Monday, February 11, 2013
What would Cameron mean to offense?
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's not official yet, but it looks like LSU will probably soon have a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron.
For an offense not known for its passing game, it's an interesting choice,
Cam Cameron could be the guy to bring LSU's passing game to the next level.
Known as a follower of the "Air Coryell" offense popularized by Don Coryell's late-70s San Diego Chargers teams, Cameron has a history with successful quarterbacks. At Michigan, he tutored future NFL quarterbacks Elvis Grbac and Todd Collins as QB coach from 1990-93, working alongside Michigan assistant coach Les Miles. With the Washington Redskins, he coached Gus Frerotte to his only Pro Bowl.
As head coach at Indiana, he helped turn Antwaan Randle El into the first player in NCAA history to pass and rush for 40 career touchdowns. From there, he became offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers, where he helped Drew Brees and Philip Rivers develop into Pro Bowlers. After one 1-15 season as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins, he spent the better part of five seasons as the Ravens offensive coordinator, helping mold Joe Flacco into a Super Bowl winner.
He was fired after Week 14 of the Ravens' Super Bowl season, however, leaving him unemployed and available for his old Michigan buddy Miles to, if reports are accurate, offer him the job.
So what impact would a Cameron hiring have on LSU's offense? Let's break it down by area:
Coaching staff: In the scenario that is most often discussed, quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe would move into an administrative role and offensive coordiantor Greg Studrawa would go back to concentrating on the offensive line and perhaps gain a new title, such as run-game coordinator.
Getting Studrawa back on the field could have a positive impact on the offensive line, which has not had its position coach on the field for face-to-face interactions during games in the last two seasons. It doesn't appear that much else will change under this scenario.
If there's a downside to bringing in Cameron, it would be the continued state of transition at the position. Cameron will be LSU's fourth offensive coordinator in four years, a stretch that also included Gary Crowton, Kragthorpe and Studrawa.
Quarterbacks: Having a quarterback coach with Cameron's track record can be nothing but positive for Zach Mettenberger and LSU's quarterbacks.
He has guided pro-style passers such as Brees, Rivers, Frerotte and Flacco to peaks in their respective careers. But before one labels him as just a coach of pocket passers, one has to consider the job he did with Randle El at Indiana.
It would appear that Cameron has an feel for what an offense needs. At Indiana, which struggles to recruit top talent, when you have a rare talent such as Randle El (the eventual Steelers wide receiver), it makes sense to get the ball in his hands as often as possible. Conversely, in a talented offense like the Chargers had in Cameron's years, it would make sense to have a quarterback like Brees, who was (and remains) efficient at delivering the ball to a talented array of skill players (led by Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson).
Considering that, one might conclude that Cameron will be neutral in the "pro style" vs. "dual threat" quarterback debate. But at a program that recruits good talent at the skill positions, Cameron would likely want a quarterback who will read defenses and get the ball to the right playmaker.
Tight end: If there is a position that might be more happy than quarterbacks with a Cameron hiring it would be tight ends, who have been used extensively by Cameron and by Air Coryell offenses in general.
Gates has become one of the most prolific pass-catching tight ends in NFL history. While he is not a household name, the Ravens' Dennis Pitta was second on the team in receptions and was ninth among NFL tight ends in both catches and targets. And if a Air Coryell acolyte is going to follow the historic master plan, he'd be looking back at the way Coryell used Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow.
If you are one of LSU's tight ends -- whether it be returners such as Travis Dickson, junior college transfer Logan Stokes or prolific hybrid prep star DeSean Smith -- that thought should make you smile.
Running backs: While it's hard to imagine any Miles-coached team getting away from a power running game, one tweak might come through the emphasis on the use of running backs in the passing game. Rice was tied with Pitta for second on the Ravens in receptions (61) and Tomlinson was one of the NFL's premier pass-catching running backs.
This could be an adjustment for power runners such as Jeremy Hill. Spencer Ware, who left to go to the NFL, would have loved the Cameron approach. It could be a drawing card for a top prospect such as 2014 RB Leonard Fournette, who counts remarkable ball skills among his many talents.
Wide receiver: An offense that might throw a few more times a game would of course be welcomed by receivers. And despite the way it creatively adds tight ends and running backs to the passing game, it doesn't do so at the expense of receivers (see Charlie Joiner with Coryell's Chargers).
This is a good time for LSU to get receivers excited. Led by Trey Quinn, a 2014 receiver from Joiner's home town of Lake Charles, La., Louisiana has arguably the deepest, most talented foursome of receivers ever to come out of the state in the same season.