeup. They don’t like when you go huddle, huddle, huddle and then you go fast.”
Some aspects of the offense won’t become clear until a quarterback emerges in fall camp, but Ensminger is putting in overtime this summer to make sure every other detail possible is ironed out and ready to go.