Updated: Feb 11, 2019
“You won’t get any BS or red tape from me.” That’s about as Sean Salisbury as it gets. He’s honest, but his honesty comes from a place of humble sincerity. LSU fans have been buzzing to learn more about Sean after it was revealed that Coach Orgeron and Steve Ensminger tried to hire Sean last season. Due to conflicts with compliance rules, Sean had to turn down the position, but he still has his eyes set on becoming part of the LSU family. I sat down with Salisbury to get his take on the current state of the LSU offense, thoughts on Steve Ensminger and his desire to join the LSU staff.
What would a Sean Salisbury offense look like? Chaos. To the defense that is. “Listen, the #1 thing is to create chaos for the defense, which creates mismatches for the offense. So on Saturdays we’ve got to simplify the game plan for our guys, but make it look complex for the defense. And I think that’s the key, where everybody else is saying, oh my gosh look at this chaos, while our offense is sitting back there calm. When you watch great offenses like the Saints, at no time does it look like there’s chaos for them; but the defense is running around wondering how they defend this? I’m aggressive and attacking, I don’t play scared, but I don’t play stupid football.”
Sean’s specialty is training quarterbacks, and he equips them for both the mental and mechanical side of the game. “For the quarterback, it’s the question of, when the temperature of the game is going through the roof; does your blood pressure go down? In the most heated of moments, do you play your best football? Anybody can play when you’re beating a team 42-7, anybody can. I need to know what happens when we’re down 25 to 9, you’ve thrown 2 picks in the first half, and you’ve got 20 minutes at half time to make adjustments. Can you find ways in an ugly game for us to come out and beat a team like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, or whoever it is? I want to know what you’re good at when you’re not having that great of a day. I’ve got to get them to where their mechanics don’t break down under pressure. Look at the greats in any sport, when the pressure is on, their mechanics don’t change, in fact they become laser focused. Sometimes things don’t go your way and you’ve got to make a play.” Now this is where Sean’s approach to football comes into play. “All coaches can yell and scream, they know X’s and O’s, but can you teach it? Can you take a guy in at halftime and teach him to process the information so he can go back out there on the field and apply it? That I can do.”
So what’s one of the first things Sean would do if he was hired by LSU? “I’d take the quarterbacks and myself and we would walk into the defensive meeting room. We’d sit and watch Dave Aranda’s approach. Find out what drives him crazy about defending an offense, what’s difficult for him to defend.” If you have one of the best coaches in the country in your building like LSU does, use him to your advantage. “I’d like to learn from Dave, and maybe he could learn something from me too. I like looking at the offense from a defensive standpoint. If he’s telling me, hey running RPO’s against 2 deep coverage is a bad idea, or we can defend this or that type of play easily, then why in the world would I continue to put a square peg in a round hole? That’s the first thing I’d do. After that I’d say, let's talk about what you wouldn’t want to see from our offense if you had to defend us. Then I’d take that knowledge and apply it to the offense,” said Salisbury.
With the recent hype around Sean, LSU fans are seeing every tweet and quote of Sean’s through a new filter. A filter of cynicism that everything he says is somehow calling out the LSU coaching staff, in particular, Steve Ensminger. But not so fast. If you think Sean has a problem with Steve, think again. In fact, he has nothing but praise for the offensive coordinator. “I love Steve Ensminger. LSU absolutely has the right offensive coordinator. I respect him as much as any coach in the country, and I’d rather work with Steve than work without him. I would never take aim at someone like that, are you kidding me? I know how difficult this business is. So when people get on Ensminger, they need to back off. They need to slow their roll a little bit.”
One of Sean’s quotes that received some recent attention was, “We (LSU) have to be a more 2020 spread offense, not a1990’s offense.” I asked him to expound on what he meant, and what a 2020 offense looks like to him. “When I said 1990, there are times when we all get comfortable and we go with what we know. But the ability to step outside what we know is important. When I say 2020 offense, look at what Andy Reid, Lincoln Riley, and Steve Ensminger are doing; take something from all of them. No longer can a team be just a west coast offense, just a vertical passing game offense, just an RPO offense, or just a spread offense. Those days are over. You have to be a little bit of all of it. So when people think that I’m saying, oh LSU is playing like a 1990 team, NO. It’s a perception LSU has gained over a 30 year period. The most successful players and coaches in the league adjust. Being 2020 means we are not stuck in one offense, one way, and I’d love to help with that.”
As an overall assessment of LSU’s current offense, Sean believes LSU is on the right track. “Talking to Steve, he and I are on the same page as far as how you run an offense. As we talked through plays I thought, this is my kind of guy.” Some of the schemes Sean liked were expanding the use of tight ends; moving guys out and deploying players at mismatch situations. “We’ve got to give Steve some time to get this rolling. Remember, we’re currently the #7 team in the country, and a couple of weeks ago we were #3. Nobody thought LSU would be in this position before the season started. There is no staff getting as much out of their players right now. Preseason everyone had this staff fired, which was absurd. So I think they’re doing a damn good job, and I’d love to help.”
One thing is certain, Sean has not been shy about his desire to be on the LSU staff in some capacity. “I would walk 10 miles over broken glass to work with Ensminger and Orgeron. Hell yes, I would like to coach. Hell yeah, I think I could make a difference.” Don’t mistake Sean’s confidence for cockiness. He want’s people to know that he comes at this humbly and with a lot of passion. “Do I think I’m better than anyone? No not at all. I’m not good at much. I know how to coach offensive football, teach quarterbacks mechanics, and how to attack a defense. I also know what it takes to be successful from watching and learning from the best; from people far better than me. Yeah, I do think I can make an impact, because it’s not a matter of who wants to win, it’s the refusal to lose.” Not only does Sean have the skill set to help this team, but he has the heart. “I’m not harsh, I’m in the self esteem building business, not the tearing down business. But at times, part of building self esteem is looking a player in the eye and saying we’ve got to get better.”
"It’s not a matter of who wants to win, it’s the refusal to lose."
While he’s interested in coaching, he has no desire to come in and be a ‘yes man.’ “It’s good to have somebody challenge you. You know respect is one thing, but yes men on staff is another. I’m talking about any college right now, not just LSU. If I just come out and say yes to everything and let’s just do the same thing everyday, ultimately they’re going to get someone else. Challenging does not equal disrespect. You press somebody, you challenge each other, and you make the team better. Because it’s the kids that have to be our top priority along with winning football games.”
Salisbury would not only be willing to put on the hat of teacher and coach, but of recruiter. He believes his straight forward and honest approach could help to win over some of the nation’s top athletes. “I know how to recruit because I can tell people sometimes what they don’t want to hear, but what they need to hear. Most of the time great athletes want to be told what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. I think most of the great ones respond to someone who is honest and transparent.”
Finally, we touched on why Sean has so much passion to join the LSU family. To find the root of the passion, you have to go back to Sean’s childhood. “I can remember growing up and watching games in Death Valley, and announcers talking about the dorm rooms built into the side of the stadium. I was always intrigued with it. Also, the visuals of a night game at LSU was one of my favorite college football highlights of the year.” Fast forward to when Sean began his broadcasting career, and had the chance to commentate the LSU vs Ole Miss game for ESPN, while Eli Manning was the quarterback. “I got a feel for what it was like there, and I thought wow, wouldn’t it be great to be a part of this.” Sean’s always been impressed with LSU, but even more impressed with the fans. “I love LSU fans, I love hard core, blue collar football fans, that show up at 6AM for a night game because they love football that much. They deserve good football, and they’re getting it.”
Salisbury remembers lots of great sports moments in his life, but one in particular came in Baton Rouge just last year. “I’ve had a lot of fun sports moments in my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to play the game my whole life, even professionally. But let me just tell you this, when I got to Baton Rouge and drove by Tiger Stadium I thought wow, how cool would it be to run out that tunnel and coach against Alabama or any SEC team. I went to Baton Rouge after being invited to talk football with Coach Orgeron and Ensminger. To my susprise, they asked me about joining the staff.. it was one of the 10 coolest moments I’ve ever had in sports! It’s LSU football, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?” As mentioned previously, Sean was not able to join the LSU staff last year due to compliance issues while training quarterbacks. “Everyday, until compliance turned me down, it consumed my thoughts.” It should be noted that Sean has backed off of some personal training to make sure if the opportunity arises again, he would be able to join the LSU staff.
To sum it all up, Sean’s final thoughts on LSU were, “I started out wearing cardinal and gold when I was a quarterback at USC. I would just as easily wear purple and gold now.”
Trust me Sean, LSU fans want to see you in purple and gold as well.
Written By: Meghan Redd - November 20th, 2018