Orgeron Previews SEC Championship Game
BATON ROUGE – Ed Orgeron met with members of the media on Monday as the LSU head coach previewed Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against fourth-ranked Georgia.
LSU, winners of 13 straight games, brings a 12-0 mark into the contest, while Georgia is 11-1 overall. It’s LSU’s sixth appearance in the SEC Championship Game with four of those contests coming against Georgia. Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT on CBS.
Here’s the full transcript of Orgeron’s press conference on Monday:
“What a great night at Tiger Stadium. Want to thank all the fans. From the Tiger Walk all the way to the entrance of the stadium; what a great night for our 14 seniors. They did a tremendous job of sending them off the right way.
I said this before. I do believe our fans were the difference in our season this year. Getting to play Florida at home, getting to play Auburn at home, those guys were the difference in some tight ballgames. I really, really appreciate our fans in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
Defense had our best night (against Texas A&M); six sacks, 169 total yards. Two for 13 on third down. Forced them to punt on the first seven possessions. Wanted to start fast. I told Coach Aranda this morning I thought it was his best job all year. Our defensive coaches, our players, attacking scheme. I thought our DBs contested all the routes, especially against some wide receivers that will give us a tough time next year.
Very proud of our defensive staff and all our players.
On offense, I have to mention these things, I usually don’t, but I think it’s time to mention them, give our guys credit where credit is due. LSU record for points in a season, 584. Scored 50 points, a record six times. 40 or more points 10 times, school record. Joe set the SEC passing record. Tied for passing TDs. Clyde, the year he has had, 1,233 yards rushing. Leads the SEC in rushing TDs with 16. Two one-thousand-yard receivers. Ja’Marr is one TD away for tying the SEC record.
Cade York, first time an LSU kicker gets two 50-yard field goals (in the same game), lead the SEC in scoring. Have to say that. Good for returning recruits to hear that. Our recruiting is going phenomenal now, they want to be in our system and play here.
On to Georgia. A lot of respect for Kirby and the job he’s done. Go against him recruiting, know the players he’s recruiting. Know the type of coaches he has on his staff. Well-coached football team, very athletic.
It will be the best offensive and defensive line we’ve seen all year. I watched their offensive line this morning. They’re phenomenal. Probably three or four guys that will be draft choices. All five of them will play in the NFL.
They’re multiple on offense. Averaging 33 points a game. 200 on the ground, 220 passing. Jake Fromm, excellent quarterback. We all know about him.
D’Andre Swift, one of the best tailbacks in America. Big wide receivers, and a great offensive line. Very, very good system. Very physical football team.
Again on defense, by far the best defense we’ve seen. 10 points per game. They basically are a 4-3, some 3-4. Only giving up 257 a game. Tyler Clark and their defensive line, I watch them all the time, because I watch opponents’ offensive line.
They’re very well-coached, they’re quick, disruptive. J.R. Reed is one of the best safeties we’re going to see. He and Richard LeCounte, two outstanding safeties.
Good on special teams.
This is going to be a battle, it’s for the SEC Championship. We’re going to have a regular week’s work here. Thursday morning we’ll meet at 11:00. We’ll have an early practice. Thursday evening we’ll go on down to Atlanta and have a regular Friday practice in the Georgia Dome Friday afternoon.
Q. How much has Maurice Hampton’s development freed you up defensively to do the things you wanted when Todd Harris was still healthy?
ED ORGERON: It gives us some flexibility. Gives us a big game to rest Grant. I think that was the biggest thing. Gives us a chance to put Grant closer to the football, put him in the post when we need him. Be more flexible.
Q. Georgia fans are known to travel pretty well. This obviously isn’t very far of a trip for them. How are y’all prepared knowing this is more of a home game for Georgia?
ED ORGERON: I know our fans are going to be there. I feel good about that. Everywhere we go, we’ve had great fans. But we will treat this as an away game. We will have crowd noise on Tuesday, Wednesday. Be very well-prepared for all the Georgia fight songs they’ll play on our field all week.
Q. We did something with Devin White a couple weeks ago. He told us how he still stays in touch with a lot of the players, says he texts you every now and then. How many former players have you heard from over the course of the season? How much does their support mean to the program?
ED ORGERON: It means a lot. We welcome them back. I don’t know how many guys were at the Tiger Walk. Unbelievable. Biggest group of ex-players we had at the Tiger Walk this Saturday.
Devin White texts me every once in a while. Tre’Davious White comes by. Duke Reilly comes by. Derrius is coming by. Leonard is always here. It means a lot to get all these guys back.
On every Tuesday, we show a highlight film of our guys in the NFL, what they’re doing in the NFL every Tuesday. We honor those guys and we keep in touch with them. We tell them they’re a Tiger for life and we mean it.
Q. Who taught Damone Clark that bull rush that he pulled Saturday?
ED ORGERON: Got to give it to Billy Johnson. Billy Johnson has taken our guys and really has increased our pass-rush knowledge. I think Coach Johnson, you can see the difference in Coach Johnson’s techniques time and time again. I give him the credit.
Q. You touched on recruiting earlier. There have been times over the years some coaches have grumbled about how this game makes it hard. Recruiting, early signing period, even more crucial. Does it make it difficult? Talk about where it falls on the calendar in such a crucial time for recruiting?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, it’s crunch time. Obviously I’m glad we did a lot of work ahead of time. We’ve had a majority of our guys that have signed that have already visited, which helps us. Now, we will not be in many home visits, maybe one or two home visits, if we have to this week.
I just made my schedule for next week. I’m going to see 20 players. That’s in one week. It does put a little crunch on you. We got to get it done. But it’s a good problem to have.
Q. Are you confident that no matter what happens Saturday that you are in the playoff?
ED ORGERON: No. Not even thinking about it. Uh-huh. I’m not buying into that at all. We got to win. I don’t know if we got to win to get in the playoffs or not. I’m not even talking about that. Our goal is to beat Georgia and win the SEC, then let’s see what happens.
Coming in to play, we’re not talking about that. We’re not even considering it right now.
Q. Burrow said after the game one of the things about this team is he wasn’t a starter for three years at Ohio State, Clyde was too short, he mentioned that you were fired. Did you bring up your story to your team for motivation at one point?
ED ORGERON: I think they know it. I think a lot of you have written about it a lot. I think it’s very well-documented.
No, but I think the guys read that. We don’t talk about that. You know what, he mentioned that. He mentioned that to someone. I think it brings up a good point. It doesn’t matter.
I remember being with Sean Payton. It was my first NFL meeting. I had been to college for a while. I was a little nervous being in that meeting. I didn’t know what to expect, coaching NFL players.
This is what Shane Peyton said: It doesn’t matter how you got here, you here, now make the best of it.
I think that’s what these players are doing and that’s what I do.
Q. Clyde, a lot of people didn’t think he was going to beat out the two freshmen that came in. Did anybody on the staff think that, too?
ED ORGERON: I don’t think that. I think nobody thought that he’d have the great year that he’s had. I thought he’d be a good back, no question about that. But I think he’s exceeded all of our expectations except Clyde’s expectations. That’s a credit to him, to Tommie Robinson, but mostly to Clyde.
Q. You talked yesterday about how you’ve scaled back on practice the last couple of weeks, preparing for a long season. Seems like from the beginning in the pre-season you made steps with running backs, taking time. Throughout your years in coaching, what things did you pick up to know how to organize practice throughout the season?
ED ORGERON: I really followed, when I went to the NFL, one year to see how they practiced with a limited roster. When I took over the roster at USC, we had a roster similar to the NFL because of the sanctions. So I practiced the same way. I’ve kept that.
As the season has gone on here, Tommy Moffitt and Jack (Marucci), they measure how fast our guys are playing. When we’re starting to slow down, they tell me when we’re slowing down. I start to come back on practice. It may be a drill or so, may be a couple of minutes. But every week we scale back on practice.
We’ve had five groups playing at 20 miles an hour, which is the highest we played all season last year. Those methods work. They give me the information. I make the decision how much we scale back, and it’s worked for us.
Q. Is that something new this year that you’ve learned through your time here?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, I think it’s been like that for three years, but I’ve scaled back more this year than we ever have, especially the hitting.
Q. What are some of the specifics that you saw on tape that changed defensively from this game to the previous one’s trends, plays you saw corrected as opposed to breakdowns?
ED ORGERON: Last game?
ED ORGERON: I think pressure on the quarterback. Obviously we had some four-man rushing, no disguises. They did a good job of disguising everything. Rashad Lawrence had his best game. We didn’t let Kellen Mond set his feet. No time when he could set his feet.
We were playing a lot of man coverage, a lot of match coverage. Our guys were all over their DBs into contested roles. Starting fast, seven times we made them punt. Made a difference in the ballgame. I think it was all about the pressure on the quarterback.
Q. Being a native son, I’m sure you have a special appreciation for what this game means to people here. What have you sensed from the fans that it means going back to Atlanta?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, they’re fired up obviously. That’s what they want. LSU wants a winner. Being in the SEC Championship means a lot. This is my first one. A lot of people have been telling me about it. I’m sure it’s going to be a great game.
Know what? Today is Tell the Truth Monday. We’re going to take it one day at a time. This is not too big for our football team. Our team can handle this. Our coaching staff can handle this. It’s going to be about beating Georgia. We’re not going to let all the stuff outside make it too big of a game than it already is.
Q. Burrow’s impact both in the short and long-term on this program, how do you see that?
ED ORGERON: I do believe, and I said it before, he’s one of the most important recruits in LSU history in my mind. I’m not one to say that. There have been other guys great here, Kevin Faulk, Bert Jones. I’m just saying he’s one of the most important.
The reason why? He was able to change LSU’s offense from a pro-style offense to a spread. Hopefully it’s here to stay.
I think the things that he’s done, not to say that we couldn’t do it with another quarterback, but he was the perfect quarterback at the perfect time for us to get in the spread offense.
Q. You mentioned Fromm, your respect for him. I’m interested what in particular you like about him, but also why do you think he’s been under 50% in each of his last four games completion-wise?
ED ORGERON: I don’t know that much about him. I watched three or four games. What I’m saying is, we’re not done in evaluating. Going to take the whole week. I can’t tell you why he’s throwing under 50% yet. I can’t tell you that.
I will tell you this: he’s a winner, a fantastic young man, he’s a leader. They believe in him at Georgia. He’s won a lot of games. That tells you a lot about a quarterback.
Q. There’s so much talk about the College Football Playoff obviously, where the top four, six teams stand. The way this season has gone, how has that best served your team for the road ahead, not just this weekend but the possibility of playing in the final four later this month?
ED ORGERON: We don’t talk about it. That has not been talked about yet in our meeting. Now, do I read it? Do I know about it? Yes. See it on TV, all that.
We control our own destiny. We have to win every game to get to where we want to go. So far we’ve done that. The next step is beating Georgia, which is a mighty, mighty big task, as we know.
Now, whatever happens in this game, hopefully it’s a win. After the win, we’re going to look at where they tell us to go. Whatever it may be, we’re going to prepare for the next game. We will go after it. If there’s a next game, we’re going to prepare for the next one, we’ll go after it. That’s been our mindset the whole season.
Q. How do you prepare for a Georgia receiving corps as a secondary without its two top receivers at least for the first half?
ED ORGERON: Obviously they’ve recruited very well. Just like us, we talk about next man up. I’m sure they have some guys chomping at the bit to play in a big game like this. They’re very well-coached. They’ll play well.
We’re looking at projected starters. We’ll look at the game they play. We’ll evaluate them just like everybody else.
Q. How much easier after 12 games is recruiting players on offense when they’ve seen it as opposed to in the off-season selling an idea to them?
ED ORGERON: It’s pretty good. Really especially the quarterback position. We were able to attract some of the top quarterbacks in the country right now that are really interested.
Tight ends, I don’t have to tell them that we are going to throw the ball. They see it. We’re going to throw the football.
Obviously receivers, we’re getting a lot of attention from receivers all over the country. Top running backs.
It’s just made a world of difference to see it on TV. Every time you turn on the TV, they’re talking about LSU’s offense. That has helped.
Q. You said before you think Joe Burrow won over the team at last year’s Georgia game. What was it about that game that you think did that?
ED ORGERON: To be a quarterback with stature at LSU, in my opinion, my opinion only, you have to win a big game. That was a big game. I think they were the No. 2 team in the country. He proved that he could win that game. Obviously he beat Alabama this year. He’s been backing up what he’s been saying.
Q. Earlier this year you said these are the three things I really do well: recruit, motivate, defensive line. Is it part of the evolution of a coach to put your ego in check and realize you can’t do it all, you have to delegate?
ED ORGERON: When you get your first job, you want everything to be right, you want everything to be perfect. I couldn’t sleep at Ole Miss. I couldn’t go home. I didn’t want to let the job alone. You can’t do it. No way.
You look at other people, they end up doing like we did it over here. That doesn’t work. I realized that I got to be able to be the CEO, organize everything, be the boss, hold everybody accountable, but also do my part, then let them do their job.
I want to work in an atmosphere that everybody wants to come to work, that everybody wants to have a chance to be successful. I think we’ve done that.
Q. You’ve coached this year against Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher, won both of those games. Didn’t beat your chest about that. In years past, do you think you would have been a little more about that?
ED ORGERON: Probably so (laughter).
Q. You talk about Coach Peyton. In the past he’s always talked about when assistant coaches of his have been wanted by other teams, that means they’re doing something right. You have a hot coach right now. This week is SEC Championship game, but in between that happen and the recruiting, is there a time when you’re going to sit down with Coach Brady and map out what the future looks like for him at LSU since there are a lot of programs wanting to speak with him?
ED ORGERON: We’re a step ahead. I think we’re in good shape. You want that with a lot of your assistants. You want them to have a lot of success, go on. But we’re going to compete. We have a plan in place. I think we’re in good shape.
Q. In the binder you put together when you got this job, at what year did it say that you would be in the SEC Championship game? Are you ahead of schedule, behind schedule, right on schedule?
ED ORGERON: First of all, I got to be honest, Derek (Ponamsky) and Austin (Thomas) made that binder. I don’t know what the hell was in there, man (laughter). But it looked good, I tell you that.
But I do believe any coach at LSU, the third year is a big year. We knew that. I didn’t know we were going to go to the SEC Championship, but I know after the third year, you got to prove where your program’s going.
I think I told you that at the beginning of this year, this team could do it.
Q. Best Tell the Truth Monday right there.
ED ORGERON: Right.
Q. Are you fearful that Georgia’s best game isn’t on tape yet? They’ve been relying on their defense to stay and win games.
ED ORGERON: Sure. They’re going to play their best, man. This is their third time here in a row. They’re going to be hungry. They’re well-coached. We beat them last year, so they have a little chip on their shoulder. Know what I’m saying?
We got to let last year go. Last year is different. We played them at home, we played them over there. Whole different time, whole different circumstance.
What I am confident in our football team, they’re very confident in their abilities, very confident in their abilities to adjust during the game. I think we have an excellent coaching staff that people can throw whatever they want after us. We’re going to have answers and players that can do it.
Again, it’s going to come down to blocking, tackling, taking care of the ball.
Q. How much have the games you played this year, the big wins you have had, especially on the road, give you confidence for this game?
ED ORGERON: A lot. A lot. You’re going to face adversity on the road. The crowd is going to be in it. It’s going to be hard to hear the snap count. Have to go to the silent count, whatever that may be. We are going to have to stick together as a team. I think our team has shown they can do that. It helped that we went on the road and made some big plays at some critical times.
I do believe that we have some players like Joe Burrow, he’s great under pressure, he wants the pressure. We got some receivers that feel like they can make the play under pressure. We should be in good shape.
Q. The last recent games with Ja’Marr Chase, have you seen a wide receiver do that much production in that amount of time?
ED ORGERON: No, I’ll be honest with you. He’s been phenomenal. So has Terrace. If he wouldn’t have gotten hurt, would be the same.
Ja’Marr is a special talent. Not only is he fast, but he’s very strong. I was talking to somebody today, he’s very, very competitive. One-on-one, he loves to win the one-on-one matchup. He’s physical. He works hard. He catches everything. He’s got big hands, a route runner. I think he’s a phenomenal player.
Q. You mentioned the one-on-ones. What about him fundamentally allows him to get so open?
ED ORGERON: Strong. He’s so strong with his hands. Tommy Moffitt told me this summer you can put as much weight in the weight room, he’s going to move it. He is very strong, very talented.
Q. Georgia’s defense is holding teams to just 71 rushing yards per game. What have you seen on tape from their defensive line?
ED ORGERON: I watched them a lot. I recruited every one of those guys. First of all, they’re NFL players. They play with a low pad level. They play a 3-4. They play very, very good technique when they play the 3-4. They play the 4-3. They bring that No. 99 in that weighs about 330 pounds. I’m sure that’s a light day for him. He knocks everybody back, lets though linebackers run.
The thing when you watch the Georgia Bulldogs, ever since I’ve been watching football, they get 11 helmets to the football. They fly to the football. They tackle well in space. They’re very physical.
Q. You are given a lot of credit for changing the offense, having the guts to change the offense like you did. What was it that made you change? You realized you can’t score 30 points a game and win national championships?
ED ORGERON: I wanted to go to spread. I was going to hire Lane. Obviously he got a head job, so that didn’t work, that year didn’t work. Obviously it was nothing that I wanted obviously. I just wanted to take Coach Ensminger, I knew he could average 30 points.
When we didn’t score any points against Alabama that year, after the game I talked to him, said, We got to go to spread. Let’s talk about it after the season.
He and I talked about it. He totally agreed with it.
Here is what I asked him. Listen, we’re going to bring in somebody, are you willing to put in the spread and listen to let him teach us the spread?
He goes, Yes, I am.
Steve Ensminger wants the best at LSU. I think he’ll go down as one of the best team members of a team that you can ever ask for.
We did it. They did it. We found Joe. We knew some people that knew Joe. Kevin knew Joe, Pete Carmichael, Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis. Everybody recommended him and said this is an up-and-coming star. Greg McMahon helped me with that. Lo and behold, it happened.
Q. You mentioned Joe Burrow playing under pressure earlier, kind of rises to the moment. You coached a ton of great players in your career. Is that something that some guys just naturally have? How does that come about?
ED ORGERON: Joe has the ‘it’ factor. He has it. He walks on the field, he has it. He wants the ball in his hand. He wants to make the play. I think that’s a combination of smarts, it’s a combination of grit, it’s a combination of being prepared, being an excellent athlete. That guy can move with his feet. We don’t even use him half as much as we can running the football.
I think all those combined. Joe is very confident, he’s very smart, he knows the offense, he calls the protections. He’s smart enough he can call the plays. He has a great relationship with his receivers. They can break routes, they can break plays.
All those things combined, it’s like playing in the backyard to him. Just like when we split backyards as kids, he has confidence he can make a play.
Q. You mentioned the demeanor of this team. Saturday you talked about no drama on this club. Is this as close to a professional style football team that you’ve been a part of?
ED ORGERON: It’s close. It’s what we wanted. Guys taking care of their business, guys coming to work early, doing their work, practicing hard, going home, resting. I mean, I couldn’t ask for more from leadership, I couldn’t ask more of a leadership team than we have right now.
Thank you, guys. Geaux Tigers.