LSU focuses on ‘next game up’ rather than bigger titles
Top-ranked LSU can wrap up the SEC West Division title Saturday night when it meets Arkansas in Tiger Stadium, but that’s not at the forefront of Tigers coach Ed Orgeron’s mind.
“We don’t talk about it,” Orgeron said Monday at his weekly news conference. “It’s the next game up. We’ll assess where we (are) at the end of the season.”
The Tigers’ 58-37 victory at Ole Miss last Saturday put LSU’s magic number at one to wrap up a spot in the Dec. 7 SEC Championship Game against Georgia.
In the wake of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury at Mississippi State on Saturday, Orgeron said he is conscious of trying to get quarterback Joe Burrow and other key players out of blowout games.
“If we had gotten up one more touchdown, we were gonna pull Joe (early in the third quarter),” Orgeron said of the Ole Miss game. “As soon as I can pull Joe and put Myles in, I’m going to do it.
“If we get into the game and we’re winning by a certain amount, I’m taking guys out. It’s hard to take guys out before the first half (ends).”
Then, there is the situation of players like Grant Delpit, who has been less than 100 percent going into the last two Saturdays.
“It’s tough,” Orgeron said. “I don’t know if many players would have played against Alabama. Not getting reps (in practice) hurts sometimes. We’re gonna give him a couple days off this week.”
On the heels of a less-than-stellar defensive effort against Ole Miss, Orgeron said he gauged his team after the game.
“I knew they were a little disappointed,” he said. “I didn’t think we had a hangover (from the Alabama game). I wanted to give this team confidence (postgame).”
Now, it’s “Tell the Truth Monday” inside the LSU football operations center.
“The first thing I do is look at myself,” Orgeron said. “I look at the way we practiced last week. I look at coaches. I want to make sure as leaders of the program, we’re giving (the players) the right thing at the right time.“
Quarterback Joe Burrow not only continues to grow as a Heisman Trophy favorite, but as a possible No. 1 pick in next April’s NFL Draft.
“I haven’t talked to anybody personally,” Orgeron said of the draft prospects. “I’m hearing the same thing you guys are hearing. I do believe he is going to be a high draft pick if things go right.”
LSU wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson were named semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Trophy on Monday. Chase was also named the SEC offensive player of the week on the heels of an eight-catch, 227-yard, three-touchdown performance at Ole Miss.
Orgeron recalled watching Chase at a camp at LSU, prior to the former Archbishop Rummel product flipping to the Tigers.
“He ran a ‘sluggo’ against one of the top defensive backs we were recruiting,” Orgeron said, “but he won, clearly. He was committed to Florida at that time. Ja’Marr has great speed, great hands but he’s unusually strong for a wide receiver.”
Orgeron has twice been an interim coach, at USC and LSU. Arkansas fired Chad Morris eight days ago and replaced him with interim coach Barry Lunney Jr., who will make his head-coaching debut Saturday after the Razorbacks (2-8) had an open date this week.
“I think the team gets juice (from a coaching change),” Orgeron said. “You try to change things up, flip the script.
As for the coaching staff, he added, “I fed my guys cookies. They ate 500 cookies the first day.”
LSU and Arkansas will kick off just after 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN.
LSU COACH ED ORGERON PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT – Arkansas game week
BATON ROUGE – LSU’s Ed Orgeron met with members of the media on Monday as the Tiger head coach took a look back at the win over Ole Miss and then previewed Saturday’s game against Arkansas.
LSU hosts Arkansas at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Tiger Stadium. ESPN will televise the contest. A limited number of tickets remain and they can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net.
Here’s the full transcript of Orgeron’s press conference:
“Welcome, everybody. Tell the Truth Monday, 10-0. Told the team after our victory, I was elated after the victory. I was proud of them. They were a little disappointed in their play, in some areas. But I told them, listen, the object was to win the football game and we did.
Anything that goes wrong, put it on my shoulders. We’re going to get some things fixed this week. We got a lot of things to get fixed, which will be good.
A couple things we did, 58 points, over 700 yards of offense. I thought the MVP of the game was Coach Cregg and the offensive line. Badara Traore and Adrian Magee at tackle played well. Did they play great? No, they made mistakes, a couple of them. For us to have 700 some yards, I thought those guys did very well, next man up. Very proud of those guys.
On defense, we got to coach them better. Starts with me. We have to put them in better positions. They gave us some schemes, some problems that we had to work on hard yesterday to get some answers for. Our players are going to get that today.
Number one, starts with me coaching them better. Number two, we have to make plays when we get in space, make tackles. Excellent quarterback, they had a good scheme. I know we’re going to get it fixed. The men in our room are going to be fine. I believe in Dave Aranda, our coaching staff and our players. We’re going to have a great defense, I know that.
Special teams, very pleased with our special teams. Seven-of-seven PATs, three field goals, kickoffs eight, touchbacks, two fair catches, two big-time recoveries there. We didn’t even get the punt, how about that? Outstanding deal on special teams.
On to Arkansas. A place that I’m very grateful for. Spent two years up there in 1986 as an assistant strength coach, and then I was a graduate assistant on the football field. I learned a lot of stuff from Coach Hatfield, Coach Fred Goldsmith up there. Those guys are phenomenal. I really enjoyed my time up there. A lot of respect for that university, what they did for me early in my career.
A little bit about Arkansas. Obviously they’re going to be fired up. Interim coach, they had an open date, obviously he’s changed things around. He’s going to rally the troops. They going to come out and give their best effort. We know they will.
On offense they’re spread, a lot of similar plays, quarterback runs that we just saw at Ole Miss. K.J. Jefferson, their quarterback, No. 11, dual-threat quarterback, solid runner. Rakeem Boyd is one of the best running backs, as we all know. Faced him last year. Treylon Burks, a guy I personally tried to recruit. Big, athletic receiver.
On defense, a couple guys that we know well. McTelvin Agim, I call him Sosa, is their best lineman. Six sacks, very fast. I think he ran a 4:6 40 when we recruited him.
Scooter is a middle linebacker, doing very well. One of the top linebackers in the SEC. A lot of guys from Louisiana on that team. They’re 4-3, I know they want to do very well.
Treylon Burks is one of their top special teams guys.
Tell the Truth Monday, I can’t wait to see our team today. We’re excited to put this last game to bed, press on to Arkansas. I’m excited that we’re at home for our last two games. I know we’re going to have a great crowd.
Q. After the game, I think a lot of us were expecting you to be angry about the defensive performance. Right away you were talking about the positives. Why is it important to keep everything in perspective, weigh where you are?
ED ORGERON: I try to see the feeling of the football team. I knew they were a little disappointed. I think that would have just added fuel to the fire. I thought they needed to be picked up a little bit. To compliment them on a win, not take for granted winning.
We’ve been on some teams, no matter whether they’ve not played so well, might not have played so well, had a hangover. I don’t think we had a hangover. Played well in the first half. They made some plays. I wanted to give them confidence, how much I believe in them.
Q. You’re playing for your first championship, so to speak, the SEC West. Is that brought up to the team this week, talked about?
ED ORGERON: No. Obviously it’s something when you come to LSU that you want to do. Our players want to do it. We don’t talk about it, we really don’t.
The next game up. We said we’re going to look at where we’re at at the end of the season. We want to win every game, that’s one of the things we did want to do. Arkansas is our next game. This is game number 11. Our goal is to beat Arkansas.
Q. Grant, how close is he to healthy right now?
ED ORGERON: It’s tough when he doesn’t practice all week. I don’t know if any players would have played against Alabama, Grant wanted to play. I thought he did well.
Obviously that ankle is very sore, not getting reps hurts sometimes. Making tackles in open space hurts sometimes because he can’t bend or run like he wants to. We’re going to give him a couple days off this week and hopefully he can get healthy for this weekend.
Q. Is there any possibility that you would rest Delpit for a game and hope that he could improve with some added rest? Exactly what do you think you can do defensively to remedy whatever you think the issues are?
ED ORGERON: First of all, with Grant, I rely totally on Jack Marucci. I think he’s the best in the business. Gives me a report every day. I let the coaches coach, doctors be doctors. He tells me what they can do. Coach, he needs a rest, I’m going to rest him. Coach, he’s going to play, he needs to play, we’re going to play him and I’m going to talk to Grant.
I talk to the trainer, then I talk to the player. I said, The trainer says you can go, can you go? Yes.
If Grant needs rest this weekend, we’ll give him rest.
We need to fix our run fits. There were a couple of runs that gave us some problems. I for one called the run stop on that first long run in the second half that didn’t work. We’re trying to be a little too aggressive. There was a new run play, an arc read on the four technique that they showed, creating lot of space, gave us some problems. Had a couple guys out of position. We need to fix our positions on those plays.
I think all those things that happened on Saturday we’ll attribute to, number one, putting them in better position, and number two, making plays when they’re in that position. I think all those things can be fixed.
Q. Ja’Marr is the offensive Player of the Week. What did you see from him when you were recruiting him from high school? How much has he grown since arriving?
ED ORGERON: I remember his camp, going into his senior year. I was standing near his father, summer camp. He ran a slug or a slant and a go against one of the top defensive backs that we were recruiting. He won clearly. I told his dad, I said, I don’t know if Ja’Marr knows it, but Ja’Marr is coming to LSU. He was committed to Florida at that time.
One of the things, Ja’Marr has great speed, great hands, but he’s unusually strong for a wide receiver and competitive. I think that’s what makes him great.
Q. You said Saturday night after the game you didn’t want to be too hard on everybody. Today is Tell the Truth Monday. What is your message to your defense, if you want to achieve?
ED ORGERON: First thing I do is look at myself. I coached the defensive line with those guys, too. I look at the way we went in practice last week. I look at what we showed them in practice, what we didn’t show them in practice. I look at coaches, what we can get better at.
Hey, yesterday we spent three hours on maybe four plays. What do we need to do to put our guys in better position? I want to make sure as the leaders of the program we’re giving them the right thing at the right time to do.
We’re going to give them that today and we’re going to put them in great position. Obviously they’re going to have to make the plays. I think it’s a combination of both. But I’m never going to put it on the players. I’m going to put it on me first.
Q. I know focus is on winning right now, the team. Joe is getting a lot of draft buzz, a lot of people are slotting him pretty high. What have you heard on his draft stock, how it’s risen?
ED ORGERON: I haven’t talked to anybody personally. I guess Derek informs me of the scoop out there, so he’s my scoop guy. I’m hearing the same thing y’all are hearing. He’s going to be a high draft pick, and I hope he is.
Obviously he’s mad that he threw two interceptions, so he won’t want to talk about that, he’s that much of a competitor. I do believe he is going to be a high draft pick if things go right. I think he’s going to have a great career in the NFL. Whoever gets him is going to get a tremendous quarterback.
Q. (Question about Kary Vincent.)
ED ORGERON: I think we spot played him. Sort of spots we needed him to play, we were very thin back there. Cary wanted to play. That was a big interception.
Q. As this season has built, four top 10 wins, what is the craziest thing that’s happened to you and Kelly off the field with people that maybe wouldn’t happen, not in Louisiana?
ED ORGERON: Me and Kelly?
Q. Or you being out in the public.
ED ORGERON: First of all, since August, I haven’t been out in the public (laughter). Other than the radio show. I think after the Alabama game, to see the joy in the people’s faces in Louisiana, I think there was 30 kids in our driveway.I remember as a kid watching LSU play, what it meant to me. Just to see the joy in those kids’ faces, I think that’s the biggest thing.
Q. 30 kids from the neighborhood?
ED ORGERON: Yeah. Then Colton. Colton coming on over. Believe it or not, Colton FaceTimes Kelly every day. Whaddup? He’s talking to her. Those are off-the-field things that happened.
Q. Ja’Marr got SEC Player of the Week. Him and Justin Jefferson are semifinalists for Biletnikoff Award. What does that show about the successes the offense has had this year?
ED ORGERON: It makes the decision to go to the spread the right one, I guarantee you that (laughter). It goes to show you that Steve and Joe have done a tremendous job of putting the ball in our play-makers’ hands in space. Two outstanding men from the state of Louisiana. We want to recruit the best players in the state of Louisiana, along with Terrace Marshall, three outstanding players.
Goes to show the work that they did this summer, catching 10,000 balls, the competitive nature they had. I think the best thing I can say about this group is their character and their closeness, they pull for each other.
Q. Up the middle, your quarterback to running back, those guys are the leaders of the offense. On the defensive side, watching Devin White yesterday against the Saints, you have not really had leaders emerge like you want to see? A lot of the good players are quiet.
ED ORGERON: I can’t say that. I do believe that we’re getting good leadership from K’Lavon Chaisson, Rashard Lawrence. Besides last game, I thought Patrick Queen, I didn’t say he’s not playing well last game, but he’s been playing pretty good. Him and Jacob, pleased with those guys.
I think their scheme got us a little bit. I don’t want to get down on our players. We’re 10-0. We have a chance to have a great season. I know these guys are going to answer the bell. I think we’re going to finish the season strong.
Q. Being several different places, obviously taking over a winning program here, but having to make changes to get back to No. 1, do you feel like there is a minimum amount of time a coach needs to put a fingerprint on a program?
ED ORGERON: You bring up a very good point. I do believe it’s a matter of getting the right staff and the right players. Maybe some guys can get that in the first year. I don’t know. I don’t know that. Maybe it’s been done, maybe it hasn’t. I know for me it took me three years to get it, through trial and error.
I do believe that getting Joe Burrow as a graduate transfer made a difference in us last year. As you see things develop, I got a little hole here, got to add a piece there, there.
It seems like this year it’s come all together. It has taken us three years. Yes, it is a process. Maybe that’s too long. Maybe that’s a short time. I don’t know that.
But I always knew at LSU you have to win. I know the expectations at LSU is you have to win. My goal has always been to win at LSU.
Q. You sustained some injuries early in the year in the secondary, some transfers. How much does that play into how you can use your depth when some guys are banged up?
ED ORGERON: Plays a lot when you see Cordale Flott, a freshman corner, playing safety, never played that position before, not much anyway. We have to move corners to safety positions. We can’t be as multiple as we want to be.
We even thought about moving a couple receivers over to safety. I asked them, they obviously wanted to stay at wide receiver positions.
Q. Who were some of those wide receivers?
ED ORGERON: I’m not going to say that. I asked a couple of them. It wasn’t number one, I promise you that (laughter).
Q. The hit on Joe out of bounds on the Ole Miss sidelines, should there be more there, a potential for targeting or should be reviewed? Could be a dangerous play getting hit helmet to helmet on the field.
ED ORGERON: I agree with you. I think he should have pulled off. I’m sure Coach Luke is not pleased with the guy. I watched it again this morning. Senseless to do that. Maybe there should be a stiffer penalty, you’re right.
Q. Your players come out here on Saturdays throughout the summer working together. How much after all of that did you see when you got here during pre-season practice?
ED ORGERON: I felt coming off the field at camp, watching the offense practice, going, Wow, wow. Execution, wow. Every day. The thing I noticed was not a lot of balls on the ground. Last year we missed too many balls. We dropped too many passes. This year, we can go through a practice where maybe one ball is on the ground.
The precision with which the balls are thrown, the catches, just seemed like everything started flowing. It’s because of that work this summer.
Q. I was visiting with Clyde’s high school coach last week. He said it’s a coach’s dream when your most talented players are the most unselfish. Sometimes talented players are all about themselves. He said looking at your team…
ED ORGERON: That’s a big compliment coming from coach. As far as Clyde, he’s very unselfish. He blocks, gets to the ball, you see. Whatever he needs to do. This summer he was teaching those young running backs when the coach wasn’t there. He’s teaching them, coaching them. He’s a team player through and through.
I think he and Joe have taken on a leadership role on this football team, which is phenomenal. I think you look at all our players, they’re unselfish. Like today on Monday, we don’t have an MVP. We don’t mention players of the week in the SEC. That has never been mentioned. It’s all about the team. I know those guys have bought into it.
Q. You referenced being an interim coach at one time. Does a team automatically get a lift from a coaching change? Given what happened at Alabama, maybe the quality of opposition this week, do you have a mindset of protect your injured players, get your starters out because of what you got ahead?
ED ORGERON: Always, always, no question. We’re going to go into this game expecting a battle. But if we get into the game and we are winning by a certain amount, I’m taking guys out, I’m taking guys out as soon as I can.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to take Tua out. It’s hard to take guys out before the first half. Teams can come back, especially in the SEC, you know what I’m saying?
Q. As interim coach, how much does a team get a lift?
ED ORGERON: I think they get juice. Every time I’ve been an interim coach, the next week we came out on fire. But you try to change things up, you try to flip the script, get your coaches home early. I fed them cookies. I think they ate 500 cookies the first day. Everybody was happy (laughter).
Q. I noticed this week when Clyde runs the ball, the shield that he’s built with his strength and conditioning, the toughness he exudes. You also have that in Joe. Is that something they work hard for, they have want it for themselves?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, I think it comes to a point where you could teach and train and coach, but when it comes from within. We all heard Ray Lewis’ talk: Effort is between you and you. I think that becomes the point with those guys. Effort is between you and you. As you get out on that field, we can put you out there, but as hard as you want to go, as tough as you want to be, that’s up to you.
Q. With potentially so much down the road this season, y’all have already beat a bunch of ranked team, when you’re playing teams that have losing records, is that a motivational job you have to make sure you do?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, no question. I have to make sure that we’re practicing well. I think we practiced well last week, except on Tuesday. We were not prepared. I didn’t think it was going to get that cold. That wind started blowing. We didn’t have as sharp a practice as we wanted to. Wednesday we did.
I have to make sure we have great practices this week. I know our defense is going to be motivated. Our offense is going to be motivated. I talked to Coach Ensminger, thought we were sloppy at things, the interceptions, turnovers. There’s a lot of things we can get better at.
This is a highly motivated staff, a highly motivated team.
Q. I know when you got here, you talked about having to change some things internally to get where you are. Can you give us an example or two of some of the things you felt you had to do to make the program elite again?
ED ORGERON: In order to be the leader, you have to do the things that you believe in, not what somebody else does. I can’t do what somebody else did. That’s not me.
I wanted us to be one team, one heartbeat. I didn’t want this to be a team of individuals, guys want to make All-American, be first-round draft choices. I wanted us to be a team that played for each other, a team that fought for each other.
I wanted to be a coach that coached from within, not above. I wanted everybody to have the same role. Everybody’s role from the manager to the head coach is equal. We all have to do our jobs in order for this to have success.
I wanted this place to be a place you want to come to work. I think we’ve all had jobs where you want to come to work. You get up, you listen to different music, you get there early, you work, you’re more productive. We’ve all been at jobs where you hit the snooze button. Work starts at 8, you show up at 7:59, punch the clock, can’t wait for the bell to ring at 3:00. I didn’t want that to be this type of job.
I think the atmosphere within the building, people are happy. I’m not saying it wasn’t before. I enjoyed working for Coach Miles. I wanted it to be an atmosphere that everybody was pulling on the same side of the rope, everybody had the same type of role and everybody wanted to be together.
Now, obviously get great players and get great coaches.
Q. We’ve heard stories from the players talking about Clyde on the sideline wanting the ball. In what ways have you seen him take command of that position?
ED ORGERON: Obviously he leads by example. I don’t think Clyde has missed many days of practice. Clyde, when he walks in the room, he always has a presence about himself, he’s always smiling. I’ve never seen him have a bad day yet. I see him encouraging everybody.
I think he and Joe, like I said before, have a special relationship. I know he’s worked on catching the ball, learning this offense. I think he’s become a complete, all-around back by his work ethic.
Thank you, guys.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…