BATON ROUGE, La. — New LSU football offensive coordinator Matt Canada loves to run trick plays. There’s no denying that. Heck, Canada let an offensive lineman throw a pass from the 7-yard line in the first quarter of a bowl game last season.
Yet LSU quarterback Danny Etling is being markedly coy about whether the Tigers have installed any such trick plays since Canada arrived on campus.
“I don’t know what special plays you guys are talking about,” Etling said while smirking.
Etling might be pleading ignorance, but offensive tackle K.J. Malone is happy to talk about Canada’s chicanery. After all, as the starting left tackle and self-proclaimed most athletic offensive lineman on the team, Malone is first in line to be the target of any gadget play Canada draws up. Like this throwback Canada devised at Pitt for Piesman Trophy-winning offensive tackle Brian O’Neill.
Malone hasn’t caught a pass in a game since he was in middle school and played tight end. After that, Malone said in jest, he got too fat to touch the ball. But somewhere beneath his 303-pound frame lies the dormant foundation of an athlete. His father, after all, is Basketball Hall of Fame forward Karl Malone, the second-leading scorer in NBA history.
Malone has got the pedigree and he has the build. Now all that’s left to ask is if he has the guts. And so far away from the season, Malone honestly doesn’t know how he’ll react if his number is called.
“During the game, if they call the play, my heart’s going to be beating,” Malone said. “If I drop it, everybody’s going to be like, ‘Never throw that play again.’ If I catch it, everyone’ll say, ‘Oh, my god,’ and I’ll be the hero. [But] it’s a lineman’s dream to catch a ball during a game.”
LSU football tackle eligible target
Nearly everyone surveyed said they believed Malone is the most likely lineman to catch a pass. Someone who refused to admit that, though? Etling, of course. He’s still out here trying to trick the world.
“The fact that you think it’s [K.J.], we’ll probably just end up throwing to [center Will] Clapp or someone,” Etling said.
Clapp, the only offensive lineman on the LSU football team who has a college touchdown, seems every bit as reluctant to admit Malone is the best option as Etling is. Malone said Clapp told him if Canada draws up a play for Malone, Clapp won’t block for him. Malone even joked that he wouldn’t be surprised if Clapp tried to trip him up if he was in the open field.
Despite all this, Malone said LSU hasn’t installed a tackle pass play yet. The Tigers have laid the foundation, working in formations where tackles could be eligible or on sets where the tackle could swing backward and catch a lateral. But no true trick plays yet.
But once those are installed, that’s where Etling thinks all the media focus and scrutiny should be.
“I think that’s the position battle no one’s talking about,” Etling said.