LSU head coach Ed Orgeron met with the media in Atlanta on Monday for the first time since the unbeaten No. 1 Tigers arrived on Sunday to begin on-site preparations for Saturday’s College Football semifinal against No. 4 once-beaten Clemson in the ChickFil-A Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Here’s the complete transcript from Orgeron’s presser:
First of all, it’s an honor to be playing in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. These guys have been phenomenal, accommodations, the welcome, the hospitality. The food obviously has been phenomenal, practice facilities, hotel. Everything’s been great. We arrived yesterday. The guys had dinner, had a team meeting. Everybody was in the curfew, 100% ready to go. Everybody was early for the meetings today. We had a (indiscernible) Monday practice, we practiced in the Dome. Different feeling about this team this week. This is a playoff game for us. You can feel the intensity ratcheting up. Pretty good.
Focusing on the details was very good today. So we’re excited to be here, very pleased with our coaching staff, the way they’re working. We have our wives and have our families here, but everybody knows it’s a playoff game and we’re coming to win it.
On the status of Clyde Edwards-Helaire:
Clyde’s a little bit better than we thought. He’s off the crutches and off the scooter. We’re going to see if he can do something tomorrow. It’s going to be a day-by-day deal. But I promise you this, a little bit better than what I thought last week. He has a chance to play. I don’t know if he’s going to play, it will be day by day.
On how he is preparing running backs Tyrion Davis-Price, John Emery Jr. and Chris Curry if Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t able to play:
All three of them are getting reps, all of them are playing, all of them are getting ready to go. All three of them.
John had a problem with fumbling the football at the beginning of the year so he lost some reps there. But he’s worked hard on it. Two different running backs like thunder and lightning. I think Tyrion has been the most consistent back, can run the football in the middle, can get to the outside.
John has the ability to break the long one, he has a little bit better speed than Tyrion. Also Chris Curry has come along. Chris is a very bruising back, a dominating back.
All three of those guys do different things. You know, with Clyde, he did everything well. He blocked well, he ran inside, ran outside and caught the football well. We’re going to have to adjust if Clyde doesn’t play and rotate the backs to do what they can do best.
On Oklahoma’s preparation for LSU’s running backs:
I don’t think they know our backs. I don’t think they know what our backs can do, like we do. And obviously, we’re not going to do the same thing with the same back in every time. We’re going to switch things up.
On the current transfer rule:
The transfer rule for graduate students, really good. There’s some cases where a young man ought to transfer if the situation for him in that school is not right. Obviously, on the other end, with coaches, we have to choose the right transfers. And, obviously, we got it right, and they got it right. Two fantastic young men (QBs Joe Burrow of LSU and Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma) that got their opportunity, made the best of it.
I’m proud of Jalen Hurts. I know him. I think he’s a great young man. I got to meet him at a couple of deals. He has great parents, outstanding character, and obviously very proud of Joe and what he’s done. Those two are very similar in character, and they’re team players.
On the impact of having a Heisman winner on your team when playing for a berth in the CFP National Championship:
I’ve been fortunate to be in four National Championships, and two at Miami and two at USC. We had great quarterbacks. Three of them were Heisman Trophy winners out of the four. They make a difference, obviously.
On Joe Burrow’s last few weeks after winning the Heisman, heading into this game:
I think he’s been fine. He’s a little tired. When he got back, obviously a little tired. We rested him last week a bunch. But I think he’s fine, he’s back to normal now and ready to go.
On the best team LSU has played this season:
Who’s the best team we’ve played? I’ve got to say Alabama. Alabama, Auburn, Florida. Those three guys were very good.
On the team’s focus this week, after winning several awards:
Been phenomenal. But it started with me. I think the intensity in the meeting with myself and the focus and talking to them about why we’re here and what we’re going to do and what’s the expectation, the LSU standard performance.
There’s not a lot of free time to where guys are going out and visit the town and stuff like that. We’re here to win a game. We’re going to prepare. I think these guys know how to prepare and today’s been a phenomenal start.
On defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s preparation:
He’s got a lot of stuff in, and he’s got a lot of ammunition. And Dave’s a great gameday caller. Obviously we can’t run it all. But I think that today was one of our better days as far as technique-wise. We’ve been seeing their plays. We have a lot of plays. You can’t rep every play, but we’re repping their top plays and our guys defend it well.
Obviously, with Oklahoma, you’ve got to tackle. You’ve gotta tackle to one-on-one and in space. You’ve got to tackle Jalen. You got to cover (receiver) CeeDee (Lamb). And if you do cover them, you’ve got to tackle them, so. It’s going to come down to winning you one-on-one as a tackler.
On the team having more defensive ammunition this season:
We’ve been more creative with third down. We started attacking more on third down. Our third down package has been more. We’re causing more turnovers, getting more sacks. But with this team (Oklahoma), you have to stop the run. There’s no question that you have to stop the run first.
On offensive line coach James Cregg:
Phenomenal. A-plus. You know, again, on vacation, James didn’t take one day of vacation. His offensive line worked out four days a week at 6:00 in the morning. He was with them every day. You have two hours that you can coach them. He used those two hours every time every week.
You know, John Robinson, who is a big-time consultant for him as an offensive line guy, sat in every meeting. Now, he doesn’t coach ’em, he listens up.
He came to me, I guess, about three weeks in camp, he said, Coach, I’m gonna tell you what. You have an excellent offensive line, coach. He is building something special.
The guys got camaraderie, led by Lloyd Cushenberry and D-Lew (Damien Lewis). Now that we’ve got everybody healthy, Saahdiq (Charles) is playing, Austin (Deculus) is playing, we’ve got backups. Proud of what they’ve done. Obviously, we’ve got more to go. But so far, those guys have been excellent.
On LSU’s offensive line playing well after being inconsistent in 2018:
Yeah, very rewarding. Lloyd said — and all of us get that. The good thing about it, we use it as internal motivation. Any time people question you, if you’re using it as a term of motivation, it works.
That great leadership, Lloyd mentioned that. I think he took the offensive line this summer and said, Hey, man, we’re the question mark on this team. We’re going to turn it into a positive by the way we work. We’re going to keep our mouths shut, and those guys did it.
On offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger:
I’ve known Steve since 1979. I was Steve’s graduate assistant coach at McNeese. He and I have been friends. I trust Steve. I really trust him as a person. I trust him as a coach.
Again, we didn’t score any points against Alabama (in 2018). It was a low point and I told him, I said, listen, we’ve got to go to the spread. And he said, you’re right. I said, are you going to be receptive, someone coming in teaching us the spread? He said yes, I will.
When Steve tells you yes, it means yes. And obviously, (first-year passing game coordinatorJoe came in. Steve worked his tail off to learn the new terminology, the new words. He calls most of the plays. He’s done a fantastic job. Him and Joe have meshed perfectly. There’s no egos with both of those guys. It’s not us, us, us. It’s we, we, we.
They work great together. Steve has been the MVP of the whole deal.
On the importance of linebacker Jacob Phillips:
It was really important. It was. Internally at that time, we needed some middle linebackers. Jake was the number one player in the state of Tennessee. He called me and said coach, I need you to come see me. I got on a plane, was there the next morning.
His mom and daddy trust us. They love Dave Aranda. They love the scheme. Jake has been one of the best players we’ve had on our football team. He’s a great young man, great character. I’m glad we got him.
On signing true freshman QB T.J. Finley, last week:
His family has had a plan. His high school coaches had a plan. They’re very aggressive. They are into the rules, into everything. T.J. is very motivated. And it was totally legal, went through compliance. We got it done. That’s the first time it’s ever been done. T.J. has come to every football practice that he can since he’s been off of school. So it’s wonderful to see. We expect other midyear graduates to come see us a little bit later on if we do have another game. And we’re going to get as many midyear graduates at our practice as we can.
On LSU’s high school signees who have already graduated coming to watch Saturday’s game:
I don’t know yet. Three, four, five, obviously — maybe in January. To be on campus, yeah.
On the importance of having the early high school graduates around:
Very important. As many times as you can get in our meeting, as many times as you can get an installation, learning the plays and seeing the speed of practice, it’s important. It’s important to have midyears.
On taking the Oklahoma players that are out into consideration when playing:
I’m sure Coach Riley has the same thing. We have a next man up theory. We put 11 men on the field and we fight like Tigers, and we don’t blink. I’m sure it’s a top program, they’ve done a great job recruiting. I’m sure the next guy is chomping at the bit, may have his best game.
We don’t even factor that in, you know, say hey, this is going to be an advantage. It’s not going to be an advantage, uh-uh. We’re going. And, again, it’s never going to be about our opponent. It’s always about us and the way we execute.
On picking Lincoln Riley’s brain:
Here’s what he told me. Here’s exactly when what he told me. I want to put it in. I liked it. He says, Coach, you have to be committed to it. And you have to run it a lot because you’re going to see a lot of different defense. People are going to try to stop it all different ways. We practice it and we practice as many looks as we possibly can.
Obviously, anything that we do, I do believe he won’t be surprised by what we’re doing. But I think it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. You’ve got to have a player on the quarterback. You’ve got to have a player on the tailback. You’ve got to follow the count or not follow the count or squeeze the count. You got to play good inside. It’s all about how you do it. It’s their number one play on offense. The number one run play that you have to stop. If you don’t stop it, he’s going to keep running at you.
On having three weeks between games:
We needed the rest, first of all. I think the rest was good. I went home Thursday, got home at my home in Mandeville at 3:00 and got up at 8:00 the next morning. I knew if I was tired, my players were tired. So we always took some time out.
On your feelings going into this game at Mercedes-Benz after the SEC Championship
We’re excited. We’re in the same hotel (as LSU stayed in for the SEC championship game). You go into the Dome today and you see College Football Playoffs Semifinals. The magnitude of the football game, everybody’s awareness and alertness is heightening. I don’t think there’s any anxiety or sense of confidence, but a sense of knowing we got to go get the job done.
Thank you, guys. Geaux Tigahs.
This team has paid its dues. It has once again restored Pride, Faith plus other values to the State of Louisiana. One must not forget to mention the Alumni. I completed education two degrees over a half century past. Go forth and make yourselves proud. One thing is that Coach O is encouraging these young men to complete their educations. The quick money will always be there. But, remember the ability to keep the funds is another day.