METAIRIE, La. – In late June, LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger sat down with the print media at the Football Caravan event in Metairie for a 15-minute chat that covered a number of topics. This is the first part of that Q/A, focusing on the Tigers’ personnel. Part Two, which focuses more on the offensive scheme and recruiting, will be posted Thursday.
Editor’s note: The order of the questions and answers have been rearranged at some points to group them together thematically – i.e., questions on Joe Burrow from the end of the interview might appear after questions about Burrow from earlier in the interview. The original Q/A with its original order will be linked in Thursday’s post.
What do you think of Joe Burrow so far?
Good looking kid. I say ‘kid,’ he’s a good looking young man. Probably 6-3, 225 pounds. Very physical looking young man. I’m very impressed with him. We’re not allowed to spend a bunch of time with them right now. We can watch film and install our offense. On the field you can do a little bit of individuals, but you can’t throw the football. You don’t get to evaluate the accuracy and the arm strength and everything else. But, as far as maturity, as far as football knowledge, as far as wanting to be good, being in there every day, learning the game, trying to study our offense, I think he’s been outstanding.
Graduating in three years must say a lot about him.
I’m not sure, I think he might have taken 18 hours, 21 hours his last semester. I know it was a grind. We did a lot of research on him. From his high school to guys who have been around him, coached him, guys who have played against him, everything we’ve got from them was how good a person he is, how good an athlete he is. He’s a football junkie. He wants to learn football. We put something new in every day as far as the offense is concerned, and he’s up there studying every day. We put in yesterday our no-huddle stuff, and he was up there for about two hours before the meeting, watching what we did in the spring. He wants to know it. I’m looking forward to it.
What’s the dynamic like for a grad transfer to come in, try to get to know everyone in the locker room, get to know the coaches? How big a challenge is that, and how has he welcomed that?
That’s a great question. I’ve never been through it. To me, if you come in with some maturity, and say, ‘Hey, look, I just want to be a part of your team,’ and you come in and be very humble to be a part of the team, which he has done, it gives you a chance in the locker room. It gives you a chance in the huddle. It gives you a chance at practice and everything else. It’s not like someone coming in saying, ‘I’m the guy.’ He’s done everything you could expect. He’s been welcomed by our players. I still check with my tight ends every day and say, ‘How’s he doing? How are practices going?’ They’re excited about him being here. Our whole team is.
How do you feel about your quarterback room going into the fall?
I’m excited about them. I really am. I thought the three we had there in spring got better. If you had to say, no matter what, would you play this guy right now? I’d play all three of them. And I’d feel confident. Each one of them has a different talent. Each one of them. Myles Brennan can throw the football. Myles Brennan, I don’t think we’ll do a lot of quarterback runs with him. Justin McMillan, he has the ability to do both. Lowell Narcisse really showed the ability during the course of the spring to throw the ball outstanding deep. I think he’s a little late on his quick game passes. We’re working on that all summer. They all bring something to the table. It’s just a matter of whoever gets the job, whoever wins the job, I’ve got to do a good job of conforming to their talents.
How much did you recruit Joe Burrow, and how much did Joe Burrow recruit you?
We recruited him. We did. I’ll be honest with you. I’m trying to figure out which story I can tell you. We knew about him. But it’s amazing. My first day out recruiting, I went out to Copiah Lincoln in Mississippi. And his dad from Ohio was recruiting their school. I met him that day. And so, we started talking about his son and everything else. And we stayed in touch. That was good. And (safeties coach) Bill Busch did an outstanding job recruiting him. We recruited him. There’s no doubt about it. We did our research on him. I can’t tell you a person I’ve talked to or Bill Busch, or Coach Orgeron, or anybody else has talked to, has anything negative to say about that young man.
How would you describe him as a quarterback, for those who haven’t seen him play?
From watching the film, I think he’s a big, strong, athletic kid. He’s football intelligent. I watched some of his spring practices, some of his spring games, some of the games he’s played in the past. He doesn’t’ make many mistakes mentally. He knows where he’s going with the football. He’s very accurate. Watching him on film, I questioned his arm strength. I don’t question it anymore.
What’s it going to be like this year where the personnel dictates you’ll be more pass heavy than run heavy? The personnel hasn’t been like this in a while. What’s the approach you have to take?
We’re a very young offense. I know nobody wants to hear that. And they’re not going to give a damn about it. I’ll probably never 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. It’s kind of running back by committee. Our receiver group, who I think is outstanding, I really do, the guys who came in here in the spring were really good. I think the four freshmen we signed are really, really talented. That’s the depth of our offense right now. I think we’re going to be good up front. It’s amazing. Is LSU ready for it (a pass heavy offense)? Hell, I don’t know if the state of Louisiana is ready for it. The strength of our offense right now is our wide receivers, and we’re going to get the ball to them. So it’s going to be throw first, run when they give it to you.
Is (Thaddeus) Moss an on-the-line tight end or a flex tight end?
He’s both. I’ve been in that room. I love tight ends. I love Fs. I coached them. I remember him asking me about a recruit we recruited. He said, ‘Why didn’t you go after this guy?’ I told him, ‘I didn’t think he was tough enough to play here. I didn’t know if he could put his hand on the ground…and he asked me, ‘What about me?’ I said, ‘I’m still judging. I know you can play off the ball. I know you can split out. I know you can catch the football. But you’ve got to get a hell of a lot tougher for me to play you.’ Well, let me tell you, this spring, he proved it. He played with his hand on the ground. He can play split out. He can play in any set.
Tory Carter. Is he strictly somebody you’ll use at fullback? Is there anything else he can do?
Yes, because he can catch the ball very well. I don’t know how many he caught last year, but he caught the ball well, made some plays for us. That’s what I’m talking about, being able to be in a regular personnel. He is a very good fullback. We should be able to run the football at people at times. But in regular personnel, can we split him out? Yes, because I have confidence he can catch the football. That’s where we’re experimenting right now.
Running back by committee right now?
In my mind, by committee. I think Clyde Edwards-Helaire, I thought he had a great spring. It’s kind of like quarterback. They’re all different. I think Nick Brossette runs the read zone as good as we got because he’s very patient with it. I think Lanard Fournette – I know we will play on third down, but he’s a physical runner. You take our two freshmen coming in. Tae Provens, I think Tae Provens has a different gear. Tae Provens can run. When he gets in the open, it’s a different gear. We just got Chris Curry in, and Chris Curry is probably a 6-1, 220 pound back. He’s a big back. He’s a bruiser with good speed. It’s going to be how we’re going to attack the football game, but it will be by committee.