Second-year offensive coordinator better able to balance responsibilities
“I think (Studrawa) expects more out of us as an offensive line now that we understand the situation. Last year it was new to everybody — it was new to the coaching staff, it was new to all of the offensive linemen.” JOSH DWORACZYK, LSU offensive lineman
Greg Studrawa enters his second season as LSU’s offensive coordinator having had his first fair chance to coordinate what he wants to do on offense.
It was almost exactly one year ago when on the first day of preseason practice Studrawa was rushed into the coordinator’s position from his familiar role as offensive line coach after it was determined that quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe would have to relinquish the coordinator duties because he had contracted Parkinson’s disease.
Studrawa, who had been an offensive coordinator at Bowling Green from 2003-06, took over the play-calling duties, Kragthorpe focused on coaching the quarterbacks, tight ends coach Steve Ensminger helped with the offensive line and the entire offensive staff pulled together to game plan.
The offense thrived — with help from an exceptional defense and special teams — as the Tigers rolled to a 13-0 regular season before suddenly going impotent in a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 9.
That sent Studrawa, Kragthorpe and the offensive staff into the offseason will plenty to work on — self scouting tendencies, figuring out what went wrong in the title game, adapting the offense to strong-armed new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, and polishing the breakdown of responsibilities that was done on the fly last season. Studrawa, though, had something he didn’t have last season — time.
So when preseason practice began Thursday, Studrawa had a clearer sense of just what he wanted to do on offense and how best to balance his responsibilities with the line and the offense as a whole.
“It’s a lot easier,” Studrawa said. “I feel a lot more comfortable. Last year there was a lot of nervousness. Things are a lot smoother now.”
Head coach Les Miles has said LSU will pass the ball more frequently and be bolder in the passing game with Mettenberger than it was with Jordan Jefferson, who used his legs as much as his inconsistent arm, and Jarrett Lee, who was asked to manage the game without getting overly ambitious, last season.
“We’re going to throw the ball down the field more with Zach,” Studrawa said. “We’re going to be efficient in the passing game, and we’re going to make big plays in the passing game.”
But, Studrawa said, the Tigers have modified the offense, not scrapped it. They have a big, experienced and deep offensive line and a handful of talented running backs. They still have a strong defense and special teams.
“Winning games is a still a three-pronged deal with offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “We’re a heavy run team with a lot of sets. There were times last season when teams played eight or nine guys (near the line of scrimmage). We’re going to use the passing game to alleviate that pressure on the running game. It’s a subtle change, but we are going to throw more and keep defenses honest.”
Studrawa said LSU has incorporated more screens into the passing game, will play at a faster tempo at times, and has explosive playmakers among the receivers, led by sophomores Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
“Those guys are older, and they’ve come a long way,” Studrawa said. “We expect them to elevate their game.”
Studrawa said his transition last season was smoother than it might have been otherwise because he had experienced linemen that he didn’t have to be hands-on with all the time. The same is true of this year’s line. Though the Tigers lost two key seniors from last season in guard Will Blackwell and center/guard T-Bob Hebert, this line return fours starters and gets back a fourth in sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk.
Left tackle Chris Faulk said the linemen know that the better job they do, the easier it is for Studrawa to do his.
“If we’re doing our job up front as far as opening holes for our running backs and protecting our quarterbacks it relieves the stress off of him,” Faulk said. “If we’re doing our job up front, everything should be smooth.”
Smooth is a word that’s mentioned a lot in regards to the start of this camp compared to last year, especially for Studrawa and the offense.
“I think he expects more out of us as an offensive line now that we understand the situation,” Dworaczyk said. “Last year it was new to everybody — it was new to the coaching staff, it was new to all of the offensive linemen.
“In game situations, whenever you’re not able to communicate directly with your position coach, it can get difficult. But a year has gone by, we’ve matured and coach Stud knows he can count on us. I think he’s definitely more comfortable.”