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November 16, 2020

Ed Orgeron

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Weekday Press Conference

COACH ORGERON: Excited to play Arkansas this week. Excited to see the players. They've been off Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a lot of them have been around today. Had a great morning in the weight room. Everybody ready to go to work.

Before we start, I'd like to address the USA TODAY article that came out. First I want to say that we need to support and protect victims of violence, sexual abuse of any kind. There's no place in our society nor on this campus or on our football program for any behavior of this type.

When accusations are made, we have a legal and moral obligation to report every allegation to the university's Title IX office so due process can be implemented. I have in the past, and will continue to take appropriate action and comply with reporting protocols. I have confidence that the university is working to address our policies and processes when allegations arise. That is all I'm going to say at this time.

I just want to address that before we have any questions. Obviously I think that Coach Sam Pittman has done a tremendous job with this football team. His coaching staff ought to be commended. They're completely different football team. They're a darned good football team. They play with great fundamentals.

They play with energy and this is going to be a big challenge for us to go on the road beat Arkansas at home.

Q. Can you give me any kind of number update on your roster? Are you confident that you're going to have enough guys to play in Fayetteville this weekend?

COACH ORGERON: We feel we should get most of our quarantine guys back either today or tomorrow. So we feel like the room's going to be full today for the first time. We're actually going to have two quarterbacks practice.

Q. Can you walk us through how you plan on handling the quarterback this week?

COACH ORGERON: TJ has taken the backside of practice for a week now. We're going to let him get back. We'll see who is the best guy available. Right now it's probably going to be TJ unless Max can have a great game, great week. We'll probably play both of them in the game.

Q. You said most of the players will come back today. Are there any others over the course of the week that are taking a little longer and kind of roughly how many?

COACH ORGERON: As of now, we plan on getting most of our guys back by tomorrow. And I have to report later on during the week obviously this thing is very fluid, can change every day. But I think by tomorrow we should have most of our guys back.

Q. Obviously another part of this is once you get these guys back, just kind of seeing where they are conditioning-wise. Where do you think, what are you guys thinking in terms of easing these guys back into practice this week?

COACH ORGERON: We'll have to ease them back in. First of all, they've been working out on their own. They were in good shape when they stopped, so they haven't been out that long. Hopefully the workouts kept up to pace, they can come and practice. I think it will be fine. But we're going to have to limit their reps in the game. We'll see if some guys need extra conditioning, give them extra conditioning, whatever it might be.

Q. You talked about TJ Finley. You've seen two games from him thus far. Been a while since they've actually played, but what kind of things do you want to see from him in practice moving forward heading into the Arkansas game?

COACH ORGERON: We have to take care of the football. Take care of the football. Make smart decisions which he did the first game. The second game he didn't. And we had three turnovers. You can't go on the road and turn over the football.

It's not all on him. It's on the play-calling to keep it simple for him. It's on the other players surrounding playing better. It's about the offensive line protection. It's about everybody.

Q. Before the season, when you said that most of your guys had COVID and you kind of felt going on the rest of the season, did that make you or your program kind of lax because you thought the worst was over?

COACH ORGERON: No, not at all. No. And I'll say last week most of our guys that wasn't able to play was because of quarantine. It wasn't because the number of guys who had COVID.

Q. When you quarantine -- do you quarantine guys that already had it just to make sure --


Q. You do?

COACH ORGERON: That was the protocol. That was the protocol. And obviously there's different opinions on that, but I'm not a doctor. They make the rules.

Q. Have any of your guys had it twice?

COACH ORGERON: I can't speak to that.

Q. Right. Gotcha. Obviously where the season is at right now how do you balance wanting to give young guys chances want to let them have time but obviously winning games?

COACH ORGERON: It's all about winning the games. We've got a lot of young guys playing. It works out both, but I'm not going to take out an older guy just to play a younger guy to give him reps. Hu-huh. This is about winning the game, giving our guys the best chance to win.

Q. Does it kind of tick you off when people insinuate that maybe you don't want to play Alabama and you would be happy that the game wouldn't be rescheduled?

COACH ORGERON: We look forward to rescheduling Alabama. Whenever they tell us to play, we want to play. We wanted to play last week. We weren't able to play because of the safety of our players. We have to put the safety of our players first. People will say things here and there that's not true.

We look forward to playing Alabama. I love the rivalry. I grew up watching that rivalry. They're a great football team, great challenge. Whenever they tell us to play we'll be ready to go.

Q. Are you confident that that's going to happen, Coach?

COACH ORGERON: I don't know that. I'm hoping it does. I'm hearing rescheduling may be made. But nobody's told us for sure. This is very fluid. But I do believe that Alabama and LSU ought to play this year, and I do believe we're going to play somehow, some way.

Q. Two Arkansas questions. One, have you noticed a difference with Feleipe Franks --

COACH ORGERON: You got cut off there.

Q. I don't know if you heard the question. If you noticed a difference in Feleipe Franks from his time at Florida and his time at Arkansas? And, two, I had a chance to talk to Sam Pittman over the summer, and he said he met up with you at a coach's convention, actually thanked you because your success has given guys who maybe have never be a coordinator an opportunity to be a head coach. I don't know if you thought much about it, but have you given any thought to the success that you've had and the opportunity that it might open doors for other coaches like Sam Pittman?

COACH ORGERON: I think a lot of Coach Pittman. Obviously has done a great job. I don't know if it helped or not, but I was never a coordinator. He was never a coordinator; he became a head coach, and he's doing a good job. We've had success here.

I think that guys don't need to be judged as if they're a coordinator or not. It's the leadership skills they have and their background. And I think all those great coaches I've been with that's helped me and I think it's going to help Coach Pittman.

And the key is surround yourself with great players and great coaches. And for the most part we've done that here. So, I think that's key.

Feleipe Franks is doing a little more RPOs than he did at Florida. His leadership skills are showing on the field. He loves to run the offense. It looks like the guys are playing. He's using his skill. Treylon Burks, a guy from Warren, Arkansas, who I tried to recruit very hard, is right in the thick of it. Outstanding player. They've got a great running back, another great receiver.

The offensive line is playing well because the head coach is an offensive line coach. So I think they've done a tremendous job. Barry Odom does a good job with their defense. Did a great job of game planning Ole' Miss. I think Ole Miss had six picks, they dropped eight on them. So, the guy knows what he's doing.

Q. You may have gone just answered a lot of this, but what is the biggest difference you're seeing in Arkansas? A new coach comes in, mixes things up, but is it recruiting class hitting? Is it time?

COACH ORGERON: They've got players better. Feleipe has made a difference, but they've got better players. Kendall Brown has done an outstanding job. They go hurry up. They're one of the fastest teams we've seen on offense.

Look at the first drive against Florida. I just watched it on TV. Tremendous job. Tremendous job of calling plays. Tremendous job of beating the deep ball. They're putting their athletes in space, let them make plays.

I think Barry Odom, for the most part, has done a tremendous job on defense. You can see his schemes. You can see the fundamentals. I talked to Coach Pittman this morning. You know what? They have faith in their coaching staff. They're getting love and they feel like they could be a good team. Give them credit.

Q. Slightly different question. Zach Von Rosenberg obviously now the oldest player in college football at 30 years old. He says everyone gives him a hard time around the facility, you included. When you rib him on it, what kind of things do you say to him?

COACH ORGERON: When is your Social Security check coming in, stuff like that. (Laughter).

I love him. I love Zach. Zach is a team leader. Like I said, he played second team quarterback -- last week. Did a tremendous job. Beat out defense a little bit which worries me. But he's done a tremendous job for us.

Q. I know you've heard just rumblings about whether Alabama be played again and when it would. Just curious about, like, when you look at the rest of the season, it could move games around and all the talk around, like, what games might be moved and stuff like that. I remember last week y'all said you were preparing for Arkansas and then flipped back to Alabama and back to Arkansas for a little bit. Whenever you would -- how much would it affect if the Alabama game would replace others and flipped one later in the season? How would you all manage that in game planning? I know you have a lot of preparation already, but I'm curious how you do that?

COACH ORGERON: For the most part we're prepared for it. And so whenever they tell us to play, I think if we have a week to prepare, it's going to be an extra week, we spend a lot of time on Alabama this summer. We spent a lot of time on Alabama, I guess, it was two weeks ago, I can't remember. And so we were prepared to play them. Obviously. We had a game plan in place.

Once they tell us to play, I think we'll be fine. But you have to remain fluid. Hope the remaining schedule we play all five games. I want to play Alabama. I want to play Florida. I want to play Ole' Miss and Texas A&M and Arkansas. We have a team that needs to get better and everyone is going to present us a challenge, but we're ready for it.

Q. I guess just from a standpoint of maybe some of your older players, have you talked to them the last couple of weeks with all the flexibility, everything that's been going on about righting the ship, because a lot of these guys are NFL Draft prospects? Just curious what the mindset is of some of these older players.

ED ORGERON: They want to win. They want to go out and win, and they represent the purple and gold. And they don't like the results on the field either. But you know what? A lot of them got a lot of things to prove on the field to go into the NFL, and put it on tape.

And let's use Terrace Marshall as an example. The guy's having a tremendous season. He wants to talk to the team today. I know what he wants to talk to the team about, playing one team, one heartbeat, let's go beat Arkansas, one game at a time, a lot of good football left.

Q. I know this season has a lot of struggles, but I know you said a few weeks back that this is a championship program; you will get back to that level. What freshmen are on this team that you feel are going to be the leaders that get this team back to good? Who are those outspoken guys, the Joe Burrows and Patrick Queens who are the guys on this team that will lead you all into 2021 and 2022?

COACH ORGERON: You've got to look at TJ and Max. Those guys work every day. You come here and go in during the summer, they're working all the time. They're leaders, they lead by example. They're great character young men.

Arik Gilbert, look at him at tight end, the things he can do. Kayshon Boutte, the things that he can do. We haven't seen Kevontre Bradford play yet. He's going to be an excellent football player.

We have three good, young offensive linemen, I think, that will be excellent football players. On defense, look at Elias Ricks, I don't know where he's at, but at one time he was leading the country. And we have Jacquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory and BJ Ojulari and Phillip Webb -- those guys have not even played yet or panned out -- Josh White. Those guys have a lot of football in front of them.

Q. Do you notice that they're stepping up vocally, also? Because I know some guys want to just focus on their game but are they locker room guys that will stand up and kind of face the noise?

COACH ORGERON: The guys who stand up so far, TJ and Max. Those guys stand up. TJ got the team fired up and Max was fired up to go. Our players believe in both of those young men.

Q. I just finished your book. And I couldn't help but think of the similarities between what you wrote about Troy and dark clouds and building, and this year, kind of what Garland spoke about, do you see that as the coach of this team?

COACH ORGERON: No question. I know we're going to build a championship team. I know it's coming. But you have to go through some adversity, man. Iron sharpens iron. You have to develop some grit and toughness. You just can't go roll your helmet out there. We've got to coach better. We've got to pay attention to details. It all starts with me, I gotta get this program better. But I do know this we're building character. We're building something special and those guys who stay and those guys who will come with us, we'll have a great recruiting class come and fixing to get better. We'll put some great athletes on the field. And I know that we can put them in the best position to make plays and be a great team.

Q. The offensive line, clearly that's been the biggest problem right now. Have you been able to make any strides with what you have on the roster, or is that more of a long-term project?

COACH ORGERON: We're looking at maybe Dare Rosenthal being reinstated. I don't know yet. That's not a definite yet. I think that would help us. I should know something more today or tomorrow if he can be reinstated to the team, I think that would help us.

Q. Do you feel like a lot of the things that addressed in the USA TODAY article happened or were culturally set in before you even got here as an assistant?

COACH ORGERON: I'm not going to comment on that. I'm going to let it go with what I said. I want you to know that your question is important.

Q. Are there some things that Alabama and Arkansas both do that by practice and for both that doesn't (inaudible)?

COACH ORGERON: Run the stretch; run the counter. The RPOs. Play-action pass. Go deep. There's some things that are similar.

Arkansas does their 4-3 defense. Alabama plays some 4-3, some nickel, some 3-4. Very similar.

Q. You all have been, you're down a couple games but you've been really good at turnover margin. You always talk about that. Arkansas's about as good as anyone in the country right now at plus-8. How much is that on your mind even more as you watch film and prep for this game?

COACH ORGERON: The first thing I told the staff today: We're going on the road. We have to win the turnover battle. Let's do a great job this week of making sure we're taking care of the ball. We went to Auburn, we didn't win the turnover battle. We've got to win the line of scrimmage. You've got to be physical. Arkansas is a physical football team starts with the turnover battle. This week it will be big emphasis on securing the ball and taking it away. They're a plus-8. We're a plus-4.

Q. I guess it's going to be three weeks since you played a game by the time you finally get out there this weekend, been sitting on that Auburn game for a while. I know it's probably not the kind of game you want to be sitting on. How anxious are you to get back out there? And how about tackling, haven't tackled live in a game so far this week?

COACH ORGERON: It's always a concern, but we practice tackling every day. We didn't scrimmage our guys at all because frankly we didn't have enough to scrimmage last week. We didn't have two units. I wasn't going go out there and tackle and scrimmage and get anybody else hurt. That's the reason.

Maybe if we had a full squad, if we had a full squad we'd be playing. I think we'll have to practice tackling this week, do a good job, not going to take them to the ground but do a good job teaching it and get in the position to make some plays.

Q. TJ's first game was so impressive, records for a freshman. Then his second game he struggled. Is that a direct result of the opponent, or is that something maybe that you guys saw that is correctible going into a game? Is it play calling? We talked about maybe giving him more of an offense to work with, maybe did you give him too much, that kind of thing?

COACH ORGERON: I think the first game was perfect. The guy was on fire. Steve was calling a great game. We were protecting him. The second game, all sorts of stuff; we were playing away, didn't start off well. I think we dropped the first pass. The second one was low, behind him or something like that. And I think we kind of got behind the 8-ball. Too much pressure on him. Obviously on the rush. We didn't block very well in that game. In games before we had. I think it's a combination of both.

Q. Micah Baskerville got a lot more time over Damone Clark against Auburn. I guess, what's the status of that linebacker competition?

COACH ORGERON: I think that's ongoing. Micah did a good job. He's starting right now, but that doesn't mean Damone couldn't. I think those guys rotate in, but right now Micah's the starter.

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