No one in the LSU football complex has had more fun this year than Tigers’ offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
Who would have guessed in his third decade of coaching, the 61-year old Ensminger would have a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and join forces with a football savant to design the most explosive offense in SEC history?
Certainly not Ensminger, a Baton Rouge native who was nicknamed “Slinger” when he alternated at quarterback on Charles McClendon’s last three teams in his 18-year career as LSU’s head coach that concluded in 1979.
“Back in the stone ages, we didn’t do this kind of stuff (offense),” Ensminger said at Tuesday morning’s press conference in Atlanta as the No. 1 Tigers prepare for Saturday’s College Football Playoffs semifinal vs. Oklahoma in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. “But it is fun for a number of reasons.
“Because there’s guys sitting next to me (Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson) who can make those plays. As an offensive coordinator, you go years – it’s my 38th year of coaching – to coach quarterbacks like Joe and have receivers and running backs like we have. It’s a special year.
“So, I would have loved to have been through this, but I don’t think this offense was thought of back then.”
The door to this season’s offensive dream season – LSU leads the nation in total offense averaging 554.3 yards per game and is No. 3 in scoring offense at 47.8 points per game – opened when Ensminger welcomed the then 29-year old first-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady to the Tigers’ staff in January after his stint as a New Orleans Saints offense assistant.
“I love him to death,” Ensminger said of Brady who won the Broyles Award as college football’s best assistant coach. “Coach O (LSU head coach Ed Orgeron asked me – he walked in my office, I can’t remember when, but I think the Saints just lost the game they shouldn’t have lost. He said,`Get him here tomorrow.’
“And he’s brought a lot to our offense. To be honest, I’m appreciative of him. He deserves everything he’s gotten, I can promise you that.
“It’s just fun sitting up in the box and dissecting defenses. And it’s amazing because we practice all week, and probably the last five games for sure, you don’t see the defense you practice against. It’s always something different.
“So, sitting up here, making adjustments, and counting on your quarterback, your receivers, and running backs to make those adjustments, it’s exciting. Because with this guy (Burrow) right here, you can call a play and even if you feel like they’re going to roll the coverage, they’re going to do something wrong, he’s going to take care of it.”
Ensminger said he got hints last spring the offense could be tremendous.
“I felt like in spring, going against a very good defense, the way we performed, I thought we had a chance to be a real good offense,” he said.
“The first game of the season (against Georgia Southern), I thought that team was a very good team. And your concern as a coordinator, how are you going to move the football and everything else? We took it down there the first three drives.
I’ll never forget the one play, we’re down on the goal line and we had a duo play called, a run play called. We looked over, and I put a run tag on it. I think Joe threw a touchdown to Justin.
And then Brady looked up and says how do you like this offense now? (I said) `Pretty damn good.'”
Brady is due to get a huge bump from his $400,000 per year salary and maybe even a change in job title such as co-offensive coordinator.
Ensminger said he’ll make a decision on his future after the season.
“Hell, I’m young,” Ensminger said. ‘I still want to coach. I enjoy coaching. I think we have special athletes. I’m sitting next to three of them right here. So as long as I feel like I can contribute to LSU, I will be there.
“If I feel like — it’s kind of like, you know, Joe Brady coming in here and helping us. If I feel like, hey, somebody else can do it better, I’ll walk away from it. That’s the way it is.”