ED ORGERON: We're very honored to be playing in the National Championship football game and very honored to have it in New Orleans, our great home state of Louisiana. A lot of respect for Coach Dabo Swinney and the job that he's done with a phenomenal football team. He's got some great players on there. Those guys have established a winning championship football team at Clemson. This is going to be one heck of a challenge for the LSU Tigers.
You mentioned a couple of times the plans Scott Woodward had in place for Joe Brady. Did you all want to get him retained before the season was over, and did you all anticipate the NFL would be the toughest sell?
ED ORGERON: We just had a plan, but all the coaches have meetings after the season what would be appropriate and what we wanted to do, so just a preliminary plan we worked on, and that's it.
And with Joe Brady, did you all anticipate the NFL would probably be the toughest sell with him?
ED ORGERON: You don't know. You never can tell -NFL, college. I think Joe is an outstanding coach, so you have to be prepared for both.
I know a decision hasn't been made on Michael Divinity yet, but let's say he is back on the team. You guys have made due without him for quite a few weeks and have actually looked really strong the last few weeks. What kind of role do you imagine he could have if he does return?
ED ORGERON: You've got breaking news. Michael Divinity will be back with the team. A final decision was made this morning. So good job breaking it. How about that? Good deal.
We'll see. Obviously, Mike has been a tremendous pass rusher for us. I know we're definitely going to use him. He'll be back in a role, what he's doing, and we'll see what fits best. He's definitely going to play for us, and we'll definitely use him in the best situations we can.
Hey, Coach, good morning. Coach, there were reports that the President, Donald Trump, called you after your victory the other night. Is that true? If yes, can you tell us anything about the conversation?
ED ORGERON: Yes, he called me yesterday morning. I was very honored to get a call from President Trump. He was very pleasant to talk to, very complimentary of our football team, our coaching staff, complimentary of the way the state of Louisiana has rallied around us, and was complimentary to the way we played all year and wished us good luck in the game.
Did that surprise you that he called you?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, it did. They told me the president's office called, and I thought it was the president of the university. He said, no, the White House. I said, okay, here we go.
Coach, I'll sneak in one more before I get out of here. Tickets for the game, how many tickets does each player get? And obviously with the game in Louisiana and the Superdome, everybody wants to go. How do you deal with that distraction and everything?
ED ORGERON: I don't know. I guess it's the regular NCAA allotment of tickets. I don't know the exact number that they get. I'm sure it will be the exact number that they usually get, whatever the NCAA allows us. Obviously, we can't let it be a distraction. Obviously, it can be a distraction for me. I know a lot of people that want tickets too, but we're only allowed a certain amount of tickets. I think that everybody has to handle that on their own personal basis, and that's it.
Hey, Coach. I know you don't like – you said throughout you don't like to make this about yourself, but if you would just talk about the honor you feel or someone in your position feels being a Louisiana guy coaching LSU in the National Championship Game in New Orleans. No one's ever been in this position before.
ED ORGERON: It is special, no question. It is special. But you've got to put those things aside. Growing up, I always wanted to be the head coach of LSU. I loved watching Cholly Mac play. I loved watching Ronnie Estay, Arthur Cantrelle. Of all the other schools, I always kept my eye on LSU and always pulled and watched what they were doing. I remember the times that they played in the National Championship and know what a big day it is in the state of Louisiana, how it affects everybody in Louisiana.
So, yes, am I proud to be part of that? Yes. But as you know, it's always going to be about the team and the players and all of us together on one team, one heartbeat. It will be a very proud day for our players to represent LSU, and it will be a very proud day for the people of the state of Louisiana. But they'll only be proud if we win, and we understand that. Although we're 14-0, we did a lot of great things, this is a monumental game for us. It's a big game. It's a game that we have to play well to beat Clemson.
This morning you gave a little update on Damien Lewis and said he wasn't going to practice this week. If you get him back, obviously, things are normal, but how will things kind of adjust? Will it be kind of the same way you all played it on Saturday, or in what ways do you all kind of go around him?
ED ORGERON: I think we put Adrian at that right guard since he did so well, we'll do that first, and having Ed at left guard. I think that would be a natural deal. We haven't talked about that at the snap yet. We'll be breaking down Clemson on Thursday, and Jack will have a more definitive answer for us on whether he thinks he'll be ready for the football game. So we'll start practicing with Adrian at right guard and Ed at left.
Last year it was something that might have been more influential than this year. This year the depth is there. How does it feel to have that for such a pivotal point in the season as this?
ED ORGERON: It's a big plus. It's a big plus to have that. Also, Dare Rosenthal will be eligible to play in this game. That gives us more depth at tackle. So if Damien comes back, we're as healthy as we've been on this football team all year.
23 of 61 athletes on your team – I'm miswording this question. You have 61 players from Louisiana. 23 of them are from Louisiana, like 23 upperclassmen, juniors and seniors. How do you think they feel having the opportunity to play their last LSU Tigers game in their home state?
ED ORGERON: Very, very prideful. Obviously, when you come to LSU, these are the games that you expect to be in, and then it's a bonus having it in the state of Louisiana.
I do know this. We did not speak about it in the team meeting room, but I do know it's in the back of everybody's minds that, if we do well on a daily basis and take care of the teams that we need to take care of on a weekly basis, that we'll have an opportunity to play in the National Championship in our home state. That was in the back of everybody's mind. It seemed far away at the beginning of the year, but as we got closer and closer and closer, it seemed like a goal that we can attain, and now we got it.
But we need to take advantage. We need to take advantage of the home crowd. We need to take advantage of playing at home. And we need to play our best football to beat Clemson.
As you guys prepare for Clemson – I know it's a little early, but a lot of the conversation is going to be about the two quarterbacks on both sides. What have you kind of seen out of Trevor Lawrence on film, and what kind of makes him special considering he's only a sophomore and has played as well as he has in these big games already?
ED ORGERON: He's a winner, 25-0 and hasn't been beat yet. That tells you a lot about him. Just watched the film, watched several games this morning, three or four games the last couple of days. The way he takes command, the way he takes charge, obviously, the RPOs, his reads are right on it, has a strong arm. But his ability to run, he surprised me.
I haven't played against Clemson, haven't studied them, but his ability to tuck the ball and leaves his arms up front, he is an outstanding runner, makes some big time plays in big time ball games and for a big chunk of yards. Obviously, he made some big gains against Ohio State, which helped them win the game.
Not only Trevor, but just you mentioned you watched several Clemson games so far. What kind of stands out about their whole team and what makes them so good?
ED ORGERON: Athletes, speed, scheme. Their receivers are big and tall and athletic, fantastic. Etienne is one of the best backs we'll see all year. Louisiana product, outstanding young man. I tried to recruit him at the end, very fast. Again, he made two explosive plays to help against Ohio State. He's a prolific rusher, one of the best rushers in Clemson history, scores a bunch of touchdowns, very fast.
I think the thing, when you look at Clemson's offense, you think about athletes and speed in space. When you look at defense, you think about Brent Venables, the great job he's done, his ability to adjust against the different offenses he's seen. I think he's an excellent coach. I've always known Brent for a long time and respected him as one of the best defensive coordinators in all of football. Their defensive line is quick and strong, can rush the passer, his blitzes are phenomenal.
So I think it's a great matchup. When you get to the championship game, you're going to play against a team with some great coaches. You've got a team with some great players, and that's what we have.
Coach, have you ever had a player that arrived at your team ready to play more than Derek Stingley Jr.? And how much did his father have in his development, do you think?
ED ORGERON: I never had a player ready to play like Derek Stingley Jr., and I think his father had a lot to do with it. In fact, I know he did. I'm very good friends with his father. I have a lot of respect for his father. He's an excellent coach, an excellent dad. Him and Derek have a really unique relationship. Sometimes a coach's son doesn't want his daddy to coach him. I remember when I went home, I tried to coach my boy, and he said, hey, Dad, I've got a coach. It just so happens that Coach Stingley is a backfield coach.
I've said this time and time again, on Sundays and Saturdays at 1:00, you can come into the indoor practice facility, and there was Derek working out with his dad, and he had all the DBs there for a voluntary workout. It was just a phenomenal work ethic, phenomenal character. I just think it's a great family. This was one of the biggest signings we had, an outstanding young man.
His dad is at your practices regularly, right?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, he coaches at Dunham, but when he's not at Dunham, he's at our practices. He's always there. He's quiet, sits there on the side. I always talk to him, say hello to him, and congratulate him on his success at Dunham. We talk. We're friends. He has a great relationship with Derek Ponamsky. Derek has been phenomenal to us. His whole family has.
Where do you think you missed Divinity the most when he hasn't played this season? Will you use him more inside or outside, do you think?
ED ORGERON: It all depends. It all depends where we need him. I think our inside guys are playing well. We could use him outside in some situations. That could allow JaCoby Stevens to go back to a safety position or a corner position, what we're talking about if we have to play some base. And then obviously in our pass rush scheme, Mike is one of our best pass rushers. So I think he immediately goes back to starting on our dime package.
My question kind of revolves around Chris Curry, and you guys obviously had a great performance from him this last week. I wanted to just kind of ask you, though, kind of what's the latest on Clyde and how you guys plan to manage his workload over the next couple of weeks before the National Championship Game.
ED ORGERON: We're going to look at how much he can do. Our first practice is going to be on Thursday, and we have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday practice. We'll go through a week of preparation. Then the guys have two weeks break, and then we'll start the preparation on Wednesday. So I think by next Wednesday he should be full speed. We'll take it slow with him, see what he can do. He's getting treatment right now. He's a little sore. We'll see how much he can do this week.
But not having Clyde in there gives those other guys valuable reps. I've got to say something to Chris Curry. In this world of transfer portals and all that, taking the easy way out, it says a lot about his character, his grit, his toughness. He told me, he said, Coach, I'm going to be one of your best backs. Just watch.
And during the Bowl practices, when Clyde's not out, then we've got to find out who's the best back to put in there. Obviously, those two young guys are ahead of him, but he has some great practices, and the plays that we're running, the style of plays that we run, we felt that Chris was the best one to run it. Boy, I'll tell you what, he took his opportunity. We said next man up, we put 11 men on the field, and we fight like Tigers, and he did it. I'm so proud of him.
You were the interim coach in 2016, so, obviously, you were kind of in a tough spot there recruiting, but how many times did people kind of ask or had you heard about how did Travis Etienne get out of the state of Indiana?
ED ORGERON: All the time. Hey, I wonder how it is. I know how it happened, and every time I watch – every time I heard about Clemson play or every time I've seen him having success, I'm sick to my stomach. Obviously, we like our running backs. We've got great running backs here, but we wanted Travis Etienne at the end, but it was too little, too late.
And one last one. It's New Year's Eve, the team is 13-0, you haven't done anything wrong, I guess, but what are some New Year's resolutions, if you have any?
ED ORGERON: Probably to try to eat less, and it won't happen (laughter).
What do you recall about Travis's recruitment and kind of the decision at the end to try to pursue him?
ED ORGERON: I was an assistant here. Travis kept on coming up, kept on coming up. But one reason or another, we never offered him a scholarship, and then after I became interim coach, we had a couple of players that we had been recruiting for a while. We thought we were going to get them, and we thought, if we offered someone else, we may lose them. Then we got shut out. I offered Travis really late at interim. I had a home visit with him, told him how much we wanted him, but it was too little, too late. He had made up his mind already.
Something that I think we should have done a better job of, we should have recruited him at an earlier age, like we do all our great Louisiana backs, and keep them in state. He's the one that got away.
Regardless of what you may have tried to do already with Coach Brady, being a coach for so long, do you feel like that's not going to be over until it's over? Which February is about when NFL and college hires are wrapping up.
ED ORGERON: We'll see. Let's see what happens at the end of the run here. We have a couple of weeks left. I do feel that Joe is going to be a Tiger. I feel like everything is just about wrapped up, and I feel good about where we are. You know football, you never can tell what's going to happen, but I feel confident saying Joe is going to be here with us at LSU. He's a great young man. We've just about got everything wrapped up. Not completely finalized yet, but we're very close.
Joe, I wanted to know how much of the roots of this offense can you trace back to what Sean Payton and Drew Brees are doing with the Saints, and how much have you studied them to kind of help in your development?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, I've studied that offense all offseason. That's basically what we do. We do a lot of the same stuff with Coach Joe coming from there. So yeah, I watched a lot of Drew, a lot of the Saints in the off-season to kind of figure out his footwork and his eyes, certain concepts.
Grant, you've had a perfect record as a team, you've won the Thorpe Award, but it does seem like it's been a little bit of a tricky season for you as far as switching positions, switching roles and getting hurt. Can you describe what this season has been like for you, so much success as a team but some difficulties to deal with individually?
GRANT DELPIT: Oh, yeah, you know, that's how I am. I'm all about the results of the team. I'm a team player. So whatever position they put me, I'm going to play it. I was playing a lot of free safety this year in the middle of the field, and just trying to get other guys in position to make plays like Jacoby being down around the ball a lot. Just whatever we've got to do to win games, that's what we try to do here, and I think we've done a pretty good job of that so far.
How are you feeling, and how is your health now compared to let's say toward the end of the season?
GRANT DELPIT: Yeah, the ankle was hurting pretty bad the second half of the season a little bit, but now towards the end of it it's feeling pretty good. I consider myself close to 100 percent, so it shouldn't be a problem.
Joe, Trevor mentioned the other day that he met you at the Manning Academy, and I was wondering what were those conversations like, if you had any, and what are the things about his quarterback style of play that maybe you enjoy watching?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, we got to spend some time together. That was a fun week. We got to spend time with a lot of quarterbacks around the country. He's a super fluid guy for how big he is. He's fun to watch. You can tell he's a great competitor, tough guy. I respect those kind of guys.
I know you'll get asked questions about the quarterback match-up here and there and I know you're not going up against him, but when you get in those big-time match-ups with other quarterbacks, do you ever catch yourself watching what they're doing during the game?
JOE BURROW: No, not at all. We're focused on going up against the defense and trying to beat what they throw at us. So I'll watch our defense out there and obviously watch the game, but we're focused on going up against their defense.
Joe, there's often a feeling that comes to college football that there's going to be at least one weekend, one Saturday when college-aged kids come out flat or unfocused, but you've played 14 games, and it doesn't seem like that's happened at all really. Can you think of one game this year where you maybe weren't as sharp in the beginning as you would like, and why have a group of college-aged kids been so focused all year long?
JOE BURROW: I think that's a tough question to answer right now looking back. There were obviously some games where we were not as sharp as others, but we have a mature group of guys that is focused on winning and focused on doing their job, and we've put in a lot of work for this season. If we come out and lay an egg, we're pretty disappointed in ourselves every single week. So we try to do our job every week and execute to the best of our ability.
In the NFL and I guess now with the College Football Playoff, the feeling is you want to be playing your best football at this time of the year. After your performance against Georgia and now Oklahoma, do you guys feel like you're playing your best football right now?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, I think our team as a whole is playing our best football. Our defense has become one of the best in the country, and they've worked really hard to get there. I think as an offense obviously there's still some room to improve, but I think we're very explosive right now, and our O-line is playing their best ball of the season.
Joe, you worked in a pretty explosive offense at Ohio State when you were backing up J.T., but what makes this particular offense so much more explosive than most of what we've seen in college football?
JOE BURROW: We have great players. We have five NFL guys in routes every single snap, and it's tough to cover. You kind of have to pick your poison. We have three receivers that can beat you at all times and a tight end and a running back that can beat you in routes, as well. We're a tough match-up for a lot of people, and then I just try to get the ball in their hands on time and accurately and then let them do the rest.
Joe, I wanted to ask you during your time at Ohio State, how much did you work with Corey Dennis, and was there anything that he did in particular to help you develop as a quarterback?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, I think Corey is going to be a really good coach for a long time. I texted him as soon as I saw the news and was fired up for him. He's worked for that for a long time, and there's nobody more deserving. He's going to be a really good coach. I'm excited for him.
Are there particular things that he brings to that quarterback room at Ohio State that you think are going to make him a successful coach?
JOE BURROW: I think the best thing for Corey was learning under Coach Day for a couple of years. I think that really helped him, and I think he's going to be one of the best recruiters in the country, as well. He works his tail off, and he has for a long time. I'm excited to get on the phone with him next week and talk a little ball and see his mindset, but he's a really good coach, really good person, and he's going to do a really good job.
Grant, I was just curious, the past three games would you circle or put your finger on kind of the main reasons the defense has seemingly elevated their game to a whole different level?
GRANT DELPIT: It's hard to say. I don't know. I think after the Ole Miss game, it was kind of a turnaround for us. It wasn't our best performance, and I think we sat down as a defense and just saw what we did wrong, understood that some teams might try to make those plays and run it against us again. And I think we just kind of lit a fire and started playing LSU football after that. So hopefully this last game we can keep it going.
Joe, we ask your teammates to talk about you a lot, so I'm going to ask you to talk about Grant. Do you get a sense of how important he is to the defense, maybe in practice? I don't know how much you get to study your own defense, but can you give us an explanation of how important he is to the defense?
JOE BURROW: Well, I think you saw it when he finally got healthy. He was being tough all year and battling through injuries, and he got healthy towards the end of the year, and that was kind of the turning point of our defense. I think that just shows how important he is. He's a great player and most importantly a great person and great leader.
Justin Jefferson, he seems to have a real talent and ability to judge the ball in the air and know when to go up and know when to make that catch. I guess all your receivers are like that. Is that an instinct, a God-given ability, something they work on a lot? How do they know when to make that play?
JOE BURROW: You know, I think it's a little of both. I think talent only gets you so far, and obviously they got to LSU because they're really good at that, but then they worked at it this off-season and became three -the best receiving trio in the country.
They've worked so hard for it, and I think Justin felt a little disrespected after the year with all the awards and wanted to come out in this game and prove to the country that he was one of the best guys out there, and I think he did it.
How excited are you to play this game when you know it's in New Orleans and you know that the whole city, the whole state is going to be on fire, but at the same time you've got a week and a half to prepare and have to kind of stay grounded and not get too excited?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, I'm very excited, but a game like this you just have to stay in your routine and don't stray from it. You can really pump yourself up and get a little too excited, but I'm just going to stay in my routine, do what I've been doing, and treat it like any other week.
Grant, how different is it trying to stop this offense at practice versus your offense the first couple years you were at LSU?
GRANT DELPIT: Way harder, for one. But especially in camp we knew that they were going to be good. We knew that either they were going to be really good or we were going to be bad because they were putting up a lot of yards, a lot of points on us in all the scrimmages.
When did you guys figure out that it's going to be them being good and not you being bad?
GRANT DELPIT: I don't know, probably first game of the season. We almost had a shutout – did we have a shutout the first game of the season? Yeah, probably when the season started, just seeing those guys slinging the ball around, getting the ball into playmakers' hands. It was great to see. We knew we had a great team then, we just had to keep going.
Joe, when you guys found out that you had beat Oklahoma on Saturday, were you hoping at all that you'd get the opportunity to play Ohio State in the National Championship game?
JOE BURROW: You know, it would have been fun to play a lot of my old teammates and my old friends. There would have been some trash talk and some friendly trash talk and it would have been a lot of fun, but we'll play whoever. We're excited to get the opportunity to play.
Did you watch that game at all, and what was it like kind of seeing those guys playing in that game?
JOE BURROW: I did watch the game, yeah. It was a fun game to watch. Everyone was battling their tails off, and I know a lot of those guys worked so hard to get to that moment, and being with them for three years, it was kind of sad a little bit to see their season end like that. But I know they worked really hard to get there, and we're excited to get the opportunity to play in this game.
Grant, I was just curious if you could talk about Trevor Lawrence, your thoughts on him, and then also, what makes what you see on film of Clemson's offense so difficult to slow down and stop?
GRANT DELPIT: First of all, I was watching the game, the Ohio State game some, run the ball for a seven-yard touchdown, it looked pretty fast, so he's definitely a great all-around player. People don't give him credit for his running ability. So we're definitely going to take that into consideration. And also just the amount of weapons they have, guys like Etienne, big, tall receivers like Tee Higgins, they'll go up and get the ball. It's going to be definitely a fun match-up, going to be a fun game. They have great coaches, a great offense, so it's going to be cool.
Are they the most balanced offense you guys have seen this year?
GRANT DELPIT: The most balanced offense? I don't know, we've faced a lot of great offenses. I would say theirs is definitely one of the best. We'll just continue watching film on them, and we're just going to get prepared for the game.
Joe, I wanted to follow up on the question about when you studied the Saints' offense. What concepts immediately grabbed you when you first started studying them and being introduced that you really gravitated toward?
JOE BURROW: You know, I don't know if there were any specific concepts. I was at the beginning of installing the offense and just kind of getting a feel of how Drew went through his reads and his footwork and what he tried to do within the offense.
Is there anything that stands out about what it's designed to do that really works, though? Is it about reading defenses or mismatches, or what is it that sort of defines what the offense is all about?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, it's getting five yards on a route every play and making them defend every single person. Anybody can get the ball on any play. We're not designing plays to go to this one guy. We have progression reads that everyone can get the ball on, so you have to be on your toes as a defense and really understand who has each individual player, otherwise we'll beat you, or I'll find a guy, and that's what makes it so difficult to defend. You've got to find your guy, and we make it difficult to do it and change up people's eyes with motions and moving different guys around from the slot to the backfield to outside. We do a really good job of finding match-ups that are favorable for us.
Grant, we obviously got the news a couple days ago that Michael Divinity will be able to play in the championship game. Just your thoughts on having him back on the field, and what do you think he'll mean for the defense?
GRANT DELPIT: That's a big part of our defense. He's a great player, and like you say, he's been around in practice and all working out the whole time he hasn't been playing. So that's a big thing for us just that he stuck it out and stuck around. To have him back, that's huge. That's a huge key. He's a vocal leader. He's a vocal guy on and off the field. I think that having him back is going to be a big key for us, and we're excited for it.
Through the season your relationship with Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady, getting on the headset with those guys, from your studying of Clemson so far, what are some things you think that they do difficult on defense to make your checks and things, having an understanding their flow of the game throughout the course?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, you can tell that they have 11 really smart guys. They do a lot of different things on defense, and they have a really good coach that makes it difficult for me and my eyes to look – pre-snap it'll look the same and they'll go to cover-two and cover-three on the same look. It'll be tough for me. I'll have to do a lot of film study to understand what they're trying to do.
Joe, I was just wondering what the biggest difference you saw from Georgia in the SEC Championship and Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl was.
JOE BURROW: What do you mean by that?
JOE BURROW: Oh, I mean, they have two completely different defensive structures. Georgia came out in dime and blitzed us a lot, and Oklahoma came out in drop-eight, cover-three. So they did two completely different things against us.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to thank Joe and Grant for your time here today. Again, to all of our media members, look forward to seeing many of you in New Orleans next week.