“Playing football here is definitely a privilege. Not too many guys get offered to play for this program, and to put this uniform on is definitely a privilege. And moving forward, I’m not taking anything for granted.” JEREMY HILL, LSU running back
When Cam Cameron was an assistant coach at Michigan, he played the role of mediator when Les Miles and a Michigan women’s basketball assistant named Kathy LaBarge both thought the other had stood the other up on one of their early dates.
Cameron deflected the notion that he was a matchmaker for Mr. and Mrs. Miles, but the long ago episode raises a pertinent question:
Can Cameron be the diplomatic link between Miles and an often disenchanted LSU fan base?
Miles, for all his success at LSU, has an image problem. Always has. To wit, that he isn’t a sharp in-game coach, and/or that he meddles too much on the offensive side of the ball. Miles, despite averaging more than 10 wins a year and with a BCS and two Southeastern Conference trophies, doesn’t inspire confidence in the masses. Never has during his time at LSU.
Cameron, despite having been unable to win as head coach with the Miami Dolphins and at his alma mater Indiana, and having been dismissed mid-2012 by the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, does inspire confidence. Confidence to the point that many of the 92,000-plus assistant coaches who pack Tiger Stadium on Saturday nights this fall are fervently wishing that Miles will relinquish all offensive decisions to his new man upstairs.
Cameron said that won’t happen.
“It’s LSU’s offense, No. 1,” Cameron said Sunday at LSU football media day. “It’s our offense as a staff. Les has tremendous input. I enjoy his input. We talked about it before I came here. That’s part of what attracted me.
“If you look around the country at the teams that win, it’s truly a team effort. It’s not some guru offensive coordinator, which I’ve never considered myself, or some guru defensive coordinator, some guru special teams guy all trying to do their thing.
“Input will come from Les, input will come from our entire staff. Ultimately, I’m charged with getting every play called and getting it to our quarterback. Some of that obviously will come from Les” and the other offensive assistants.
Whether you think Cameron is playing it straight or quoting the party line is debatable. The only thing I can tell you is the man seems to let very little ego get in the way of doing his job, aside from the ego required to make dozens of potentially career-defining calls every game.
“Late in games, headsets get real silent,” Cameron said. “I know those moments are coming. I have to have the calls and the game plan ready and have our quarterback wired into what we’re trying to get done.
“I’m ultimately charged with making every call. But for anybody to think that every time we throw a touchdown pass that was my call, that’s a mistake. That’s not true. Every time we hit a big run for a touchdown and for everyone to say, ‘Great call Cam,’ that’s not necessarily true. It could have been anybody on our staff.”
As Zach Mettenberger has said several times this offseason, don’t expect LSU to become a completely different offensive team. The Tigers won’t look like Oregon with six wides, they will still look like the Tigers. That’s a team that values the power running game and though it may at times be trying to roll a rock uphill, strives for offensive balance.
That, Cameron insisted, comes from the top.
“He (Miles) makes it very clear what he’s looking for, and what he’s looking for is what he believes,” Cameron said. “But he’s very adaptable.
“There’s some things I can’t share with you in terms of scheme things we’re doing, because that wouldn’t be smart. But he wants to be on the cutting edge of a lot of things offensively, and that’s exciting. But we aren’t going to compromise toughness and physicality at any time.”
Tough is the job Cameron signed up for: being ringleader on a more productive, efficient offense that works within the parameters of Miles’ concept of proper offensive virtues (read: a power running game is always the preferred mode of travel). For that, he’ll earn every bit of that $3.4 million he’s earmarked to make over the next three years.
Then again if you’ve played both basketball for Bobby Knight and football for Lee Corso at Indiana, how tough can it be to please both Miles and the masses?