Monday, 24 January 2011 03:15

LSU's Kragthorpe Starts Anew After Crowton Goes To Maryland

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Steve Kragthorpe is LSU's new offensive coordinator, replacing Gary Crowton, who moved on to Maryland. Kragthrorpe formally was head coach at Louisville and didn't succeed there. But believe it or not, Kragthorpe's hire could actually work.  Les Miles will take care of the program, but we want to know if Kragthrorpe will have more success as an offensive coordinator.

Chris Brown, who writes and edits Smartfootball and also contributes to Yahoo/Rivals and the New York Times' Fifth Down, offers his opinions on the Tigers OC per And the Valley Shook!.

A team's offense is more than just a playbook, it's an identity, a core group of plays or concepts that everything else stems from.

"LSU's offense under Crowton was pretty 'grab bag, in that the variety of looks, plays and formations they use have tended to add up to less than the sum of their parts, especially once you factor in all the high-profile recruits," said  Brown. "Whether you can blame Crowton for this is an unanswerable question, but my personal preference has always been to have something to hang your hat on -- something you are good at and can go back to and run against anybody.."

Brown said Kragthorpe leaned some lessons at Louisville, and he has experience both in college and the pros and while he's going to have a particular style and has been exposed to lots of ideas, he doesn't expect him to show with a 700-page "I'm smarter than the other guy" playbook.

"The Louisville experience is not what anyone wanted," said Brown. "But it has the potential to be a positive in that he may have learned from it. (Many of the  best coaches, Bill Belicheck being Exhibit A, succeeded later because they had once failed somewhere).

Brown expects Kragthorpe to run a pro-style offense with lots of two-back and one-back sets, multiple formations, with zone and power runs and dropback and play-action passes.

"He's probably going to include some spread elements, like the zone read and so on, but I don't see that as being his focus," said Brown. "I imagine Miles wanted someone with pro-style experience, as much as recruiting as anything else.  I would expect fewer gadgets and funky looks than Crowton had. If it works it will be great, but it probably has more potential to be labeled 'predictable' if the offense struggles."

Brown watched Kragthorpe at Louisville and he tried to keep a lot of Bobby Petrino's playbook while overlaying some new ideas and delegating play-calling duties. The result was  a more mishmash approach than he would have liked.

"I think he'll run the stuff he tried later at Louisville and used with the Bills and at Tulsa, which are your major pass concepts like smash, curl/flat and various zone flood routes, with lots of play-action designed to throw the ball on deep crosses and sguare-in and post routes to the outside receivers." said Brown. 

"The big question to me will be what his run game looks like. I'd expect zone runs with your typical 'power' or 'gap' runs, like the 'Power' and the Counter.' If he can get these established you'll see lot of exciting play-action.  If he can't things will probably grind to a halt a bit. I don't remember his using a lot of fancy screens or bootleg or other action passes. But that have been based on the quarterbacks he has had’.

There is an old adage in coaching that says every time you change offenses (or defenses), your sophomores, juniors and seniors become freshmen. "There's truth to that," said Brown.  "Fortunately for LSU, those sophomores, juniors and seniors are all big-time recruits, and the talent should help the transition, even if there is a learning curve."

Brown said the pessimists will point to Louisville and say this is a terrible thing. "You just need to use the talent on hand," said Brown. "I expect Kragthrope to do a fine -- if unspectacular -- job at that, though time will tell."


The past two seasons the Tigers have been off kilter of what Miles desires. Last season, LSU rushed for 185.7 yards per game and passed for 155.6. In 2009, those numbers were reversed and worse over-all: 122.8 rushing and 181.8 passing.

"I've always had an offense that had balance, both the run and the pass," said Miles. "It's never been about run first and throw second."

For the Tigers to approach the 250/200 goals Miles set, Kragthorpe's role will be the key.

He will have veterans to work with, but verterans Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have been inconsistent and newcomer Zach Mettenberger has yet to take a snap on the FBS level.

"It's a great hire," said Miles about Kragthorpe. "I talked to an offensive coordinator in the NFL and he said 'Man that's a great hire. He's a guy that has a great reputation for the ability to improve  a quarterback.'  Now that's what we need."

Jeffersonian has started 27 of the last 28 games and has thrown for 3,996 yards and 28 touchdowns. Lee produced 1,873 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008 and contributed 573 yards in spot duty this season. Miles wanted to make a quarterback change, but Lee couldn't edge out Jefferson for the starting job.

Mettenberger, who began his college career at Georgia, spent the 2010 season at Butler County (Kan) Community College and passed for 2,687 yards and 32 touchdowns. in 12 games.

"To me, there's going to be some competition at the quarterback spot, there's no question," said Miles. "I've always been a guy who enjoys competition, but I do recognize the experience Jefferson has. We're going into the spring to improve our team at quarterback and at every position."

Tigers fans have a paler Cam Newton on their minds.

Crowton's offense was too complicated for LSU. He was a mastermind behind what some people in football call a "global offense" for its anything-goes approach to moving the ball. Crowton ran out of numbers with which to label his plays and he turned to the heavens for inspiration. He had formations called Moon, Sun, Stars and Mars.

That was all well and good, but when Auburn's Gus Malzahn talks about having only ten base plays -- four runs and six passes -- maybe less is more. When it comes to installing more offense (and defense), there is a thing called subtraction by addition.

But Crowton remains a bright guy, so hopefully he can streamline his system for Maryland. Remember, the Maryland fans almost had Mike Leach, and he only has about 20 plays and four or five formations.

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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