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LSU Offensive Coordinator Search Centers on Pitt’s Matt Canada

So who is this guy, exactly?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh
He and Aranda can share dome wax tips.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With yesterday’s news of Lane Kiffin coming off the board, reports have LSU moving on to Pittsburgh offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. The Advocate is reporting that Canada will meet with Ed Orgeron sometime today, meaning an announcement could be eminent.

You might remember that Canada was on our short list of potential candidates when this process began.

So aside from Barenaked Ladies, Hart Foundation, Kids in the Hall and Ryan Reynolds jokes, what else do we need to know about Matt Canada?

Well, for starters, he was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Trophy as the nation’s top assistant coach this season, and he was the only offensive coach on the list. His offense at Pittsburgh accomplished the following this season:

  • A 42.3 point-per-game average on the season, 10th nationally and a school record;
  • An offensive S&P+ of 40.5, good for fourth nationally;
  • A touchdown rate of 82.6 percent in the red zone, best in the country, and a nation-leading average of 5.6 points per scoring opportunity (drives that reach first-and-10 inside the 40-yard line);
  • A top-25 national ranking in third-down conversion rate, yards per rush, passer efficiency, yards-per-attempt and plays of 20-plus yards from scrimmage; and
  • An offensive line that allowed just nine sacks on the season, and ranked sixth in adjusted sack rate.

Prior to his tenure at Pitt, Canada ran offenses at North Carolina State from 2013-2015, Wisconsin in 2012, with prior stints at Northern Illinois and Indiana. His NC State attacks averaged 33, 30 and 22 points per game in his first season. In his one year at Wisconsin, the Badgers averaged 29 a game but won the Big 10 in dominant fashion, dropping 70 points on Nebraska, and in his final year at Northern Illinois the Huskies averaged 38 points per game and won the MAC.

From a stylistic standpoint, Canada’s Pitt offense this past season was kind of a utilitarian power pro-style/spread hybrid that was run-centered with tailback James Connor, but wasn’t afraid to get kind of funky with a lot of shifts and motions — wide receiver Quadree Henderson was the team’s second-leading rusher with 555 yards, and offensive lineman Brian O’Neil ran for a pair of touchdowns himself.

His play-calling has something of a series mentality, similar to Gus Malzahn, something detailed in stories here and here from Inside the Pylon and Pistols Firing, an Oklahoma State blog discussing the Cowboys’ matchup with Pitt.

Canada’s offenses have had a lot of success featuring tailbacks like Connor, Montee Ball at Wisconsin and Michael Turner at NIU, but the passing games have also generally been incredibly efficient. Pitt got a tremendous season out of Nathan Peterman, a graduate transfer from Tennessee, leading the ACC with a 161.2 passer rating, and Canada also did a tremendous job of working with former Florida Gator washout Jacoby Brissett at NC State. His offenses at NIU and Indiana were more spread-style and QB-centric, throwing for 3,200 yards at NIU and IU in 2011/2010.

The Pitt News had a good profile on Canada last spring that detailed how his approach has changed at different stops:

Over the years, his offensive philosophy has changed. Most of all, he stressed that his offense fluctuates based on his personnel, pointing to the heavy use of tight ends at NC State one year and his running back dependent offense at Wisconsin in another.

“It’s a player’s game,” Canada said. “We’ve got to put our players in a position to make plays, and then they’ve got to make them.”

To Canada’s credit, Lynch praised his adaptability.

“I always thought he was really good at adjusting to the talent and type of players he was working with,” Lynch said.

Baton Rouge radio host Matt Moscona had an interview with former Wisconsin quarterback Danny O’Brien, who worked with Canada in 2012.

On the possibly negative side, or curious anyway, there was an interesting fallout with Dave Doeren at NC State — Canada was fired not long after receiving a three-year extension. There’s also been rumors of friction with Bret Bielema during the year the two worked together at Wisconsin. We’ll continue to research more on Canada and see if the search for LSU’s next play-caller comes to an end today.