SPdb_09_02_18_LSU_vs_Miami-11

LSU Tigers offense is set against Miami Hurricanes during the Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, September 2, 2018. 

By now surely you've heard that LSU's offense will join the 21st century this season.

Kicking and screaming, perhaps.

But head coach Ed Orgeron insists it's not an idle threat, not another false alarm. The rumors are true this time.

A little behind schedule, maybe, but better late than never.

Young wunderkind Joe Brady — no relation to Tom Brady — was hired away from the Saints as something called "passing game coordinator" with a mandate modernize a traditionally old-school offense.

The details are still behind those tightly locked doors at LSU Football, Inc., but enough has leaked out to know it will be up-tempo, rarely huddle and use run-pass options with as many wide receivers spread out all over creation as it can muster within the legal limit.

Running backs, ahem, will catch passes. In bunches.

Breaking news: Tight ends are now eligible receivers.

Great.

LSU has lots of skill players it needs to keep happy.

But the biggest beneficiaries will be the "beleaguered" offensive linemen.

Never mind the divas at the glamour positions. It's the grunts in the mud and the grime who should be turning cartwheels.

That group held back the offense a year ago. Gobs of injuries played a role — famously, the Tigers didn't start the same combination up front for the first six games — the lack of a true tackle didn't help, youth surely was a factor. Quarterback Joe Burrow was not blameless, often holding the ball too long.

Whatever, it was a liability.

This season all but one of those many forced to start is not returning. That's usually a key, but it's not important now.

Who knows if you really want the same guys back from a unit that tied for last in the SEC with 35 sacks allowed last year? That also tied for 102nd nationally.

Orgeron, while getting a patch-work unit together week to week, often complained that those protection woes kept offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger from doing what he really wanted to do.

So now they will do something else.

It will be a more experienced line. But who knows? Maybe they hit their ceiling.

At any rate, the offensive line is easily the biggest question mark on a team that doesn't have many, a team with lofty expectations from near and afar.

But here's the thing: LSU doesn't even have to block better.

Or harder. LSU as a team — epiphany alert! epiphany alert! — will block smarter.

Remember how after the annual sack-fest at the hands of Alabama, Orgeron talked about needing to recruit bigger, stronger players or making them that way?

The narrative has changed.

The Tigers' brain trust didn't so much provide a ready answer to the season's biggest question mark. They just changed the question.

Maybe they're bigger, stronger, technically better. Maybe not.

But it doesn't matter. At least they'll be in a fair fight.

In the past LSU has been prone to use what you might call the "turtle" strategy for pass protection. At the first hint of protection issues, LSU's normal (knee-jerk?) response has been to call all hands in as close to the quarterback as possible — certainly both tight ends.

It might be third-and-12 but the formation still looked like a rugby scrum was about to break out.

Oh, there was the downside that it left just one or two receivers to fend for themselves and get open while opposing team portraits dug in the trenches and usually overwhelmed the line.

The only real advantage of all that "max protection" was that there was usually a strong, friendly body nearby to alert the medics before scraping up the LSU quarterback off the turf quickly.

Brady doesn't play that game.

He won't hesitate to throw out of empty backfields. Defenses can blitz and stunt and pack the box all they want, but they better still account for the four or five receivers who will be spread to the horizon and back and also keep an eye on 6-foot-7 tight end Stephen Sullivan.

Brady has said he doesn't figure a running back good enough to go to LSU was recruited for his blocking ability, so if they're not carrying the ball they'll likely be in a pass pattern avoiding linebackers instead of whif-blocking them in the pocket.

The whole theory is not to keep the quarterback vertical for 4 or 5 seconds. It's to have plenty of options in all directions for Burrow to get rid of the ball in the blink of an eye while frustrating whatever kind of stampede a defense wants to employ.

Burrow should have no problem with that. It's the type offense he ran all of his quarterbacking life until last season.

It's not reinventing anything. Nothing is foolproof. But it's new for LSU and a clear message. The Tigers are tired of banging their heads against the same wall.

We'll see.

But it's refreshing to see something different.


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

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