The Bayou Bengals were seven of 12 on scoring drives in their season opener against TCU and walked out with a 37-27 win in convincing fashion. As the dust settles on the contest and teams move toward Week 2, the real beauty of the game plan comes in looking at new offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, and his impact.
Unlike years past on offense, this year it seems clear that LSU has a plan and it is going to work that plan to force defenses into exactly what suits Cameron.
A quick glance at the scoring drives shows quarterback Zach Mettenberger lining up under center, then lining up in shotgun—a blend of traditional pace with uptempo style and an expert use of personnel and play-calling.
LSU ran eight different personnel groupings out on the field to open the season. The Tigers used 21, 11, 10, 22, 20, Empty and two unorthodox 22 sets.
The second 22-personnel grouping included Jonah Austin, a sophomore guard, as an extra lineman to go with the fullback and two tight ends in the blocking group.
In the third 22-personnel grouping, LSU lined up fullback J.C. Copeland and freshman tackle Josh Boutte in the B-gaps—just off the line—to get more push for Anthony Jennings' quarterback sneak.
It was not just personnel groupings that helped shape this offensive orchestra. Formations and play-calling worked in concert to play a major role, as well.
The 21-personnel grouping—two running backs and one tight end—has been LSU's go-to group during the entirety of the Les Miles era. That is how LSU ran power, lead and zone.
However, on Saturday night, Cameron took the 21 personnel, worked in a couple different formations and mixed run and pass to make an old, trusty run look a dynamic run and pass personnel grouping.
Cameron went with receivers to one side, receivers to either side, while mixing runs left, right and middle as well as pass plays. By the middle of the third quarter, the 21 personnel went from a run formation to an anything-goes look from LSU.
In back-to-back plays, LSU lined up in 21 personnel. One play was a light, play-action fake incomplete pass. Cameron followed that play up with a pass-action draw that went for nine yards.
TCU was merely guessing at what was coming next because LSU was lining up in run sets, throwing on first downs, then staying in the same set and showing pass, only to run the ball.
However, it was not just the 21 personnel that LSU used well.
The 11 personnel also proved to be a solid look. The Tigers took tight end Dillon Gordon and lined him up in several different spots. He played as the point man on the bunch formation. The sophomore lined up flexed off the line and in the traditional hand-down tight end spot.
Personnel groupings are the defense's first indicator of what to expect. Cameron operated out of a base personnel package when most teams would have flipped to a more pass-friendly set on second or third and manageable to medium, which helped him keep TCU guessing.
While the overwhelming personnel groupings were vanilla—21 and 11—the formations and play-calling did the heavy lifting for Cameron. Not simply mixing run and pass but running two reverses with Odell Beckham, hitting the aforementioned draw to Terrence Magee, throwing play-action passes and even working trap out of the shotgun were all part of the game plan.
Later in a touchdown drive, LSU worked a 21-personnel pass play on 2nd-and-goal to go. Then, it came out in 11 personnel, only to run the ball with a trap out of the shotgun to the interior of the defense on a 3rd-and-goal situation.
The Tigers have variance now, as evidenced by Saturday's season-opening exhibit.
Cameron is making a difference for the Bayou Bengals. That difference is not coming in personnel groupings or exotic looks but rather in keeping the Tigers as a run-first football team and building—in strategic fashion—off of the run looks.
If LSU keeps this up throughout the season, it is going to be a terror for opponents to defend. Cameron, and his ability to control defenses with his play-calling, makes LSU a contender; not just in the SEC West but on the national stage.
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