BATON ROUGE, La. — As with any coach of his status, Matt Canada has earned the perks that come with his job.
But when Canada signs his contract to be the offensive coordinator for the LSU football team, you won’t find his biggest and most immediate perk anywhere in writing. No, the only place you’ll see his biggest incentive is on the football field with a No. 5 across his chest.
There won’t be much certainty for the LSU offense heading into fall camp. There’s likely to be a quarterback competition, LSU’s receivers and tight ends are going to turn over and the offensive line is going to have to shuffle after the departure of center Ethan Pocic.
But there is one guarantee. Derrius Guice will be LSU’s running back. And in his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon, Matt Canada was more than aware of how huge of a benefit this is.
“That’s a really good perk to take a job and have a guy like that,” Canada said. “I think he’s going to be excited. We’re going to get moving and we’re going to allow everybody to finish the season. But I think when he looks at what we do and those backs I mentioned, those are real, tangible people that he can see and knows about. He’s going to be excited with what we do and with the way we progress our offense.”
Those backs to which Canada referred are Pittsburgh running back James Conner and the triumvirate of former Wisconsin running backs Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon.
Coming off a stellar season where he rushed for nearly 8.00 yards per carry and earned All-SEC honors, Guice is expected to be among the nation’s best backs in 2017. But that deck of running backs he’ll be following in the footsteps of might be inspiration enough to improve even further.
|Guice 2016||5-11, 212||157||1249||7.96||14|
|Conner 2016||6-2, 235||208||1060||5.10||16|
|Ball 2012||5-11, 215||356||1830||5.14||22|
|White 2012||5-10, 197||125||806||6.45||12|
|Gordon 2012||6-1, 206||62||621||10.02||3|
As you can see from the chart above, Guice’s numbers are already pretty comparable to, if not better than most of the high-profile backs Matt Canada has coached in the past. And that’s not even mentioning that Guice had to split carries with Leonard Fournette for most of 2016.
But that’s what makes the comparison between Guice and Montee Ball so interesting. Guice and Ball are about the same size and have similar running styles; John Elway once compared Ball to former Broncos running back Terrell Davis, who — like Guice — thrived in zone-blocking schemes. And Canada worked Ball relentlessly, but still found time to use his backups, White and Gordon, to the tune of 187 carries and 15 touchdowns.
Canada made no promises about what sort of scheme he plans on running at LSU. He said he wants to align his play-calling and formational preparation with what his players do best. But he did hint that he wants Guice and his backfield-mates to take notice of what he achieved at Wisconsin, saying “that’s what we do.”
“I think the best thing that we have done is be able to maximize our strength and minimize our weaknesses,” Canada added about his offensive philosophy. “Maximize the strengths of the players we have at the moment. Our system is versatile enough. I don’t think it’s anything magnificent or super creative. But we’re going to use our players talents to find a way to win.”
For what it’s worth, letting Guice carry 356 times like Ball would shatter LSU’s single-season record for most carries. But if that’s the talent that Canada feels he can use to win, he seems willing to do it.
So for those of you out there making the “Derrius Guice for Heisman 2017” case a year in advance, Matt Canada might be the offensive coordinator hire you’ve been waiting for. He’ll do what it takes to win. And he might end up putting the LSU football team on pace to win some awards in the process.