LSU’s senior starting safety JaCoby Stevens held a 17-minute Zoom teleconference with reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Here’s what he had to say:
On what’s the last few months been like, coming back for his senior season and now everything’s uncertain
“We have a certain certainty here. We always feel like we were going to play. There’s no question of not playing. Like Coach O says, ‘We don’t blink’. We had the little quarantine period we trained as if the season was going to start on a regular time and when it was announced that it was going to be pushed back, it’s picked up. We’ve been here working out, doing the things that we have to do and follow the protocols so we can play in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 26.
On the defense moving forward after losing potential starters Neil Farrell, Marcel Brooks and Kary Vincent Jr. for a variety of reasons
“One of the mentalities Coach O has always put in is next man up mentality. Those guys left for their personal reasons. That’s not for me to put any word on. We have a lot of young guys that are going to step up. We’re looking forward to seeing them step up into the role those guys left void.”
On his relationship with LSU first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and how he feels he’ll be utilized
“My relationship with Coach Pelini’s pretty cool. We can talk about stuff outside of football. There’s times where we’re sitting in the meeting room and I have a football play on and kind of watching Damone (Clark) and Coach Pelini will come in and talk about something else on the field. It creates a better rapport when you know Coach Pelini and how he is in his moods because we talk to him about other stuff than football. How he’s going to use me will kind of be the same stuff I did last year …. blitzing. What the team needs. I’m willing to anything to help the defense be a great defense and the team win.”
On your expecting for younger players such as Cordale Flott, Eli Ricks and Raydarious Jones to fill the void left by Kary Vincent Jrs. departure
“Those guys have done a great job. They’ve stepped up to the challenge. Cordale’s always been a guy that we’ve depended on. It’s nothing new for him.Now he’s the clear starter and we’re expecting a lot. Same thing for Raydarius and the guys that are going to take the role after Kary left. Like Coach O says, it’s always the next man up. We don’t blink. The exception doesn’t change.”
On his desire to play this season, especially after seeing the petitions by players in conferences not getting to play
“Seeing the opportunity taken from everybody, it just shows you need to cherish the moments that you have now. I still want to play. I feel safe. Mama Shelly (LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director for Health & Wellness Shelly Mullenix) and Coach O., they’re on top of everything. They’re really proactive. You can see some teams taking what Mama Shelly’s been doing and implementing in their system. With the other conferences and the opportunity to play football away it makes me cherish my time here even more.”
On the adjustment of playing in a one-high safety alignment on defense to first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who has a history of playing two-high safeties and his role in the defense
“The difference is that the front’s going to take care of a lot of stuff. Our front seven is going to take care a lot of the run game. I have to adjust. You have to be able to adjust when you’re at the next level. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s good to get experience in different defenses. The difference for the safeties coming from a one-high defense to mainly to a two-high defense in a 4-3, the front takes care of a lot of things.”
On junior quarterback Myles Brennan evolving as a leader/player and the task of trying to follow the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL
“We always knew Myles had a very strong arm and it’s cool to see how he’s kind of grown into his role. I remember when we came into together, I was always excited for Myles because he was breaking a lot of records in Mississippi. He came in and waited his turn. He adjusted to the circumstance. He could have been some of those guys that decided to leave and enter the transfer portal, but he stuck it out and now he’s the guy. We expect to see big things from Myles.”
On being able to see the daily on-field battles of standout wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
“Like Coach O says, we see that here. Two or three years ago I saw D.J. Chark and Donte Jackson go back and forth, so it’s nothing new here at LSU.”
On the difference in how preseason camp has gone compared to previous year and the challenges in having to wait so long before the season opener
“I think Coach O’s done a great job of creating a schedule where we’ve stayed focus this entire time. When school starts, he’s going to adjust the schedule. He’s done a good job of taking care of our bodies, but make sure we stay focused and we’re able to peak at the right moment.”
On the new protocols in place at the Football Ops building and whether they’ve been kind of second nature
“One of the things we have to do is walk in and get our temperatures checked. We have to wear masks everywhere we go, wear a mask on the field. Just be safe. It took a time to get used to. I know for me; I ran onto the field for three years without wearing a mask. The first couple of time I had to run back to my locker and go get my mask and put it back on.”
On what he’s seen of incoming five-star tight end Arik Gilbert of Marietta, Ga.
“He can run a route like a receiver. He’s 250 pounds. There’s been a couple of times when Arik will run around and kind of bang into me and I have to absorb it. He’s a freak of nature. Coach O was right on calling him Megatron (former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson). He can move like a receiver but weighs 250 pounds running with 4.4 speed running at you.”
On what it’s been like defending starting quarterback Myles Brennan during the preseason
“It’s pretty hard because Myles knows his checks. He knows where to throw his check downs. He’s good at reading defenses and he’s got a strong arm. Myles can put the ball out there and let Racey (McMath), Ja’Marr (Chase) and Terrance (Marshall) run out there and get it. That’s one thing Myles has had and that’s a strong arm. That’s one that’s difficult in trying to cover all of the guys because he makes you cover the entire field.”
On dealing with scaled back stadiums where 20 percent capacity may be the norm
“It’s going to take away from the experience on Saturday. I wish all the fans could be in there and pack the house. The “Tiger Walk” is just filled with fans going crazy. It’s going to take really away from the experience, but it’s the world we’re living in. It’s a protocol the SEC and Governor (John Bel Edwards) laid out and they’re doing that to protect us and protect everybody else. We have to accept that as is and hopefully we can learn from this and come out of this and appreciate it a whole lot more.”
On guiding the team in making the right decisions following COVID-19 protocols to help ensure a football season
“The team’s been really good with learning from our mistakes. Mama Shelly’s made the guidelines. The best thing she’s done is actually had a Zoom call with us and a Zoom call with our parents. I get a text from my mom just about every day about how things are going. We’ve been really responsible with how we’ve been handling ourselves. We’re here for the people who put the protocols in place to make their jobs easy. We don’t want to be a hard head and do our own thing. We’re all about the team, we’re all about playing and representing Louisiana on Sept. 26.”
On his message to fans and students in order to get through a football season
“Just be clean and follow the protocols. I promise you that the Governor’s not putting in rules just to be mean and doing it because he has the power. He’s doing it because he generally cares about every citizen. And just follow all of the protocols LSU puts in place as well. If you follow the rules everything’s going right. I learned that since (I was) five years old. It’s time to put them in action.”