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LSU Post-Regular Season: Monday Post Redux (or "Benevolent Dictator: Offense Edition")

I have been putting this particular post off because I was really not sure what approach to take with my analysis of the offense.  Despite all the problems with the offense this year, I am not sure that there was anything wrong with our approach to this phase of the game.

I think that in general you have two competing interests in planning an offense.  Do you want your offense to be highly variable and unpredictable?  Or do you want your offense to run a few things but run them very very well?  In truth I suppose this is not quite as simple of a choice as I have presented it.  It's more like a spectrum.  On one side of the spectrum you have an offense that practices the same handful of plays over and over again, while on the other side of the spectrum you have an offense that can throw anything at you at any time.  As a coach, you have to decide where along that spectrum you want to operate.

I think it is clear that Gary Crowton wants LSU to operate on the "highly variable" side of the spectrum.  We run everything from I-formation power football, to traditional option, to 5-wide receiver spread, to pistol formation, to spread option.  We throw screens.  We throw deep passes.  We run reverses.  We run the fullback.  We throw to the tight end.  We do everything.  We are firmly committed to being variable on offense.

This is in contrast to a team like Florida, who despite having seemingly dozens of offensive weapons on the field, generally seems to run variations on the same handful of plays all the time.  They run spread option.  They run QB draws.  They run basic passing skeletons with a bunch of receivers, trying to take advantage of speed and mismatches.  It looks sophisticated, and it is, but you can generally sleep at night knowing that you are not going to have to prepare for the I-formation or a whole lot of curl routes.  They do the things they do very well because they practice the same things time after time.

I think it is possible that Gary Crowton was too committed to variation at times.  For example, Keiland Williams had a terrific first half against Arkansas, then didn't get another touch after halftime.  Why didn't Crowton go with the hot hand?  He probably thought, "I've established Keiland, now let me show them something different."  Was this the right call?  In retrospect, you have to think not, though obviously if we had won we might have a different thought on that.

This was not the only example.  Bringing in Richard Murphy to run a direct snap run in overtime against Alabama after Charles Scott had gotten a nice gain on first down was another decision that seems to have been simply for the sake of doing something different.  Murphy had only had one touch the whole game before this (a nice 9 yard run, for what it's worth), and was coming into the game ice cold.  Everyone in the stadium knew he was running the ball, and Bama was able to stop it for a loss, setting up a 3rd and long pass that was intercepted.  The interception essentially clinched the game, but the Murphy run set up the interception.

We can think of other examples if we sit down and consider it for a while.  The point is that we have an offensive coordinator who is wedded to the idea of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the opposing team.  This comes with advantages and disadvantages.  You have to have the personnel to run all these styles, and you have to have the time to practice them.  The college game, of course, limits the amount of practice time you can have.

I think, as benevolent dictator, I would probably dial back a bit on the variation.  I think I would endeavour to figure out which styles we run the least effectively (this year, I think our screen game was particularly abysmal) and go ahead and cut those parts out of the game plan.  If the direct-snap game isn't effective for us, ditch it.  Spend the practice time we would have used getting that phase up to speed and instead use that time perfecting something we do pretty well.  I'm not suggesting we should implement a confining "system" like the West Coast or the Air Raid.  We just just try to simplify a little bit to keep a lot of the variation, but cutting out the things we do least well.

This would be a little tweak rather than a wholesale change.