LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 09, 2013 7:47 PM
It has become something of LSU’s catch phrase every time the Tigers roll up another 500 yards or so of offense, every time they casually crack the 40-point barrier again or, most notably, every time quarterback Zach Mettenberger strafes through another secondary with surgeon-like efficiency.
They call it the Cam Cameron Effect.
It’s been beyond the wildest dreams of an LSU fan base starved for a wide-open offense after several years of watching quarterbacks struggle to reach 200 yards passing, often with long lulls without a completion no matter the competition.
But the reinvigorated attack, in fact, has been exactly what head coach Les Miles had in mind when he hired his old friend as offensive coordinator/quarterback coach last winter.
“I really did,” Miles said when asked if he could imagine the offensive improvement the Tigers have shown. “I don’t underestimate our offense, nor do I underestimate Cam. I think he’s a great coach.
“We knew he would make a great impact on our offense.”
It’s been a remarkable turnaround.
In a season when much of the Southeastern Conference has gone into an offensive feeding frenzy, Mettenberger leads the league in passing efficiency — he was 13th last year — and the tandem of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham have combined for more yards than any two receivers on the same team in the country.
LSU has not neglected its land-loving roots. Jeremy Hill is second in the SEC in rushing and leads the league with nine touchdowns.
“Balance is by far and away the best way to attack defenses,” Miles said. “Frankly, Cam has had a lot to do with the fact that we’re throwing the ball better than we have.”
The tools were there — Mettenberger, the receiving twins, Hill heading a deep stable of running backs — perhaps just waiting on somebody to put it all together.
Miles sees it almost as a perfect storm of a new coach, new opportunity and willing players.
“Cam is exactly what we needed in terms of his experience and how to throw it,” Miles said. “He really added to the running game, for that matter. He understands running backs. His calls are on pace. We’ve improved on offense. We would like to rewrite some offensive records here.”
So Cameron has become the rare LSU offensive coordinator to be worshipped by Tiger fans, who give him most of the credit for the Tigers being on pace to rewrite most of the school record book.
And that’s fine with Miles, who can’t sing his praises enough.
But the savior himself?
Cameron has, for the most part, been the Great Oz behind the curtain, content to avoid the spotlight, remain mysterious and let his handiwork speak for itself.
But the results have been real.
Cameron said before the season began that Mettenberger was going to be a far better quarterback this season — not because of his coaching, per se, but because he’d be a senior with a year’s experience under his belt.
Miles agrees, to a degree.
“Zach, in his fifth year, kind of looks around and goes, ‘I’ve kind of got this, I understand this.’ Then to have a mentor who can fine-tune the thought process, I just think it’s exactly the right thing.
“I think there are some guys that Cam would have had to have detailed it maybe a little bit differently. The change in week-to-week game plan might not be as wide. You’d have to go at a pace that the quarterback could (understand), not necessarily as advanced as Zach was when (Cameron) got here.
“Yeah, I think it’s kind of a perfect match, if you will.”
But Miles also said Mettenberger “certainly was very ready to make change, very receptive to Cam.”
“But yet, I think Cam is a very special coach and it has made a difference in us.”
Most of Cameron’s focus with the offense has been on Mettenberger, who after an up-and-down junior season is starting to slip into the discussion for national awards while his NFL stock skyrockets.
“Cam is a unique teacher,” Miles explained. “He can approach situations and teach it in such a fashion … not necessarily of a coach of 30 years, but getting through to that college-aged student-athlete that this is what we want.”
Cameron made a rare appearance with the media after LSU’s 59-26 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday and hadn’t changed his tune.
He gave most of the credit to Mettenberger, saying he hadn’t really done anything to “toughen up” what appeared at times to be a fragile quarterback last season.
“I think he’s had that,” Cameron said. “He had some things he had to go through to make him tougher. This program is tough. If you’re an LSU Tiger, you’re tough or you’re not going to be here long.”
The only question with Cameron, who’s been a head coach both in college (Indiana) and the NFL (Dolphins), seems to be how long he’ll stay at LSU? In juicing up the LSU offense and jump-starting Mettenberger’s career, he may have revived his own for bigger gigs down the road.
“I think he’d be a great head coach in the college game, or for that matter in the pro game,” Miles said. “Right now he’s in college. I think he sees his opportunities … I think he’ll have them.”
That’s long term.
For now, Miles said, “I think he enjoys college (right now), enjoys recruiting. He’s somebody that is committed, in my mind, to making LSU the best we can be. His short-term goals are to win and win very big.”