LSU football: A look at the state of the offense


The LSU football team experienced significant struggles on the offensive side of the ball as of late. What is to blame for this setback?

Les Miles understands that changes have to be made. Not only for the teams sake, but for his own.

Miles may be the head coach for the LSU football team heading into the 2016 season, but don’t think for one moment that his status as head coach is not under extreme scrutiny.

There were rampant rumors regarding a Miles exit in midst of the team’s November meltdown that sent the Tigers from the No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings to temporarily unranked.

Offensive struggles were largely to blame, with LSU heading into its Texas Bowl matchup with the Texas Tech Red Raiders with a passing attack that ranks 111th in the nation.

The past month of November has been awful for the Tigers on the offensive side of the ball.  After starting the season 7-0, the Tigers went 1-3 during the final four games of the regular season, failing to score more than 20 points during any of the four contests.

After this horrendous month of November, LSU fans want answers as to why the Tigers struggled so much on the offense. Many point the finger at sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris.

During his last four games, Harris has greatly regressed from his strong start to the season. Heading into an early November showdown with the Alabama Crimson Tide, he had recorded a 62 percent completion percentage, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in his previous three games.

During a crucial four-game stretch in the month of November, however, Harris digressed. He completed just 47 percent of his passes during the month, throwing for three touchdowns and five interceptions.

Harris’ worst performance of the season came during the regular season finale against Texas A&M, when he completed 7 of 21 passes for 83 yards. The young quarterback started the game 1-for-8, and the offense appeared far from functional.

Others have blamed Miles’ old school run-first approach on offense for the recent struggles of the LSU football team.

Where many college teams have evolved into spread formation offenses, Miles has been reluctant to adapt to the current popular offensive trends in the college football landscape.

But the culprit blamed the most for the current issues on the offensive side of the ball is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Cameron has been a coordinator and head coach at both the college and pro level throughout an impressive coaching career. He has also been Miles’ colleague and friend ever since their Michigan days coaching under Bo Schembechler.

In the month of November, the LSU offense developed an identity problem, failing to find the proper balance of run and pass. Against Arkansas and Texas A&M, the Tigers came out with a heavy emphasis place on the pass, utilizing multiple receiver formations and throwing out of the shotgun. In the Alabama and Ole Miss games, Miles and Cameron stuck primarily to the familiar run-heavy attack.

This lack of consistency in offensive game plans could be overlooked if it had worked, but it has not and is now a glaring issue. This fault likely lands at the feet of Cameron.

Many have complained that Cameron has underutilized Harris; treating him more as a prototypical quarterback and not allowing him to get outside of the pocket where he can use his speed and athleticism.

And it is not difficult to see that Cameron’s passing attack in 2014 and 2015 has been unacceptable, ranking 116th and 111th in the country, respectively.

Miles admitted that things have to change offensively if the Tigers will have success in the future, stating that the offense needed to ‘be adapted, to be fixed and adjusted’ after a loss to Ole Miss.

But while Miles believes that the offense needs tune ups, he does not believe it needs a complete overhaul.

Per The Advocate:

"“Do we want to consider change? You betcha,” Miles said. “I think serious overhaul would be appropriate but would be a little much.”"

A strong foundation led by sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who has experienced a record-breaking 2015 campaign, is a large reason behind this optimism that major changes are not necessary.

"“The serious overhaul with the offense, does that include Leonard Fournette?” Miles asked the media. “Would we take the running game from the offense? Oh, ok then. So basically its not a serious overhaul because the motor seems to be pretty stinking strong.”"

Miles isn’t wrong.

Led by Fournette, the LSU rushing attack has experienced the best statistical season of Miles’ 11-year tenure at the helm of the program, currently ranking 11th in the country.

The fact of the matter is LSU’s rushing attack has improved under Cameron, ranking in the top-30 every season since he took over in 2013.

It is clear heading into the 2016 season that LSU’s top offensive weapons come in the form of Fournette and freshman running back Derrius Guice. Why would LSU want to part ways with a coordinator that has proven he is capable of getting the most out of his running backs?

The passing attack has not always been bad under Cameron, either. In 2013, led by future NFL draft pick Zach Mettenberger, the LSU pass offense ranked 45th nationally after amassing more than 3,000 passing yards.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that Cameron will be heading anywhere. Miles trusts him to make the appropriate tweaks to fix the offense, and the Tigers have the weapons to be successful in doing so.