Citrus Bowl Notes: Notre Dame staff like, respect embattled LSU coordinator

First-year LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada is caught up in controversy as he prepares to guide the Tiger offense against Notre Dame Monday in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
First-year Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko speaks with the media this past season at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex in South Bend. (By Tom Davis of
LSU running back Derrius Guice (5) bounces off a defender near the goal line on a touchdown carry in the second half of a game earlier this season against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La. (By The Associated Press)
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly watches his team practice during training camp in August at Culver Academy. (By Tom Davis of

As the upcoming Citrus Bowl game draws closer, the angst and drama permeating the LSU football coaching staff seemingly grows with each tick of the clock.

Multiple reports have indicated that Tiger offensive coordinator (and New Palestine, Ind. native) Matt Canada will be let go after his first season with the program. However, those within the program aren’t stating that, but then again, they are not emphatically denying those reports either.

However, what is clear is that the Notre Dame coaching staff has a lot of respect for Canada and the job he has done throughout his career.

“I like Matt Canada,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said earlier this month. “I really respect the work that he’s done all the way back to Indiana (and) Wisconsin.”

A year ago, Kelly was looking for a new voice to guide his offense and he considered speaking with Canada, but felt the timing was poor.

“He was being hotly contested (by LSU),” Kelly said, “so he wasn’t somebody that we felt like, at the time, was going to be the right fit for us. He would have been the right fit in terms of what we were looking for offensively, but he was deeply negotiating at LSU and we kind of knew that, so that wasn’t a path that we were going to go down.”

RELATED STORY:Notre Dame coaches balanced hectic month successfully

RELATED STORY:Shaky Notre Dame passing attack now even more unstable

RELATED STORY:Notre Dame adds ‘best QB in the country’ for 2018

RELATED STORY:Next step in building, sustaining Notre Dame football to be taken

RELATED STORY:Notre Dame LB Drue Tranquill: I don’t like LSU

RELATED STORY:Notre Dame vs. LSU: Tiger defenders to put pressure on Irish QB to perform

RELATED STORY:Notre Dame vs. LSU: Irish captain sees a humble Brian Kelly, not an arrogant one


Fate took Canada to LSU, which is going to cause headaches this week for Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko.

The Tiger offense has been a very impressive one that features a couple of runners (Derrius Guice and Darrell Williams) that combined for nearly 2,000 yards and a quarterback (former Purdue starter) Danny Etling that completed 60 percent of his throws for 14 touchdowns and just a couple of interceptions.

“What Matt Canada does is drive defensive coordinators crazy,” Elko said. “There are a tremendous amount of shifts and motions, which force your kids to communicate at a high level.”

“Then you have the jet sweeps with all of the complimentary runs off of them.”

The Tiger offense features power when it needs it and speed in abundance, all of which will require discipline on the part of the Irish defenders, according to Elko.

“They do a really good job of creating different surfaces,” Elko explained, “which make it hard for you to set edges. So you’ve really got to spend a lot of time focusing on how you’re going to set the edges to the defense to make sure you’re not getting outflanked and outleveraged.”

“It is almost an option style running attack, where (Notre Dame) guys are going to be assigned to certain pieces of this thing and they’re going to have to be disciplined for four quarters to do their job.”

The Tigers have three different players (Guice, Williams, and Russell Gage) who have each scored on at least a 59-yard run, while four Tigers (DJ Chark, Williams, Foster Moreau, and Drake Davis) have caught scoring passes from 60 to 87 yards each.

“The second one guy gets nosey or peaky or lazy, now all of a sudden there go the explosive plays.”


Elko said that he is flabbergasted that the LSU running back duo of Guice and Williams haven’t garnered more attention than they have after averaging over five yards per carry each, and combining for 20 rushing touchdowns this season.

“These two backs are extremely explosive,” Elko said. “I don’t know why they haven’t quite got the national headlines as a pair. They are as good as we’ve seen.”

What makes those numbers even more impressive is that the LSU offensive line battled a myriad of injuries throughout this season, which closed with a win over Texas A&M in which the Tiger tandem combined for 233 yards rushing and a pair of scores.

“They are really, really talented and they’re both very similar,” Elko said. “They’re both big and strong, physical backs that can get downhill. They can stick a foot in the ground and change direction well and can hit the explosive plays.”

“We’re going to have our hands full with those guys.”

For more on college football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.