December 24, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by LSU's offense, with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, and wide receiver Ja'marr Chase. Coach, we'll start with you. Give us an opening statement on getting to Atlanta and bowl preparations so far and how the trip has been to this point.
STEVE ENSMINGER: Well, the trip has been great. It's been a great season. Obviously, we're excited about being in the playoffs and everything else. We're excited about playing Oklahoma. It's a great matchup. From watching film and everything else, it's two great teams that's going to put on a show and we're looking forward to it. But the trip and Atlanta and -- thank you -- everything has been special, really has.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. Starting with you, Joe, talk about your experience so far. I know you got to do the Battle for Bowl Week event last night and tour the Hall of Fame. What was the experience like? JOE BURROW: It was a lot of fun. We were here last week as well. The Family Feud last night was a lot of fun.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: It's been a lot of fun, but we're here to handle business. So we're excited for this game. We're excited for this matchup, and we're just ready to go.
JA'MARR CHASE: We're loving it right now out here. We're having a lot of fun with the guys. As Justin said, we're came out here to handle business. We're taking care of the fun stuff right now. Once that's over with, we'll get to work.
Q. Steve, I wonder what your younger self would have enjoyed doing with this offense?
STEVE ENSMINGER: Well, back in the stone ages, we didn't do this kind of stuff. But it is fun for a number of reasons. Because there's guys sitting next to me who can make those plays. It's fun. As an offensive coordinator, you go years -- I think it's my 38th year of coaching -- to coach a quarterback like Joe and have receivers and running backs like we have. It's a special year. So I would have loved to have been through this, but I don't think this offense was thought of back then.
Q. Coach, just curious, how gratifying has this year been for you? How much have you enjoyed this year? And what makes you able to work with Joe Brady the way that you have while he's gotten some national accolades and put your ego aside and so forth?
STEVE ENSMINGER: It's been a fantastic year. You go undefeated and you put the numbers we put, it's gratifying. As far as Joe Brady is concerned, I love him to death. Coach O asked me -- he walked in my office, I can't remember when, but I think the Saints just lost the game they shouldn't have lost, and he said, What do you think about Joe Brady? I said, Get him here tomorrow. And he's brought a lot to our offense. To be honest, I'm appreciative of him. He deserves everything he's gotten, I can promise you that. It's just fun sitting up in the box and dissecting defenses. And it's amazing because we practice all week, and probably the last five games for sure, you don't see the defense you practice against. It's always something different. So sitting up here, making adjustments, and counting on your quarterback, your receivers, and running backs to make those adjustments, it's exciting. Because with this guy right here, you can call a play and even if you feel like they're going to roll the coverage, they're going to do something wrong, he's going to take care of it.
Q. Steve, Oklahoma's defense has taken a big jump like your offense has taken this year. What have you seen from them? And what makes them so tough?
STEVE ENSMINGER: I don't put anything down against the defenses we play, because we play some great defenses. This might be the fastest defense we face. They can run. Their defensive line can run, their line backers can run, their secondary can run. They present problems with their speed. And so it's protection first. You got to be able to run the football against this team. Nobody has. You put up explosive runs on tape, and they're not very many of them, so it's got to be a good mixture. I think you -- the defensive coordinator does a great job of checking the check and everything else. I think you have to be a little bit faster with this defense as far as calling plays and getting it in and let's go. It will be a challenge.
Q. For Joe Burrow, we talked about the relationship between you and Coach O and how much guys mean to each other. But what does it feel like to have a relationship with, of course, Mr. Steve and Joe Brady, the quarterbacks coach just coming from last year to this year?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that they do that I appreciate is they ask for my input in the offense. And they not only ask for it, but they implement it. And, you know, Coach E and Coach Joe come to me on Monday, ask for ideas, and they'll be in the game plan Tuesday. Thursday and Friday, I'll get a play sheet and cross out the ones I don't like, and they won't call it. So it's been a great meshing together.
Q. Coach, during this year with the success you've had with both Joes, Brady and Burrow, has it made you think the longevity of your career, maybe extending it a little bit further than maybe what you had thought before the season started?
STEVE ENSMINGER: Hell, I'm young. (Laughter.)
STEVE ENSMINGER: I'm 61. I won't be like Coach Robinson. I won't coach until I'm 80, but do I look forward to the rest -- I look forward to finishing this season and we'll make that decision after. I still want to coach. I enjoy coaching. I think we have special athletes. I'm sitting next to three of them right here. So as long as I feel like I can contribute to LSU, I will be there. If I feel like -- it's kind of like, you know, Joe Brady coming in here and helping us. If I feel like, hey, somebody else can do it better, I'll walk away from it. That's the way it is.
Q. Good morning, guys. This is for Joe first, but I'd like to have the rest of your input as well, please. Joe, if you were to tell your story to someone who had never heard it, didn't know a thing about you, what would you say?
JOE BURROW: How long do you have?
Q. I got all morning. Go ahead.
JOE BURROW: It's been a long one, you know. I think that's kind of been the story of college football season with three of the Heisman finalists being transfers and having long roads and battling through adversity. I just try to leave a legacy of hard work and leadership and loyalty and let the rest take care of itself.
Q. I want to hear from the rest of you guys. If you were telling Joe's story to somebody that didn't know it, how would you describe his journey from that small town in Ohio to Heisman to playoff?
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: To be honest, he's been blessed, to be in this situation from a small town to Ohio, to Ohio State, and then transfer to LSU, and then being in a situation like he is now, then being up for the Heisman and winning the Heisman, he just had a long journey. And, I mean, he's been blessed to be in this situation and so is the rest of us.
THE MODERATOR: Ja'Marr?
JA'MARR CHASE: I could tell Joe's been through a lot with the transfer portals and stuff. But he's a hard worker and he comes in every day, ready to work. So with a quarterback like that, that means he's great, you know. Make sure his receivers are good, his running backs, his line, you know. He takes care of everyone around him. So that just means he's ready.
Q. Steve, are y'all practicing as if you might have -- might not have Clyde, just in case? And what do you think of the other three backs and what kind of job they might do if you don't have Clyde?
STEVE ENSMINGER: I'm excited about the other three backs. I do believe we will have Clyde. That's my opinion. Coach O and Jack don't confer with me that much, but I think Clyde will be there. If he's not, we have capable backs. Ty Davis is a bull runner. John Emery can make people miss in space. Chris Curry, I think Chris Curry runs the ball hard. You saw him at the end of the game last week or two weeks ago, runs the ball hard. He's very secure with the ball. I have no problems with our backs if Clyde's not there. But I truly expect him to be there.
Q. To follow up on that, Joe and the receivers as well, if you are having to rely on some young running backs, do you feel that puts more pressure on the passing game side of your offense?
JOE BURROW: Clyde is -- you know, Clyde is a running back, but what makes Clyde so good is you can't cover him with the linebacker. Teams have to go dime or put another safety in there, another DB to cover Clyde, and then we can run the ball down and throw it. So Clyde, you know, super versatile and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. We're not going to change our offense if Clyde isn't out there, you know. Our offense is our offense. And those guys will step up, and I know they will, and they work hard for it. But Clyde is a big part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Justin?
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: Like Coach said, next man up. So if Clyde was not with us, we definitely have faith in Ty, John, and Chris. So, I mean, they're some good backs. They're not here for a reason. I mean, we rely on everybody. So if Clyde would so happen not to play, we can rely on the other backs as well.
THE MODERATOR: Ja'Marr?
JA'MARR CHASE: I don't know, the freshman just to play a game, they should look at it like every other game. If Clyde isn't there, there's always the next man up. I think our guys will be ready for it.
Q. Joe, $482,326 have been raised so far on Facebook for the Athens County Food Pantry. That charitable work and money that spilled over to other charitable causes, springing from what you said at the Heisman speech last Saturday, I'm sure you've taken note of it. How much has that surprised you, overwhelmed you? What have you thought about it?
JOE BURROW: I think it's awesome. I think their annual budget was something like 70 or 80,000, and it's up close to 500,000 now. I didn't expect that. I didn't say what I said -- I just said it from my heart. That's what I was feeling at the time and someone took it and ran with it. It's been awesome. I couldn't be happier for my area that it's happening. I think it's going to help a lot of people this Christmas.
Q. For Joe, Justin, Ja'Marr, Coach alluded to looking at Oklahoma's defense as being the fastest you guys have seen on tape. From your perspective, is there a better defense that you feel you guys have played against that could possibly -- that you guys could possibly look at, or do you feel exactly the same way as him?
JOE BURROW: When you watch them on tape, they definitely pop. They're fast all over the field. And their scheme is really effective. I was with Coach Grinch for the first spring at Ohio State, he's a great coach, great guy. He does a really good job with them.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: What we caught on the tape, we seen they were fast. We have fast receivers in our room too. So we're not really afraid of the speed they have. We just got to go in the game, focus, ready to go, and make some big plays.
THE MODERATOR: Ja'Marr?
JA'MARR CHASE: We see they're fast, of course. But it's all about working hard. It's all about technique on the field. You can't always rely on speed. So it's either a game of heart or a game of speed.
Q. Joe, what has your life been like the last week and a half since you won the Heisman? I'm sure you've gotten countless requests for pictures, autographs, so forth. How have you handled that and your motivation? Do you still kind of pretend like you're the guy who wasn't recruited well? How do you keep your edge after you get so much recognition like that?
JOE BURROW: Not hard. Not hard. I want to win a national title. That's always been my drive since I was a sophomore in high school. I never dreamed of -- when I envisioned myself growing up, being a football player, it wasn't in the NFL. It was playing on January 13 in a dome somewhere for the national title.
Q. (No microphone)
JOE BURROW: It's been kind of exhausting the last couple weeks, so I've been excited this week to get here and kind of get away from it all, get onto the practice field and just focus on ball.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we've got a question for you. Kenneth Murray on OU's defensive side can be a disrupter on just about every play. What are you expecting out of him and how do you think he can impact your --
STEVE ENSMINGER: What's his number? I can tell you numbers. Number 9 is, I think, a special player, defensive lineman right there. But I think number 9, the linebacker, might be the best linebacker in the country. Really do. He's instinctive, he's fast. He does swinging routes and runs down backs. He's a special player, and we have to account for him on every play. We have a plan to account for him on every play, and I look forward to seeing how our guys react to him. But that guy right there is special.
Q. To the two wide receivers, what's it been like to play in this trio. I know you have Racey and other guys. Talk to me about Terrace. I hear he's not as maybe outspoken or he's a little more quiet but has just as much drive and competitiveness as you two guys have.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: The funny part is we come to practice every day competitive. Dealing with these guys every single day is definitely stressful. But they have been working their butts off, and they're the reason why I'm like I am today. So I mean, I'm excited to be playing with these guys and even Joe. So I definitely can tell my kids I played with a Heisman quarterback when I have kids one day.
THE MODERATOR: Ja'Marr?
JA'MARR CHASE: Terrace is very outspoken, you know. He's competitive with all of us, all the receivers. I can say we'll turn a simple drill into something we all want to win just so we can be competitive. But I think having a receiver corps like that is good for a team, pushing each other, keeping each other high, balanced, keep us out of trouble. I think that's good for us.
Q. Joe, if I'm not mistaken, you had mentioned that Lincoln Riley offered you when he was the offensive coordinator at East Carolina. That was one of our first offers. Can you speak to the level of respect you have for him not just as a coach, but him seeing the greatness in you early when a lot of other programs maybe didn't?
JOE BURROW: Yeah. He -- so my only offer at the time was my dad's team, and I didn't really think that was a real offer. I thought it was just my dad's team just throwing an offer out there. And Coach Riley called me and offered me a couple months later. So I've always had a bunch of respect for him. I was actually really impressed with him on the phone very early. I didn't really want to go to East Carolina, but I thought about it because of Coach Riley. He's a great coach. You can see that the last couple of years.
Q. Steve, was there a point in the preseason or was it during the season where you realized what the offense is capable of with kind of the rapport that Joe and the receivers and the backs all had?
STEVE ENSMINGER: I felt like spring practice -- I felt like in spring, going against a very good defense, the way we performed, I thought we had a chance to be a real good offense. The first game of the season, I thought that team was a very good team. And your concern as a coordinator, how are you going to move the football and everything else? We took it down there the first three drives. I'll never forget the one play, we're down on the goal line and we had a duo play called, a run play called. We looked over, and I put a run tag on it. I think Joe threw a touchdown to Jordan -- I mean, to Justin. And then Brady looked up and says how do you like this offense now? Pretty damn good. (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.