BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU’s old offense suited Derrius Guice fine when he set an LSU single-game rushing record with one of the most dominant performances in all of college football last season.
Still, he’s had to accept a new scheme under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and have faith that it’ll all work out.
“I feel like it’s something that we can adapt to, buy into and learn,” Guice said. “I can’t wait to see what it holds for us.”
The wait is about to end; No. 13 LSU opens play Saturday night in New Orleans against BYU.
When Canada first arrived, he figured Guice might be anxious about the new scheme.
“That certainly is sometimes an issue. There’s some guys where that’s been harder,” said Canada, whose stops as a Division I coordinator have included Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois and Indiana. “He certainly has individual goals. No one is naïve to that.”
But Canada was gratified by Guice’s attitude and the order in which Guice voiced his priorities, noting that the first question Guice had about the new offense was how running backs are supposed to handle pass blocking.
“From the moment I got here, he just wants to win,” Canada asserted. “He wants to learn the protection so he never gives up a sack.”
Last season, Guice was LSU’s No. 2 running back behind Leonard Fournette, who is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Fournette nursing an ankle injury much of last season, Guice started six games. He finished the season with team highs of 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing.
He closed out the 2016 regular season with 285 yards rushing at Texas A&M, eclipsing by one yard a mark Fournette had set earlier in the season. The old record had stood since 2004, when Alley Broussard rushed for 250 yards.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake said stopping Guice would be “a huge task” for his defense.
Cougars linebacker Fred Warner added, “He’s a powerful running back. He can make guys miss, so we are just going to have to contain him and hold him to minimal points.”
The offense in which Guice thrived featured plenty of power-I alignments with a traditional blocking fullback. Canada’s scheme largely removes the fullback and emphasizes an array of motions, alignments and angles designed to spread defenses out and keep them guessing.
Such changes could explain why, when Guice was asked about personal expectations this season, he responded, “I don’t have any for myself … Just win ball games one by one.”
He also noted that the new scheme would “make me a better team player,” insinuating, perhaps, that he expects Canada to seek a more balanced distribution of the ball.
Moreover, Guice sounded lukewarm about the way the new scheme is expected to make running backs more frequent targets in the passing game.
“I’d rather just run the ball, but you’ve got to do what the coach wants,” Guice said.
All the while, Guice smiled as he spoke, as if to show he wasn’t so much complaining as trying to answer questions honestly — and that he remained optimistic that the new scheme would work well.
Canada, meanwhile, made it clear that Guice will remain a central figure in the Tigers’ attack.
“Obviously, he’s going to get the football. We know who he is — tremendous player, exceeded expectations for how hard he works,” Canada said. “He loves the game, plays it 1,000 miles an hour.
“He’s fast, physical. He runs on a mission,” Canada continued. “I’ve coached some pretty good guys. Guice has some things different than those guys have. He’s a really special player.”
And Guice sounds intent on holding himself accountable for the success of the offense, regardless of whether it suits him individually as well as the old one.
“It’s nothing I can’t handle,” Guice said. “You’ve got to be ready to do that when you’re the guy. You get what you ask for. I waited so long for my shot. Now it’s here. Now I’ve got to accept (everything) that comes with it.”
Notes: Guice recently had dental work done that caused him to miss a few practices, but he has insisted his teeth wouldn’t hold him back, adding, “I don’t care if they pull all of them out.” Head coach Ed Orgeron has said Guice was still a little swollen early this week but close to 100 percent and expected to play.
AP Sports Writer Kareem Copeland in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this report.