Alabama defense prepares LSU's 'eye candy' offense

Alabama defense prepares LSU's 'eye candy' offense
CW File

Known for his ability to conjure up exotic pre-snap shifts and uncommon formations, LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada will attempt to distract and discombobulate Alabama’s dominant defensive unit with a smoke and mirrors show this Saturday night in Bryant-Denny stadium.

Brought in at the end of last year by head coach Ed Orgeron to revive a dilapidated LSU offense, Canada has implemented his flashy-yet-conservative offensive approach in his first full season with the Tigers. 

"What you really want for the players is to be able to prepare well so that when the game comes they're really focused on what they need to do and not sort of all the shifts and motions and tackle over unbalance and rocket motion and all that sort of 'eye candy,' I call it, for a defensive player makes a guy not focus on his real keys," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.

Canada’s offense revolves around placing several players, sometimes up to six, in motion before the ball is snapped in an attempt to confuse defenders by causing them to adjust their assignments multiple times. When executed correctly, this style can cause mayhem for the defense and open up big holes for the offense.

“They do a whole lot,” Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “It’s important that all 11 guys are doing their jobs, have the right eye discipline, because if one person isn’t doing his job you can get gashed.”

With a bye-week to build a game plan, Canada will almost certainly have some new tricks up his sleeve for Alabama. However, Alabama’s defense has also had an extra week to prepare and the Crimson Tide have no plans to fall victim to trickery.

“It is a little different, especially from anything that we've seen this year,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “But having a little extra time probably is a good thing when you play an offense like this because there are a lot of multiples in terms of formations and motions and how the defensive players need to understand and adjust.”

Besides its utilization of unorthodox pre-snap shifts, LSU’s offensive scheme is rather straightforward once the center snaps the ball. The Tigers rely on their rushing attack, which is powered by junior running back Derrius Guice, and a controlled short passing game managed by senior quarterback Danny Etling.

While LSU’s offensive chicanery has confounded opponents, its ball security has been another key asset. The Tigers have only turned the ball over six times this season, four of which occurred in an upset loss to Troy. 

Etling, a veteran who transferred to LSU after playing two years at Purdue, has spearheaded the offense’s effort to keep turnovers at a minimum. So far this season he’s thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception while boasting a passer efficiency rating of 156.6, good for third in the SEC.

“I see a lot of growth,” Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett said of Etling. “I think he has only one interception right now, so he’s good at taking care of the ball. He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He’s good at managing the offense and he can run a little bit.”

Alabama will seek to strip the ball away from LSU’s offense on Saturday night – the Crimson Tide defense has snatched possession from adversaries 15 times this season.

In a game that should be Alabama’s toughest test to date, all eyes will be on LSU’s offense and the dazzling pre-snap shifts it employs – except those of Alabama’s defenders; they will be laser-focused on their specific assignments, ready to prove that they are the best defense in the country.

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