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September 21, 2020

Ed Orgeron

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Weekday Press Conference

ED ORGERON: All right. Great to see everybody. I want to recap this past Friday. We had preseason game No. 3. It was a mock game. There was a lot of energy for the mock game. We wanted to make it game like. We talked about substitution situations, halftime adjustments, a big day in the kicking game. Great job by Greg McMahon in an organization. We had a maroon team that was in maroon jerseys. I want to compliment all the coaches on the staff led by Russ Callaway and Christian Lacouture. I thought they did a tremendous job of getting these guys fired up. Jeff Martin was our energy coordinator. He did a great job of cheering those guys on. He got them all fired up. There was a cowbell on the sideline, kind of made things game like. It was kind of exciting, man. I just want to compliment everybody. We walked off the field feeling very good about your situations, about what we did and we're ready to play a football game. After that we brought our team in the locker room. We had a pretty good time there. We had a festive time talking about camp, excited about the season. Then we surprised them. We were going to give the 18 jersey away, the 7 jersey away and scholarships. So these guys got -- 18 was a very prestigious number, two very deserving young men. We had a lot of men that were very deserving, but these men fit all the categories and graded the highest in all the categories that we judged them in: No. 18, Chris Curry, and No. 18, Damone Clark on defense. Those two young men are tremendous leaders and great LSU Tigers, both of them fought through adversity. Guys like Chris Curry, some guys would not have stuck around, would have went somewhere else, but he stuck around, got his chance and he's going to be a great player for us. The No. 7 jersey went to Jacoby Stevens. Very deserving, outstanding player, outstanding leader for us. He was excited to get it, and I know he's going to wear it with a lot of pride. We also gave three scholarships out. I wish I could have gave 12, 15. The walk-ones in our program are outstanding, and there were about 10 of them that were very, very deserving. But these are the guys we gave it to. Josh Williams, Lloyd Cole and Jared Small. The team was cheering. Everybody was happy. We said a prayer. We sang the fight song, and it was a pretty good day on Friday. Our guys had Saturday. The coaches came in on Sunday. Now it's time to get ready to play Mississippi State. Obviously on Monday you can always feel it's game week. There's a little fall weather out there, and 10 SEC games coming up. One game at a time. Fortunate that we have Mississippi State at home, 2:30 p.m. central/standard time. CBS TV and all of our fans will be watching, and those fans that will come, I know they will give a lot of noise and make it as game like as we possibly can. We're going to have to provide our own energy. We're going to have to play very well. Mike Leach has done a very good job wherever he's at with the air raid. He has some tremendous offensive weapons at Mississippi State. One, Kylin Hill, one of the backs that I had some of the most respect for in the SEC last year, a very dangerous back and especially in the spread offense. We've been studying his offense at Washington State, and his running backs could hit the hole, could bounce it out and make people miss. Then we're studying K.J. Costello, transfer from Sanford. We hear he's going to be the starting quarterback. Whether he's the starting quarterback or not, we don't know; wait till game time, but I think that's going to be him, so we've been studying him. A very good passer, very knowledgeable, very experienced. On defense, Zach Arnett's coming from San Diego State. Very impressive numbers. Gave up 12.7 points per game, was second in the country. He was second in a couple of categories. I think he had a Top 5 defense overall. And as we know, Mississippi State always has big, agile defensive linemen; two outstanding linebackers, safeties that are going to hit you, corners that are going to cover. I have a lot of respect for Mississippi State. We've played them a bunch. Those men are very tough. They love football. They're going to be very well coached. So it will be a tremendous challenge for our football team. But you know what, we're ready to play. We've been looking forward to this for a long time. I want to compliment our football team for not blinking, for always believing that we were going to play, always preparing like we were going to play. Our coaching staff, always preparing like we were going to play. Never took a day off, and we didn't think about nothing else but the safety of our football team and starting the season off right. So we're excited about this week, and hope to see you guys on Saturday.

Q. Coach, two questions. The first one is just a quick one. Do you have anybody that is out for this week due to COVID? And then the second one, we've heard a lot about what Myles Brennan isn't. What is he to you as far as the strengths that he brings to the field? All said that he throws maybe a better ball than Joe. Do you feel that's accurate? What are you most looking forward to in that position?

ED ORGERON: Let me answer the first one without overstating myself. We're currently very low with guys that do have COVID. We're going to test three times throughout the week, so things could change, obviously. But right now we're in good shape. We have very few guys that are out because of COVID. I've always believed in Myles Brennan. I think he's an excellent young man. He waited his turn, a lot of respect. Has a strong arm, probably a stronger arm than Joe Burrow had. Can extend plays with his feet, not quite like Joe did. He's learning the offense. I think the spring kind of hurt for him not being with us, or us not practicing with his receivers, but I think he did a good job of catching up during COVID and catching up in the summertime. He was very accurate with the football in all three scrimmages. The only thing that we don't know and I do believe that he's going to do very well is how he's going to do in the fire, and the only way to know that is put him in the fire. I trust Myles. He's become a team leader. Short passing game is his strength. The deep ball is something that he is very good at, but I think that takes time for him and his receivers to get the timing down and hopefully he can improve in that throughout the year.

Q. Kind of going off of that, one thing that stood out to me about Joe Burrow last year was that physically, especially when he would take off and run, he was able to take the physical punishment if he did take those shots. How confident are you that Myles Brennan is at a weight and just a physical standpoint that he can take those hits if it comes to it?

ED ORGERON: You know, when he came to us about a buck 70, I was worried about it. Now he's a buck 218, so I think he's prepared himself. He's gotten stronger in the weight room. I think he's going to handle it well. He's going to be different than Joe. Joe went to run you over. I think Myles is going to be smart and go running when he needs to, dive when he needs to or whatever he needs to do not to get hurt. And I'm going to tell him to do the same thing. But I think when it comes down to taking a hit, he's going to be fine. He's going to bounce back, but you know what, he's going to have to do it time and time again, and hopefully he doesn't get hit a lot, but in the SEC you play very good defenses and you expect your quarterback to have to take hits.

Q. Coach, you always do such a good job about talking about what the LSU on the helmet means and what it means to wear the uniform and represent LSU. Considering everything that's happened in the previous months and so many people just unhappy right now about different things, when you take the field this Saturday, do you think it's going to mean a little bit more with so many people looking for something to smile about?

ED ORGERON: No question. I think that LSU, as I was born and raised, everybody lives for Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Death Valley, to be able to see those Tigers play again, gather around the TV, cook some gumbo, make some étouffée, have some parties, going back to doing the things we can, obviously following the COVID-19 protocol, but getting back to a sense of normalcy, I think, is going to mean a lot for the state of Louisiana and all the great LSU fans we have out there and especially our football team. Our football team has been working hard, under extreme pressure, hearing they are going to play, they're not going to play, they gotta believe the coach, hey, we're playing, we're going to compete to play. They never skipped a practice because of too many COVID guys out or nothing like that. We always kept on marching through, and now these guys are ready.

Q. First off, I thought you and Coco did very well on that "60 Minutes" interview last night. I knew no doubt Coco was going to try to steal the show there. I know we talked about what happened at USC, you got passed over, and there's other times where you feel you haven't gotten your due. I know you talk about it as a team, but personally what is the carrot in front of you right now? What keeps you going? Everybody's got something where they feel somebody is doubting them. What keeps you going every single day that you know there's some person doubting LSU and your program?

ED ORGERON: I kind of love it. You know, I call it internal fuel. I digest it. It makes me want to work harder. And, you know, there's questions. You know, hey, they lost Joe Brady, they lost Joe Burrow. They lost Ja'Marr Chase. You hear it all. We know what goes on here. We know it's the core of our program here. I've got some great coaches, we got some great players. We believe in ourselves. But you know what, at LSU, the standards are very high. The expectation is very high. You gotta prove yourself every game, every game day. So that's the joy of being here that everybody expects you to win, expects you to be great, and that's the type of school you want to be at.

Q. Two questions. One, do you have any updates about Tyler Shelvin's possibility of returning soon? Second question was, I mean, you've talked so much about attacking style in the defensive front. With Mike Leach's system before, it seems like he likes to spread defense out so much, especially when it comes to splits on the offensive line. How do you attack that offense?

ED ORGERON: First of all, Tyler Shelvin I have not heard from. Everything is quieting down. Obviously it's Monday of game week, so he hasn't returned. I'm not going to rule it out. But I have not heard a word from his family or from him. So I don't know where that's at. As far as the big splits, it makes it harder to get to the passer from the outside. It could open up the inside a little bit, but the quarterback gets rid of the ball so fast. They have a lot of strength. They have a run game. They keep you honest. But in order for us to beat Mississippi State, we're going to have to put some pressure on the quarterback and find ways to do that.

Q. Coach, doubling off of that, piggybacking as far as preparing for Mike Leach, how much has the difficulty been maybe heightened because of COVID? Of course, with Mississippi State and the quarterback situation, as it entirely solidifies. How is it preparing for that offense? And the second question would be, for your own offense, what are you going to expect of Kayshon Boutte in his first one?

ED ORGERON: Well, I really like Kayshon. I think he's a home run hitter. I think he's going to be an excellent receiver. The day that Ja'Marr Chase left, he looked like we didn't skip a stride out there. He was outstanding. But you know what, he's a freshman, and he's going to have to come along. But he's going to be put in some big shoes. He's probably going to start for us. So I expect him to do a very good job throughout the season and get better throughout the season. You know, COVID-19 was an advantage for us in some ways that we weren't out spring recruiting, and we were able to game plan all of our teams on our schedule. I think Mississippi State was maybe the eight game on the schedule. And we had already game planned them. So you gotta look at Washington State for scheme on offense. You gotta look at San Diego State scheme for defense, and then you gotta look at Mississippi State for personnel. So you're really scouting three different teams. So it's three times the work. And obviously Coach Leach has done a great job wherever he's at. He presents a challenge. But I think our guys have a pretty good handle of what they're going to do on offense, what they're going to do on defense and special teams. But just like any first game, there's going to be in-game adjustments. There's going to be new stuff. There will be new plays. There will be new defenses. There will be new personnel. We just have to do a great job of adjusting on the sideline.

Q. Early in camp you talked about Liam Shanahan adjusting to the SEC. I'm curious what you've seen in that progression throughout camp once the pads came on, and especially this week because Mississippi State has a couple of big line?

ED ORGERON: He's done well, surprisingly well. That was my biggest concern. He was going against Tyler, goes against (inaudible), goes against Joe Evans. Very smart as we know that; can make all the calls. But he's physical enough. Now, he's going to get tested throughout the year, especially when they put one of those 350-pounders right on top of them. He's going to have to block them. But I think he can. In fact, I feel good about it. I'm very glad that we have him. He's been a big plus for us.

Q. Coach, obviously a big part of you guys that air raid offense is going to be the secondary and those cornerbacks in particular. Can you just talk a little about what you've seen from Elias the last couple of weeks? And, also, who do you think is going to be maybe in that nickel spot on Saturday?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, I think you can expect to see Cordale Flott in the nickel spot. Jay Ward if he's 100 percent healthy. I don't know how much he's going to be able to play this week. Maybe not. He's questionable right now. So it'll either be Jay Ward or Cordale Flott. But Elias has shown tremendous improvement. Elias is up to 6' 2 and a half, 6' 3 right now. Long, very smart corner. Great ball skills, is learning the technique. Corey Raymond is starting to brag about him a little bit. When Corey brags about you, that means you're doing really, really well. And I think he has. I think the communication, learning the defense, learning the checks, throwing in the fire in the SEC I think he's going to be something that he's able to do. And I think he'll play very well for us.

Q. Coach, Chris Curry have a great chance of starting or how do you see that?

ED ORGERON: Yeah. I think Chris is going to be the first back in, but I consider him, Tyrion and John all starters. I think that they're going to get equal reps. I think they're going to do things very well, and they're going to complement each other, and I think that, you know, eventually as the season goes on, let's see who our leading back is. But throughout the camp, if I had to say there was a lead back, it would be Chris Curry. I think he had a tremendous camp, but so did the other two guys. They're very explosive. We talked about it this morning. If we have one strength on our offense, that we feel that it is the running back group led by Kevin Faulk, who's done a tremendous job. Kevontre Bradford was an outstanding running back, and so is Josh Williams; a young man from Houston. We gave him a scholarship, so we feel we have five backs that can go in the game and do very well.

Q. The defensive tackle rotation and how that is shaping up with Neil Farrell back, how has he looked in his return, and then just how do you see that shaping up with all those guys?

ED ORGERON: Yeah. Neil is earning his way back, hasn't been in pads yet because of the acclimation period. Still has some conditioning to do. Obviously we all know Neil can play. How fast he returns and how fast he works his way up the depth chart is basically up to him. And he's come back with a great attitude and wants to work. If Neil is in shape and he's working, Neil could pass, be a starter for us. He's that good. But I can see him starting to get some game reps. I don't know if he's going to be ready. I think Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be some big days for him. But I see Glen Logan, Apu Ika and Joe Evans, rotating the top 3 guys right there, and then maybe see Soni in there, maybe see Jaquelin Roy in there. So we got some options there. We got Eric Taylor that can play. So there's a lot of guys that we can put in the game, but I think the top three are the guys that I talked about.

Q. I was wondering, two questions. One, is Myles Brennan, does he have, I guess, the same input or some of the input that Joe had as far as game plans? And, secondly, why did you take up boxing?

ED ORGERON: (Laughs). Well, let me say this. Joe earned his way. I put Joe in his second year. I said, listen, if there are some plays that you want to run, you let me know, let Coach Ensminger know. If there's some stuff that you don't like, let me know. That's how much I trusted Joe. That was after a year of starting, and that was after a year of leading the team. This is Myles's first year, so obviously he'll have some input, but it's basically yes, sir, no, sir right now and go out there and do your job. That's it. The reason I took up boxing is I go jogging on the river every day, and the guy that coaches me in boxing right now, L. J., was working some guys out and he said, Coach, why don't you come try it, why don't you come try it. Well, during COVID I was by myself a lot. I was home a lot. So I said, you know what, I'm going to take up boxing. And I took up boxing on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night two hours a night, and it filled up my time, and it helped me get in better shape. So that's the reason I took it. I like it. I wish I could keep it up. I can't during the season. Both my sons are doing it right now. It's a very good workout. You oughta try it, Ron. You'd like it.

Q. Coach, first, I mean, I haven't seen much of Jacoby in the practice. What's the status of Jacoby Taylor?

ED ORGERON: He had what we call a high ankle sprain during camp, which takes a little while longer to get back. I talked to him today. He has been a little gimpy at practice, been about 60, 70 percent. I do believe that he's working his way up this week he's going to be closer to full speed. But it's going to take a little while. And I think in about two weeks he's going to be ready to go. Now, he is not nowhere in the top 3 in the depth chart yet because of his injury, but he has shown that he has a promising future here, both him and Jaquelin Roy and Eric Taylor, those guys are tremendous players, along with the other freshmen defensive linemen, so it's going to take a little while for him.

Q. Nice job last night on "60 Minutes".

ED ORGERON: Thank you.

Q. What you guys have done begs the age-old question. Is it harder to get to the top or maintain it?

ED ORGERON: Well, obviously right now, being where we're at, it seems like it's going to be harder to maintain it. You know, you gotta forget about it. Gotta learn what we learned from it, forget about it, let it go. This is a new season. I don't want to put too much pressure on this football team because there's a lot of young players out there. We have a first-year quarterback. I remember when Joe was a first-year quarterback. Not everything was perfect all the time, and I don't think everything is going to be perfect. This team last year was struggling against Southeast Louisiana, 10-nothing at halftime, and everybody was wondering. So I'm looking forward to obviously winning one game at a time, but getting better and giving these guys a chance to grow and learn each other. Got a new defensive staff, got a new passing game coordinator. So I think you'll find out a lot about yourself after the first game. It should be tremendous improvement. I think you're going to see a team that's going to improve every week, but there's no room for error. I mean to get where we want to go and to be the type of team we want to be, there's no do-overs. There's no slip-ups. 10 SEC games, straight one game at a time.

Q. You've been pretty hot on Ali Gaye throughout preseason camp. What does he do to stand out?

ED ORGERON: I like his range. He's 6' 6. He's smart. Works hard every day. Very humble young man, wants to learn, physical at the point of attack. A very good pass rusher. He's tall; he's got a lot of batted balls. He had a batted ball for interception I think the third play of the scrimmage last Friday. Great young man. Him and Travez Moore are going to anchor down that left end. They'll probably have equal reps backed up by Jarell Cherry, but I think right now that Ali is starting. He's earned that starting position. He knows his assignments. He does well, plays hard. I think he's going to have a great season for us.

Q. Stepping in when Chase opted out and not really missing a beat at times, if you toss in a guy like Arik Gilbert, when you look at this passing game, as good as y'all were a year ago, what jumps out with this passing game?

ED ORGERON: You know, it all depends on what the quarterback can do. And last year the decisions that Joe made were incredible. And he was a coach on the football field. And then now, this year, I think Myles can do the same thing, but those guys have gotta get their timing down. They gotta get used to being under fire together. Joe had been there a year, was a second year. Give these guys second year together. We weren't near as good at the beginning of Joe's career as we were at the end, obviously. I think that we need to be patient, show that these guys are going to improve. But I do believe that Arik Gilbert needs to touch a lot of balls. Terrace Marshall needs to be our lead dog. Kayshon Boutte. Those guys are tremendous players. Racey McMath. Throwing the ball to the back out of the back field, as many touches as we can get to our best players, put them in space and let them make plays.

Q. Coach, scooter Hobbs, how you doing?

ED ORGERON: Scooter, how you all doing in Lake Charles?

Q. We're getting there.

ED ORGERON: You got some electricity, I heard. You have power?

Q. Oh, yeah. A little bit. No AC yet, but I got a window unit.


Q. That was engineering marvel getting that thing in.

Last year for all the talent you had that you obviously have to replace, how do you go about replacing the chemistry and the swagger that that team had? Are there things coaches can do to get that chemistry in place?

ED ORGERON: You know, I think that's a process.

I think it starts with the coaches, of us Fostering leadership.

I think the three young men that I gave the 18 and the 7 jerseys are all going to be tremendous leaders for us, along with several other players. We've had several leadership committee meetings, more than I've ever had since I've been coach here, to be able to foster that leadership and give them a chance to be leaders on the field. But the only way I think that you earn respect as a leader is to make plays on the field during game day.

And I think as the season goes on and as we're going to face adversity like every team does, somebody's going to have to step up and say, hey, this is what we're doing, this is how we do it and be the lead dog and we'll get it done. And obviously we had a lot of guys last year that could do it and Clyde Evans-Helaire was one of those guys. The game we had against Alabama is something I'll never ever forget, and that was a tremendous job of leadership by example and so was Joel and Justin Jefferson.

So we have some guys that I think can do it but come game time they're going to have to do it.

Q. Going back to your nickel play, you've said that Jabril Cox is athletic enough to play nickel. Can you possibly see a scenario that you might end up having to play Jabril Cox at nickel?

ED ORGERON: Yeah. Injuries would have to play a factor in that. And hopefully they don't. But we're very thin at corner. But we're glad we have Darren from Nicholls State. Now, he just started, and we think that he can play for us. We know he can play for us. It's going to take a little while for him to get used to it. Jay Ward is not 100 percent yet. So it all depends how fast he can come back. I think we'd have to come down to our third nickel to go in there. We like him as linebacker.

We don't want him to play nickel but if he has to, he could.

Q. Two-parter, if I could. When it comes to Arik Gilbert, is there a college or pro prototype that he kind of reminds you of, and the second part would be yesterday in the NFL we saw kind of a rash of injuries and some people kind of relate it to no preseason and I just wondered just starting in the SEC, not having a game against an FCS opponent or one of those lower level opponents, what's the biggest challenge just from a physical standpoint to have your team ready to play against the most elite athletes in college football?

ED ORGERON: That's why we had those preseason games. That's why we had some tough days at camp. We had to have some physical days. Now not every day was 11 on 11 all out tackle.

But we have a drill called bump combo drill where there's about five guys in there and we're getting after it pretty good and similarly a tough running game. We had team pass simulating a tough protection or tough rush. So we took spurts at which we could simulate game type stuff going best against best because I feel that we have a very good team. So the team that they see in practice is going to be a pretty good football team every day.

So we simulated that. You can't be 100 percent.

The thing I worry about the first game is tackling, because we don't tackle every day. We don't go through the ground every day because you can't because you're going to get hurt.

I think some of those things are a concern but I think the process in which we practice is going to be very important.

You know, Arik Gilbert, I haven't had a tight end like him in my coaching career. Some people compare him to Calvin Johnson.

I'm not comparing him to Calvin Johnson. I don't want to put too much on him, but he's that type of football player and has that type of body and can do those type of things. Now, obviously will he pan out to be like that? Nobody knows. But he is similar in statute, similar in skill set to Calvin Johnson.

Q. You talked about Ali Gaye and Travez Moore holding down that strong side on the defensive end.

Could you maybe explain a little bit the roles for those defensive ends, on both ends, the weak side and why the people are good for those spots?

ED ORGERON: The left end is usually the bigger end.

Most teams are right-handed, they want to run their ball to the right with a tight end there. So we put the left end there.

The right end is a smaller, quicker end, sometimes.

Should be your best pass rusher because he's coming from the cornerback's blind side. That's the reason we do that.

Andre Anthony is at right. Ali Gaye is left.

Ali is a little bigger. B. J. Ojulari is at right end.

Travez Moore is at left end. B. J. is a very, very talented young man, you're going to see a lot of snaps out of. He's probably our best pass rusher right now. So you're going to see a rotation of at least four guys at defensive end left and right.

Q. I have a couple of questions. Is there anything that you're unsure about, whether it be roster or teams or anything of that area that you're trying to button up this week?

And then, finally, anything different as far as the way you guys are going to run things on the sidelines or in the press box because of COVID this year?

ED ORGERON: Well, you know, first of all, this week I want to start from scratch. We've been game planning. The last week we game planned against Mississippi State. But I want it to be all new, all fresh this week, man, going through the process, this is our first game week. Tell the truth Monday, competition Tuesday, turnover Wednesday, no repeat Thursday. We haven't had a focus Friday yet because of the time allotments and the practice allotments. So it will be our first focus Friday. We haven't gone through the hotel yet. We haven't done the Tiger walk yet, all that stuff. So I want to make sure all that stuff goes smooth and our preparation is smooth.

You know, the sidelines obviously we're going to wear a mask. There will be a lot less people on the sideline. We're going to try to practice social distancing as much as we can.

Obviously that's going to be a challenge, no question. But I think as far as the play calling, as far as the guys in the box, the guys on the sideline, everything is going to remain the same.

We want to make sure that everything remains the same as well thought players so they can be comfortable in their environment.

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