Below is the full transcript of my time spent with first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who touched on the notion of "team offense," the difference in coaching in college and the NFL, what he's changing about this Tiger offense and coaching from the press box.
CAM CAMERON Q & A
Question: How has college game changed and does it change how you coach in college as compared to NFL?
Cam Cameron: Other than just a few of the different rules, it's teaching. In the NFL you're still working with young players coming out of college, younger and younger guys every year. So the average age of the guys I was coaching probably wasn't that much different. I think coaching is coaching, teaching is teaching. The games are a little bit different, but obviously I've coached longer in the college game than I have in the NFL, so I'm excited to be back in the college game.
Question: Will your offense here be the same thing you were running in the NFL?
CC: We're still kinda working our way through that. We've got some things planned. Obviously there is a great foundation here offensively, especially in the running game and in the protection scheme. There was a lot of good stuff in this offense, and we've made sure we've looked at everything that we've liked the most as a staff and that Coach [Les] Miles is comfortable with. Then we just tried to build on things that are players are good at. Everybody on our offense has input, and I think that's the only way you can do it. We've got an outstanding offensive staff.
Some things are similar, but the hash marks are different, so there are certain things that fit in the NFL game that really don't fit in the college game. I think we're smart enough as a staff to realize that. We've got other guys on this staff that have been in the NFL as well. So the spacing is a little bit different. The rules are a little bit different. There's a lot more contact with receivers down the field (in the NFL), so we're tweaking our route scheme a little bit just because there's so much contact down the field in the NFL it's not quite that way.
Question: Why would you prefer to coach from the sideline?
CC: Well, 95% of the coordinators in the NFL are on the sideline, and the reason being is because you get photos. They give you photos of what's going on, but I'll be in the press box at LSU.
Question: Why are you switching?
CC: You don't get photos. It is the best view, and I've been up there for years. There's no doubt it's the best view. In the NFL you get to talk to the quarterback, so being able to punch a button and talk to your quarterback allows you to do things quickly. You don't have that luxury in college.
Question: Is that any kind of major adjustment for you?
CC: No, I did it for 15 years basically to a degree. Obviously I'll be relaying things down to our assistant coaches, our signalers and I'll be talking to Zach [Mettenberger] and the other quarterbacks in between the series. So there are some changes, but it's stuff I've done in the past at both levels.
Ben Love: When you first got here, you talked about the fact that you'd seen all of the LSU games for eight years since Les has been here. What's the one thing, maybe foundationally, that this offense was doing right that you wouldn't want to change?
CC: Just the physical nature of what we do. It's a physical game and, with the personality of our head coach, I think every offense needs to reflect that. It also reflects the kind of young men we bring here. We bring physical kids here, kids with athletic ability and speed. I just love the physical nature of what we do, whether it's run or pass. Under no scenario will we compromise that, whether it's on a pass or it's on a run. Whether we run it every down or whether we throw it every down, we're not going to compromise the physical nature of what we do. Because that's LSU football. It's Les Miles' stamp on this team – offensively, defensively and special teams. Our offense is going to represent that, I can guarantee it.
Question: After talking with Les when you interviewed, what mandate did he give you to change or clean up? What did he want to see different about the offense?
CC: There really were no mandates. It was ‘Okay, let's take a look at the things from the fall. Let's go through things systematically and make sure we're all on the same page just on how we're teaching things – the run game, our pass protection, our route schemes, our techniques.' Probably the strongest thing is we've just reinforced the detail he wants in everything we're doing, making sure we're detailing our footwork and everything we do. That's the way it should be, and that's what we're doing.
Question: Well Les expressed some frustration last year that he'd like to be a little more balanced and throw it a little better. What was lacking there, in your mind?
CC: I don't know that I've really looked at it from that perspective. What I've tried to do is come in and get as much input as I could from the current staff. As I've said, it's a tremendous staff. I talked to the players. I was able to talk to every player within the first two and a half days, and I got some feedback from them. It was very positive. And I wanted to get to know our players because, bottom-line, we need to ask our players to do what they do best and develop the talents that they bring to the table.
We've got guys who can run, throw and catch. And we've told our guys, if you don't have a football in your hand, you're a blocker. So everybody has to be a blocker. We're still evolving to see what we do best. I think we'll do a lot of things well, but there's more to it than that. We want to do the things Saturday nights that we do best, and throw out all the stuff that we're not able to do what we do best. That's where we're still evolving.
Question: One of things that Les has emphasized with you coming here is the speed of the NFL. Do you think Zach has developed getting rid of the football earlier and his footwork in the pocket, especially when things break down?
CC: Ultimately you don't know. Ultimately, until you're out there on game day and until it translates from the practice field onto the game field, it really hasn't happened, so we'll see. With that being said, this spring he showed great strides in his technique, which I think he would've anyway. After your first year as a starter, you tend to see things differently because of the things you know now that you didn't know before. He's taken that experience and he's bought into everything we're teaching. I think he's reinforcing that with other guys in the offense. He is more compact. He's got his feet up underneath him a little more. I think you'll see a little more knee flexion. All of those things should translate to accuracy.
He was very accurate at times last year. But the quarterback position as we know is about consistency and being able to play at a high level consistently. That doesn't happen without practicing at a high level and practicing consistently at a high level. He's practicing very well, and I think if he can continue to maintain that for the next couple of weeks and carry over those fundamentals to the season, you'll see a consistent player. And if he stays healthy, I think you'll see a guy who's going to play really well.
BL: I think there's been a perception that this LSU offense at times has served as a secondary function to the defense. The thought goes that as long as the defense does its usual and the offense does just enough, LSU will win. Does it have to be that way?
CC: You know, is that a fair statement? I don't know. The bottom line is you're trying to win the football game. I really don't want to speak to the NFL a lot, but I will say one thing: The NFL is different. Those guys are getting paid a tremendous amount of money to play at a high level, and you put the game in their hands. That's their job, and that's what you do. It's a little more wide-open at times. In this situation here, when you're playing a freshman left guard, who is asked to play the week of the game because another player suddenly isn't there from the previous week, you've got young players. Some times with young players, you're not going to take as many chances.
If you've got a great defense, and you don't play to your defense some, that really wouldn't make a lot of sense to me. We're going to play team offense, and that could change from week to week and could change within a situation of the game. Yeah, we want to be aggressive, but we're going to be smart-aggressive. Everything we're going to do is going to be strategic and tactical, but yeah, we're going to play in unison with our special teams and our defense because if you look at the teams that win the national championship, that's what they do. They play team football.
There are some offenses out there that throw up ridiculous numbers. Maybe that'll be us, maybe it won't be, but the bottom line is that's not our number one goal. Our number one goal is to play team offense and put ourselves in positions to win. Now, with that being said, I think everyone would know: In critical situations you want to be able to execute not just the run, but the passing game. If we do that in practice the way we're capable, there's no head coach or offensive coordinator that's going to be unsure of whether or not he'd do that in those situations. We need to do that in practice to prove that we're worthy of, when the game's on the line, doing whatever's necessary. But what we'll do is what we do best without trying to be predictable. That's kind of a roundabout answer, but I think college is a little bit different and our number one objective is to be the winningest offense in the country, not necessarily the highest in yardage and all that kind of stuff.
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