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December 7, 2020

Ed Orgeron

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Weekday Press Conference

ED ORGERON: Tell the Truth Monday. I thought our team, just like I said after the game, competed very hard, prepared well. The will to win on the sideline was there throughout 60 minutes of the game, down to our last drive, 15-play offensive drive.

A lot of young players got a lot of valuable playing time, competed really hard. I give Alabama credit, outstanding football team. They played a great game. Some great players on that football team.

But you know what, we got to bounce back today. We got to get ready for Florida, another great football team, on the road, explosive offense. Some of the things that we have to eliminate is obviously, as I've said all season, explosive plays, especially in the passing game. Got to get better pressure on the quarterback.

I was pleased the offense scored 17 points. We missed that fourth-and-short going in to tie the game 7-7. Could have been a difference in the ballgame very early. We didn't get that done. We have to improve on that stuff. I thought overall offensively we made some improvements in some areas.

Any questions?

Q. Is there any advantage to getting Max Johnson a start in a game, knowing he's going to be the full-time starter in a week?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, I think that's something we're going to give consideration to this week, look at it. I thought Max played really well. I thought also T.J. did some things.

That's something we're going to give consideration for this week.

Q. Past couple weeks you've talked about defensive scheme. You said can we call plays better, play better. Throughout the weeks, what has been kind of the core thing you've found schematically that's not working? Is it a different game plan, in-game adjustments?

ED ORGERON: I think it's a combination of all of it. Everything that you said has happened at some point in the season. Then also execution. I mean, it's a combination of both of them.

Q. Do you think based on all the people you lost in the NFL to the draft, all the people you've lost from the summer on to now, the expectation for this team was too high? Why are you so bullish on the future?

ED ORGERON: Because I'm a competitor (laughter). We're at LSU.

You know what, it's hard for me to look at, Hey, this is what we lost, this is what we don't have. I always kind of look at what we do have.

I believe we have some outstanding freshmen that are learning how to play. It all started playing poor defense at the beginning of the year. We were playing good offense. We were scoring 40, 41 points. Myles Brennan got hurt. There were a lot of blows throughout the year that this team took.

I still think there's fight. I still think we have a great recruiting class. I love the freshmen we have on this football team. I think with one or two recruiting class, we will build championship teams again. I feel like we can do it.

Maybe three years ago after we lost to Troy, nobody would ever predict we would win a national championship, have one of the best teams in the history of football. We did it. I do believe we can do it again.

Q. Against Texas A&M, you said that was the best the defense played all year. Are you surprised at all how the Alabama game turned out?

ED ORGERON: Alabama is a different offense than Texas A&M, number one. They're very explosive. I think they were scoring 48.5 points per game, 500 something yards of offense. They've had a very successful season. Outstanding quarterback.

I was surprised we couldn't get a better rush on them, to be honest with you. I was real disappointed we dumped off-sides three or four times, I think twice on fourth down, then again, the ability to stop the explosive plays.

I thought they were going to make some plays, but in the second half when Stingley was on Devonta, I thought he did a pretty good job. I wish we could have got more on Devonta more if the first half. Formations and stuff dictated we couldn't. We had a couple of busts. Sometimes we were supposed to double him and we didn't. There were some miss-assignments.

We got to give them credit, they made the plays.

Q. We noticed Stingley was limping a little bit in the second half. What is his status moving forward? Obviously this season hasn't gone the way you had hoped. You're talking about building and confidence for 2021 with your younger players.

ED ORGERON: First of all, Stingley had a slight injury in the beginning, I think maybe the second quarter or something like that. He came back and fought. I think he's going to be fine. I talked to Jack this morning. He's going to be at practice today.

We don't talk about 2021. We talk about finishing 2020. I got to give credit for all these guys that stayed, that didn't opt out. We want to finish strong.

I think you saw the willingness to compete to the very end against a very good football team. I expect that throughout the season.

Q. Missouri, you were first-and-goal, a few inches away to win the game. Last couple weeks your first possession of the game, you've been marching down the field, but short yardage has killed these drives. What is your evaluation of the short yardage this year, when Scott Linehan, this is his specialty, in terms of moving the ball?

ED ORGERON: Well, you know, short yardage, Scott is third down, but not third down and short. We didn't block the ends very well on that play. I wish we would have snuck it. We should have snuck it. We shouldn't have taken the ball on the line of scrimmage, but we didn't.

We thought we had a play there. Cut block, the guy jumped around it, made a tackle for a loss. That was a very decisive play. I'm not saying it changed the outcome of the game, but could have put us up 7-7 against the No. 1 team in the country, give us a little momentum.

I thought we learned our lesson, obviously we didn't. Something I got to get better.

Q. When we think about Florida, we think about Dan Mullen and offense. They're leading the SEC in sacks. What kind of challenge is that for your offensive line this week?

ED ORGERON: (Indiscernible) them again. We have to win some one-on-ones. They are very talented up front. I know their defensive coordinator very well. He was a defensive line coach, teaches great technique. It's going to be a challenge for us.

Q. Didn't look like Jordan Toles was on the sideline. What is his status right now?

ED ORGERON: I think Jordan is going to be fine. I think he should be back for this week.

Q. Obviously your offense did have to change when Myles Brennan went down. The way you judge how your offensive staff is doing, does that change when you have to rely on two freshmen quarterbacks?

ED ORGERON: Those are all things when the season is over I'm going to look at it. Right now our focus is on Florida.

Q. You had 20 verbal commits for your 2021 class. Are you going to reassess who gets the last spots because of what's happened on your offensive line, the depth hasn't been there, not one of the better performances this season? Is that something you're trying to get with the line?

ED ORGERON: Obviously offensive line is a priority for us. We only have one commitment right now. Yes, there's a sense of urgency there. I do believe we're in on some big-time players. I believe we're going to have success on one or two. We may need a junior college player or maybe a graduate transfer in that area. I may have to hold a couple scholarships for graduate transfers.

We had a roster management meeting this morning. That subject did come up.

Q. With where you're at in the season, how do you balance trying to win now but also figuring out what you have in these freshmen that make up a large part of your roster?

ED ORGERON: To be honest with you, we're doing it already. They're all playing. It's not like we're saving for the future. It's what we have. Most of the players that are playing are playing for 2020. It just happens most of them are young players.

Q. Jaray Jenkins, what drew you to him in recruiting? What can you say about his development this year, since he's been on campus?

ED ORGERON: I'm very proud of him. He had some hardships, losing his mother. He never blinked. Had a great high school coach, great family. Turned in to be one of our team leaders that's developed. Came here from junior high school. We liked his tape, we liked the way he caught the ball, the way he ran routes. He has developed into an outstanding receiver, really one of our team leaders.

One of my favorite stories, to see how much he's grown as an individual here at LSU.

Q. When it comes to so-called re-recruiting, how do you have to balance that? What do you use in those discussions?

ED ORGERON: You're talking about keeping our guys?

Q. Out of the draft.

ED ORGERON: Doing it, I promise you, on a daily basis. I talked to most of the guys about coming back. Some are dead set going. Some are considering coming back. We still talk to them on a daily basis.

Obviously you have to worry about the season here. But that has been addressed with most of our players, that we want them to come back, we'd love them to come back, where they're at, talking to their families.

Q. What is your sales pitch?

ED ORGERON: Well, development. Stay another year. Some guys stay another year and make $10 million by staying another year, get drafted higher. It all depends where they're at, where the draft grade comes back, first round, second round, lower-round player. Come back, have another year, get drafted higher.

Q. With a few games left in this season, I might be jumping the gun, but have you and your staff talked about with the way the bowl eligibility is this year, pretty much everybody eligible, is there an area where you might not accept a bowl invite?

ED ORGERON: First of all, that conversation has never come up about a bowl or not a bowl. We're concentrating on Florida. Obviously we're going to be concentrating on Ole Miss. After that we're going to see where they invite us to go, then that will be discussed.

As far as a meeting, that has never been discussed.

Q. What have you liked about Max? You said you'll think about starting him this weekend. From the time he's been able to come in the game, what does he do well out there?

ED ORGERON: I thought he looked his best against Alabama. I thought he was crisp. I thought he went through his progression well. His ball came out very well, threw very catchable balls. He can scramble, run. I think he's tough. He's a hard worker. So is T.J. I think both of those guys are very similar.

I thought Max played his best game.

Q. How long do you think it takes for a player to figure this league out? Will the opt-out mania change the way you recruit now?

ED ORGERON: Well, first of all, I think players at different levels, according to their athletic ability, their maturity, their background, seems like to me the guys that come in midyear graduates tend to have a higher success ratio their freshman year. Some of them take a while. You see guys at different levels.

And, yes, opting out and stuff like that, your roster is so fluid that you have to keep up. I'm meeting every Monday on roster management, where we're at, what does the future look like. Obviously for us, graduate transfers at key positions have been very successful for us. We hope we can do it again.

Q. Would you like to go to a bowl if that happens? What are some of the things, like the extra practice, another chance to play...

ED ORGERON: Sure, another chance to compete, another chance for young players to get better, more practice time. Sure, another game would be great with me.

Q. Do you see those bowl practices sometimes as kind of like a mini spring?

ED ORGERON: Yes, and we need it. These guys didn't get spring ball last year. These young players need a mini spring. Usually it's 12 to 15 great practices. So, yes, I think it's a big-time advantage.

Q. President Tom Galligan is talking to the media right now. He talked about some documents about the investigation. Have they reached out to you and your staff yet?

ED ORGERON: I'm not going to talk about any of that. I made a statement. I'm not talking about none of that.

Q. What is the initial defensive approach you're going to take with Florida? They have three players that are tops in the country in touchdown catches.

ED ORGERON: We got to know where that tight end is, for sure. He gave us fits last year. Great player. Kyle Trask is an outstanding quarterback. I think he has 38 touchdowns, three interceptions. Tough, can run the football. Got a great offensive line. A lot of speed.

We're just getting started on Florida. But obviously we worked on Florida this summer. We had time to game plan on Florida, then the game got canceled. I think we're a little bit ahead. We're looking at the last five games, marrying those two game plans. Today is only the beginning.

Q. You mentioned the Troy game back in '17. You played Florida the following week. No one was expecting a win that week. Carrying momentum late into the year, how important is it with this team considering how young you are?

ED ORGERON: It will be a great finish, a great finish. Start with Florida. What an outstanding challenge. 8-1, going to play in the Swamp. We have to play our best football, play our best football to be able to beat Florida. We got to take care of LSU first.

They pose some problems. We got to put our cleats in the grass, eliminate explosive plays, score more points on offense, play great on special teams to even think about beating them.

Q. The one-game emergence of Kayshon Boutte, other than dropping the ball before the goal line, looked like he had a pretty good game.

ED ORGERON: Outstanding. We've been pleased with Kayshon ever since he came in. The day Ja'Marr Chase left, he had a great day out there, battled through some injuries, stuff like that. Glad to see we're getting him the ball. I think he's going to be a fantastic football player for us.

Q. On Tre Bradford, was that more of an emergence in practice through the week or is Chris Curry hurt?

ED ORGERON: No, something we wanted to do. We wanted to throw him the wheel route on the back field. Specific plays for him. Tre can be a slot receiver, he's that talented. I talked to him a little bit maybe playing runningback and maybe playing some receiver. He's open to it. May be something we can do with him in the future.

Q. You mentioned earlier seeing Kyle Pitts, him giving you guys fits. Has there been any game plan, maybe throwing Arik in with the scout team offense to give the defense some of that same look with a 6'6", 240-pound tight end?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, that would be a good idea. I don't think Coach Ensminger wants to give them up for the scout team.

Q. Kyle Trask, what makes him unique, have so much success this season?

ED ORGERON: I had a great opportunity on my year off, Dan Mullen and I have a great relationship. He was a GA at Syracuse when I was leaving to go to USC. I've always thought he was an outstanding coach. I knew his offensive line coach. They asked me to go speak at their clinic. I spent four days there.

We talked about recruiting, he and I. I asked him what is the number one factor you're looking for at quarterback. He did not hesitate. He said, Toughness.

The guy is tough. He's tough, a competitor. He found him. He's a diamond in the rough. I think you look at 38 touchdowns to three interceptions. The way he operates, the way he finds the guys. Dan is a great game day caller. He knows exactly what to do with his quarterback.

I think it's a combination of a great quarterback and a great caller.

Q. Some players on your team had good success last year. The guys around them helped that. Maybe having that defensive letdown right out of the gate, do you feel that's been a long-term factor that's kind of lingered longer than it should as far as your team's performance?

ED ORGERON: You're talking about during the game?

Q. Kind of had the expectations of a national championship team, to have that steep dropoff so fast, has that changed their mindset in a way that's made them less competitive, less motivated?

ED ORGERON: I didn't see that in practice. I'm telling you, we had some great practices last week. Last Wednesday was one of our best practices. Tommy Moffitt monitors their energy, output during practice, mental dropoffs. I have to give the players credit. They've hung in there, practiced, played hard for us.

Q. When you see John Emery rip off a run like that, electric run, why don't we see more of that? What is the secret to getting more of that out of him?

ED ORGERON: And we should. We ran the stretch on him (indiscernible) outside. Haven't run enough of it. Was blocked very well. We should do more.

Q. What did you think of the move to put Tory more in the tight end spot, Arik more in a receiver spot? Would you like to see a little bit more physicality, assert himself because he's such a big player?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, I think Arik Gilbert is a phenomenal football player. I think the more time we can get him the ball, the more success our football team is going to have.

It was very good to have Tory more in there to see his physicality on offense and also catch the ball in the bootlegs, turn it up, be very physical on the collision.

I think the combination of those two guys in the game is very helpful to us.

Q. Have there been any players, not necessarily this weekend, but throughout the season, that were about to opt out, transfer, that you were able to bring back, convince to stay?

ED ORGERON: I can't recall guys that came to my office. Most of the time when they opted out, most of them come talk to me. I try to convince them to stay, but they had already made their decision for one reason or another.

I can't recall us ever convinces one not to opt out. The only one that came back was Neil Farrell.

Q. You talked about the roster management meetings. How do you approach that, how does it work if you have them opt out? Do you have scholarships available to go into the transfer portal to fill those?

ED ORGERON: I wish. I wish they gave us more, but they don't. We have 25, that's it. Just because a guy opts out, you don't gain another initial. That's what it makes it tough to get your roster back to 85.

It's not my call, but hopefully in the future the NCAA changes the rule to where you can have more initials, depending on guys opting out, juniors going to the draft early, to get your roster back to 85.

Thank you, guys. Go Tigers.

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