Coach O says personnel changes, simplified scheme should help LSU’s woeful defense

(Photo by: Gus Stark / LSU Athletics)

LSU’s defense, ranked 71stof 76 teams nationally, will see a change.

Not in first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini’s aggressive 4-3 alignment, but rather different unnamed faces or the same players in different positions in the wake of last Saturday’s 45-41 loss to Missouri .

“We’re going to make some personnel changes, maybe get some bigger defensive linemen in there that we can play the run better,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said during his weekly Monday news conference .“Obviously, I think our pass rush is pretty good right now. But we got to be able to stop the run. I think it’s all about playing bigger guys up front and playing better technique.”

Missouri amassed 586 total yards against LSU; 406 from redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak and another 180 on the ground on 33 carries.

Six of Missouri’s touchdowns went for 21 yards or more against an LSU defense that appeared to either be misaligned, didn’t understand the defensive call on the play or suffered missed tackles.

Orgeron promised to streamline this week’s defensive game plan heading into tbe Tigers’ game Saturday at No. 10 Florida and only utilize defensive calls that players are able to execute during the week of practice.

“We’re definitely going to simplify it, there’s no question about that,” he said. “I’m going to make sure any defense that’s called. Bo’s still going to call the defense but I’m going to make sure anyone that’s called we run it right all week and we understand it. If we don’t understand it, we’re not running it.”

Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:

Opening remarks

“Obviously a very disappointing loss. Like I told the players, put it on me. I told the coaching staff this morning we’ve got to coach them better, we’ve got to get better. We identified things that went wrong. On offense, I thought our guys played very good for most of the game. Very impressed with Myles Brennan with 430 yards passing, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The biggest thing, he took the hit on the goal line and kept on coming. He’s not going to practice today. He’s sore. He’s going to be back. I was proud of Terrace Marshall with 11 catches, 235 yards and 3 touchdowns. Arik Gilbert had 6 catches, 97 yards and 1 touchdown. I thought those guys played very well.

Very disappointing on the third downs of 0 of 10. Have to take accountability as coaches. We’ve got to have a better scheme. Then we have better execution. No excuse on the goal line. None whatsoever. We’ve got to get our best personnel in the game. When we’re driving, we should get our best personnel in the game that fits the plays we’re calling. We should have had a better plan on the goal line and we’re going to start on that today.

On defense, not a very good performance. We had a long meeting yesterday (Sunday) about communication, about missed signals. Just put it on the coaches. I’m not going to put it on the players. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to practice better. I told both Bo (Pelini) and Steve (Ensminger) to simplify. Make sure our players can do. I don’t care if we play one defense and one coverage. Play it right, do what we need to do. Put our athletes in position and let them make plays. I know the players are hurting. We’re going to take to them today and get fixed.

On special teams our guys did a good job. Zach Von Rosenberg is doing a phenomenal job of punting. I was disappointing in Cade’s block. It hit the guy in the helmet. That could have been a game-winning field goal for us at the end. Kickoff team, we need to look at our personnel. Avery (Atkins) is kicking it deep but not in the right position and some of our guys got out of position on kickoffs. We’re going to look at our personnel and some of the things we’re doing.

Overall, we’re going to stay positive. It’s my job as the leader. I take accountability of everything to get it fixed and we’re going to get ready for Florida.”

On Florida

“I think Dan Mullen’s an outstanding game day caller. I’ve known him for a long time. We’ve got our work cut out for us. He’s an excellent game day coach, he has an excellent staff. This is one of the best of staffs we’re going to be against and one of the best personnel we’re going to be against. We have a lot of respect for Florida and who they are.

Kyle Trask is an excellent quarterback and Kyle Pitts an excellent tight end and is one of the best players in America we’ll see. (Kadarius) Tony’s an outstanding receiver. They have a lot speed. I’m very impressed with their running backs and the yards after contact. It’s the biggest and best offensive line we’ve played so far. A big challenge for our defense to go toe to toe with them, make the proper calls, make the proper adjustments and cover the wide receivers. Tackle their backs. It’s not a hard game plan.

They’re not playing the defense they usually play but I know against us they’ll play great defense. They always have speed on defense. Brenton Cox Jr. and Ventrell Miller are good players, but they have good players all over the field.

This is going to be a big challenge for us. Our third road game in a row. We can’t blink, but we have to fix LSU first today. We’re going to make a couple of adjustments in personnel throughout the week and put our best players in the position we can to get this thing fixed.”

On whether his team will play above its head or have its season spiral out of control

“We just need to play up to our capability. We don’t have to play over our head. We’ve got some good players. We’ve got some good coaches. We’ve got to do it right. I don’t see the other one (spiraling out of control) ever happening here.”

On if this year’s team can bounce back going into Florida similar to the 2017 did after losing to Troy

“We’re going to find out. It starts with the coaches. We’ve got to coach them better. There’s some things going on that film. There were busts, guys running wide open. Not the right calls on the goal line. We didn’t block some people. As coaches we’ve got to clean some things up and it starts with me. We’ve got be accountable. We’ve got be detailed. I want to put it on the coaches first and then the players have to go out and they to understand and work extra. They’ve got to look at their iPads at night, they’ve got to study. They’ve got to be committed which I think they are we have to make sure they understand the game plan we want them to execute and then go out and execute.”

On Apu Ika’s role this week after not playing against Missouri

“I think you’re going to see him more this week. He didn’t have a good week against the zone team. The first week he got cut out of his gap and this was big stretch team, so we wanted to we wanted to put some more speed in there. He’s going to be second team this week and is going to play a little bit more.”

On Missouri’s offense and its big-play ability

“There was some complicated stuff going on. There was some miscommunication going on. Guys were out of position; guys didn’t play stuff right. We said we were going to blitz more in the second half, and we had a blitz (call) coming from the field. We had a miscommunication, they let the receiver go right down the field. That’s on us. That’s on the coaching staff. We have to make sure our guys know everything we’re going to do and if they don’t know it, we’re not going run it.”

On what he saw in fall practice to make the statement the defense looked better than at any time last year and what hasn’t translated to the field

“I saw a defense with a lot of pressure. A saw a defense running around making plays. Eliminated explosive plays. That’s what I saw. I told the truth. I don’t think we played great defense last year. I brought Bo in and I still think we can have an outstanding defense. I know there’s not a lot of great defense being played in the SEC right now. That’s no excuse. I don’t want to hear that. I want to play great defense at LSU and we’re going to play great defense one way or another.”

On thoughts of how to cover Florida tight end Kyle Pitts

“We’re still early in the game plan but a guy like that you may have to double. You may have to put Stingley on him. When he lines up at tight end a lot of other places you get a lot of misalignments. A lot of confusion. He warrants putting your best player on him. He warrants double teams. He’s that good.”

On there being anything in common with third-down inefficiency

“First of all, we’re getting behind the chain on first down. We’ve got to run the ball better so we can have more manageable third downs. We’ve got to be in third-and-three and sometimes we’re not making it then. It’s a combination of running the ball, being in manageable third downs and when we get there have better schemes, better protection and we’ve got to execute. That’s not being done right now.”

On the SEC’s offensive explosion

“I haven’t studied anybody well enough to be able to tell you that. I saw a little of Alabama-Ole Miss and I saw both defenses struggling on both sides. Offenses are changing. It’s basketball on grass. I think it has a lot to do with the offensive schemes but that doesn’t mean we can’t still play great defense. Guys are going to score points but when you play great defense, you make it hard for them to go down the field. All these explosive plays have to stop. That’s either mismatches by the calls or missed assignments.”

On some of the things you’ve seen the team can build on

“We’re plus-6 in the turnover ratio. We scored 41 points. We need to win the game. There are a lot of good things. Our guys are causing turnovers. Our guys are going after the football just like I saw all camp. Our guys are putting pressure on the passer. Those are things we have to build upon. I think we’re really beating ourselves. When you look at the film it’s not the other team that beat us, we beat ourselves.”

On the degree of difficulty on the fix for the defense

“I think it’s somewhere in between. First of all, we have to simplify and put our players in the best position that we can be, and I think when you do that, our players are going to make plays. So, I think it’s somewhere in between. It’s not as difficult as it may look, but it’s not easy. I think it’s somewhere in the middle. And it just starts with us. It starts with coaching.”

On why it appeared some of Missouri’s running backs weren’t getting hit until the second level of LSUs’ defense
“They’re running a lot of counter plays. All right. And sometimes we’re spilling that, and the linebacker was going too wide, and the defensive tackle, the end was supposed to shove him down the line and let the linebacker come free. He wasn’t getting that done. His eyes were in the back field. Poor fundamentals. So, there’s some things that you saw there.”

On the relationship Myles Brennan and Terrace Marshall Jr. are enjoying right now 

“I’m very proud of Myles and his receivers. Going into the season, that was the big question. Well, I think he’s answered that. In the three games that he has, he’s played pretty darn good. He’s gotten better every week. So, I’m really proud of him. I’m most proud of him taking that hit on the sideline and coming back. The question was, “was he tough enough to take a hit’? I thought he was, but I always said we’ve got to wait in the game and see if he can do it. And he came back. He stepped up in the pocket, he made great decisions. The receivers like Terrace Marshall and (Arik) Gilbert, those guys are answering. I think they played very well.”

On whether safety JaCoby Stevens would be bettered served playing more in coverage

“Jacoby Stevens did have some miscues, but we’re trying to find him the best place to play. Jacoby is an outstanding rusher. That’s one of his best attributes. Last year we rushed him. Had a defense called Saw Dog, and he was playing outside linebacker, and that’s where he was most effective. I had a meeting with him today. He knows there’s some things that he has to work on. I had a meeting with the coaches. They know that we need to put him in better positions for him to make plays and use the talents that he has.”

On getting the running game to become more consistent 

“Well, first of all, we have to call it more. Okay? And second of all, people are loading the box up on us, and we need to take advantage of it. Need to take advantage of it, and we did. We ended up running the ball well. We scored 41 points. I’d rather not run the ball well than run the ball well and score 13. So, we’ve got to take what they give us. All right. What we do have to, we do have to be more creative in the run game, I do believe. I believe that when we get our guys outside, especially John Emery, Tyrion, we get outside. Guys are loading the box or they’re starting, we could get outside and run the football. So, it’s a combination of both. We’ve got to take what the defense gives us, but we’ve got to be able to run the ball better on first down, because as we all know you throw the ball on first or second down, then you’re third down and 10 and it just makes it tough on offense.”

On Myles Brennan’s performance maybe exceeding your expectations

“Well, he’s playing as good as I hoped he would. I can tell you that. And I believed in him, and I always believed in Myles. And I always said that. But I knew he had some stuff to get better at. I think the coaches have done a tremendous job of coaching him up. He’s a coachable kid. He’s in here every day. He’s the first one I see here every day. He’s studying. He’s getting better. He’s got a lot of want to in him. So, yes, he’s playing as well as I’d hoped that he would play.”

On what makes Terrace Marshall Jr. so effective

“He’s a competitor. He’s a great young man. Always has a smile on his face. I played with his uncle, Joe Delaney. He comes from a great family, and he reminds me a lot of Joe in his demeanor. Everybody loved Joe on the team. Everybody loves Terrace on the team. He came off the field, Coach, ‘’m getting one on one. Give me the ball. He’s just in that zone. He’s worked hard, and just a tremendous young man. He has a great character about himself, great family. I’m glad he’s a Tiger.”

On whether Derek Stingley Jr. was healthy during the Missouri game

“No. He sprained his ankle on the down marker coming off the field. He was playing, I don’t know what part of the game that happened, but after that he was playing on a sprained ankle, and he played, you know, he didn’t look the same. That was the reason why because I guess some people would have been out of the game, but he wanted to play. Just a freak accident on the down marker.”

On whether Myles Brennan’s ready for the test Florida presents 

“We’re going to find out. We’re going to find out how we handle the crowd noise. We’re going to have to have crowd noise this week. We’re going to go against the best defense we’ve seen, the fastest defense we’ve seen. We’ve got to protect it. The windows are going to be tighter. There’s going to be more hits. I think he’s ready to do it.”

On what other players besides Myles Brennan has made marked improvement this season

“You know, he’s the one that stands out. Obviously Terrace and Arik Gilbert are playing well. Tory (Carter) is playing good for us. I thought Tyrion (Davis-Price) had a good game. The more you give Tyrion the ball, the better he’s going to run the football. John (Emery) had a good game the second games. So those guys are showing out for me. On defense we got a ways to go, man. We got guys that we’ve got to get better; and I don’t want to single anybody out on defense. When you give up 45 points, nobody is playing well.”

On the change you hope to see the defense made going forward

“I don’t think you’re going to see — yeah, not letting people run by us and score touchdowns uncontested. That’s a good start. I think it’s all on mis-assignments, and we got to stop the run. So, it’s not going to be like you’re going to see a different defense out there. We’re still going to be a 4-3 defense, but maybe we can put people in better positions and play better. Like I say, if we have to play one defense, I’d rather play one defense and get it right.”

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William Weathers

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