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LSU players adapting to fiery new offensive coordinator Matt Canada

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Matt Canada's offensive scheme is designed to make opposing defenses look dumb; creating confusion and personnel mismatches that LSU can then exploit.

The first-year LSU offensive coordinator's players knew that if they failed to put in the work this offseason, they'd be the ones who looked dumb once the Tigers opened spring practice.

"Now since I've already got two years of Cam [Cameron's] offense under my belt, now I have to learn Matt Canada's offense and I still have to be up to beat on that because I don't want anybody thinking that I'm not a student of the game and can't learn an offense," junior running back Derrius Guice said. "It just looks bad on you as an older guy and a leader now.

"And it's coming along fine. It's not hard, it's simple. You just have to pay attention and actually do more outside of football. You have to do more studying and actually walking through by yourself at home and stuff like that. You've just got to do more to actually get it."

Or you can be tight end Foster Moreau, whose home life furthers his scheme preparation whether he likes it or not. Not to say that Moreau doesn't study, but when your roommates are quarterbacks -- Danny Etling and Caleb Lewis -- who frequently compare notes, you might learn a bit extra through osmosis.

"You'll just be sitting down after practice, after homework, and you might be on Xbox playing something and you'll hear from the upper loft, you'll hear Caleb, 'What have you got on such-and-such, X-Jet-this-or-that?' Then Danny will say, 'I've got a read [from] here to here to here,' " Moreau said. "It's really weird how that works, but it's kind of fun too."

Once Canada's players grasp what he wants to accomplish on each play, the results can be impressive. His Pittsburgh offense tied for 14th nationally in yards per play (6.71), helping Canada become the nation's only offensive coach to be named a finalist for the Broyles Award. Now just two practices into his first spring at LSU, he's still early in the teaching phase.

There were understandable rocky moments in Saturday's first spring practice, but LSU coach Ed Orgeron came away encouraged by what he saw from Canada, who was a loud, energetic ball of energy throughout the periods that were open to reporters.

"I've seen him recruit like that and we've been on the field in agility [drills] and stuff like that," Orgeron said. "Let me say this to you: He beat my expectations, I promise you. He coaches offense like we coach on defense and I love it."

Orgeron said LSU's players "ignited" with excitement over the new offensive scheme on Saturday, the first of five main installation periods that Canada will conduct this spring. Once he's finished, the unorthodox shifts and motions meant to get defenses out of position will become a staple of the Tigers' offense.

It also means a boatload of possibilities will exist -- whether it's an offensive lineman running with the ball on a reverse or a tight end shifting all the way outside to wide receiver -- that did not before.

"You can just do whatever," Moreau said. "That's kind of the cool part about the offense. … I could line up as the halfback, wind up as the No. 1 receiver, motion in to the other side in the slot and run a dig. There's a lot of stuff."

Playing traffic cop will be senior quarterback Etling, who said he watched film of Canada's previous stops at Pitt, N.C. State, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois to get a feel for what his new coach called in the past.

"We're going to try and move around a lot more," Etling said. "We're going to spread the ball around and spread it out some. And we're going to get the ball to all different types of playmakers' hands in all different types of ways. That's the best way I can describe it."

Developing an offensive identity remains a work in progress. It's early in spring, and Canada is still getting a feel for his players' capabilities. There are previous seasons where he leaned heavily on running quarterbacks, seasons where he aired it out with a pass-heavy scheme, and others, like last year at Pitt, that were balanced.

Canada has maintained since he interviewed for the LSU job that he will fit his play-calling to his personnel, and his players know that philosophy will dictate how Canada operates this fall.

"It was pretty cool to see how many different things he can do and how many different offensive schemes he's had," Etling said. "We'll have a lot of options to go into the season with once we find out what we're good at and what this team is going to have as an identity. So we're going to try to find that out this spring and just go from there."