When Cam Cameron takes the field alongside Les Miles on Saturday, he will become the fourth offensive coordinator to work under Miles during his nine-year tenure as LSU's head coach.
But Cameron won’t be a new face. In fact, he and Miles have worked together before, and the two remain friends even after their coaching careers went in different directions.
“I’m much more attuned to who he is as a person,” Miles said. “I’ve been with him. I spent decades with him, trailing him and as close friends. His family and our family are, again, closely associated.
“I think there’s a professional relationship, one that speaks to a level of responsibility, but there’s a personal piece that just kind of allows you to know the things that you would expect of him, over years, will certainly happen, and the things that he would expect of me, over years, would certainly happen. I think there’s a trust factor.”
Both men started their coaching careers at the University of Michigan as graduate assistants under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, Miles in 1980 and Cameron in 1983. The two didn’t actually work together until Miles returned to Michigan in 1987 as the offensive line coach.
It was there they spent seven years on the same staff under Schembechler and then his successor, Gary Moeller. But Cameron made the jump to the NFL, and Miles took a job as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.
Now, nearly a decade later, they’re once again coaching together. Looking to take the LSU offensive to the next level, Miles reached out to his old friend who had been in the NFL since 2002. With Cameron, the Tigers have a well-known, respected name as offensive coordinator, and it’s created a buzz around the team.
“I can tell you that our team, with Cam on offense, are excited and looking forward to performing at a very high level,” Miles said.
The player most excited about Cameron’s arrival was senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger. When he was in the NFL, Cameron worked with the likes of Drew Brees in San Diego and more recently, Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Now it’s Mettenberger’s turn, and he wants to leave his own mark under the direction of his new coordinator.
“No quarterback is the same,” he said. “I’m definitely more of a Flacco-type than Brees, obviously, but every quarterback is different. I’m just going to go out there and play my game.”
Last year, Mettenberger threw for 2,701 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He came on towards the end, throwing for over 1,000 yards in the final four games of the regular season, and against Alabama, he finished 24 of 35 for 298 yards and a touchdown.
Now, as a senior, he’s taken more of a leadership role with the team, and he’s spent hours on end studying film and learning Cameron’s offense.
“A year of experience really put credibility under my belt,” Mettenberger said. “I can tell guys how something’s going to be or how they need to do something. I know this offense better than everybody except for Coach Cam and the coaching staff.”
Miles has been pleased with Cameron’s tutelage of Mettenberger and expects a big season for his senior quarterback.
“I think, one, Zach expects more out of himself going into his final campaign and is really accepting of coaching,” he said. “I think Cam is a very demanding coach and one that’s knowledgeable, and it helps a guy that wants to compete at a high level. He helps them do that. So it’s really a great time in Mettenberger’s career that Cam Cameron is board.”
The first test will be Saturday at AT&T Stadium against a TCU defense that returns nine starters from a unit that ranked No. 16 nationally in total defense in 2012.
“I’m really excited to see how an actual game operation is going to be under Coach Cameron,” Mettenberger said. “You can practice everything as much as you want, but it’s never really like a game. I’m just very excited to go out there and see how we operate.”