LSU's Citrus Bowl game against Notre Dame has taken on added drama with the revelation that it likely will be the final game for Matt Canada as the Tigers' offensive coordinator.
Numerous media reports say LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has decided to part ways with Canada after the Jan. 1 game in Orlando, Fla. The separation is not surprising given the way Canada's first season on the staff unfolded.
Canada was brought in from Pittsburgh to add more creativity and reduce the predictability of the offense.
But Orgeron had Canada scale back his trademark shifting and motion to try to simplify things for a young offensive line in the game against Troy on Sept. 30. After the Tigers were shut out in the first half, Canada went back to his shifting and motion, helping LSU score three second-half touchdowns, although it was too little, too late in a stunning 24-21 defeat.
That left the Tigers struggling with a 3-2 record, but they went on to win six of their final seven games. The rift between the two coaches resurfaced, though, after the victory against Texas A&M in the regular-season finale.
Orgeron said he would like to see Canada get a head-coaching position and praised tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, whom Orgeron promoted to offensive coordinator when he was named interim head coach four games into the 2016 season.
Canada subsequently was a candidate for head-coaching openings at Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette, but didn't get either job. The Tigers would owe Canada $3 million for the final two years on his contract if they were to fire him, although Canada's future earnings elsewhere would be deducted from that total.
Assuming Canada sticks around for the bowl game, he's expected to have the services of a healthy Derrius Guice. The Tigers' 1,000-yard rusher, who has battled multiple leg injuries this season, has returned to practice after sitting out the first week of bowl preparations.
The Citrus Bowl could be Guice's final game at LSU as the junior contemplates entering the NFL draft, where he is considered a first-round prospect. NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang rates Guice as the 17th-best prospect on his big board.
Ensminger, who appears to be the frontrunner to replace Canada, called plays for the final eight games last season after offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was dismissed at the same time head coach Les Miles was fired after a 2-2 start.
The Tigers averaged more yards per game (464.8 to 412.1) and more yards per play (7.1 to 6.3) under Ensminger last season than they did under Canada in 12 games this season.
OLB Arden Key (knee) has been ruled out of the game, and the junior is expected to enter the NFL draft. He has been projected as a high first-round pick.
OT K.J. Malone (knee) is questionable. He has missed the last six games, but the nearly six-week break before the bowl game has greatly enhanced his chance of returning.
LB Devin White will take on an even bigger role than normal because the linebacker corps is beat up. White has been among the leading tacklers in the country all season, making at least 10 stops in eight games and averaging 10.6 tackles, tied for seventh-most in the country.
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