The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger put together a very nice piece on Steve Ensminger and the process that led to his ascension to LSU’s offensive coordinator position.
Delly does a fantastic job of using secondary sources to work around not talking to either Ensminger, or Ed Orgeron to detail how he wound up taking the job, and some of his history -- which includes, at one time, being one of the hot coordinators in the game:
LSU’s passing game has been a laughingstock nationally recently. The unit finished no better than 101st nationally for three straight years, 2014-16, and only marginally improved to 84th this season with a fifth-year starting quarterback.
In 1990, how behind was Georgia’s passing offense?
“We were running the same offense as Herschel Walker did,” said Garrison Hearst, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1992 while playing in Ensminger’s Georgia offense.
Ensminger called many of the plays during that three-year stint in Athens, Hearst said, but he’s mostly known for his work with Zeier. The quarterback set every SEC passing record before he left the school, and Ensminger and McDuffie revamped Georgia’s run-heavy scheme to one that led the SEC in passing.
Goff won 46 games as UGA’s head coach in seven seasons, and 19 of them came in 1991 and 1992 — Ensminger’s first two years on staff.
“I had a great privilege of working with a number of really good coaches throughout my playing career. I’d put Steve at the top of the list,” said Zeier, now a mortgage banker who lives in Atlanta and serves as the color commentator on Georgia radio broadcasts.
Zeier and Hearst describe a system most similar to the West Coast offense, a scheme Bill Walsh popularized in the 1980s with the San Francisco 49ers. Zeier’s passing progression was short to deep, he said. Formations evolved from an I-formation look into a three- and four-receiver set, with one back. Georgia heavily used the shotgun, too, and the run game was built on zone blocking.
“It was creative at the time and one of the first offenses to begin to spread it out and get into the four-wide sets and be aggressive throwing,” Zeier said.
“I got to Frisco and realized I was running a pro scheme in college,” said Hearst, who spent five seasons with the 49ers.
And of course, from there, Ensminger was poached by Texas A&M, which didn’t quite work out. Although then-head coach R.C. Slocum does a nice job of detailing some of the failures of the situation.
“We were a run-oriented, I-formation, two-back team. I wanted to get a little better when we threw the ball,” Slocum said. “Georgia, at the time, they were throwing it a bunch. Part of the thing was ... I didn’t make clear (to Steve) exactly what I was looking for. I was looking to get better at throwing the ball. Not throwing it more.”
In one game against Texas Tech, A&M attempted what Slocum remembers as “60 passes.”
Said the coach: “I stepped in.”
Ensminger improved A&M’s passing offense marginally, but the Aggies showed promise. The unit went from 61st nationally in total offense after his first season to 34th after his third in 1996. The improvement did not result in wins. A 6-6 record led to Slocum firing several assistants, including his offensive coordinator.
“As you go through coaching and you’re in the middle of the fire, in hindsight looking back, I had no problems with Steve,” Slocum said. “He did a good job for me. He probably would have liked to have thrown the ball a lot more than I was willing to throw it.
There’s also some back-sourcing on what Ensminger may potentially be bringing to the table for the coming season with quotes from Myles Brennan’s father Owen, and Brennan’s former high school coach Bill Conides, now the head coach at Denham Springs High School.
If you’re somebody dead-set against the Ensminger hire, chances are this won’t matter much to you (or anything else anybody writes), but nonetheless, it is a very well-done piece that is worth your time.