Cameron says friendship with Miles makes LSU a good fit
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
BATON ROUGE — Cam Cameron shared a cramped, windowless office with Les Miles when the two were assistant coaches at Michigan.
They started working together in 1987 — before texting and email were common — so when they weren’t speaking to one another, they could not help but overhear each other’s phone conversations with everybody else.
“You get to know a guy pretty darn well,” Cameron said Friday, shortly after Miles had introduced him as LSU’s new offensive coordinator. “I know exactly what I have an opportunity to be a part of here.”
Cameron, who was fired as the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator late in the 2012 regular season, gushed about his opportunity to not only return to the college game after 12 seasons in the NFL, but also to rejoin a longtime friend.
He said sees no need to overhaul the offense Miles currently has in place, but hopes to improve execution in a passing game that ranked 11th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference, and to tailor his schemes and play-calling to his players’ strengths.
Cameron also rejected the notion that working for a close personal friend could get complicated if results don’t come as expected or philosophies diverge at crucial junctures of a season.
“We know how things in football or just in general can play out, but it is an opportunity of a lifetime to work with people you care about,” said Cameron, who stood in Miles’ wedding two decades ago. “There’s no downside to it in my mind because the relationship still always trumps everything, and for me and my family it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Cameron said he’s watched every LSU game since Miles took over eight years ago, and that the process of moving to Baton Rouge is a “special time” for him and his family.
Cameron’s arrival comes as Miles shuffles his coaching staff on the offensive side. Cameron takes over for Greg Studrawa, who stepped in unexpectedly as offensive coordinator in the summer of 2011 when Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Kragthorpe, hired as offensive coordinator months before his diagnosis, remained on staff as quarterbacks coach, but is now moving to non-coaching, administrative position in LSU’s football office. Studrawa remains as offensive line coach.
Miles said Studrawa stepped up to take on more responsibility when LSU needed him, and did well. But with Cameron re-entering the job market, Miles saw an opportunity to improve the offense, and said Studrawa was on board.
“Stud has always been a very team guy,” Miles said. “I think he was very comfortable with this move.”
Cameron dismissed the idea that there might be tension between him and Studrawa.
“It’s a huge advantage for us, and for me, to have a guy who’s been in my shoes and a guy who brings great expertise,” Cameron said. “We’ll work together. That’s the way it’ll be. I can lean on him for a variety of situations.”
Cameron described current LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger as a highly talented passer who’s been followed by top NFL scouts for several years. He said he ran into Mettenberger in the hall of LSU’s football building on Thursday and told the quarterback that he is “all ears.”
Given that Mettenberger is heading into his senior season, Cameron said he wants to listen to what Mettenberger likes to do and let that become a central part of the offense.
“You really need his input and get feedback from him,” Cameron said. “You owe it to your offense to allow your quarterback to do things he does best.”
Miles and Cameron worked together from 1987-93 as assistants under Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller at Michigan.
Cameron was head coach at Indiana from 1997-2001. He never had a winning record with the Hoosiers, but his offenses with Antwaan Randle-El at quarterback were productive.
He then spent five seasons as offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers, developing a prolific offense with Drew Brees as well as with Phillip Rivers, who took over as Chargers quarterback in 2006 when Brees went to New Orleans.
That helped Cameron land the job as Miami Dolphins head coach in 2007, but he was fired after one 1-15 season.
He joined the Ravens in 2008 and helped develop quarterback Joe Flacco, who was MVP of the Super Bowl won by the Ravens in New Orleans earlier this month.
Cameron said he has already received a congratulatory text from Brees. Miles, meanwhile, said Cameron’s work with NFL stars will give him credibility with LSU quarterbacks and recruits.
“Cam is going to be a guy that walks into a home of a quarterback and says, ‘I know how to teach you the things that you are going to need to be great in college and then to demonstrate that to the NFL,’” Miles said. “That mom and that dad and that family will say, ‘I want my son to be with that guy.’”
He’ll even have a Super Bowl ring to show off. Cameron said Ravens coach John Harbaugh has texted him, asking for his ring size.
Cameron said he loved his five years in Baltimore and would not trade it for anything.
While Cameron was settling in to watch the Super Bowl with friends in San Diego, he said he received texts from Ravens players and coaches who said they were thinking of him.
As he watched them celebrate in the Superdome, he said he felt “nothing but joy.”
He said his ability to part ways with the Ravens gracefully after Harbaugh decided to replace him is an example of why he didn’t hesitate to work for a close friend at LSU.
“Decisions like that don’t destroy relationships,” Cameron said. “I’m not going to let that happen.”