By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Nobody’s naming names.
The first play of the 2017 season and, consequently, of Matt Canada’s LSU career was a hand-off to Derrius Guice for seven yards, but it was the orchestration that preceded it – eight men in a simultaneous shift – that led the crowd of 50,000+ in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to ooh and aah.
The first time LSU practiced it, it also led to a few stumbles.
“The first time we did it, guys tripped once,” quarterback Danny Etling said. “After that, we got organized.”
“I definitely remember everybody tripping,” added senior wideout D.J. Chark. “I remember coach getting on us, making us run it again. He don’t like any busts.”
In fact, says Chark, it was the very first play Canada called in fall camp, too. LSU was practicing indoors when he dailed up the shift, something the team had never worked on before. Not under Canada, who kept his installation to the basics in spring, and certainly not under the reign of Les Miles and Cam Cameron, who kept installation to the basics for their entire tenures.
Exactly who fell, though, is a highly classified matter. None would identify the fallers. Not Etling. Not Chark. Not even tight end Foster Moreau, who rarely passes on a chance to get a dig in on his teammates.
“I can’t name names,” Moreau said. “It couldn’t be Will Clapp, who we all love to shame, because he just sits there with the ball. But no, we didn’t know who should go on top, who should go underneath. Coach Canada cleared that up from the first snap, when we were all kind of running into each other.”
While no Tiger will single out stumblers, they’re all more than happy to say who didn’t fall.
“Couldn’t have been (me),” Moreau said. “J.D. (Moore) and I knew to get depth, because there were four big bodied guys moving.”
Wasn’t Chark, either. He says he was on the far side of the field and one of just three players – Clapp and Etling, too – who don’t move on the play, a rarity given how much pre-snap running Chark does in most of Canada’s play book. Video evidence from the BYU game supports his claim.
With the process of elimination (Moreau’s suggestion: “Keep asking. Clue style.”), a little deduction, some Zapruder-like analysis of the film, and a bit of circumstantial evidence, it’s clear, at least, which position group struggled the most with the shift: the big boys up front. Derrius Guice and Darel Williams remain well clear of the moving mass. And Garrett Brumfield, who begins the play at right guard and ends up at left guard, offered the sort of non-denial that reeks of guilt.
“Maybe some guys might go fairly close to going down,” said Brumfield, the reigning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
“A little bit of work did have to go into it to get it spot on, to the way you saw it Saturday night.”
Against BYU, the motion created quite a commotion. Elite athletes are trained to tune out the noise of the crowd, to focus in on the task at hand, but it was hard to not hear how the fans – desperate to see Canada’s sweeping changes to the offense – reacted to LSU’s sizeable shift. Etling said it changed the way he called his cadence at the huddle. He wasn’t the only one affected.
“We all noticed it,” added Moreau. “We all laughed about it too when we got to the sidelines. We were like, ‘Wow. They really liked that whole, “Move everyone” thing.'”
It wasn’t without purpose, though. In his film room piece for The Advocate, Ross Dellenger counted motions “at least 75 times” in LSU’s first 65 plays. It’s by design, a way for Canada’s offense to go on the offensive, says Etling.
“It gets them off their toes,” Etling said. “You want to get a defense on its heels, and that’s the philosophy behind that. Motioning and shifting guys is to get them to adjust and to have to think more, so we don’t have to think as much, and we can stay aggressive, because we’re trying to play offensively.”
And trying to stay on their feet, too. It was executed to perfection on Saturday, but the answer as to exactly which players ate dirt that first fall practice remains a mystery. Even the tape, which cannot tell a lie, offers little to help solve it.
“They took it off the film,” said Etling.