Lunch with Coach O: Alabama Preview

Lunch with Coach O: Alabama Preview
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and quarterback Max Johnson (No. 14) during the second half of a game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 31, 2020 in Auburn, Alabama. (Source: Gus Stark/Gus Stark / LSU Athletics)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - LSU head coach Ed Orgeron held his weekly interview session Monday via Zoom with sports journalists to discuss the upcoming game against Alabama in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 14.

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LSU-Alabama is usually a big matchup and it has added significance with the Crimson Tide entering the contest just moving up to the No. 1 ranking in college football.

Orgeron said he talked to Koy Moore and mother Monday morning about the situation. He also thanked Chief Murphy Paul for swift action.

Lunch with Coach O: LSU vs Alabama Preview (Full Interview)

Coach O also confirmed LSU is dealing with COVID-19 positive cases and contact tracing. He said some players have tested positive and are in quarantine but he could not get into specifics. He said he will let the doctors handle it when asked about the possible cancellation of the game. He emphasized LSU is looking forward to playing Alabama.

Orgeron was asked whether both of LSU’s freshmen quarterbacks are available. He said he couldn’t comment on that and it’s a very fluid situation but he added the Tigers are “very thin at that position.”

Orgeron said quarterback Myles Brennan is out and won’t be ready for the game. There are ongoing discussions about the possibility of sitting him for the rest of the season and they will do what is best for the player.

Kickoff for No. 1 Alabama at LSU is scheduled for 5 p.m. It will be the only contest in the month of November that is played in Tiger Stadium. The game can be seen on WAFB.

LSU is 26-53-5 all-time against Alabama. In 2019, the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide, 46-41, in Tuscaloosa on their way to a 15-0 record and a national championship. LSU is 2-14-1 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the nation. LSU beat Florida, 28-21, in 1997 for its only win in Tiger Stadium over a No. 1-ranked team.


FULL TRANSCRIPTION FOR ORGERON INTERVIEW:

Q. I know you probably said all you can say about specifics with the quarantined players, but are there any starters that might be impacted about this? Any people that you’ll have to face on Alabama with this?

ED ORGERON: Oh, sure. Always. Yeah. The people that are quarantine and COVID, there’s always going to be starters. There’s starters among them.

Q. Are the numbers high enough to consider near the part where you’d appeal to the SEC for, I don’t know, postponement or anything like that?

ED ORGERON: You know, I’ll let the doctors and Scott Woodward handle all that stuff. Those things, those numbers and stuff are very fluid right now. Right now we’re planning on playing Alabama.

Q. Coach, usually this is the most exciting week of the year. Everyone is going to use their ticket. The restaurants and hotels are packed, and College Game Day is coming to town, and really there’s probably going to be very little of that this week. What are you going to be thinking when you run on to the field and there’s really nobody there.

ED ORGERON: Well, I’m going to be excited to play Alabama. I know that. And I know what this game means to the university, to our football team, to our alumni, the state of Louisiana. It’s our biggest rivalry. Great challenge. Obviously. Alabama is a great team. So we’re going to be fired up, ready to play.

Q. Hi, coach. Going back to Koy Moore really quick, I know you can’t say much, but he made a claim that as soon as BRPD found out that he was an LSU football player, they sort of just backed off. What do you have to say about that, if anything?

ED ORGERON: You know, I can’t comment on all that. I gotta let the investigation take its place.

Q. Coach, I’m just wondering, given the departures you guys have had to deal with, the NFL, the opt outs and COVID, have you ever experienced anything like this in terms of the challenge of roster management?

ED ORGERON: No. You know, at USC when I took over for Lane, we were on probation, and I think we had -- I don’t remember quite the number, but around 55. That’s where I learned how to practice like the NFL. So it worked well with us. I remember we beat Stanford, No. 4 team in the country, we only used 12 players on defense. So I’ve been through it a little bit like that. Not to an extent and as fluid as it is right now, because with the COVID and opting out you don’t know what’s going to happen on a day-to-day basis. Then we had a set number, so it wasn’t as fluid.

Q. Considering all of that and the difficulties there and where the team stands today not being where you guys want in win-loss record, is there anything more you think you could have done, anything you look back and say I could have challenged this to put the team in a better situation, or is it just, frankly, the situation?

ED ORGERON: No. Always. Always. I put it on myself. Always. We gotta play better defense. For the most part we’ve played good offensively, except against Auburn. We haven’t played good defense most of the year. We played good defense against Vanderbilt, but for the most part we haven’t, so I gotta take that upon myself.

Q. Obviously the bye week a couple of weeks ago kind of helped you guys get that extra time to prepare for South Carolina. I’m curious just on both sides of the ball how you guys feel like you maybe have addressed some problems from the Auburn game and kind of how you can move forward this week?

ED ORGERON: We worked very hard. We have a corrections period, that last week with about 20 plays and really worked hard to walk through and explain how we’re going to do things, how we’re going to play, especially on defense. Now, on offense we had a lot of mistakes, too. And today we have another corrections period. We’re going to keep on correcting the things that are on film, because we know we’re going to see them again.

Q. Two questions. I’m going to follow back to the first. What’s the plan with Myles today? I know you said last week he couldn’t finish a practice. How is he doing and what’s the plan for him today?

ED ORGERON: Myles is out. He’s out. He will not be ready for the game.

Q. And to follow up, is there any talk of just shutting him down for the entire season?

ED ORGERON: There’s some discussion of that. What’s best for Myles, the doctors and them are talking to right now see what’s the best for Myles. We’re going to do what’s the best for him, whether it’s getting it fixed, getting it operated now or wait. I think we’re still discussing that.

Q. Seems like you got a lot of things on your plate this week. Do you expect to have something finalized in time to get a game plan as far as numbers go and whether you can proceed, and how would you like to approach the quarterback position this week?

ED ORGERON: Well, it’s going to be challenging, obviously, with the guys that are out and the quarterbacks that we have. We may have to put someone else at quarterback just in case. We have a plan in place. I’m not going to say what we’re doing because it would give away our game plan. And we’re going to go ahead. When they tell me we’re at a certain number or something like that, we can play or we can’t play, I think that’s up to the league and Scott. I think by Wednesday, that should be solidified. But for right now we’re playing Alabama and we’re ready to go.

Q. Obviously I guess with the Koy Moore situation, I remember back in August or September you acknowledged it’s something you’re learning how to handle. I guess just how has the past two months, three months kind of taught you how to handle a situation like this with Koy?

ED ORGERON: Listen, to be open minded, to understand that there is some wrongdoings out there, social injustice and racism, and I’m totally against that and I came out and said it. I’ll support our players just like I support my sons. I was hurt. I was hurt to hear the things that went on. I’m not happy about it. But I know that Chief is going to do the proper investigation. I just want the right thing to happen. And from what he told me and stuff like that, I just felt bad, felt bad that it happened to one of our players.

Q. This Alabama football team in particular, a lot of comparisons to your offense last year. Do you see that, and how much does this offense at Alabama remind you of last year’s team offensively that you had?

ED ORGERON: A little different. But they’re putting up the same numbers. Great players. The quarterback is doing a great job. Got a great offensive coordinator. Great plan. They’re running the football well with Najee Harris, play action pass, the shots, the deep balls. It’s different from us. We’re more of a spread team last year. And they’re not as much of a spread team as we were last year. But very similar in the numbers and very effective.

Q. Is it just a case of let it rip, just go out and just, have fun?

ED ORGERON: Yeah. It’s about LSU, man. It’s always going to be about LSU. It’s not about our opponent. We got a lot of things we’re trying to get better, man. We’re trying to shore up stuff every day. Alabama is going to be a big challenge for us, but we’re going to be ready to play we’re going to be physically ready to play. We gotta match their physicality and it’s going to be a fun night. And, yeah, let 'er rip.

Q. Coach, you always try to -- you’re frank, but you always try to maintain the optimistic outlook. After last season, I know internally not everything goes right that we were privy to seeing, but it seemed like so many things went right for you last year. Is 2020 -- how have you maintained a positive outlook when seems like so many things have gone wrong or gone against you this year?

ED ORGERON: You know, I promised myself, Scott, when I got the job as head coach of Louisiana State University I wasn’t going to have a bad day. I’m going to come to work. I’m the head coach of LSU, man. That’s something I wanted to do all my life. No, things are going to happen. Adversity is going to hit, but I’m going to stay positive because I want my team to know we’re building a championship program. That’s what I come to work every day we do. We’re ranked number three or four in the country right now in recruiting. We’ll address some needs in recruiting. The recruits want to come here. We have some great young players and old players. We just haven’t put it all together yet, but I’m optimistic. We have five games left. I look forward to us playing great football.

Q. Coach, I know you mentioned last week how hard the offensive line took that Auburn performance. I guess just kind of how in the weeks since, how have you seen them kind of grow over this last year? How do you think you can get the run game going as well this weekend?

ED ORGERON: Well, we put in some different stuff, I think some stuff that’s going to help our guys, fit our players. I thought the offensive line had a great week of practice, great leadership. They were very physical in practice. We still got a ways to go in some things, and still have some things to shore up. I thought they took it upon themselves to be out there every day and work hard. We had some outstanding open day practices last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I mean Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Q. You mentioned recruiting there a second ago. Last year after that Alabama game you said that winning the game gave you all a big boost in recruiting. In the year since that game how much has the result from the last Alabama game and the things you’ve done since then helped you on the recruiting trail?

ED ORGERON: I think the overall year, that helped us, the overall year that we had was major in getting this recruiting class. They watched that championship team, how they worked and Alabama was a big game, no question. But there were other big games, too, National Championship and stuff like that. So I think the system. I think the players, I think the development of the players. You look at the NFL, our guys are having a lot of success. They’re playing very, very well. And some of those guys came here as three stars and developed here into great players. So I think our guys are seeing a combination of all that.

Q. I know you got a lot of struggles and challenges you’re facing right now and your record isn’t where you want it to be. Does that -- obviously you try to win every week. I’m not asking that, but do you go about it differently now? Do the way you approach it, does that change? Are you a little freer to maybe experiment more, try something you might not have if you were trying to win a title?

ED ORGERON: You know, it’s always about the LSU standard performance, and I’m into fundamentals stance alignment, assignment, and putting our players in the best position that we can. Look, we need to coach better. We need to play better. We know that. We got a lot of young guys out there playing for the first time. We got some new coaches on the coaching staff. We gotta gel together. But it’s up to me. I gotta put it all together. It hasn’t worked out yet like we want to, but we got a lot of football left.

Q. Coach, when were you informed of the COVID outbreak?

ED ORGERON: You know, it started last week, scooter. Last week we had I guess probably Tuesday or Wednesday, I was told of some guys that had COVID. And it’s not the COVID, now. We’re worried about the guys that are sick and their safety. There’s no question. But the numbers are high with the quarantine. And that’s where you get into some low numbers. You put the COVID plus the quarantine.

Q. So just to clarify, everybody that is quarantined has not tested positive or has?

ED ORGERON: You know, I’m not going to get into that, Scooter. You know what I’m saying? I’m not going to get into that. I’ll let the doctors get all that stuff, and I won’t comment on something I don’t know about.

Q. Coach, I want to try to pin you down on this. Are both of your freshman quarterbacks available to you?

ED ORGERON: I can’t comment on that right now. We have to see what happens. Like I said, this is a very fluid situation. But I will tell you that we’re very thin in that position.

Q. Okay. Thank you. And back to the recruiting topic, I mean obviously you had some big recruiting wins recently. Just walk us through what it’s like recruiting during a season where obviously the results on the field weren’t what you’re hoping, what that dynamic is like and how the wins can help momentum?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, the communication. I’ll give you an example, Bill Busch, tremendous job. Corey Raymond, Kevin Faulk Mickey Joseph, those guys -- Christian LaCouture -- are on the phone all the time with players all over the country, and those guys want to come to LSU. We’re hot right now on recruiting. They know the championship team we’re building, and they understand what we’re going through. Everybody goes through adversity. And they like our attitude. I think it comes down to relationships. And this is LSU, man. This is elite, one of the top schools in the country, and people want to be here.

Q. Coach, I apologize for asking another quarterback-related question, but you alluded to the fact that you said you may have to play other guys there. Could you potentially shed some light on who that be, maybe something like Von Rosenberg with a baseball background or would you care --

ED ORGERON: (Laughs). He played. He played quarterback last week, did a good job. But, no, Zach is our punter, but he filled in, did some scout team quarterback for us. But, you know, we’re very thin there, and if I tell you who we’re going to move there and stuff like that, it would give away a game plan. I can’t do it.

Q. You’ve talked about this game in the past, about how important this is. I mean obviously the circumstances are so different. I mean, in a year like this, how will you and the program and everybody kind of see this game in its context after this regardless of the outcome?

ED ORGERON: Gotta fight. Gotta fight like Tigers. We’re going to put 11 men on the field and we’ll fight like Tigers. We’re playing. This is LSU-Alabama. We ain’t blinking. We’re going after it.

Q. It seems like the defense hasn’t had any problems getting pressure on the quarterbacks in previous games. But it has had some issue on outside runs and end-arounds. Have you guys had a chance to go back and look at film and look at that during the bye week?

ED ORGERON: You know, we went back and looked at all the explosive plays, explosive pass plays, 15 yards or more, explosive runs 15 yards or more. I watched every one of them with the defensive staff. We knew the problem, but I want to come up with a solution. One of the solutions is setting the edge better. We’re not setting the edge better by defense, whether it be force or whether it be a defensive end. We worked on that hard on the off week. I think we got some things solidified. We still got a ways to go with others.

Q. Coach, if I could, their quarterback, Mac, and the way he’s playing, they’re saying he throws a deep ball, even better than Tua did, and some people are mentioning him in the Heisman Trophy discussion, the way he’s playing in the offense.

ED ORGERON: I can see that. The guy is having a tremendous year. Somebody asked me to compare him to Joe Burrow, and he may be. I don’t know. Hopefully for him that he has a great career. I don’t know him as well as Joe. You know, Joe brought a lot of intangibles to us. I’m sure the guy is doing the same thing. And I wish him the best. I think he’s a great young man. He has a great coach in Coach Sarkisian, not the best against us, obviously, but it’s always good to see guys doing well, and the guy is having a great year.

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