By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
December 23, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Take a short opening statement from you.
ED ORGERON: First of all, it's an honor to be playing in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. These guys have been phenomenal, accommodations, the welcome, the hospitality. The food obviously has been phenomenal, practice facilities, hotel. Everything's been great. We arrived yesterday. The guys had dinner, had a team meeting. Everybody was in the curfew, 100% ready to go. Everybody was early for the meetings today. We had a (indiscernible) Monday practice, we practiced in the Dome. Different feeling about this team this week. This is a playoff game for us. You can feel the intensity ratcheting up. Pretty good. Focusing on the details was very good today. So we're excited to be here, very pleased with our coaching staff, the way they're working. We have our wives and have our family here, but everybody knows it's a playoff game and we're coming to win it.
Q. On the status of Clyde Edwards-Helaire. ED ORGERON: Clyde's a little bit better than we thought. He's off the crutches and off the scooter. We're going to see if he can do something tomorrow. It's going to be a day-by-day deal. But I promise you this, a little bit better than what I thought last week. He has a chance to play. I don't know if he's going to play, it will be day by day.
Q. On how the team will celebrate the holidays.
ED ORGERON: I do believe when we took off Thursday, I think the coaches went home with their families Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And some of the guys went home and had Christmas with their families. Obviously, Christmas will be another day for us. Obviously, we're going to honor it because it's the birthday of Jesus Christ. No question about that. But it won't be a lot of big festivities. It's going to be a practice day. It's going to be a work day for us.
Q. On how Coach is preparing the running backs.
ED ORGERON: All three of them are getting reps, all of them are playing, all of them are getting ready to go. All three of them.
Q. On offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
ED ORGERON: He's a phenomenal coach, a phenomenal offensive coach. He has a great scheme. The scheme plays into it. He has great talent. He adjusts his scheme according to the quarterback. Jalen is a fantastic quarterback, fantastic runner. He's going to be very difficult to stop.
Q. On LSU's other running backs if Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn't able to play.
ED ORGERON: You know, John had a problem with fumbling the football at the beginning of the year so he lost some reps there. But he's worked hard on it. Two different running backs like thunder and lightning. I think Tyrion has been the most consistent back, can run the football in the middle, can get to the outside. John has the ability to break the long one, he has a little bit better speed than Tyrion. Also Chris Curry. Chris has come along. Chris is a very bruising back, a dominating back. I think all three of those guys do different things. You know, with Clyde, he did everything well. He blocked well, he ran inside, ran outside and caught the football well. We're going to have to adjust if Clyde doesn't play and rotate the backs to do what they can do best.
Q. On Oklahoma's preparation for LSU's running backs.
ED ORGERON: No, I don't think so because I don't think they know our backs. I don't think they know what our backs can do, like we do. And, obviously, we're not going to do the same thing with the same back in every time. We're going to switch things up.
Q. On the current transfer rule.
ED ORGERON: You know, I think the transfer rule for graduate assistants is really good; for graduate students, really good. I think there's some cases where a young man ought to transfer if the situation for him in that school is not right. Obviously, on the other end, with coaches, we have to choose the right transfers. And, obviously, we got it right, and they got it right. Two fantastic young men that got their opportunity, made the best of it. I'm proud of Jalen Hurts. I know him. I think he's a great young man. I got to meet him at a couple of deals. He has great parents, outstanding character, and obviously very proud of Joe and what he's done. Those two are very similar in character, and they're team players.
Q. On the impact of having a Heisman winner on your team when playing for a berth in the CFP National Championship.
ED ORGERON: I think so. I think so. I think I've been fortunate to be in four National Championships, and two at Miami and two at USC. We had great quarterbacks. Two of them Heisman Trophy winners -- three of them were Heisman Trophy winners out of the four. They make a difference, obviously.
Q. On Joe's last few weeks after winning the Heisman, heading into this game.
ED ORGERON: I think he's been fine. I think he's a little tired. When he got back, obviously a little tired. We rested him last week a bunch. But I think he's fine, he's back to normal now and ready to go.
Q. On the best team LSU has played.
ED ORGERON: Who's the best team we've played? I've got to say Alabama. Alabama, Auburn, Florida. Those three guys were very good.
Q. On the team's focus this week, after winning several awards.
ED ORGERON: Been phenomenal. But it started with me. I think the intensity in the meeting with myself and the focus and talking to them about why we're here and what we're going to do and what's the expectation, the LSU standard performance. There's not a lot of free time to where guys are going out and visit the town and stuff like that. We're here to win a game. We're going to prepare. I think these guys know how to prepare and today's been a phenomenal start.
Q. On defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's preparation.
ED ORGERON: He's got a lot of stuff in. He's got a lot of stuff in, and he's got a lot of ammunition. And Dave's a great gameday caller. Obviously we can't run it off. But I think that today was one of our better days as far as technique-wise. We've been seeing their plays. We have a lot of plays. You can't rep every play, but we're repping their top plays and our guys defend it well. Obviously, with this team, you've got to tackle. You've gotta tackle to one-on-one and in space. You've got to tackle Jalen. You got to cover CeeDee. And if you do cover them, you've got to tackle them, so. It's going to come down to winning you one-on-one as a tackler.
Q. On the team having more ammunition this season.
ED ORGERON: I think so. I think we've been more creative with third down. We started attacking more on third down. Our third down package has been more. We're causing more turnovers, getting more sacks. But with this team, you have to stop the run. There's no question that you have to stop the run first.
Q. On offensive line coach James Cregg.
ED ORGERON: Phenomenal. A-plus. You know, again, on vacation, James didn't take one day of vacation. His offensive line worked out four days a week at 6:00 in the morning. He was with them every day. And the time that -- you know, you have two hours that you can coach them. He used those two hours every time -- every week. You know, John Robinson, who is a big-time consultant for him as an offensive line guy sat in every meeting. Now, he doesn't coach 'em, he listens up. He came to me, I guess, about three weeks in camp, he said Coach, I'm gonna tell you what. You have an excellent offensive line, coach. He is building something special. The guys got camaraderie, led by Lloyd Cushenberry and D-Lew. Now that we've got everybody healthy, Saahdiq is playing, Austin is playing, we've got backups. Proud of what they've done. Obviously, we've got more to go. But so far, those guys have been excellent.
Q. On LSU's offensive line.
ED ORGERON: Yeah, very rewarding. Lloyd said -- and all of us get that. The good thing about it, we use it as internal motivation. Any time people question you, if you're using it as a term of motivation, it works. That great leadership, Lloyd mentioned that. I think he took the offensive line this summer and said, Hey, man, we're the question mark on this team. We're going to turn it into a positive by the way we work. We're going to keep our mouths shut, and those guys did it.
Q. On offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
ED ORGERON: Yeah. Well, again, I've known Steve since 1979. I was Steve's graduate assistant coach at McNeese. He and I have been friends. I trust Steve. I really trust him as a person. I trust him as a coach. Again, we didn't score any points against Alabama. It was a low point and I told him, I said, listen, we've got to go to the spread. And he said, you're right. I said, are you going to be receptive, someone coming in teaching us the spread? He said yes, I will. When Steve tells you yes, it means yes. And obviously, Joe came in. Steve worked his tail off to learn the new terminology, the new words. He calls most of the plays. He's done a fantastic job. Him and Joe have meshed perfectly. There's no egos with both of those guys. It's not us, us, us. It's we, we, we. They work great together. Steve has been the MVP of the whole deal.
Q. On the importance of linebacker Jacob Phillips.
ED ORGERON: It was really important. It was. Internally at that time, we needed some middle linebackers. Jake was the number one player in the state of Tennessee. He called me and said coach, I need you to come see me. I got on a plane, was there the next morning. His mom and daddy trust us. They love Dave Aranda. They love the scheme. Jake has been one of the best players we've had on our football team. He's a great young man, great character. I'm glad we got him.
Q. On signing a QB, T.J. Finely, last week.
ED ORGERON: You know, his family has had a plan. His high school coaches had a plan. They're very aggressive. They are into the rules, into everything. T.J. is very motivated. And it was totally legal, went through compliance. We got it done. That's the first time it's ever been done. And you know what, T.J. has come to every football practice that he can since he's been off of school. So it's wonderful to see. We expect other midyear graduates to come see us a little bit later on if we do have another game. And we're going to get as many midyear graduates at our practice as we can.
Q. On graduates coming to watch the game.
ED ORGERON: I don't know yet. Three, four, five, obviously -- maybe in January. To be on campus, yeah.
Q. On the importance of having graduates around.
ED ORGERON: Very important. As many times as you can get in our meeting, as many times as you can get an installation, learning the plays and seeing the speed of practice, it's important. It's important to have midyears.
Q. On taking the Oklahoma players that are out into consideration when playing.
ED ORGERON: You know, I'm sure Coach Riley has the same thing. We have a next man up theory. We put 11 men on the field and we fight like Tigers, and we don't blink. I'm sure it's a top program, they've done a great job recruiting. I'm sure the next guy is chomping at the bit, may have his best game. We don't even factor that in, you know, say hey, this is going to be an advantage. It's not going to be an advantage, uh-uh. We're going. And, again, it's never going to be about our opponent. It's always about us and the way we execute.
Q. On picking Lincoln Riley's brain.
ED ORGERON: Here's what he told me. Here's exactly when what he told me. I want to put it in. I liked it. He says, Coach, you have to be committed to it. And you have to run it a lot because you're going to see a lot of different defense. People are going to try to stop it all different ways. We practice it and we practice as many looks as we possibly can. Obviously, anything that we do, I do believe he won't be surprised by what we're doing. But I think it's not what you do, it's how you do it. You've got to have a player on the quarterback. You've got to have a player on the tailback. You've got to follow the count or not follow the count or squeeze the count. You got to play good inside. It's all about how you do it.
Q. On your feelings going into this game at Mercedes-Benz after the SEC Championship. ED ORGERON: It's the number one play on offense. It's their number one play on offense. The number one run play that you have to stop. If you don't stop it, he's going to keep running at you.
Q. On having three weeks between games.
ED ORGERON: You know, I think that we needed the rest, first of all. I think the rest was good. I went home Thursday, got home at my home in Mandeville at 3:00 and got up at 8:00 the next morning. I knew if I was tired, my players were tired. So we always took some time out. But I think we come in here, we're excited. We're in the same hotel. You go into the Dome today and you see College Football Playoffs Semifinals. The magnitude of the football game, everybody's awareness and alertness is heightening. I don't think there's any anxiety or sense of confidence, but a sense of knowing we got to go get the job done. Thank you, guys. Go Tigers.
December 23, 2019
Q. So I feel like there's so many things like knowing the offensive line. Scheme's part of it. You guys developing continuity. If you had to single one out, what jumps out to you the most? LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Just our mindset. I said it before. I feel like we had a different swag than we had last year and even in the past years. And just knowing we had something to prove. We always say you block out the noise, but at the end of the week, we hear the talk. We see the comments and posts about the O-line. We've seen it for the whole year, especially me. I remember all that, so I try to pass that on to my guys. We've got something to prove every week. Especially more now that we've got the award. I told the guys now, we're the most hated. They're going to try to give us their all so we've got to prove something.
Q. How much do you think what you guys are doing now kind of sets a foundation for the next few classes?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: It's great, because they see -- even the freshmen now, they see how we work, like, you know, young guys. So I was trying to teach them. They see how I prepare every week. And they see what's been happening. So they know what it takes. They see what it takes and look to them in the future to do it.
Q. Rashard said Coach made it very clear this is a playoff game and not a bowl game. How did he break down the distinction?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Pretty much in meetings, he said it's not a bowl game. We're not here to have fun and enjoy these bowl events. We're here to come win a playoff game and come home and (indiscernible).
Q. Rashard touched on this isn't the last game we want to be playing those teams. This isn't the last game we want to be playing?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: This isn't our final destination. That's the goal and mindset we've had since we've started.
Q. Do you think because of the maturity of this team, he's kind of been able to not necessarily look forward, but keep the long-term goal in mind?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah. Feel like our whole team, for the most part are mature guys who understand we've got bigger goals. Even all these individual awards, none of those guys got a big head. They know what we set out to do back in January, what we worked so hard for. So everybody understands that.
Q. Lloyd, with the running backs who are getting prepared, how do you see them banding together? What do you see?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Coach T-Rob and Coach Faulk, they're going to get those guys right. They work hard. I know Clyde will be in their ear trying to get them prepared. Whoever gets carries, it's on us up front to do our job so they can make plays.
Q. Now, we saw Clyde coming off the bus and he's got his teammates, spending time together. How have you seen him kind of recovering and getting ready?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I'm not sure how he's doing as far as the hamstring, but I know Clyde's going to do all he can to get back as soon as possible, and our training staff is going to do --
Q. As an offensive line, you guys have improved so much, which that includes the run game as well. Considering perhaps the hurdle you have to go through this week, how do you approach talking about that with your offensive line?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: It doesn't change nothing for us. No matter who's back there, we got to do our job so it really doesn't matter who's running, who's -- it doesn't matter. So we've got to (indiscernible).
Q. Did you kind give that message to your running backs?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Not yet, but, you know, I'm definitely going to mention that to them. But it all starts up front.
Q. Lloyd, Oklahoma's defense has kind of made a jump, transformation like you guys have on offense. What have you seen from them on the defense?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: All those guys, they play hard and a lot of speed. And not really, you know, bigger guys that we've seen just throughout the season, but they play fast and they play hard.
Q. Three weeks between games, Lloyd. Is there curiosity about or challenge -- how do you keep your edge, be the same team you were against Georgia?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I mean, it's the playoffs. If you don't -- if you don't have an edge and ready to go for this one, then I don't know what to tell you. I feel like this whole team, you know, we know this is win or go home. So our mindset, this is not our final destination so we've got to take care of business and go home for a National Championship.
Q. Being away for Christmas, that's a good problem to have?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: It's a little weird, but families understand. We're going to be here as a team, as a family, and enjoy the day.
Q. Coach talked about the curfew being earlier because this is not really a bowl game. How much different than last year?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Lot different. Curfew was a lot earlier last night, and everybody was on time. So I feel like we got off to a good start with that, and everybody's locked in and doing what they need to do.
Q. Lloyd, no matter if Corren plays or not, which it looks like he won't, whoever starts at running back, schematically do you guys as an offensive line look at the running game different, block different?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Doesn't matter who's back there, who's catching the balls, whatever. We've got to do our job. Doesn't change nothing up front. We've got to take care of those guys and get the job done.
Q. Would you talk about the job Coach Ensminger has done with the offense. Not just changing, but accepting change, allowing Coach Brady to come in and add things to the offense and stuff like that. The kind of person he is, does it surprise you that he was able to do that?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Not at all. Coach Ensminger, since I've been here, he's always adapted and willing to do whatever's best for LSU. Obviously, he played here so he's going to want the best for the program. They felt like going to the spread was the best way to go. He's done a great job, him and Coach Brady, of kind of collaborating and working together to get the job done.
Q. Is the O-line at its best right now, do you think?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I think so. Guys healthy, guys a lot better shape. We've had confidence, but we've got a lot of confidence now and believe in one another.
Q. How do you block out all the distractions, Christmas, being away from home, playoff, everything?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: We got to understand what the end goal is, and that's the National Championship. If you're not focused and locked in on that, I don't know what to tell you. I feel like the whole team is just pretty much focused. Coach O and the staff does a great job of letting us know that it's not a bowl game. It's a playoff game. It's different.
Q. Seems like the coaching staff was trusting thank you Davis-Price in some of the biggest spots, second half against Florida. What has he done, I guess, behind the scenes to earn some of your guys' trust?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Coming in early, talking to Coach Faulk, getting in, watching film, getting in the play book, doing things that Clyde do, trying to follow in his footsteps, learn from him. Just doing his job pretty much.
Q. O was talking about, and he's told us all year about how offensive line was the biggest question mark. Did he come to you, specifically, in the summer and say you need to rally these guys? How far have you all come to get that award last week?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: He hasn't really -- he didn't really come and say, you know, I need to rally them, but he told me and Damien Lewis, we're going to lead the team and it starts with the O-line. We knew that. We had that mindset since January. So, you know, we always say block out the noise. But at the same time, we're young. We see the comments. We see the remarks on social media about the O-line. We saw that last year. I remember all that so, you know, I try to pass that on to the O-line and just let it be known that we're coming out -- we had a point to prove this year.
Q. You took it personally?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I did. I always take it -- I save stuff. I screenshot, bookmark, all that. Everything I see, I try to just --
Q. Going to that award, getting that award last week, how fulfilling was that for you guys? LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Oh, it was special. But, you know, we're not satisfied at all. Now that we got it -- Coach Ensminger told us now that we got it, we're the most hated, so guys will be coming at our neck so we got to step it up even more.
Q. Anybody that you played this year that Oklahoma's defensive front reminds you of in your prep?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Maybe Texas. I mean, because they're in the same conference. But as far as SEC, size-wise, no. But a lot -- Oklahoma does some great things. They move a lot up front and play with a lot of speed. So they're probably the fastest team we've played all year. We got to get ready for that.
Q. Do you see a difference in the big 12 line versus an SEC line?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah, the size. But they got great players. I feel like they're much faster than a lot of SEC teams. That's what they do. They play fast, they play hard.
Q. So they're smaller but faster than an SEC line?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah. Not much smaller, but they're still big guys, but they play a lot faster.
Q. Is there something that you have to focus on when you play a defensive line that has a lot of speed?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah, because they do -- a lot of things they do schematically, they move a lot, do a lot of the line games. So we really got to lock in on our technique and just do our job.
Q. First time you've been away from home for Christmas?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah, this is the first time.
Q. Any advantages to being out here the whole week and practicing for this game?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah, it's getting used to the surroundings. Even though we were here, we get to kind of explore the city a little bit, I guess. Getting used to the field some more. We didn't have that -- wasn't here all week the last time. So getting our cleats in the ground, getting the right cleats, and so we're not slipping out there on Saturday.
Q. Was that an issue in the championship game?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: It was a little bit. Even today at practice, a few guys slipping. So just getting the right cleats and getting feet on the ground.
Q. Earlier in the year, O said that this team kind of really likes to kind of be away from everybody and that was one of the reasons you guys were so good on the road. Does that kind of play into it all? Like we're all in the hotel, like we're all --
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I feel like we all got that mindset, like us against the world when we're on the road. And myself and I know a lot of the guys love that on the road, all we've got is each other. We like going into different environments that we're not used to and silencing people, silencing the crowd.
Q. Talking about some of the doubters, is there a certain comment that kind of sticks out to you about the performances?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: No, I'm not going to point out people.
Q. Not the people, just the comment.
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I don't know. You know, I just know it was a lot being said, and just took it personal and tried to get better from it. A lot of things that were being said, you know, is justified. We didn't play well last year. We understood that. So we had to come out this year and prove a point.
Q. Everyone talks about the spread offense, the offensive weapons on the outside. Do you get the feeling that football is football is football. Whoever blocks, tackles, and wins the trenches is going to win this?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: Yeah, that's what it comes down to. Blocking, tackling. Coach O says all the schemes you come up with, the trick plays, whatever, that don't work. You got to block, you got to tackle, and you got to do the fundamentals, the little things. So that's what we try to do every week.
Q. You're going to try to do anything special this week to try to make Christmas, like, really happening on Wednesday?
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY: I'm not sure. They got a big schedule for us. So whatever we're doing on that day, I'm pretty sure the bowl people will make it special.
December 23, 2019
Q. Rashard, after the SEC championship game, you said, we're mean, we're tough, and we're nasty. Is there something that changed in y'all's identity as a defensive line in that game against Georgia?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah, they had a great offensive line. They had top picks all across it, and, you know, we didn't want to go out there and get embarrassed, honestly, you know. And we got great guys on our defensive line. So we had to set a tempo and set the tone for that game. We know they want to run the ball. So we're definitely trying to keep it going for this game.
Q. You face an offense where once again everything is predicated on the run. Jalen Hurts can beat you with the run?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Jalen Hurts is like a running back there. He's almost like a running back back there with him. They use him as an extra blocker. We got our hands full. I think having the extra week definitely helped us, though, and we'll be ready to play.
Q. Rashard, how much comfort was it walking back into the stadium today, having some good memories of the SEC Championship?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: It felt good. Practicing there all week is going to be good too. We're just going to try to take a day at a time, you know. We don't want to make the game bigger than it is. When you do that, you kind of overlook the things that actually matter, which is the plays they're going to be running and what they do. So I think we're going to keep it simple. We're glad to be back, definitely. But we got to keep it simple and, you know, go through a regular week of practice.
Q. Is this -- the week with Christmas and the playoff really tough to block out the noise, stay focused?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Oh, Coach O ain't gonna let us do that. He came in the meeting today and he set the tone for the week of practice, especially with the defensive line. Thursday. We didn't have our best practice up front, and he came in the room and he came in the team meeting, and he set the tone. So this week is going to be a great week of practice, you know, great days, you know, great events and everything. But we came down here to win.
Q. How did he set the tone?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: He didn't say anything different. It's just his demeanor and how he came in and how he kind of, you know, presented everything on the table, you know. So we get it. We've seen it for three years now, and we know when he comes in like that that he means business and that, you know, we've got big things to do this week.
Q. The significance of having two Heisman finalists, transfer quarterbacks in a playoff game, really big game.
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah, it's going to be really cool. Obviously, both of these guys took a different path to get here. You know, everything happens for a reason, and that's the ultimate testimony for these guys. They trust the process, didn't complain, and now they're here and on the biggest stage in college football.
Q. What did it look like coming in this morning? You're used to it, but what does his intensity look like in there?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: It's just the way he says things. It's nothing that's hollering and screaming and doing anything different. But when you're around a coach long enough, you get how he is and you know when he's in a good mood and when he's in a bad mood. Just with anybody. He wasn't in a bad mood, but he wasn't in a good mood. He was in a mood that, hey, we got things to fix and this week is about improving and getting ready for Saturday.
Q. (Indiscernible) spread offenses, but do you have a feeling this game is going to be played in the trenches, really won in the trenches?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Well, you know, I think it's a narrative out there that Oklahoma is a spread team that wants to just throw the ball. But when you look at the film, you know, they do a lot of gap scheme plays, a lot of counters, a lot of powers. And then they got probably one of the best quarterbacks back there running it. So for us, we know what we got to do. We got to stop the run. That's any game, but really important to this game. Because you let Jalen Hurts loose back there, and you've got a long game. So you got to keep it simple.
Q. What's been Aranda's message the past three weeks in preparing for this game?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Preparing for this game hasn't been any different. But we knew and he kind of presented to us that looking at the film, this is something that we kind of saw against Ole Miss. But now they got a guy that can throw the ball, and he's thrown for 400 yards pretty much in every game. So it's going to be a big challenge. But the biggest thing that he's told us is that we cannot let him run in between the tackles. Once that happens, that opens up the whole offense. So we just got to keep it simple and really focus on him, focus on the great running backs they have and keep it in a good manner.
Q. In your tenure and also his, Dave Aranda's, it seems like to be the first year there's been major questions about his scheme. Has he used that, has he talked about that, has he --
RASHARD LAWRENCE: What was the question again?
Q. It's the first time it seems like in his time as the defensive coordinator that there's been major questions about the defense in the season.
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Right.
Q. Has he used that at all? Has he talked about that?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah, multiple times he's brought in the leaders on the defense and we've talked about it and kind of how to address it. The good thing about football is that you want to ascend as the season goes on. I think this defense has did that. We struggled. We had different injuries. We weren't playing well at all. But now, with this time of the season coming around, with postseason ball, we're going in the right direction. And we got a big challenge Saturday, but this is a defense we've been playing good together. Everybody's healthy, everybody's feeling good, and I think we'll have our best showing Saturday.
Q. You went through that yourself, getting healthy. How big a difference is it before everybody, you know, not healthy and now what you have?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Right. I think it's a big difference. Any time you got a guy like Grant Delpit out, kind of banged up, it shows. But when Grant's at 100 percent, you look at the past couple weeks, I mean, unbelievable, a game changer he is. So I think that matters. K'Lavon Chaisson had an ankle injury earlier. Now he's playing his best ball. It all matters. You want your best guys out there this time of the season.
Q. Three weeks have gone by since your last game. People say college football loses momentum a little bit. How do you guard against LSU losing their momentum in these three weeks?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: I think just trusting our process, how we do things. We keep things simple here. We don't make things bigger than they are. That's a testament to Coach O and how we do things. We've been practicing hard. Not long, but hard. When we hit, we hit. When we lay off, we lay off. When we're in the film room, that's where we do most things right now, especially during this season. Everybody's kind of banged up, but where we, I think, can get head is watching film, extended meetings. That's kind of how we keep the momentum going.
Q. Across the country, there's a lot of people on couches and in pajamas this week. This is as intense as you've got to be all year, right? How are you dealing with the dynamic of Christmas on the road?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah, we're going to enjoy each other on Christmas Day and on Christmas Eve. We enjoy practicing together. For us, we are excited to practice on Christmas. We've never did that before. So obviously, it's a good thing when you're doing that. So we're going to enjoy it and just trust the process.
Q. The challenge of Jalen Hurts, Coach talked about it. He can double-team a wide receiver. If we do that, we free him up, Hurts to run. Talk about the challenge?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: The challenge is they've got a lot of great playmakers all across the ball. Look at CeeDee Lamb, Jalen, a great running back, and all the players they have, they can hurt you in different ways. We have to stay on our keys, trust what we see, and not try to overrun things and do too much. If we do that, we'll be fine.
Q. How much of the play book opened up with the health on the team?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Pretty good amount of it. And looking at some of the installs we have, we have a lot more things coming IN this week. That's why kind of walk-throughs and meetings are so important, especially around this time. We've got a lot of different things going in, and rightfully so. Jalen Hurts and that offense deserves the full menu to see, you know. So getting healthy definitely helped us out with extending things.
Q. Are there pieces of the play book that you have -- oh, wait, we haven't gotten to that yet? Do you prepare yourself that way?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah, there's definitely things we see that we don't call that much during practice. But in the game, we walk through it a couple times. We talk about it in the meeting, we call it. So we definitely do see things like that sometimes.
Q. You talked about the offensive line every day. What's the biggest difference you've seen last year compared to this year?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Physicality and that guy over there, Lloyd doing things the right way. People have been talking about how they saw -- they talked about how they were there every Saturday. They really were, you know. They're a unit now. They play great together. They love each other. And Lloyd, Number 18, made all the difference.
Q. What was it like watching that Cheyenne Trest award come into practice?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: It was special, man. They deserved it. A lot of hard work. A lot of dedication and just the mindset, you know. It was cool. I ain't never seen an award that big. I don't know how much it weighed, but I don't know how they move that thing around.
Q. Didn't they put planks across the turf inside to slide it through?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah. I feel sorry for whoever had to get that. But I'm glad we got it.
Q. A year ago at this time, you had the huge game in the Fiesta Bowl. You had a decision to make. Could have gone pro. Glad you didn't, I'm sure, huh? This is what you want --
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah. It was a big decision at the time. It was a great decision I made. I look at some of the guys we brought back. Kristian had the same decision. He could have went pro. He was probably going to be a first rounder, to be honest. So guys like Devin, we talked about it. Every time, he's like man, we talked about that, Rashard, Chris, and guys that have been around for four years, kind of seen it all. So to come back and play for something like this, going forward, it's big.
Q. Kristian Fulton doesn't really get targeted at all. Therefore, he doesn't get any attention. What do you make the year he's had this year?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Solid. Kristian, kind of like Derek Stingley, don't say much. They love to play football, they love to cover guys. So he'll get tested Saturday. They got a lot of great receivers. But we know him and Derek will handle themselves. Kristian, man, he's probably the most underrated cornerback in college football. But the good thing about that is you don't want to hear a cornerback's name get called a lot, you know, getting picked on. People don't pick on Kristian. So solid season.
Q. Rashard, you may have answered this already, but you saw Jalen Hurts in '16 and '17, you played against him. What difference do you see in him now?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: I think the biggest thing is he can sit back there and throw it. They've got a lot of different designed runs for him, but he'll sit back there and throw it. So it's going to be tough with all the different things that they can do. And then Lincoln Riley is, I mean, I knew about him before I even got into college football. He's a good offensive coach. He'll have some things dialed up. So Jalen, he can throw it, he can run it, and he's also the heart and soul of that team.
Q. Does he seem like a more physical guy now? Has he put on some pounds?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah. There's been times guys have tried to tackle him in the backfield and he's dragged them two or three yards. Every yard counts. We've got to rally up and get to him. We've got to hit him often because if he gets a feel for the game, it could be a long night. So us personally, we've got to hit him. We've got to hit him hard. He's going to pop right back up, though. That's what a champion does. We'll be up for it.
Q. Rashard, so much has to happen, like you were talking about coming back to school, going pro. You talk about Grant getting healthy, K'Lavon getting healthy. This is a broad question. Why did this season happen?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: You got to look at the head coach. Coach O, he set a tempo at the beginning of spring ball. He brought in some great coaches, Coach Brady. Brought in more analysts, more than we've ever had since I've been here. And he's the head of it. We got a Heisman Trophy winner and many people didn't know about him at the beginning of the year. But I look at fall camp and how he shredded us apart. And when the defense is together and how we play, a lot of things have to happen. You have to kind of almost get lucky in college football sometimes. It's a process and everything, but things have to go your way. And I look at all the things that kind of went our way with all the different hirings, guys coming back to school, and, I mean, ultimately Joe just taking over this program. That's kind of how it happened. The quarterback starts it and the head coach starts it, and we go as they go. The head coach, he's sometimes not talked about that much. But now he's had a chance to really be in the spotlight and show what he is and who he is. So it starts with the head coach.
Q. Would you be able to tell Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: No.