Monday, August 12, 2013
For Cameron, LSU offense a team call
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Cam Cameron was ready for the question.
It is, after all, the one he's been hearing for months, ever since he was named LSU's offensive coordinator in February.
How much of the 2013 LSU offense will be Cameron's? Or will, as persistent public perception suggests, the Tigers' new offensive coordinator be another figurehead through which head coach Les Miles runs his ground-and-pound offense.
LSU is hoping Cam Cameron's skill with quarterbacks will expand the Tigers' offense.
"The answer is, yes I am ultimately in charge of making every call," Cameron said Sunday at LSU's media day. But that came with about 200 well thought out words to qualify that answer. The gist: It's his call, but it's not necessarily his offense.
"It's LSU's offense, No. 1," he said.
As offensive coordinator, he'll obviously have great influence and autonomy.
"Les has tremendous input," Cameron said. "I enjoy his input. We talked about it before I came here. That is part of what attracted me here."
If you are an LSU fan tired of recent offensive struggles -- the Tigers have been 10th or worse in the SEC in total offense in three of the last four seasons -- that might come as disappointing news. Miles, fair or not, takes much of the blame for LSU’s struggles on offense. The perception is, the Tigers run too much and rely on too few plays.
Enter Cameron, the man who lost his last job as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens because he supposedly abandoned Ray Rice and the Ravens run game. Surely, he'll get LSU away from those conservative calls, right?
"I like how physical they are," said Cameron of LSU's past offenses, adding that the power run game is what the Tigers do best. "For a lot of teams we play, we'll be the first team they see that lines up with a quarterback under center and a running back following a fullback through the hole."
If you want wide open football from LSU, you might not get it even with Cameron. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who stands to gain much from an offensive coordinator known for developing quarterbacks, warned not to expect a complete overhaul.
"We're still going to have the power running game," he said, "then we are going to take our shots over the top."
All that being said, it doesn’t mean the LSU offense will be business as usual. Cameron is giving Mettenberger more options and is demanding his quarterbacks master the offense enough to get the right play called.
Mettenberger said there are more plays he can check into at the line of scrimmage than in the past and the new offensive coordinator stresses matchups. If, for example, running back Alfred Blue is matched up with a slow middle linebacker, Mettenberger might audible to a play that would take advantage of that matchup by dumping to Blue in the flat and making a slower middle linebacker have to tackle in space.
Those options alone might be enough to open things up, but what Cameron said he has to avoid is opening things up for the sake of putting up statistics. He insists he doesn't need to look like the genius behind an offensive juggernaut's success.
"Personally, I think that's why some teams get in trouble," Cameron said. "They have guys trying to make their mark within a team."
Instead, Cameron said he wants to mold his offense to the team's personality. And as a team that will likely again have a dominant defense under John Chavis. Cameron might find himself, like many recent LSU offensive coordinators, deferring to that strength.
"It all depends on how a game flows," he said.
That, he said, is where he's going to need Miles' input. Miles will have the pulse of the entire game where Cameron will be focused strictly on offense. Miles might notice that the opponent seems incapable of moving the ball against defensive coordinator John Chavis' unit. In that case, the Tigers would want to be conservative. Similarly, if a game's headed for a shootout, Miles might ask for things to be opened up.
"You look at the teams that win the national championship, that's what they do," Cameron said. "They play team football. There are offenses out there that throw up ridiculous numbers. Maybe that will be us, maybe it won't be.
"But the bottom line is that's not our main goal. Our No. 1 goal is to play team offense and put ourselves in position to win."