LSU hires offensive coordinator Matt Canada away from Pitt
Matt Canada isn’t promising any particular kind of offense at LSU — other than on which scores enough to win.
“We do things according to what the players can do,” Canada said Wednesday at his formal introduction as LSU’s offensive coordinator. “I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself. We’re this or we’re that. The biggest thing for me is scoring points, but the goal in a game is to score more points than the other team. It is not about to keep scoring to reach a certain number.”
LSU hired Canada, who currently serves as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator, away from the Panthers in hopes he can make the Tigers’ run-heavy offense more dynamic and productive against some of the nation’s better defenses.
The hiring of Canada marks the first significant staff addition made by LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who took over on an interim basis after Les Miles was fired in late September and received the job on a permanent basis after going 5-2.
“He has put up tremendous numbers at the different spots he’s worked,” Orgeron said. “He uses multiple shifts and multiple formations. He has a very creative mind. He makes it tough on the defenses he goes against. I felt he would be a fit with the staff. He didn’t talk about his lofty numbers. He does a great job coaching quarterbacks — spread or pro-style. He has had quarterbacks running the ball or throwing the ball.”
Canada’s unit at Pitt enjoyed a prolific season, averaging 42.3 points and 447.5 yards as the Panthers went 8-4 this season. Pitt next meets Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl in Dec. 28 in New York, and Canada is expected to remain with the Panthers through that game.
Canada’s offenses have been defined by balance, creativity and misdirection. Of Pitt’s 5,370 total net yards of offense this season, 2,757 have come on the ground and 2,613 through the air.
Orgeron also has already retained defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, whose unit allowed just 16.4 points per game. Back when Aranda was with Utah State, he went up against Canada, who was then the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin.
“There are not a lot of guys who do as good a job adjusting to his players than Matt,” Aranda said. “You notice all the shifts and misdirection. I love to see that type of offense in the spring. It gets your defense ready for anything. It’s tough to defend all the shifts and motions. Plus, he makes a lot of adjustments in the game.”
Canada, who turned 45 next month, takes over for Steve Ensminger, who’d moved up from tight ends coach on an interim basis after former coordinator Cam Cameron was fired on the same day Miles was.
Miles was let go after several seasons in which his quarterbacks, with the exception of Zach Mettenberger, largely struggled to produce consistently. The lack of a passing game has been exposed most during what is now a six-game losing streak against Alabama. While LSU’s defense kept the game close, the Tigers were shut out by the Crimson Tide, 10-0, this season.
This season, LSU has averaged 238 yards rushing and only 188 passing.
“We have a real opportunity under coach Orgeron to propel LSU football to another level,” Canada said in a statement released by LSU. “The chance to put together a high-powered offense with the athletic ability available at LSU and the leadership of Coach ‘O’ is incredibly exciting. I’ve long-respected Coach Orgeron’s ability to recruit, lead and motivate. What he did as head coach at LSU under difficult circumstances was really impressive.
“We’re going to develop quarterbacks, score points and bring some excitement to the offense here at LSU,” Canada added.
A two-decade veteran of college coaching, Canada also has held offensive coordinator positions with Indiana, Northern Illinois, and North Carolina State.
He was fired from his post at North Carolina State after the 2015 season despite his unit averaging about 413 yards per game with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Canada did not get into specifics about his departure from North Carolina State. But he was quickly taken off the market by Pitt and added another productive season on his coaching resume.
“Professionally and personally, this has been the hardest year of my life,” Canada said, adding that he was surprised by his firing at North Carolina State. “Obviously, there was a reason for it. I am fortunate the change was made, because I’m here.”
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Bryan Lazare in Baton Rouge contributed to this story.