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LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 31, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
COACH ORGERON: Welcome, everybody. We had a tremendous open date. Really loved the attitude of our players on Tuesday and Wednesday. Came out to work. Gave us two great days of work. We had a tremendous what we call Tiger Bowl on Thursday. Younger guys got to show their talents. Had a lot of fun. Older guys got to practice. Got to coach. We had a tremendous day.
Then our guys got to go home for the weekend, spend some much-needed time with their families. I thought it was really good. Guys were excited to go see their families and came back with a tremendous attitude.
I'm looking forward to see our team today. Today is Tell the Truth Monday. The truth is we got a great Alabama team coming into town. It's going to be prime time football. It's why you to come to LSU, why you come to coach at LSU. We understand the rivalry. I understand it. Our team understands it. We understand the importance of this football game. But it's really game four of a new season. That's the way we're going to treat it.
We're going to have a tremendous practice one day at a time. The key is for us to explode Saturday night at 7:00. I know that the Tiger Walk is going to be something special. I know that Tiger Stadium is going to be something special that night. One of the greatest venues in college football to play. We're looking forward to playing Alabama at our home on Saturday night at 7:00.
Now, talking about the Alabama Crimson Tide, 8-0, coached by one of the greatest coaches in college football, Nick Saban. Done a wonderful job with his staff.
I know you know Lane Kiffin very well. He's a great game caller, game day caller. He can see things very fast. He knows what the defense does and he knows the right play to call. You can see him changing plays on the sideline. He's excellent on it.
He was born with a football in his hand under Monte Kiffin, been studying defense with Monte Kiffin his whole life. He knows defenses, he knows what hurts it, he knows what to do on game day.
He's averaging 500 yards a game, 44 points her game, does a tremendous job. He has freshmen in Jalen Hurts, like defending the wildcat back there. Another tailback back there, you have to consider him as one, one that can also throw the ball.
I really like their offensive line. I think it's the best offensive line we've seen led by Cam Robinson who is a great left tackle.
The thing I like about their offensive line is they execute. It's nothing fancy, but they come off the football, they double-team you, come off of blocks, and their backs hit the hole very quick.
O.J. Howard is obviously the best tight end we've played against. Lane knows how to use him. He uses him on the boots, waggles, box very well and also can stretch the field.
On defense obviously the best defense we've seen. Might be one of the best defenses in college football history. We'll see at the end of the year.
The thing that's is surprising, not surprising but amazing, they have 64 tackles for losses and 32 sacks. We have to protect our quarterback. It's going to be protection first. We have to protect our quarterback in order to get the ball down the field. We're going to have to do some things with Leonard that enables him to be in space and run the football.
I think their defensive line is very well-coached. Karl Dunbar is a great LSU Tiger here, played for Pete Jenkins, is a Pete Jenkins mentor. As you know, we got Pete with us. Those guys do the same techniques that we saw for all those years. On special teams they're very explosive and they're very solid across the board.
The thing that makes them win is they're efficient, well-coached, they're plus four in the turnover ratio. They go get the football, they're very opportunistic, and they take care of the football on offense.
Getting back to our team, we're going to be excited to play. We're glad to have Leonard back. We're glad to have Dave, the offense, doing the things they're doing. Special teams. Steve is doing a great job, with our whole offensive staff, of calling plays, getting the ball in the play-makers' hands. We got a lot of work to do this week. We'll take it one game at a time and we'll be ready to play on Saturday night.
Q. Dwayne Thomas recently gave an interview where he said something along the lines of dominating Alabama's offense. Some people may say that's bulletin board material. People say LSU needs to have some swagger to believe they can win this game.
COACH ORGERON: That's wrong. He shouldn't have said it. You don't win the game in the papers. You win the game on Saturday night. I'm going to have a little conversation with Dwayne.
Q. What do you expect out of Danny Etling? What does he need to do for your football team against this defense?
COACH ORGERON: First of all, we're proud of Danny Etling, what he's done, the type of young man he is, what he's done for our football team. He's a quiet leader, leads by example, hard worker. Takes hits back there, doesn't say a word. Always wants to get better. Always in the office studying film. The type of young man he is, we're very proud he's our quarterback.
He has to manage the game. He's going to get hit. He's probably going to get sacked once or twice. He needs to take care of that football, set his jaw, come back and play again. Manage the game, call the plays, do the things that coach asks him to do.
Q. Alabama seems to be a strong second half team. Do you think it's because of their adjustments, substitutions or conditioning?
COACH ORGERON: I think it's a combination of both. They're very well-coached. Like anything, I would imagine that they make adjustments right away when it happens on the sideline, they fix things, just as our staff does. I think they're well conditioned. Excellent strength coach. They're big, they have depth. All those things combine for a great second half team. But so are we. We've outscored our guys 73 to 7. It should be a battle.
Q. What makes a play caller great? You talked about Lane having the anticipation. Is it just the feel for the unexpected or mixing it up?
COACH ORGERON: I think it's knowledge. I think Lane is very knowledgeable. He has a game plan. He'll call a play, but he sees them in a different defense. He can change it. I think his communication skills are excellent. He's a big fundamental football coach. He has great players.
Q. Do you expect to play Toby, start him on the offensive line?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, we're going to see this week as it goes. But obviously if he's ready to go, we're going to put him in. I think he's going to be well. If he has a good week of practice, Tuesday is going to be a big day, we're going to do one-on-ones, stuff like that, see how he feels. If he's not too sore or anything. But if he's able to start, we'll start him.
Q. What are the options for Maea?
COACH ORGERON: Jeff handles that. He's the manager. I would be telling you something that Jeff has a couple options there. We'll talk about it. We talk about our personnel on Friday, how we're going to play everybody. So we won't know till Friday.
Q. How do you think this game will impact your senior's NFL careers?
COACH ORGERON: Well, that's the furthest thing from my mind, I can promise you that. We don't discuss that.
I think those guys are motivated to play for the LSU football team and their team. We talk about that stuff after the season.
Q. I know when you were still at USC, you were recruiting Leonard. What did you think of him as a player at that point in time? Did you ever feel like you had a legitimate chance to get him?
COACH ORGERON: I'll answer that last one. No (laughter). Frank Wilson was recruiting him. No, he came out to camp. Really liked him. I didn't know him that well. I called him every once in a while. He'd be doing push-ups, sit-ups. Talked to his dad a little bit. Just was amazed at the high-character kid he was.
When he came to camp, we felt that he would be a great player. But I had no idea the type of football player he'd turn out to be. I think he's the best football player in the country. I think he's one of the best football players I've ever been around.
Q. Last year Alabama all but shut down Leonard Fournette. What will change this week to make that different?
COACH ORGERON: Hopefully a lot (smiling).
We're going to do some things with Leonard that he's able to do. I think that whatever happened last year is the past. We have a great game plan for Leonard.
But I will say this to you. It's going to be very tough moving the football on this defense. They're one of the best defenses I've ever seen.
Q. How would you compare Alabama this year to some of the USC teams that you were assisting on?
COACH ORGERON: Very similar. I think they're better defensively. They're stronger. They're stouter. They play with great technique. They're very opportunistic like I said. On offense, they're a spread offense. You think about the great Alabama teams, great on special teams, great on defense, maybe scoring 25, 30 points a game. This team is able to score 50 points a game with Lane in there. He can hit the long ball at any time. He's great at making the (indiscernible) and the boots. He just has the complete package.
Q. All the changes that you made offensively, all the different things you were doing, your ability to throw the football, how much better equipped do you think it makes you to give you a chance to win the game on Saturday night?
COACH ORGERON: I do believe it gives us a great chance of moving the football, to be able to spread the field, to be able to take shots, to be able to protect the quarterback first. That's going to be the whole key of the game. To be able to get Leonard the football in some plays that we think he runs very well.
And second of all to protect the quarterback. We think we can get some receivers down the field, but we got to be able to protect him long enough to be able to protect the quarterback to get those plays down the field. That's going to be the key to the game.
Q. We've heard you say since you took over what LSU does here is not about you. I think everybody gets that. Yet how can you reconcile that with the fact that the outcome of this game could have a considerable effect on your coaching career and your legacy as a coach?
COACH ORGERON: Last thing, that's way out there, man. I don't even think about that. The focus is about these players, the LSU family. To tell the truth, one day at a time. These next four weeks are going to pass fast. My job is to do the best thing I can do for this team today, let the chips fall where they may. Everything else is going to take care of itself.
Q. No players on this team have beaten 'Bama. Can you sense the hunger for this group, especially older guys, to get a win?
COACH ORGERON: I think it's a combination of both, respect. They do respect this football team. They do want to have success against them.
I think that two years ago, they felt they played good enough to win the game, and some unfortunate things happened. Last year they handed it to us. We know that. Similar like we knew that Ole Miss handed it to us over there. We had a chip on our shoulder against Ole Miss.
I expect those guys to come out hungry, wanting to win the football game obviously. But they know that the type of football game we have to play in order to have success against this team.
Q. Do you feel this losing streak wearing on the fan base, on the community, that wants so desperately to see LSU beat Alabama?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, I went to my son's game this weekend. I kind of felt that a little bit.
Look, hey, I'm from Louisiana. I'm a Tiger fan, too. I get it. Everywhere I've been, I put on the LSU-Alabama game, whether it was Miami, New York, USC, want to cheer for the Tigers. I get the passion. That's the way it should be. I know the people are not satisfied with the way it's gone. I get that.
So we understand that. But you know what, when we walk in that stadium Saturday night, it's not going to be about that, it's going to be about getting our cleats in the grass, playing fundamentals, taking care of the football.
Q. Alabama's sack numbers, is that scheme or do they just have physically superior players?
COACH ORGERON: Both, both. I think they have great pass-rush technique. They have great schemes. They overpower you, they overscheme you. They know how to attack protections. We're going to need to be really good and smart the way we protect our quarterback.
Q. Being a defensive coach in college football, do you ever look at Nick as the gold standard of what you can accomplish defensively? Do you then ever marvel at his ability to roll classes through but still keep the same consistency?
COACH ORGERON: You look at the recruiting classes he's had, top recruiting classes. I've tried to get a lot of these guys that he's recruiting. I know the type of player he recruits. The guy does an excellent job. He's a great defensive coach. He's been a great defensive coach. He's had great defensive lines. That's where it all starts. Very fast, big and physical at linebacker, then the right positions. Lot of respect for what he does.
Q. Speaking of that talent, when you look at your roster and Nick's roster, can you make an argument that Saturday night's matchup, the talent that will take the field on both sides, may be one of the greatest collections of talent collectively that you've come across in any individual game?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, at some positions, no question. Some positions, yes. We like our football team. We like the guys that we have. We think that we still need to get better at some positions to get to where we want to be. But obviously it's a great group of young men on both sides.
Q. How have you used these two weeks leading into the game to monitor Leonard's ankle, try to keep him in game shape?
COACH ORGERON: Well, he did some things conditioning-wise not on the football field, that we feel he's going to be in better condition. Obviously we limited his reps. But he did get some good work. We kind of monitored it as we went on. Jack Marucci and Tommy Moffitt do a great job. I listen to those guys, and we do it.
Q. In the past you have been a little bit of a slower-starting team being tied at halftime with Southern Miss and Ole Miss. I'm curious if you are working on any improvements to be able to start a little bit faster so what happened to Tennessee doesn't happen to LSU?
COACH ORGERON: Well, you bring up a very good point. But I'm going to tell you what my mentor, Pete Carroll, told me. You can't win the game in the first quarter. You can't win the game in the second quarter. You can't win it at halftime. You can't win it in the third quarter. But you darn sure better win it in the fourth quarter.
We're happy with what we're doing at halftime adjustments, we're happy with what we're doing in the second half. But you bring up a point, we need to start faster. We need to make some good decisions on defense, some good decisions on special teams and protect the quarterback to be able to play against Alabama. We don't want to get behind against a great football team.
Q. Because they're so good at turning turnovers into touchdowns on defense, how do you balance that with your desire to be aggressive on offense and try to balance that aggressiveness with taking chances but not making mistakes?
COACH ORGERON: You have to be smart. It's about protection first. It's really about protection first, make sure that nobody's free, make sure that the guy is blocking the guy he's supposed to, can block him, and he has proper technique. That's where it all starts to me.
Then taking care of the football. Our guys have done a pretty good job the last couple of weeks of taking care of the football, the runningbacks. Don't make any decisions, don't force the ball where you don't need to. Again, realize they're going to make plays, too. This is going to be a battle. Those guys are going to make plays. If we do make a mistake, we have to wipe it out and go on to the next play. On special teams we have to take care of the ball, go get it, make some plays on special teams and also continue to create turnovers on defense. We have to match them.
Q. For this game it seems like there would be a lot of nerves and pressure going into it. What do you do to keep yourself and your team mentally prepared and focused for this game?
COACH ORGERON: Here's the whole thing. Every week brings a different distraction. So we stay on our regimen, Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Tuesday, No Turnover Wednesday, No Repeat Thursday, Focus Friday, and before you know it it's Saturday.
On Saturday, in our hotel, we have a strict regimen of things that we do to keep them focused. Obviously there's going to be College Game Day there, guys are going to be watching. It's a 7:00 game. They're going to watch those things. We can't stop that. They're going to be on their Twitter. They're going to call their girlfriends. Everybody does that.
But when we get them there, we have little drills. We have little sayings that click them back in. Hopefully that regimen, that routine in game four is going to pay off Saturday night.
Q. A few weeks ago you talked about maturing as a head coach. You've coached against some good teams before. Obviously this is a huge game for the team and the program. Talking about yourself, what makes you think you're more ready for the challenge now of leading your team against the No. 1 team in college football?
COACH ORGERON: Well, we have a good team. We have good players. I'm at a good school. We have a great coaching staff. We're playing at home. We're playing in the best stadium in the world to play.
All those things are an advantage. This ain't nothing about me. I think I'm more prepared to lead a football team because I'm able to delegate authority. I let guys do what they need to do.
Again, when I took over this team, I knew we had a good football team. It was our job to put them in position to make plays. As you see, we're starting to play as one team, one heartbeat. That's my whole objective.
Q. Kind of like the bulletin board material question earlier. When it comes to changing the mentality, is there a balance you have to have between the confidence and then the bulletin board side?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, I think it's the way we approach a football game. You can go into a season and you can put red-letter games, you can say, Hey, we're going to do everything we can do to beat this football team, then not play good against this football team. I think that's the wrong approach, I really do.
I think when you go through a season, if you treat every opponent the same, you treat them the same in your preparation, you are going to have a consistent effort with your football team.
But obviously you need to be smart and know this is a rivalry game, know that guys are going to be excited. The motivation is going to come from within, so we'll be ready to play.
The way I'm going to talk to the team today, they're going to understand how much confidence I have in this football team against a great Alabama football team.
Q. Can you recall your first impressions of Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and how you view his development as a player?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, yeah. I see him jumping over that tailback that tried to cut him and hitting the quarterback underneath the jaw. Great effort. Tremendous athlete. Good hip flexibility. Great hands. Very well-coached. Plays with a motor.
I have a vision of him jumping over that tailback, hitting the quarterback (smiling).
Q. People debate crowd's impacts on games. Can Tiger Stadium really affect a game?
COACH ORGERON: Yes. No question it does. It's an intimidating place to play. I've been on the other side.
But here is what I tell our guys. Big plays field emotions. Got to give them something to cheer about. Obviously I know it's going to be very loud. It's going to be hard for those guys to make adjustments and calls while fans are screaming. It is an advantage. No question.
Q. You don't imagine anyone would leave at halftime this week?
COACH ORGERON: That's not my job. I know I won't be leaving at halftime for sure.
Q. You said last week that you and Lane talk every week. You were cutting it off. You said you might ignore one of his calls if he called you. Did he call you?
COACH ORGERON: I'm not going to comment on that. He knows we're not talking this week. He's a very dear friend of mine. Wish him the best in everything he does except this week.
Q. (Question regarding injuries.)
COACH ORGERON: Besides the players that are out for the season, we should be at full speed come Saturday night. We're probably in the best shape we've been physically and injury-wise this Saturday night.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports