LSU’s Cameron focuses on building offense

LSU made a move that it expects will upgrade its offense and thereby strengthen its BCS championship prospects when it officially named Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator Friday.

The hiring of Cameron, a former head coach at Indiana and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, had been anticipated for a week but didn’t get finalized until after the Mardi Gras holiday.

Cameron, who also will be quarterbacks coach, has been close to head coach Les Miles since both were assistants at Michigan in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He agreed to a three-year deal, the details of which have yet to be finalized and are subject to approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors.

The moved triggered a juggling of the offensive staff. Greg Studrawa, who had doubled as coordinator and offensive line coach for the past two seasons, returns to his previous position as line coach. Quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, who relinquished his coordinator duties to Studrawa after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, will take on an administrative role in the football department.

Miles called the arrival of Cameron, 52, “a very key hire,” referring to Friday as “a great day for LSU football.” He said he texted Cameron “immediately” after learning of his firing as the Baltimore Ravens’ coordinator Dec. 10, ending a 12-season tenure in the NFL.

“This move is designed to put us in line with a championship,” Miles said. “I wanted to bring in somebody that would make us better. I didn’t want to just bring in a guy. I certainly knew that when Cam became available that there was an outside chance that he might be available to us. What we’ve always wanted to do was be more productive, and I think this was an opportunity for us to increase our productivity by coaching expertise.”

Cameron’s dismissal came a day after Baltimore lost 31-28 in overtime at Washington to drop to 9-4. He was replaced by quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. The Ravens lost two of their final three regular-season games, then went 4-0 during the postseason, culminating in a 34-31 victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh praised Cameron for helping put the Ravens in position to make their Super Bowl run, and he and Cameron said they remain close.

LSU lost just four of 27 games while Studrawa was offensive coordinator, but each loss was marked by offensive shortcomings.

The Tigers had fewer than 100 yards in a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game after the 2011 season.

In a 14-6 loss at Florida last season, LSU didn’t score a touchdown and was shut out in the second half. An inability to gain a late first down that likely would have allowed the Tigers to run out the clock with the lead marred a last-minute 21-17 loss to Alabama and a last-second 25-24 loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

“We’ve been pretty good, minus a minute and a half in two games,” Miles said. “That being said, good’s not good enough, and we want to be a great team. This program has a championship design, and we want to be in the last game.”

In his role as quarterbacks coach, Cameron also will be expected to accelerate the development of senior Zach Mettenberger, who has a strong arm but showed just glimpses last season of the effectiveness that made him highly sought-after coming out of high school and junior college.

Miles said the LSU offense, which ranked 85th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total yards and 92nd in passing, has “some strengths,” and Cameron will have “an ability to change and restructure.” Cameron said LSU has “a great foundation” and that he doesn’t want to overhaul, just improve.

“I’ve seen a lot of games,” he said. “It’s a great system. I just want to build on it, challenge our guys to get better at some things. And then it’s my job to adapt and adjust and bring my experience, my expectations and blend it in with what we’re doing.”

Cameron said he met with Mettenberger on Thursday.

“The one thing I just wanted to let him know is I’m all ears at this point,” Cameron said. “When a guy gets into his fourth or fifth year, there’s certain things you like to do, certain things know you’re really good at.

“And one of the first things within this system of what we’re doing is just, ‘What does he like most?’ ”

Miles said he asked each assistant coach after the season for his thoughts on how the team could get better. He said Studrawa answered that he could be more effective as offensive line coach if he could spend more time doing that.

“I think Stud in other situations could easily be the offensive coordinator and line coach,” Miles said.

“I think, at this level, there’s a need to have a real hands-on approach with the offensive line. … Stud has always been a very team guy.”