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Insider

Countdown to camp: Stud-ly offense?

7/24/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

It was just under a year ago, just at the start of August camp, that the bombshell dropped.

Steve Kragthorpe, LSU's new offensive coordinator, had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, forcing him to relinquish his coordinator duties (while staying quarterbacks coach) to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. It was part of a tumultuous August for the Tigers, who later lost quarterback Jordan Jefferson to a suspension after he was arrested following a bar fight.

Fast forward a year. As we approach the end of July, things are more settled. Kragthorpe is thriving as quarterbacks coach and has traveled the country looking for future quarterbacks while mentoring highly-anticipated new starter Zach Mettenberger. Studrawa has been offensive coordinator for a year and, unlike a season ago, has had a full off-season to put his stamp on the offense.

In August camp, we may get clues as to what that will look like.

Throughout Les' Miles time as head coach, LSU has used a power running game while not being afraid to throw it if Miles and the offensive staff has been comfortable with the ability of the quarterback. A season ago, with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback, the Tigers threw on 32 percent of their plays (279 out of 870). But when LSU won the national championship with future NFL quarterback Matt Flynn in 2007, the Tigers threw on 42 percent of their plays and 45 percent of plays in 2006, in future NFL No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell's senior season.

At first glance, the lack of passing by Jefferson and Lee was a reflection of their abilities relative to Russell and Flynn. But, Miles has been quick to add, it was also a reflection of the flow of games. The Tigers led big in most games and were often in run-the-clock mode late in games.

Another factor was the running ability of Jefferson, who had 75 rushes last season. On this year's roster, there doesn't seem to be the same kind of running threat among the Tigers' quarterbacks.

"The only real difference in our offense is there won't be as much quarterback carry," Miles said at SEC media days.

Jefferson's carries came in 10 games, an average of 7.5 carries a game (he started the last five games, but was used as the running backup in his first five games back from suspension.

So where do those runs go?

They could go to LSU's deep group of running backs. More likely, Studrawa, who ran a wide-open offense when he was offensive coordinator at Bowling Green, will call on Mettenberger's powerful, accurate arm to test more secondaries.

"We'll be able to go four, five wide and just throw the ball around," receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.

Well, let's not go crazy here. Miles teams strive for balance. Even with its future NFL quarterbacks, LSU ran more than 50 percent of the time.

The question is, will LSU be balanced, or remain run-first?