BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Tigers starting quarterback Danny Etling were once two ships passing in the night.
Etling was a rock-solid Purude commit — that is until Boilermakers coach Danny Hope was fired while Etling was on his official visit. Talk about a buzzkill.
That understandably opened the door back up for Etling’s recruitment, and in it swooped then-Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The two Indiana natives bonded, and Etling was set to become a Badger.
“I hadn’t met an OC from Indiana yet that had recruited me. He’s from New Palestine, which is only two and a half hours from where I’m from,” said Etling, a Terre Haute native. “It was pretty cool. I think he was trying to use that to play the connection. But it worked.”
And then Canada suffered the same fate as Hope.
Bret Bielema unexpectedly jumped from Wisconsin to Arkansas and did not take Canada with him. New Badgers coach Gary Andersen didn’t want the offensive coordinator either. So as Canada waited to land on his feet at Northern Illinois, Etling reaffirmed his commitment to Purdue.
Now, many years and many miles apart from that first meeting, they will finally be reunited. Some relationships are apparently just meant to be.
Etling is fired up to finally work with Canada this spring.
“When I first met him as a senior in high school, I thought of how smart he was,” Etling said. “He was really intellectual and I realized I could learn and how little I knew about football. I just knew the basics.
“The intricate details, that’s something he takes pride in. I’m excited to learn under him and continue to grow as a quarterback.”
Having been recruited by Canada, he already has a grasp of what he’s in for.
“He’s not going to get away from what makes LSU, LSU. We’re going to still overpower people,” Etling said. “But he’s going to add another element to make us take the next step.”
Etling is not the only offensive player stoked by Canada’s hire. Wide receiver D.J. Chark hasn’t talked to his new offensive coordinator yet, but he has studied him. And he likes what he sees.
“I plan on meeting with him very soon,” Chark said. “From seeing his body of work, he’s very brilliant and I think it’s a great hire for LSU.”
Of course, Chark is slightly biased on the matter of Canada’s brilliance. The jet sweep to the receiver is one of the coordinator’s go-to plays, and Chark is custom-built to run such a play. Chark had 12 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns this year.
“I’m very excited. I’ve been running a similar play since sophomore year of high school. So I’m very familiar with it,” Chark said. “Seeing that he’s very good at bringing plays like that into the offense is a very good thing to see. I feel like I’ll be able to help out in that area as well.”
With a grin, Etling said he has every reason to believe Canada will bring greater success to LSU’s offense in 2017.
“He’s an Indiana guy,” Etling noted. “So I’m sure he knows what he’s doing, if I know anything about Indiana guys.”