Skip to main content

The Unsung Hero: LSU Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger Making Most of This Season Before Deciding on Future

Even out of the spotlight, Ensminger waited his turn and is reaping the rewards
  • Author:
  • Updated:

For the first time all season, media members talked to the unsung hero of the LSU offense this year: offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. Much of the outside praise this season has been dumped in the laps of quarterback Joe Burrow and passing game coordinator Joe Brady, and deservedly so.

But inside the building, Ensminger is seen as the "MVP" of the offense, with coach Ed Orgeron admitting as much on Monday.

"Obviously, Joe [Brady] came in. Steve worked his tail off to learn the new terminology, the new words," Orgeron said. "He calls most of the plays. He's done a fantastic job. Him and Joe have meshed perfectly. There's no egos with both of those guys. It's not us, us, us. It's we, we, we. They work great together. Steve has been the MVP of the whole deal."

It all started with a meeting after LSU had just suffered an embarrassing 29-0 shutout home loss to Alabama. The offense looked overmatched and out of style. Orgeron knew he needed to make a change, so he called Ensminger into his office.

"We didn't score any points against Alabama," Orgeron said. "It was a low point and I told him, I said, listen, we've got to go to the spread. And he said, 'you're right.' I said, are you going to be receptive, someone coming in teaching us the spread? He said 'yes, I will.' When Steve tells you yes, it means yes."

The rest is history. Joe Brady's hiring, Joe Burrow's remarkable offseason improvement and the successful implementation of the spread offense led to one of the great offensive seasons in SEC history. Burrow broke SEC records for passing yards (4,715) and touchdowns (48) on his way to winning the first Heisman Trophy in 60 years for the Tiger program.

Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire made conference history as the 2019 LSU offense became the first to have a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. 

LSU enters the Peach Bowl leading the nation in total offense (554.4 yards per game) and third in scoring (47.8 points per game). And if you think Ensminger is slowing down anytime soon, you'd be sorely mistaken.

"Hell, I'm young," Ensminger said. "I'm 61. I won't be like Coach Robinson. I won't coach until I'm 80, but do I look forward to the rest—I look forward to finishing this season and we'll make that decision after. I still want to coach. I enjoy coaching. I think we have special athletes. I'm sitting next to three of them right here. So as long as I feel like I can contribute to LSU, I will be here. If I feel like—it's kind of like, you know, Joe Brady coming in here and helping us. If I feel like, hey, somebody else can do it better, I'll walk away from it. That's the way it is."

Since Ensminger was promoted to offensive coordinator after the 2017-18 season, one thing is for certain—he takes a challenge head on. After he was first hired as OC, many around Baton Rouge felt it was a lateral move instead of bringing in a fresh face to the building.

Ensminger has certainly proved the doubters wrong, but he faces another difficult decision, this time on the field, should star junior running back Edwards-Helaire not be able to play.

"I'm excited about the other three backs," Ensminger said. "Ty Davis is a bull runner. John Emery can make people miss in space. Chris Curry, I think Chris Curry runs the ball hard. You saw him at the end of the game last week or two weeks ago, runs the ball hard. He's very secure with the ball. I have no problems with our backs if Clyde's not there."

Now that's not to say Ensminger thinks Edwards-Helaire won't suit up. In fact, Ensminger believes the junior running back will be available come game time.

"I do believe we will have Clyde. That's my opinion," Ensminger said.  "Coach O and Jack don't confer with me that much, but I think Clyde will be there. I truly expect him to be there."

"We're not going to change our offense if Clyde isn't out there," Burrow said. "Our offense is our offense. And those guys will step up, and I know they will, and they work hard for it. But Clyde is a big part of it."

Whatever happens to close this season, Ensminger will always look back on this season, on this offense and remember the first time he thought the 2019 season could be one for the ages in Baton Rouge.

"I felt like spring practice—I felt like in spring, going against a very good defense, the way we performed, I thought we had a chance to be a real good offense," Ensminger said. "The first game of the season, I thought that team was a very good team. And your concern as a coordinator, how are you going to move the football and everything else? We took it down there the first three drives.

"I'll never forget the one play, we're down on the goal line and we had a duo play called, a run play called. We looked over, and I put a run tag on it. I think Joe threw a touchdown to Jordan—I mean, to Justin. And then [Joe] Brady looked up and says how do you like this offense now? Pretty damn good."