By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Jacoby Brissett and Nathan Peterman each transferred away from their respective SEC East schools after wholly uninspiring two-season stints that saw each toss more interceptions than touchdowns.
The former went on to account for 52 total touchdowns in two seasons at North Carolina State en route to being drafted by the New England Patriots. The latter threw 26 touchdowns this season for Pittsburgh versus just six interceptions to lead the highest-scoring offense in the ACC.
The common denominator?
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron formally introduced Canada as his new offensive coordinator Wednesday afternoon, standing at the same fifth-floor podium where he’d promised to bring “the best offensive coordinator in the country” to Baton Rouge during his own introductory presser weeks prior.
“We went to recruit one of the best offensive coordinators in the country,” Orgeron began, “and we got him.”
Canada was the only offensive coordinator among the five finalists for this season’s Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.
He received rave reviews from polled defensive coordinators who’d worked against him, Orgeron said, and his schematic versatility to play power football or spread it out; to go up-tempo or ball control; to win shootouts or slugfests make him an ideal hit to mirror Dave Aranda on Orgeron’s staff.
But what must be most exciting to LSU fans is Canada’s track record for extracting the best out of each and every quarterback he’s worked with, whether they be dual-threats or pocket passers.
In eight of Canada’s past 11 seasons as either coordinator or quarterbacks coach, his primary passer has thrown for more than 2,500 yards. By comparison, LSU has only had three 2,500-yard passers in the last 11 years: JaMarcus Russell (2006) and Zach Mettenberger twice (2012 and 2013).
“There’s great players here,” Canada said. “And I do believe we’ll find a way to always maximize our talents at quarterback … I think we’ve found what our guys do well, and I have great faith we’re going to do that with the guys we have here. We’ve got great pieces in place.”
Canada didn’t get into specifics about the quarterbacks presently on LSU’s roster, saying he preferred to allow the present staff to finish their season before he goes in and starts sizing up the signal callers he’ll have to work with to implement a system.
As far as the quarterbacks not yet on LSU’s roster, Canada said he planned to call each of LSU’s quarterback targets and commitments Wednesday before returning to coach Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl.
His philosophy on recruiting the position is much in the same vein as his approach to coordinating in general: his job is to score as many points as needed to win as many games as possible.
“The best quarterback,” Canada said, asked what style of quarterback he planned on targeting. “Plays are overrated. The players you get win the games. Players win games, not plays, so we’re going to find the best player that we can who is a winner; who is a student of the game; who is accurate.”
He continued: “I’d like him to be 6-foot-6, run a 4.1 (40-yard dash), throw the ball 100 yards and be the smartest person you’ve ever met, but that doesn’t happen. We’re all blessed with different talents … We’re going to find the best players who fit Coach O’s philosophy and we’re going to find ways to score points with them.”
The lone quarterback commitment in LSU’s 2017 class is Myles Brennan, who ‘re-opened his commitment’ two weeks ago pending LSU’s hiring of an offensive coordinator. Lowell Narcisse, a dual-threat quarterback, de-committed from the Tigers earlier this week.
Orgeron said off the podium that he wasn’t concerned with the idea that LSU ‘lost ground’ on recruiting while searching for an offensive coordinator. In fact, he said he didn’t expect to make a hire until after the bowl game, so the uncertainty has been cleared up sooner than he anticipated.
“Here’s the deal, I wasn’t concerned about ground losing or gaining,” Orgeron said. “I was concerned about getting the best coach available and building a foundation for years to come. And it took two weeks … But I was going to be very patient in hiring the next best guy. We got the best guy. We’re happy.”
It didn’t take Orgeron longer than an interview with Canada to make up his mind that he’d found him. Canada was the only candidate brought to Baton Rouge, Orgeron said, and not long after he became the only candidate to be offered the job.
Quarterback development isn’t the only drought Canada may be able to help LSU end. It may have been a decade ago, but the newly-minted offensive coordinator has experience in another area unique to LSU’s present staff.
“Well I’m 1-0 against Alabama,” Canada said. “We beat them in 2003 when I was at Northern Illinois.”