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LSU players reflect on time with Joe Brady: "We knew we had something special"


MOBILE, Ala. – Louisiana State offensive linemen and tight ends always knew what they were getting into when they signed with the Tigers.

That offense was going to pound the rock, so you better enjoy run blocking.

"At LSU, we always just gave the ball to Leonard (Fournette) or (Derrius) Guice," tight end Stephen Sullivan said at Senior Bowl media day.

But when passing game coordinator Joe Brady arrived in Baton Rouge ahead of the 2019 season, things changed dramatically.

"When we were installing plays, we saw that some of our run plays became pass plays," Sullivan said. "We were like, 'Whoa, what's going on?' When we saw that, we knew we had something special."

Brady installed spread concepts and, as Sullivan mentioned, he weaponized the run-pass option, or RPO.

We all know what happened next. Quarterback Joe Burrow lit it up and won the Heisman Trophy and the high-scoring Tigers took home the national championship thanks to an unstoppable offense.

"Joe put us in the right position to make plays," LSU offensive lineman Damien Lewis said. "He got us in the right RPOs. He was the right coach for us to have a perfect season."

The players loved the system. And they loved Brady's style.

"He's a cool coach," Sullivan said. "When he first got there he wanted to know us as people first. He wanted to know our backgrounds and things we like to do. It showed he cares about his players. Once a coach cares about more than football, his players are going to put way more effort towards him, you know? And then he just finds ways to get his playmakers the ball."

Brady coached the LSU wide receivers, who were simply spectacular. Ja'Marr Chase led the way with 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Justin Jefferson wasn't far behind with 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. And Terrace Marshall Jr. finished with 671 yards and 13 scores.

The offensive lineman would catch a glimpse of Brady's practice drills and look on in amazement.

"Joe had them wearing black face guards so they could barely see catching passes," Lewis said. "He had them hiding behind doors catching balls. The receivers love him."

But LSU's offensive dominance wouldn't have been possible with a dependable offensive line. And that line was put in some tough situations as the Tigers often wanted five targets running routes.

Allow offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry III, another Senior Bowl participant, to explain.

"We did a lot of five-man protections," Cushenberry III said. "He's all about getting the ball to his playmakers in space and getting the back out of protection. So up front, you've got to be a man. Got to take care of the quarterback. We faced a lot of six or seven-man pressures, so you have to limit the hits on the quarterback and get the ball out quick."

The Tigers executed that plan to near perfection. And now Brady has taken his talents to the NFL.

"He was one of us. He has a little swag to him," Cushenberry III said of Brady. "I've never seen him not smiling. He's going to bring a lot of energy to Carolina."

View photos from the 2020 Senior Bowl practices and Media Day from Mobile, Alabama, as the Panthers coaching staff gets a look at the 2020 prospects.