BATON ROUGE, La. — If you’re the kind of person who believes that numbers never lie, then Steve Ensminger might just be the best offensive coordinator in recent LSU history.
Reports surfaced Monday night indicating that LSU will promote tight ends Steve Ensminger to the role of offensive coordinator for 2018, replacing recently-departed coach Matt Canada. This won’t be the first time Ensminger has worked as LSU’s offensive coordinator, and maybe for good reason.
Over the past decade, LSU has had five offensive coordinators, four in a full-time capacity and Ensminger in an interim basis for eight games in 2016. And for all the complaints about the predictability of LSU’s offense over the stretch, the unit was never necessarily bad. For more than a decade, the Tigers have averaged more than 30 points per game.
But if you look at the most basic statistics, you’ll actually find that LSU’s offense was at its most successful when Ensminger was calling the plays. Not Gary Crowton. Not Greg Studrawa. Not Cam Cameron or Matt Canada. Steve Ensminger.
|Gary Crowton (2007-10)||31.2||366.8||175.2||191.6|
|Greg Studrawa (2011-12)||32.9||364.3||188.7||175.6|
|Cam Cameron (2013-16)||31.0||417.5||223.9||193.6|
|Steve Ensminger (2016)||32.0||464.9||253.6||211.3|
|Matt Canada (2017)||27.2||411.1||207.6||203.5|
If you’re using points per game as your end-all, be-all metric, Studrawa takes the crown. But that’s mainly because he was the offensive coordinator in 2011, presiding over the offense of what may have been one of the three best regular season teams in college football history.
But if you break things apart by yards, Ensminger’s success becomes evident. No offensive coordinator this decade has led a yardage boom quite the way Ensminger did. His offenses averaged 465 yards per game, 254 rushing yards per game and 211 passing yards per game, all of which dwarf his predecessors’ and successor’s totals.
Yes, there’s an easy argument to refute this: Ensminger didn’t coach nearly the same number of games as the other men on this list, especially not Crowton and Cameron. Which is fair. Ensminger called eight games for LSU while Crowton had four full seasons and Cameron coached three years and change.
But when you’re working with a sample size as small as Ensminger’s, you’re much more susceptible to outliers. Of which Ensminger has one. His offense scored zero points and put up 125 yards against 2016 Alabama, another team that potentially belongs among the three best regular season teams of all-time.
That’s a negative outlier. If you discard that total, Ensminger’s points per game average skyrockets to 36.6 points per game and LSU’s total yardage per game under Ensminger balloons to 513.4 yards per game.
And yes, it’s unfair to discard what happens against Alabama. If you’re not at your best against the best, LSU fans aren’t going to fully embrace you. And Ensminger’s team didn’t just play badly against Alabama, it put up LSU’s worst offensive performance against the Tide in more than a decade.
But compare that performance against how Ensminger’s offense performed in other big games and you’ll start to find how that game might’ve been more indicative of Alabama’s dominance than LSU’s frailties. Because for all of the Tigers’ lack of scoring success vs. Florida in 2016, LSU still managed 423 yards of total offense. That would’ve been the Tigers’ third-best total against an SEC opponent under Matt Canada.
And in the bowl game versus Louisville? Another 394 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per play against the nation’s No. 14 total defense.
Is this to say Ensminger is and was LSU’s best option for offensive coordinator? No. It’s to say that based off an eight-game sample in 2016, he deserves a longer look at the job. That doesn’t mean LSU fans can’t aspire for something bigger. Just don’t be shocked if Ensminger turns out to be bigger than anyone expects.
The post By the numbers: Steve Ensminger in 2016 was LSU’s best OC of last decade appeared first on SEC Country.
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