For the first time since joining the program in January 2007, assistant coach Greg Studrawa took center stage at LSU Media Day.
In a team room usually packed with players, Studrawa stood at the podium and looked out at the swarm of media in attendance.
Five days ago head coach Les Miles announced that Studrawa – the longest tenured assistant on his staff – would receive a promotion.
With the news of Steve Kragthorpe’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, Miles moved Studrawa from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator – a challenge that the former Bowling Green offensive coordinator welcomed.
But don’t let the big belly fool you.
Miles might be a run-first coach and Studrawa might have spent his past four seasons in Baton Rouge coaching the big men up front, but the end result won’t be only ground-and-pound.
With speedy receivers and a mobile quarterback to go along with a veteran line and a stable of backs, Studrawa is ready to keep opponents guessing.
“I like to make big plays and put our kids in a position to make a play,” Studrawa said. “We are going to be aggressive and attack. We are going to come after you and after you and after you. I don’t want to be passive.
“From wide receivers blocking on the perimeter to running backs and pass protection to offensive linemen when it is fourth down and you need that much. We are going to be known as a physical group that attacks you.”
--- With Studrawa moving to the booth to call plays on game day, Miles was tasked with shuffling responsibilities once more, this time sliding tight ends coach Steve Ensminger into double-duties as the leader of the offensive line on the field with Studrawa up in the booth.
For Studrawa, swapping responsibilities on Saturdays will be the biggest hurdle the staff must overcome.
“(Ensminger) taking the offensive line down on the field during game day will be the biggest transition, especially with how we communicate,” Studrawa said. “We are working through that as well as calling plays. I believe if your preparation throughout the week is what it should be, then you know what you are going to do.
“Now, the part of the chess match during the game is has the opponent changed what they are going to do on defense? Those things we are going to try and work through during scrimmages, team practices and team sessions.”
--- If Kragthorpe’s illness forces the quarterbacks coach to miss a game, expect Ensminger to add even more responsibilities – in the passing attack.
“What we are talking about now is that Steve Ensminger used to be a former quarterback, so he is going to help us with the quarterbacks and jump into that role if necessary until we have to adjust something,” Studrawa said. “Steve (Ensminger) right now is a logical guy who can handle the quarterbacks.”
“Billy (Gonzales) can do a good job,” Studrawa said. “He can talk them through the passing game. Not as much on technique and things like that, but help them with the schemes and what we are doing with the passing game.”
--- Clock management woes were one dark cloud that loomed over former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton during his time in the booth at LSU.
Studrawa, who preached to the value of preparation, said that the same fate wouldn’t be met on his watch.
For starters, don’t expect to see the coaches sending multiple players on and off the field if the clock is winding away.
“What has happened in a couple of those situations deals with trying to get different personnel groupings on to the field when you do not have any timeouts and the clock is running,” Studrawa said. “You can’t do that.
“When you are in those types of situations, you need to be ready and you need to have a list of what to do. It all comes down to practice. You have to practice these situations and not wait for them to come up during the game.”
--- Sophomore Spencer Ware is the presumed starter at running back, but the fight for second – and potentially first – is as highly contested as any position battle on the team.
For Studrawa, getting the ball into the hands of the right back is paramount.
Making sure he continues to touch it will be just as important.
“Something we saw from Stevan Ridley last year was that when a guy gets hot, keep him in,” Studrawa said. “We are fortunate to have three or four guys this year that each have different tools. One is big, some are lighter and some can catch the ball out of the backfield. We want to take advantage of their abilities the best we can.”
“We will have different running plays and schemes where we can use the talents of those guys and do what is best for us and them,” Studrawa said. “We are going to mix and match these guys and try to use their abilities all at the same time.”
--- From Herman Johnson’s first-team All-America selection in 2008 to four All-SEC performers, Studrawa has made the most out of his four seasons coaching the offensive line at LSU.
“They are as good as any line I have ever had,” Studrawa said. “It’s about playing well together. This group, other than (Chris) Faulk, has played a lot of football together.
“It is a group that works, lives, and hangs out together. They do everything together. When you have that cohesiveness, they get to be really good. Right now they have confidence in each other and they know each other. They know what to do at the snap of the football.”
With Hebert and Josh Dworaczyk back in the huddle, Studrawa said that he feels more comfortable with the idea of leaving his linemen without their position coach during the heat of battle.
“Those two guys are so smart,” Studrawa said. “They are the reason I can go up in the box and still feel comfortable knowing they are like two more coaches on the field. They have been in this system and know what they are doing. Without these two kids, it would be a lot more difficult than it is because they are such an asset to the team.”