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January 7, 2012

Will Blackwell

Michael Ford

Greg Studrawa


THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by offense coordinator Greg Studrawa and Michael Ford and Will Blackwell.
Let's get started with questions.

Q.¬† I want to ask you right away, one of the things that‑‑ some of the reports have been from Alabama that they're a little tired of having to answer questions defensively about having to deal with the option, with Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, and I would like to get your response to that in terms of your game preparation and how much you expect to have that kind of variety in your offense.
GREG STUDRAWA:  It's going to be in our offense.  It's something we do.  And it's something that Jordan brings to the table.
And as far as their preparation, I think we had some plays in that game the last time that were key plays, especially in the outcome running the option.  That's one thing we did successful in that game.  And we didn't have a lot of it in or as much as we've had with Jordan in the past, because, as you know, he was still coming back from getting into the swing of things and getting back in our offense.  So his total package of what we do with him wasn't in.  It is in now.
The fact that they're concerned about it I think is obvious it's a fact that we had some success doing it.  And we plan on doing it some more.  We just have to get better at some of the other things along with that to make us play a little better in the game.

Q.¬† Coach, can you talk about the four‑back rotation, how much of that is predetermined going into the game and is it a hot‑hand thing after that?
GREG STUDRAWA:  I think it's correct to say that.  We have a plan we started with with the guy that starts the game, and then we're going to use the other guy at some time.  And then basically after that it becomes a hot hand, what's working well and what's going on.

Q.  Michael, with only one football, how do they keep all of you happy?
MICHAEL FORD:¬† You gotta be positive.¬† Like he said, it's a hot‑hand thing.¬† Every night is not going to be your night.¬† But when it's your night, you just gotta be motivated and go out there and play hard.

Q.¬† Michael and Will, I'm going to read the scores of three Bowl games:¬† 45‑38, 41‑38, 67‑56.¬† Is that football?
WILL BLACKWELL:¬† That just depends on what you think about football.¬† For me, not necessarily.¬† You know, being an old‑school type of attitude that we like to instill in our team, but for those of you who like to watch the ball turn around and point score, then, yeah, it's a pretty good game.
MICHAEL FORD:¬† I'm definitely a running back.¬† I don't think that's a game.¬† It's a hard‑nosed game we've got back there.¬† We go through the trenches.¬† We've got Will blocking for me, doing a good job.¬† Games, I think people get tired of seeing all those points on the board.¬† They want to see a hard‑fought game.

Q.  Michael, I think you guys had maybe four fumbles, I think, all year maybe.  Everybody is coached about not getting the ball ripped out of their hands.  Is there something more motivating about you guys not getting in trouble with fumbling that it's so low?
MICHAEL FORD:  Definitely.  Wearing the LSU brand.  It's tradition not to put that ball on the ground.  That's instilled in you when you even get there, is not to put the ball on the ground.  It's a must that you hold on the ball with your dear life.

Q.  Coach, wondering if you're able to take any inspiration for what you saw Georgia Southern in their attack and the way they attacked Alabama's defense?
GREG STUDRAWA:  That was interesting.  And, you know, you play that kind of a team that runs the option like that and does it very, very well like they do, they execute, that's a scary team to play.  They did a great job in that game, and that's something that we watched and took heart of some of the things they did and how they executed and what they did in the option game.  It was fun to watch that game.

Q.  Coach, if you could kind of take us through, now that you've been the offensive coordinator here for a full season, taking over the position the way you did, and also your relationship, how things have worked out between you and Coach Kragthorpe?
GREG STUDRAWA:  It's been unbelievable.  Our friendship was very sound before, coming in when Coach Gruden left and Coach Miles had me in on the process of an offensive coordinator, who we hired and what we needed, what we thought was best for this program.
And he was the best guy for the job by far.¬† And so our friendship developed very strongly from the get‑go.¬† And then when you get things planned, organized through the summer, we had a great spring practice.¬† I was so excited about this football team with these kids coming out of spring.
I thought we corrected some of the things we didn't do well last year.  I thought Steve was a big part of that coaching the quarterbacks.  And then to find out three weeks before the opener against Oregon that things changed, you know, it was a blow to all of us, I think, in the first sense that is he going to be okay?  And your friend's hurt.
And the coaching staff, that's all you got.¬† When you travel around and move job to job like coaches do, the guys in your room you're closest with.¬† That's your relationship.¬† When something happens to one of those guys, it affects everybody.¬† And we were all concerned about Steve from the get‑go.
And then the second thing was, okay, how is this going to translate into affecting these kids, how is the team going to react?  How are the different roles going to happen and change in a short period of time when we're opening with Oregon, not some easy game.  That battle is a big game.
And so we were all concerned.  And I think just like this team's been all year, from Coach Miles on down, the selflessness and the sacrifice of the coaches to take on different roles and put the team first and put Steve first and put our offense first, those things happened from everybody in that room and the staff and right down to these players.
So it was a tremendous change at first.  But thank God those guys in that room, everybody, worked together and it was a lot smoother than I thought it was going to be.  And it's been just a tremendous season because of that sacrifice.

Q.¬† Will, can you speak‑‑ being an experienced guy, speak to how Coach handled the process throughout and all the different things that were thrown at him between taking over the program and the quarterbacks and this and that.
WILL BLACKWELL:  Well, I believe the coaching staff, they deserve most of the credit.  For the most part, you know, we like to think that we're an adult and we know everything, but there's a reason they're still here, and that's to keep things in the outside that don't necessarily need to be in the situation where they can affect our team negatively.
And that's a credit to Coach Stud and Coach Miles.  They made sure we were in the best position to not have to worry about things like that.

Q.  Coach, going back to the first game, November5th, obviously there was a tremendous media buildup before that game.  And, interestingly enough, I only heard one sports pundit in the entire nation say that they thought that Alabama's defensive weakness was against the option, and that was actually Coach Lou Holtz, ESPN.  I certainly didn't believe it at the time.  It turned out to be the case.  Having said that, and going back to yesterday, Coach Miles saying that he expected Jarrett Lee to make an early and often contribution into your game plan, is that something that you think is going to, again, bring you all a competitive advantage?  Do you see that?  Or do you think that maybe Alabama has had time to prepare against the option where you have to go a different route?
GREG STUDRAWA:  I'm sure they're going to be prepared for the option, there's no doubt.  But I think Jarrett brings a different aspect to it too.  The things he does well.  It's like having two really good quarterbacks and their skill sets are just a little bit different.
But a lot of our offense those kids both can do.  But what we do when people say, well, Jarrett can't run the option or Jordan doesn't do this, it's not that they don't; it's just that the other kid may bring a little bit more at that time.  That's all it strictly is.
And I know they'll run that option stuff, but I also have some things that Jarrett Lee does well in throwing in play action that he's just superb at.  And those things are going to be a benefit to us too.
I think it makes it difficult.  In talking to the defensive guys that we've played, that's difficult for them.  Some people say it's difficult to have those two offenses and juggle those two quarterbacks, and at times it is.  But when you have good kids like this that buy into it, and they know Jarrett and Jordan both are as important and want them both in it, those kids buy into learning more things.
And I talk to the other guys, again our opponents, it's a nightmare to prepare for both those guys at times.  That's another advantage.  Are they preparing all for this or are they preparing all for that, we have both and it's a benefit for us.

Q.  Greg, in Tuscaloosa, Kenny Hilliard only carried the ball twice, and since then he's been arguably the most effective running back on the team.  How would that change your plan going into this time against Alabama?  And when he's in the backfield, do you guys try to do different things because of the kind of runner he is?
GREG STUDRAWA:  Well, I'll tell you, the first thing is in Tuscaloosa, the first time, he was still growing up.  He was still a freshman that was learning the system and getting more comfortable and more comfortable in the things that he was doing.
And we were still finding out what he was good at.  But I'll tell you, he can do all the things that all these guys can do.  And people ask me all the time, you get a certain guy in or that guy, I don't care who is in there.
To be honest with you, when I call the running plays, I don't care if it's Michael or Spencer or Kenny.  All those kids are fast, strong, big, and hard to tackle.  We don't sit there and say this guy or that guy.  Kenny can bring us different things because he can line up at fullback.  That's one thing that that brings to the table that I like.  He can be a fullback and a tailback.  Or now we can put Michael in there, and he's out there and he's the tailback, so that gives another dimension for the defense to prepare for, in our opinion.
But all those guys, I don't care who's running it, those kids have proven to me in a tough season‑‑ and that's one of the things that I think is a benefit for us is we're in the year playing Arkansas and the games at the end of the season, and these guys are fresh.¬† I've never been to an end of the season like that, where you've got four guys that you watch practice and as the season wears on things slow down, their speed didn't.
And that's the benefit of using them all.¬† We don't have that guy that's been the 1700‑yard rusher.¬† There's four or five 100‑yard rushers.¬† So their skills and their talents are used by every single offensive set and every single formation we have.

Q.¬† Will, would you talk about what it was like having your buddy, Josh Dworaczyk, passing as kind of an assistant coach and how it helped you all, and how much ribbing did he get from you and T‑Bob?
WILL BLACKWELL:¬† Josh has been a tremendous help for me and‑‑ not only for me, the rest of the offensive line.¬† Coach Stud is up in the press box this season, so he's not able to be down on the sideline with us.¬† So there's a gap in communication, and Josh is the link that keeps that going.
Especially being one of my good friends and T‑Bob's good friends.¬† We've played every snap together here.¬† So for him to not be there, it's kind of weird.¬† But they've done a good job getting him on the sideline, and he's a huge asset and reason for our success.

Q.¬† Michael and Will, I imagine you guys watched the Rose, the Fiesta, the Sugar and saw what games they were.¬† First, what did you think about those games and how exciting they were, and, secondly, what do you think of the chances that Monday's game turns into high‑scoring games like that?
MICHAEL FORD:  It's a blessing to play in any game you get to go to.  A great season to be able to play in a Bowl game.  Doesn't matter how many points on the board, how many anything.  As long as you win the game, I think that's the most important thing, because everybody wants to win.
WILL BLACKWELL:¬† I agree with Mike.¬† It's not about stats or yards or anything like that for us.¬† I mean, we won 9‑6 on November5th, and a win's a win.

Q.  Both players, what do Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson bring to the huddle?  Any differences between the two?
WILL BLACKWELL:  Leadership.  They've done a great job.  It's easier for me to see, I think, than Mike because I've been here longer, and I've been around both those guys.
They are the spark in our huddle.  They do a great job of commanding the huddle, getting everybody lined up, getting the checks in, personnel.  And we're very fortunate to have both of them back there.
MICHAEL FORD:  I definitely agree with leadership.  When you have two quarterbacks that get in the game and play, one can go to the sideline, get discouraged, and you've got the next quarterback rooting him on and he come in the huddle and gets us ready.  We don't get discouraged because we've got the next quarterback coming and rooting us on.
Both bring high leadership to the team.

Q.  Coach, arguably the most effective unit on LSU is the punt coverage team.  I'm wondering what coaches go in to picking who is on that personnel.  And do you have a say in it?
GREG STUDRAWA:¬† I don't have any say in it at all.¬† It's probably a good thing.¬† I don't like punting.¬† So, no, Coach Miles and Coach McGaughey and the rest of the staff, they do a great job of‑‑ that's a very important piece of our program.
And I think people lose sight.  You talk about the scores in those games and things, I think people lose sight that there's three prongs:  offense, defense, and special teams.  And we play to that.  That's our plan, every game.  Every one of those phases is going to have something to do with the outcome of that game.  So that's as important as any other phase.
And we spend as much time analyzing all the players, all right, especially the defensive kids, the defensive skill and the linebacker skill, the wide receivers.  You'll see a lot of our backup guys as young kids play special teams roles and make big plays.
Jarvis Landry toward the end of the season, again, coming into his own, knocked three or four guys out on special teams.
So that's how important that is and that's how all these kids, as important as Michael is Will is as starters on offense, those guys that start running down there on those coverage teams are important, too.

Q.¬† A lot of coaches give that lip service, but in terms of time and practice, is that something that gets one‑third?
GREG STUDRAWA:¬† There's no doubt.¬† You see these guys chuckle because they get a little downtime sometimes.¬† But is it important?¬† Okay, here's a First‑Team All‑SEC player.¬† Here's a First‑Team All‑American on three separate polls.¬† What do you play, Will?
WILL BLACKWELL:  Personal protecter.
GREG STUDRAWA:  He's on the punt team.  He's important.  Best lineman.  He runs down there every time we punt the football.  We make sure he's out there checking that protection every time we punt the football.  Is it important?  Absolutely important.

Q.  I'm assuming there are some games you go into when you've done all your prep work.  You feel pretty good that some things are going to work.  When you're playing a team with the caliber of defense that Alabama has, can you take me through the feelings of excitement, of challenge, of knowing that points are precious?
GREG STUDRAWA:¬† You're exactly right.¬† As we're sometimes‑‑ you come up with a game plan, you pick a couple of formations, you're going to do these things out of formation.¬† You think, hey, this may be pretty good, I think this may work.¬† There's none of that now.
I mean, we've spent so much time on every single‑‑ from the first call of the game right down to a call if you get a turnover here, if this happens, if there's a change in possession, we break it down so much more, I think, than any other game.¬† That's just the respect due to their defense.
Like you said, yards are precious.¬† You get a four‑yard run, we're excited about that.¬† So we've taken a lot of time and painstakingly got after those things, because in a game like this, every yard is precious.
Again, another cliche:  It's a game of inches.  It is.  In this kind of game it's a game of inches and every yard is precious.
That's why these guys‑‑ every run that Michael has, you'll see him in the last game, just a tremendous game, diving, fighting, spinning for extra yards that at the end of the game end up being critical yards.
So we've done, like I said, a painstaking job of making sure that every play has a great chance of having success.  Nothing's haphazard.

Q.  Michael, when you guys are practicing and you know you're competing with other running backs, is every day a competition?  Or do you know kind of during the week what the assignments are going to be that week, who is going to get more playing time?  Just how do you guys approach that in terms of if you have a great practice?  Or do you know you're going to get more carries?
MICHAEL FORD:  I would say definitely not, because when you go into practice, you want to be the best you can be.  Just not because you have four backs behind you, but that's a great thing to have, because if I have a down day, the next back can come in there and cheer me up because he's having a great day.  That shows you you need to step your game up.  But being a champion, that's a part of growing up.  You gotta go to practice and know how to practice.  You just can't go to practice and try to get through it.

Q.¬† Coach, after everything that had happened‑‑ let's go back to the first game between these two.¬† After that you switched quarterbacks.¬† You guys are number one in the nation, been perfect all year.¬† Obviously Jordan was going to be the guy going into this season.¬† But was there any trepidation still at that point, considering you guys were perfect and number one, that that change was going to be made?
GREG STUDRAWA:  Yeah, I think it's, like you said, Jordan was going to be number one going in.  And he had won that job coming out of spring.  And those changes we made were made because of what happened.  Jarrett came in and did a wonderful job.  And then as Jordan started to get back into the swing of things, his skills and his talent level came right back to the forefront.
He basically won the job back, starting job, in our opinion.  Still not to the point where Jarrett wasn't going to play, the point that we were still going to use two, but at that point Jordan was getting better and better like he had in the spring when he won the job in the first place.
So that's all it came down to, was a matter of him coming back into it and winning the job back again and us wanting to play and use Jarrett Lee in the same way we are doing now.

Q.  Considering all that's happened and what it takes to be number one in college football these days, does it surprise you how much your team has come through this year?
GREG STUDRAWA:  There's no question.  I guess someone asked me the question yesterday.  And of all the things these kids have been through and the team has been through, and the thing with the staff with Coach Kragthorpe and me coming in and the suspensions, I mean, just everything, and what I consider to be the hardest schedule in the country, the teams we played and going on the road and done it, and I've never been around a group of guys that never get flustered.
I don't think I get flustered very much.  I get flustered way more than they do.  And I mean going into the locker room at halftime at Georgia, I wanted to jump off the press box.  I get in the locker room, the first thing the defensive kids say, I walked past the defense:  Coach, they're not going to score anymore.  Don't worry about it.  You'll be okay.  Just get them going.  I walk into this these guys, and Will just goes:  Run the ball.  Let's go.
Here I am in a panic, and the defense and offense is just telling me settle down, let's go.
But I've never been around a group of kids like that that I've never seen panic.  It's just:  Let us have another chance, Coach, we're going to get it right and get it done.
And it's a special team.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.

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