A real-life football playbook isn’t something you can instantly change like you can in EA Sports’ NCAA Football when you take over for Army in dynasty mode and decide it’s time the Black Knights start setting some passing records. A playbook is a product of years of work and experience, and isn’t easily cast aside, particularly at a place like LSU where I assume Les Miles had it chiseled into a wall somewhere.
That means when Ed Orgeron took control of LSU in Week 5, he couldn’t just tear down Les Miles’ playbook wall and create a new offense in a few days. Despite that limitation, LSU’s offensive turnaround has been dramatic.
Orgeron, who turned over offensive control to Steve Ensminger after the firing of Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, has seen his offense score 87 points and amass 1,093 total yards in all of eight quarters of football. Granted, the LSU offense accomplished these things against Missouri and Southern Mississippi (51st and 98th in Defensive S&P+, respectively), but there’s no arguing this has been a different unit over the last three weeks.
So how did the LSU offense go from bad enough to get a coach fired to good enough to build momentum around the idea of NON-INTERIM HEAD COACH ED ORGERON?
To start, he didn’t call for an overall change to LSU’s run-heavy philosophy. In fact, LSU has run it even more over the last two games
“We talked. Ensminger, myself, and some of the other coaches came together and we all said, ‘Here’s some of the things we’ve done in other places that have been successful. What are they similar to here?’” Coach O told SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey after his debut win over Mizzou, which saw his Tigers set a school record for offensive yards against an SEC opponent. “Because we can’t change the language right now, obviously. So we tried to run some of the same stuff out of different formations and packages.”
What Orgeron and Ensminger have done is figure out ways to run the same plays installed by Miles using different formations and different personnel groupings.
After watching every offensive snap* of the last two games of the Miles era and the first two of the Orgeron era, I put together a look at the creative formations that have fueled the offensive turnaround.
*I missed six plays of the State game because the person uploading games for free didn’t get it started until halfway through the first quarter. SMH.
1 TE, 2 RB, 2 WR
- Les: 25.4% (32 of 130 plays)
- Orgeron: 37.1% (46 of 124 plays)
What’s interesting is that though Orgeron’s version of LSU has used the above grouping and similar formation heavily, they’re trying out various formations with the grouping. OBSERVE:
This is most likely what Orgeron had in mind when he said they would “spread the ball out.” But as you can see, this isn’t turning the offense over to four wide receivers and seeing if Danny Etling’s Purdue skills can get the ball to them. This formation still presents the threat of a run and puts highly skilled wide receivers inside and in a position to run quick routes against linebackers and nickel corners.
2 TE, 1 RB, 2 WR
- Les: 16.7% (21 of 130 plays)
- Orgeron: 33.9% (42 of 124 plays)
As an Ole Miss fan, the increase in usage of this personnel grouping scares the hell out of me. They have one of their really good running backs on the field, but now have two tight ends that can block for him (and leak out to catch passes), plus two wide receivers who will probably make millions in the NFL.
LSU can use this grouping to pound Ole Miss into dust with the run, kill by a thousand paper cut checkdowns to the tight ends, or throw it over the top to a wide receiver who is definitely going against one-on-one coverage. Given the Ole Miss defensive deficiencies, I CARE NOT FOR THIS GROUPING.
And of course they package it in multiple ways.
They will run and throw out of all of these formations, but the last formation opens the LSU offense to the world of run-pass option plays, which is SUPER NEWS.
And the stress doesn’t stop there.
1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WR
- Les: 38.1% (48 of 130 plays)
- Orgeron: 12.9% (16 of 124 plays)
While Les LOVED to use this grouping (22 times against MSU and 26 times against Auburn), particularly to pass, Orgeron’s LSU has distanced themselves from it. When Orgeron does use this formation, however, there is a 4,000% chance they’re running a run-pass option play. In the two Coach O games, the Tigers ran an RPO every time they lined up like this:
By the time I was chest deep in USM film and saw this formation, I would scream at my computer, “RUN-PASS, RUN-PASS.” That said, it’s still hard to stop when you consider the dudes* LSU has on offense.
2 TE, 2 RB, 1 WR
- Les: 15.1% (19 of 130 plays)
- Orgeron: 6.4% (8 of 124 plays)
Shout-out to the Ed Orgeron braintrust for recognizing that it’s probably a bad idea to remove a future multi-millionaire from the field in exchange for a fullback or a tight end. Even if you can’t throw it to said future multi-millionaire, the threat is still there.
Your thoughts on such a diagnosis, Coach O?
3 TE, 2 RB, 0 WR
Wait. Sorry, my fault. I got distracted by the pregame fixins.
- Les: 1.2% (2 of 130 plays)
- Orgeron: 1.6% (2 of 124 plays)
A NEAR-EQUAL DISTASTE.
0 TE, 1 RB, 4 WR
- Les: 3.2% (4 of 130 plays)
- Orgeron: 6.4% (8 of 124 plays)
In Orgeron’s first game, LSU went with four wide receivers for their entire first series. The results of that series: 11-yard completion, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, punt.
The following series, with zero four-wide sets: seven rushes, two passes, touchdown.
0 TE, 2 RB, 3 WR
No percentages here because Orgeron is the only one to use this (twice). While nothing significant happened out of it, I show you an example here because of Southern Miss doing some Joe Lee Dunn business:
NO DOWN LINEMEN EVERYBODY STALKING AROUND WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN CAN CHAOS COVER UP WE LACK LINEBACKERS
Just a thought, Dave Wommack.
0 TE, 0 RB, 5 WR