Tuesday, December 24, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, gentlemen. We're now joined by the LSU defense, featuring defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, linebacker Patrick Queen, safety Grant Delpit and linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson. Coach, give us an opening statement on bowl preparations so far and what the trip has been like so far for you guys.
DAVE ARANDA: It's been great. We're excited to be here. We fully understand the challenge that's ahead of us, the offense that we're facing. For me personally, it's great to reconnect. Bill Bedenbaugh, the offensive line coach for Oklahoma, I was a GA with for three years. We shared the same offense -- or office, great friends with him. Dennis Simmons, the receiver coach, Lincoln showed up at Texas Tech after I left. Ruffin was a GA for when -- Ruffin was a linebacker coach at OU -- or at Texas Tech. So it's great to be able to reconnect and see them. On other side of it, we've got quarterback runs and speed shot throws and we've got looky passes off of run actions. It's a triple option offense kind of wrapped up in a spread packaging. So it's a whole bunch for us to digest. We're trying to take that bite by bite.
THE MODERATOR: For the players, let's go down the row. In looking at film so far on Oklahoma, talk about what your position group sees out of their defense and what you expect in the game from each of those units.
PATRICK QUEEN: Their offense, Jalen's a great quarterback, you know. CeeDee Lamb is a great wide receiver. They do a lot of plays, like Coach said. Looking at the film, everybody's got to do their job. We're going to stick to the game plan. We trust Coach with his game plan. It's a great one. We'll see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: Grant, what about the receiver group? What do you see out of them on tape?
GRANT DELPIT: They've got playmakers all in that room. CeeDee was a Biletnikof finalist for a reason. He's probably the second best receiver in the country besides Ja'Marr. They try to get him the ball a lot. He's truly a playmaker. They've got other speedy guys and guys that can catch the ball in the room. So it's going to be hard to stop. But, you know, CeeDee is a great player. They've got a lot of talent in the room. It's going to be a fun game.
THE MODERATOR: K'Lavon, for you. Oklahoma is associated with a pretty heavy passing attack. They actually run the ball pretty well too. What do you expect out of their backs?
K'LAVON CHAISSON: I feel like the running game is probably more underrated than what it is. People think they're more of a passing team, but they're running the ball in tremendous ways, I feel like they take over the Big 12 by running the ball. They're definitely a top team for a reason. When you have your quarterback leading, I think, the conference in rushing yards with almost 1,300 rushing yards, that's a lethal weapon, something you don't see often in the game of football at this age. It's going to be a task, a challenge that we're put up to, but I feel like we're well prepared for it, thanks to Coach Aranda.
Q. Dave, throughout the season you guys have had rotations on defense, the line, and other things like that with more personnel in a game at a time, how has that affected how you approach game-planning and scheming players throughout a game?
DAVE ARANDA: We want to be able to play our best in the fourth quarter so we go into every game anticipating that that fourth quarter is a must-win. And so the more that we can rotate early in the game, keeping guys fresh for late in the game, I think we've been able to develop that. I think the front, specifically, has helped us here in this late stretch of games. Just the depth that they've got. We don't miss a beat when the 1s aren't there, so to speak. Linebacker wise, DB-wise, the emergence of Flott and Maurice Hampton has allowed and freed up other defenders to do other things. Earlier in the year, when we didn't have that depth, I thought a lot of our DBs were covering guys. When we added more DB depth, we added the ability for DBs to blitz and do different stuff. That's what they've been doing lately. I think the inclusion of guys has been big.
Q. Coach Aranda, can you just give us a timeline on your talks with UNLV at the time and were they serious talks, or is it just a mere flirtation between you two?
DAVE ARANDA: I think we had this discussion earlier with a couple other guys. I think any time that you're presented with an opportunity, I think you -- for you and for your family, you want to be able to look into it. I think they're just preliminary talks. And it was nothing more than that. I feel like that program is in a great situation. I think the AD there and the people associated there are going to be on a great track. I wish them well.
Q. Coach, would you say Hurts is the best scrambler since the Ole Miss quarterback Plumlee. What did you take away from the second half of that game, how you played defensively, and the concerns you have regarding Hurts in this game?
DAVE ARANDA: I would say yes. I think it's a different style of runner. Hurts like to put his foot in the ground quite a bit, where I think Plumlee is more of a straight line guy, where I think Hurts will try to set you up and cut it back on him. I think the lessons learned would be the team defense aspect. I think that's the challenge with Oklahoma is what we talked about before, the spread offense. There's so many plays, gadget plays, or it's a run and there's a tight end over here blocking, and then he releases late. Or it's a run this way or looks like a run. The receiver is shallow like he's going to run a mesh route and takes up off the field. There's so many plays that they've got that are triple option plays, and you have to stay on your guy. You've got to build a heavy rise in the right spot. So I feel like the mistake I made in the Ole Miss game was when we had a breakdown here or breakdown there, I didn't pull everybody to the side and get them together and say, hey, this is what happened. This is where I went wrong. This is how we fix it. I feel I try to do that as best I can. I feel like in the past, I have. I don't know why in that game I did not. What ended up happening is one thing started to fester, the next thing. So the outside guy is going to try to make plays inside. The inside guy is going to try to make plays outside. We're missing guys now. The math doesn't add up. Oklahoma will put you in that situation in a fast way, and so we're going to collectively play team defense. As adjustments come up, we're going to have to make those adjustments as a team.
Q. Dave, in your history of coaching, have you been part of a staff where the offense, I guess, maybe didn't perform on this level, but leads the NCAA in scoring and they score pretty quickly, averaging like two minutes a drive? What challenges does that present a defensive coordinator? Is there even a learning curve even for someone like you to kind of catching up to that as the season goes on?
DAVE ARANDA: I think what I'm proud of with this group is the improvements that we've made, is the ability, when you're winning, to look at yourself critically and what can I do better and how can I improve and just all of that. I think some of that stuff is hard when you're winning. I was at Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury was our quarterback, and Coach Leach was our head coach and was calling the plays. They score quite a bit and score early. At Hawaii, Bryant Moniz was there. They score quite a bit, score early, score fast. Any time it's like that, the scoreboard doesn't matter. It's between you and yourself. You're not going to let them score. No matter what it is, you're not going to let them in, you're not going to give them an inch. You're not going to give them a yard. You're not going to make a mistake, even though it's 30 to something. And so it's not about necessarily winning the game. It's about completely shutting them down. That's a completely different mindset. So I think we're working to cultivate that mindset.
Q. Coach, early in the season, there was a narrative and some criticism about the points and the statistics you guys were surrendering. There was an obvious shift the last two weeks against A&M and against Georgia. What changed? And you noted the evolution of this group. Define that evolution. But what changed the last couple of weeks?
DAVE ARANDA: Well, I think -- I appreciate your question. I feel like there was positive things throughout the year, whether it was the second half of Florida -- I'm going to bring up halves now. Or let's say the first three quarters of Arkansas. The first three quarters and couple minutes of Arkansas. Or Auburn, right, the first three quarters of the Auburn game. So our issue, or one of our issues, has been finishing, has been four quarters. And a lot of it had to do like there is no scoreboard, man. There isn't. It's not about the "W" or the "L." It's about shutting people down. It's about stopping people. So that's a mindset that you've got to be able to have. I think these guys have been able to get into it. I stand at the 20 after our offense scores and we're waiting -- that's where we're anticipating we're going to start, the kickoff and that. As the defense walks over, jogs over, runs over, I can tell by the look in their eye that this is going to be three and out, that they're not going to score right now. No matter what the scoreboard says, you can see it. Just as a coach, you can see it. I imagine the fans, with their rightful criticism, I imagine they could see it too. Good and bad. So I think we've got it to where we want it to be and we're working to get it better.
Q. Patrick and Grant, Stingley was practicing with you guys last year for the bowl game. I'm wondering, what did you guys see from him then and did you expect him to have the impact he's had this season?
PATRICK QUEEN: Derek was very mature for his age when he came in. He was different. He didn't really talk a lot. I guess him not knowing a lot of us. But he really didn't ask any questions when he came in. He came in, went to work, and you could see in his eyes that he was hungry, going against our best wide receivers at the time. It translates to this year. He's doing the same thing that he did when he came in. Just proud of that kid and hope he'll keep playing.
THE MODERATOR: Grant?
GRANT DELPIT: He came in last year, mature beyond his age. He's a great player. He surprised a lot of us, the amount of plays he was making. I think he's proved himself throughout this year. Georgia was trying him a lot two weeks ago. I think he's trying to kind of prove himself in the SEC now. I think it's time for him to do it on a bigger stage. We've got all the confidence in him.
Q. K'Lavon, at the beginning of the season, I guess throughout the season, there's been times where starters have been injured but now it seems the past few games, couple of games, you've had everybody at full strength. How noticeable is the difference when you guys are all out there together versus when you're having to play against some backups at times?
K'LAVON CHAISSON: I feel that's more of a confidence within the unit, when you know -- especially I feel like a defensive line interior, they know that having me on the outside, they know he can trust me and I'm going to do my job regardless of what the case may be on the inside. I trust the starters on the inside will do their job no matter what the case will be. So I feel like it's more of a confidence in where -- if it's a backup, you have people worrying about, you know, what I'm saying, the backup is going to do his job. So people try to do a little extra or maybe try to do the other person's job and they just don't want to do it right. They want to focus mainly on theirs. I think it's more about the cohesive unit. The starters and the 1s that have been working and grinding this summer together and fall camp. Just being in confidence and everybody trusting and believing that the person is going to do their job. That's what made the cohesive unit work together and flash.
Q. Dave, I know you're preparing for OU's offense. I wanted to get your perspective on the job Alex Grinch has done with Oklahoma's defense this year. Just as someone that is well respected as a defensive coordinator and calls football, how do you think Alex has done turning around Oklahoma's defense this season?
DAVE ARANDA: I think he's done a great job. I remember talking to him when he was still back out west and we talked about the stemming that he was using and the different stunts. He moves his front more than really anybody. Was really impressed in the talk that we had, because he organized all that. I think that's what I had never seen before was organizing the stems and the stunts and being able to have so much multiplicity with one word calls and able to get in and out of things. I feel when I watch Oklahoma's defense play, which I've watched quite a few games, the violence they play with, how hard they play, the speed in which they play with, I mean, that's the first thing you see and that's a great quality to jump off the screen. I think he's done a great job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.