BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron is determined not to let the Tigers stagnate offensively and won’t rest on the unit’s school record-setting performance last weekend.
“We’re going to expand on our package, obviously,” said Orgeron, whose Tigers are scheduled to visit No. 18 Florida on Saturday. “We’re not going to show them the same thing and run the same plays this week and give them what they expect.”
While Orgeron has spent his career as a defensive coach, the Louisiana native wound up in charge last week in part because the Tigers’ offense was widely seen as too predictable under Les Miles, who was fired four games into his 12th season at LSU.
The initial tweaks made by Orgeron and his newly appointed offensive coordinator, Steve Ensminger, paid considerable dividends. For all the lopsided victories LSU has posted in eight-plus decades of competition in the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers had never piled up as many yards in a league game as the 634 they had in a 42-7 victory over Missouri last Saturday.
Ensminger, Orgeron said, “is going to make some changes this week. We’ll see what we can do. But also, we’re very effective in doing the things that we did, so we don’t want to completely get rid of it.”
The initial transformation wasn’t radical, Orgeron said. Some of the statistics from last weekend’s victory back that up. The main source of LSU’s dominance was its deep, dynamic and powerful running game, which accounted for 418 yards — even without the services of hobbled star running back Leonard Fournette.
LSU had two 100-yard rushers, with Derrius Guice gaining a career-high 163 and Darrel Williams finishing with a career-high 130. Nick Brosette added 73 yards on only five carries.
The formations and personnel packages were different, however. For example, LSU ran a number of plays out of four-wide-receiver sets, rather than the traditional I-formation that allowed defenses to pack the middle of the field.
With defenses spread out, LSU’s ball carriers met less resistance at the line of scrimmage and used their athleticism to escape tackles as they reached the secondary. LSU had 11 running plays go for more than 10 yards, including six for 20 or more.
“It was a great job by Steve Ensminger calling the plays. I like the diversity,” Orgeron said. “I liked the way he mixed his personnel. … The goal was to be very efficient and be multiple, put the ball in our playmakers’ hands and (in) space and let them play. He did a very good job of that.”
Guice raved about the quicker tempo with which plays came into the huddle and were executed. He said the whole offense seemed to have a good rhythm, particularly when it came to getting off the ball and initiating blocks. Meanwhile, Guice thought the coaching staff effectively used substitutions to help players remain fresh.
“The offensive line did a great job setting up cutting lanes. The receivers did a good job blocking downfield. There was better communication,” Guice said. “Rotating backs was good. It is always good to have fresh backs.”
Quarterback Danny Etling said the transition last week wasn’t easy, but players had to give Orgeron and Ensminger the benefit of the doubt if they wanted to salvage their season. Now they have proof it can work.
“It was such a scramble getting everything together. But the coaches put together a good plan,” Etling said. “What happened last week is good for our confidence.”
The passing game also improved, but less dramatically. Etling had more success throwing short than deep.
“We took shots. We didn’t hit them. But I like it, because it’s just going show the defense that we’re going to stretch the field,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to continue to do that.”
Now LSU’s offensive coaches and their players face the challenge of producing on the road against an old rival in Florida that sees itself as a contender in the SEC East. And Orgeron has said it looks like they’ll have to do it without two starters on the offensive line — guard Will Clapp (arm) and tackle Toby Weathersby (ankle).
“They have a tough job this week,” Orgeron said. “It’s going to be a lot tougher defense than we played last week.”
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