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December 23, 2019

Lincoln Riley

Atlanta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Coach, do you want to start with an opening statement on preparation since Selection Sunday and getting to Atlanta and we'll go into questions.

LINCOLN RILEY: Sure. We're happy to be here. Have had great work back at home. From day one, we put together a schedule that we thought would put our team in the best position to play our very best ball, and our players have responded well. Staff has. I think we've got a great plan. Excited about the work that we've had, and we're certainly excited to get here to Atlanta and get game week started.

Q. Did everyone travel and will everybody play?
LINCOLN RILEY: Everyone did travel, and the availability of the three guys that you mentioned that have been in question, those guys won't play.

Q. So Lincoln, just to clarify, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ronnie Perkins, and Trejan Bridges will not play?
LINCOLN RILEY: They will not play.

Q. Lincoln, what is Delarrin Turner-Yell's status?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, he got hurt in practice. Right now, our expectation is that he would not play, but we'll see how the week goes on.

Q. What can you tell us about why those suspended guys won't play?
LINCOLN RILEY: I don't want to air guys' dirty laundry out. You guys know me well enough like that. They get that enough in this world. So they won't be available to play.

Q. What can you -- Ronnie's been so important to you guys. What kinds of things can you do to make up for that? What can you do?
LINCOLN RILEY: Well, we're not a one-man show up front. Haven't been all year. Ronnie's been a good player for us, but we've got a lot of good players up there, recruited a lot of good players, developed a lot of players. Our production, if you look at the front, has been pretty even across the board, and we've gotten it from a lot of different players. In several games, you go back and look, and several games where we've had a ton of sacks or a ton of pressures and rarely were they just coming from one person.

So, you know, it's no different than a guy getting hurt first play of the game. This way, you're able to prepare for it a little bit. I'm not going to go into great detail of what our plan is, but I'm confident in the guys that we have and the pressure we've been able to force this year, and hopefully we can do it again.

Q. Justin Broiles, what are your impressions? What have you seen out of Justin so far this season?
LINCOLN RILEY: We've got a lot of guys that are -- I think Coach Grinch has done an outstanding job of developing those guys. We've had a lot of kind of bumps and bruises throughout the year, played a lot of different lineups. As we've talked about so much, especially at the beginning of the year, seemed like a hot topic. We were playing so many different players.

Times like this is when those things matter and when they show up. So Justin's had a very strong year for us, but we have a lot of players that have as well, and so we'll put the best ones out there and get guys that are experienced and ready to play well.

Q. Lincoln, what about (indiscernible)?
LINCOLN RILEY: They're doing fine. They're doing fine.

Q. T.J. Fledger, how important is he coming out? What are going to be his opportunities?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, T.J. is going to get some opportunities. He was a guy that we obviously felt like coming into the season -- I remember it felt a lot like Rodney Anderson a few years ago when we still had Samaje and Joe. It was kind of like, man, these two guys are pretty good, but this guy's practicing so well. And Rodney at the time, well we've got to find ways to get him involved. Rodney ended up getting hurt that year.

We kind of felt the same way about T.J. coming in. We had experienced guys that had produced in the past that are very good players, but T.J. was practicing so well that we were just saying, man, we're going to have to find ways to keep getting him involved because he's just getting better and better. And he got injured as well and missed the first half of the season, but he's come back, done a lot of work behind the scenes, a lot of confidence in him. I know he'll be ready.

Q. I know you mentioned that when Baker had this illness in 2017, you personally weren't overly worried that it was going to affect you guys too bad. But this is the third year in a row, where, with Marquise last year, there have been personnel changes or quirks the week of the bowl game. How do you game-plan in what you guys do as far as scheming and things like that?
LINCOLN RILEY: Honestly, in a way, this one's easier because -- you know, it's always tough. You've got a plan, you've got to have contingencies. I mean, that's our job. But certainly the more time you have to prepare for it at any point, the easier that it is.

So I'm confident in the players we have, and I'm confident in the staff that we have, that we'll have a group out there that's ready to play and a scheme that will give us a great chance to play well.

Q. You mentioned, I think, that all of those guys did travel with the team. Was that a decision that you had to make?
LINCOLN RILEY: It was. It was. But I wanted those guys here. They're able to practice, able to help this team win in a different way right now.

Q. How do you feel about those guys, in practice and things like that, this week, the suspended players?
LINCOLN RILEY: They give us great preparation on both sides of the ball. Having good players on any part of your football team anywhere can be an advantage. And those guys won't play for us Saturday, but they can do a lot of things offensively and defensively, give them looks, special teams.

So, again, they've got to find a way to help this team win, and it won't be on Saturday, but they can certainly help us through the week.

Q. Any comparison to any team you've played from what you've seen from LSU on film? Have they done anything similar to anybody you've faced?
LINCOLN RILEY: I mean, there's -- sure, there's comparisons scheme-wise. Especially in this league, historically, when you look at them offensively, I mean, there's a lot of comparisons scheme-wise.

But they're unique in their own ways, and it's the combination of the scheme and certainly the players that they have. So we know it's going to be -- it's going to be two really good football teams going at it. We're both here for a reason. They're here for a reason. So it's going to be fun.

Q. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been banged up. How much have you been able to see of the other two guys? Have you been able to get a good read on them?
LINCOLN RILEY: We have. To give them credit, it doesn't look like a huge drop-off when the other ones are around. So they've obviously recruited well. They've got some depth. That's key at this point. At this point of the year, you're going to have guys get banged up. You're going to have things happen. And a lot of times, the four teams that are here are here because, yeah, your first 11 are pretty good. But most of the times, we've got some quality depth behind and we're able to, when a great player's out for whatever reason, you're able to plug the leak and kind of keep on churning. LSU's been able to do that at running back from what we've been able to see, and we've been able to do that at certainly multiple positions this year too.

Q. Lincoln, are those the only three guys suspended, or are there other players?
LINCOLN RILEY: Right now, those are the three.

Q. You've been here five years. Does this program really crave a National Championship?
LINCOLN RILEY: I don't feel it from a multiyear standpoint. I think this team craves it right now. I mean, this program has a longstanding history of great expectations, and I think you feel that all the time, every year, no matter where you're at here.

It's a great thing because I think it helps push us to continue to play at the level that we have. But as far as expectations for that and feeling it, no. I think it's just you're so in the moment with this team and these coaches and these players because right now, that's what's going to help you win it.

So certainly, you want to do it for the program and for all the people that are involved or have been involved. But, you know, we're the only ones that can do it right now.

Q. You told him that you had to commit to working on the counter play. What else do you remember telling him about the counter play, and did you ever find yourself saying I've got to commit to this play in practice?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, I vaguely remember the conversation. We had a good talk. I remember talking about the play a little bit. Nothing too -- nothing too in-depth. But yeah, I mean, I think it's been one of those plays for us that -- and a lot of plays are like this. A lot of times, you're going to get out of plays what you put into them. If you're going to be good at something consistently, you've got to be able to put the work into it.

That's been one of the things we've chosen to do, and it's been a good play for us.

Q. We've heard Alex and Jalen talk about their relationship with each other. Is that unusual for a quarterback and defensive coordinator to have that kind of relationship? How have you seen that come together these last 11 months?
LINCOLN RILEY: I wouldn't say it's unusual. I think our -- I know Baker and Mike had a really good relationship. You get that. That develops through the year with your defensive coaches. You may not be in the meeting room with them all the time, but you're going against those guys all the time throughout the year and the competitive side of it.

Then I think too, obviously, a coordinator is going to be one of the bigger leaders on your team and your quarterback is always going to be one of the bigger leaders on your team, so there is some shared bond there.

So it was fun. It was good to have Alex and Becky there, something they hadn't been able to experience. It was fun to be able to enjoy that with them, and yeah, that's about it.

Q. I know you weren't the head coach at the time, but Jacob Phillips is at LSU, flipped late from Oklahoma to LSU. Was that an impact for you guys as a program? And what have you seen from him at LSU on tape that shows him as a player?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, not at all. I wasn't head coach at the time. I remember when it happened but didn't know him very well. Yeah. No, he's been a good player for them. No question. Been productive. Made a lot of plays for them. So certainly looks like he's done a good job and, obviously, it's turned out well for them and we're pretty happy with the guy playing inside linebacker for us too.

Q. Is this the only game that those three will be suspended?
LINCOLN RILEY: They're suspended right now. That's where I'm leaving it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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