It's been an up and down year for LSU quarterback Danny Etling and his LSU teammates, but now that Ed Orgeron has been hired along with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the waters have settled heading into the Tigers' Citrus Bowl matchup against Louisville.
The first week of bowl practices has been a lot of focus on the Tigers in self-scouting before turning their attention on the Cardinals. With the staff in place and Leonard Fournette deciding not to play in the Citrus Bowl, Etling says there’s actually very few distractions even with it being his first bowl game.
“There’s less uncertainty now than there’s been all season so I don’t think it’ll be tough to get guys focused. I think everybody will be ready coming back from the Christmas break," Etling told reporters on Tuesday. "I prepared for last season until compliance told me I had to leave, but I've just been treating it like any other game." http://www.scout.com/college/lsu/story/1739458-dupre-denies-reports-of-e...
Etling did take some time to look back at his senior year of high school when Canada recruited Etling while he was at Wisconsin for one season. Etling committed to Purdue in April before his senior year, but Canada came after Etling late in the process.
In early December of Etling’s senior year, Canada came by Terre Haute (IN) South Vigo to check in on Eting during a workout.
Etling was throwing passes while it was snowing when Canada offered. Etling was already set to enroll at Purdue as an early enrollee and when Bret Bielema left the Badgers for the Razorbacks, Canada was jobless and the pursuit was over. Etling had been briefly up in the air after a coaching change at Purdue. By the time Etling was going to classes as a Boilermaker, Canada had gone to N.C. State. It's funny to Etling now that he's finally being coached by Canada, who impressed Etling right off the bat.
“It’s funny how things work out to the degree now he’s coaching me. Had I gone to Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have gotten coached by him,” Etling said. “I really liked coach Canada. My first impression was how smart he was and how much he could teach me. I was pretty excited about maybe getting coached by him. I always followed his career. Just lucky to get coached by him. I realized how much I could learn and how little I knew.”
Another connection the LSU quarterback and LSU offensive coordinator have is they hail from the Hoosier State. Etling has an idea that Canada will have a chance to be pretty good because of that.
“I hadn’t met an offensive coordinator from Indiana so I thought it was pretty cool that he was recruiting me. He's from New Palestine, Ind. and that’s about two hours from my house,” Etling said. “I think he was trying to play the connection. It worked. He’s an Indiana guy so if I know anything about Indiana guys, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. I’m pretty excited to get to work with him.”
LSU's former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron went to Etling's South Vigo High School as well. The LSU offense will be different though under this Hoosier, Etling says, just like it's been different for Canada at almost every stop.
Etling has watched Canada while at Indiana and Northern Illinois, where Canada operated out of more of a spread look, to Wisconsin where it was pro-style and now N.C. State and Pittsburgh, where it was multiple and had other elements.
“When you look at those as more spread, passing quarterback with Chandler Harnish being a dual-threat and then you go to Wisconsin and it’s extremely pro-style with a lot of formations, motions and shifts to keep defenses guessing," Etling said. "Then he goes to N.C. State with a dual-threat who could pass and there’s a lot of formations. Then you go to Pitt and it’s another kind of multiple aspects with pro-style aspects."
Canada said at his introductory press conference that his offense is one that scores points rather than worries about the other stats. The players make Canada's system and Canada is good at adapting to his players. http://www.scout.com/college/lsu/story/1739134-canada-brings-energy-expe...
"Our system is very easy. It's very easy to learn. We find a way to teach it in a way that our kids understand it and they believe it and we want them to learn as fast as they possibly can," Canada said. "I don't get any points for us to stand up saying, two years from now, you're really going to understand this offense. That doesn't matter. We're going to win right now. That's why we're here."
As Etling analyzes his new offensive coordinator's system, he envisions LSU not straying far from its two tight end sets, something that Canada went with a lot at Pitt. It's about remaining a team that can run the ball while creating mismatches. Canada found numerous ways to do that at Pitt.
“When you say pro-style, you expect a lot of under center, but you look at the pro game today, you see a lot of spread out passing attacks and a team that is able to do both, two tight ends, run the football and pass the ball. I think that’s what we’ve been looking for to do. You don’t want to lose the advantage of having a great run blocking team and downhill running team with excellent tight ends that can create mismatches in the run game and a mismatch on the linebacker.”
Etling and Canada quickly after his introductory press conference with the pair laughing about how quickly things can come full circle.
“We talked about how quickly things can play themselves out in a short career," Etling said.
Another thing coming up quickly is the upcoming game against Louisville, who will bring a lot of talent and speed on both sides of the ball with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson bringing his show to Orlando, Fla. Etling said the LSU offense faces a tough Cardinals defense that has plenty of speed as well.
“I think they’re a very talented defense. They’re fast. They make a lot of plays and fly around. Athletically, they’re very gifted that are well-coached,” Etling said. “There are some dudes on that team that are very well-coached so we want to make sure we’re ready for them and take advantage of any opportunities they give us.”
While Etling hasn't watched much of the Cardinals offense and Jackson, he knows the Tigers will have to score points to compete. That being said, focusing on one play at a time remains the message.
“Know you’re going to have to score a lot of points and control the football when you play a team like an offense like Louisville,” Etling said. “Gotta make sure we don’t get too high or too down throughout the game. I think we’ve just got to play our offense and not worry about the scoreboard until the end of the game.”