Scooter Hobbs column: Digital age hasn’t reached LSU sideline

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The press box at Kentucky’s football stadium is closer to the playing field than any you’re going to find in the Southeastern Conference.

It mostly caters to the media, but there are cubby holes up there to accommodate coaches too.

So maybe that close proximity from the coaches to the players will help LSU when it visits Kentucky.

Perhaps the Tigers’ coordinators can relay their X-and-O plans from there to where it might do some good in a more timely manner.

Apparently in this fast-paced, high-tech college football age, they are using telegraph or rotary dial to get their genius relayed down there where it might affect the scoreboard. Or maybe Pony Express.

We’ve been through this before — how the turtle tactics in getting play calls down to the offense hit critical mass in Saturday’s loss to Auburn.

Head coach Ed Orgeron’s news luncheon this week was dominated by the three timeouts LSU had to burn to just to beat the play clock — not to mention the bushel full of plays that they just beat the rap, not surprisingly with no real tempo to what developed.

Orgeron called it “disorganized” and that’s as good of a description as any, other than maybe clusterfusion.

It’s not fair to quarterback Max Johnson, who has like 4 seconds to get everybody rearranged for the adjusted play. It’s not fair to a beleaguered offensive line trying to get into any kind of rhythm after sitting on their haunches for 25 seconds waiting on the call.

They’re trying to play football while the offensive brain trust upstairs — coordinator Jake Peetz and passing game coordinator D.J. Mangus — want to ponder a chess match.

You could almost set it to the music of final “Jeopardy.”

It’s all in pursuit of that perfect play call after seeing the defense, which, often as not, also adjusts to the LSU adjustment.

How much confidence can that offense have in the play call when the waiting, waiting, waiting makes it seem like they’re playing eenymeeny-miny-moe up in the think tank?

News flash: football was never meant to be a perfect game. Everything a defense does is a ploy to make an offense screw up — a task made all the easier when the offense is rushing not by design but frantically trying to avoid a delay penalty.

“We are better off when we go ‘warp,’ where we call a play and run it,” Orgeron said on a radio show Tuesday morning.

“We just need to settle down. Mostly just call the play and let it go — not try to change the play. I think that’s when we are having problems … need to simplify what we are doing on offense and let our players play.”

Orgeron has been saying the same thing for several weeks.

And yet it keeps happening and happening.

“Jake is trying to do a tremendous job,” Orgeron said. “I believe in him. It’s just a couple of things that we need to get fixed.”

Nobody said he wasn’t trying.

But this is not a position that allows for onthe-job instruction with training wheels.

Orgeron’s own job may depend on it.

Neither Peetz nor Mangas have ever called plays at this level before.

Maybe it’s time to beg national championship offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger out of semi-retirement — he’s one of those offensive analysts that none of us outside the football ops building have any idea what they really do.

It would mean firing or demoting either Peetz or Mangus to move Ensminger back into a fulltime position.

And maybe, at this stage of his career, the 63-year-old Ensminger has no interest in being held responsible for an attack with no offensive line.

But Orgeron has done it before.

The first thing he did when he became interim head coach in mid-season of 2016 was fire Cam Cameron — and elevate Ensminger to finish out the term.

When Orgeron didn’t mesh with full-time successor Matt Canada — who had some good offensive ideas — again, Ensminger got the call.

Maybe it’s time to have that talk again.

If nothing else, it would help the terrified LSU fans, whose upbeat chants of “Geaux Tigers!” lately have been replaced by desperate pleas to “Snap the #$^@# BALL!!!!”

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com