Analysis: Spring game proves LSU football remains hell-bent on returning Joe Brady offense
BATON ROUGE — Joe Brady is not back at LSU, no matter how much he continues to be discussed.
But the spirit of the former pass game coordinator and major architect of that historical offense in the perfect, national-championship season of 2019 was calling plays on Saturday at the spring game won by the White team, 23-14, over the Purple at Tiger Stadium.
"We can be that same offense," said guard Ed Ingram, who was a sophomore that season. "We can possibly be better."
Now, wait a second. Not even the most delusional LSU fans are going to believe that.
But the pace and tempo of the offense was very Brady-like. And there were 49 passes to 36 runs, which will get every LSU fan excited.
The quarterbacks were very good in spots. Myles Brennan looked sharp after missing the last seven games of the season with an abdomen injury. Max Johnson was steady and remains No. 1. TJ Finley was erratic with two interceptions and likely will be the odd man out and transfer before August.
Freshman Garrett Nussmeier was also erratic with three interceptions, but nevertheless he made the strongest impression. He can flick it fast, short and deep – and just looks like he's in charge. It will be difficult to keep him off the field.
"I thought that we gave all the quarterbacks a very fair shot today," coach Ed Orgeron said. "Each one had a shot with the ones."
But Orgeron realizes he may have a problem with numbers unless somebody leaves.
"We'd come off the field one day, and Garrett was the best quarterback," he said of spring practice. "The next day, it was TJ. The next day, it was Myles. The next day - Max."
The only thing worse than two quarterbacks is three or four.
"When we come back to camp, we're going to have to designate a certain amount of reps for certain guys and give the first and second guy more reps," Orgeron said. "I don't know what part of camp it's going to happen, but we're going to have to give the first or second guy more reps to see who's going to be the starter."
"He's still got to learn the offense," Orgeron said.
But it's a new offense since offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and pass game coordinator DJ Mangas are both new, and Orgeron wants little of whatever former pass game coordinator Scott Linehan ran last year. Johnson and Finley weren't around in 2019, and Brennan did not play significant snaps.
Therefore, if the other quarterbacks have any more knowledge of the offense than Nussmeier, it's not much. And Nussmeier has obviously caught up if he was ever behind.
"When you put the guys that are going to be in there, we're going to have a very good offense," Orgeron said.
One integral part of 2019 was reincarnated. That was Kayshon Boutte, who picked up right where he left off in the Ole Miss game in the finale last season when he broke the SEC record for receptions in a game with 14 for 308 yards. He is a first rounder as much as Justin Jefferson was last year and Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. will be this year.
Boutte caught 11 passes for 162 yards with a 39-yard touchdown from Brennan. Wide receiver Jontre Kirklin also shined with 16 catches for 209 yards. He caught 47- and 19-yard touchdowns from Johnson.
"I wanted to see some explosive plays," Orgeron said.
The secondary, which was without injured cornerback Eli Ricks, has to get better. It remains a long way away from DBU.
If LSU's defense would have been just average last year instead of the absolute worst in school history, it would have beaten Mississippi State and Missouri and would have finished 7-3.
New defensive coordinator Daronte Jones kept it simple, which is Orgeron's edict to allow the athleticism to come through. And it did. LSU looked fast on defense, and there were five interceptions with eight sacks and no blitzes.
"I think the secondary is the most improved part of the team," Orgeron said. "Today, we played one, maybe two coverages."
Sounds like a plan. None of the above will reproduce 2019, but so long as LSU moves away from 5-5 and toward 15-0, that is progress and likely will produce a 10-2 season.