By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Joe Burrow, JaCoby Stevens, & Clyde Edwards-Helaire take questions
**The following is from a Media Teleconference for the SEC Championship Game on Monday, Dec. 2nd, 2019, that I attended**
THE MODERATOR: We begin with Joe Burrow. Joe, while we are waiting on questions, please take a moment to comment on the LSU team entering the SEC Championship game
JOE BURROW: We're fired up to be here. LSU hasn't been there since 2011, so this is one of the goals we had for the season. So we're fired up to play.
Q. Joe, you had a pretty good year last year throwing the ball and running. Do you find this change in the offensive concept this year to the more spread has obviously developed your game even more? What would you say about all that?
JOE BURROW: I think the concepts and things we're doing this year really kind of utilize all the weapons we have on offense more so than last year. We're doing some of the same things we did last year, but obviously everyone has seen that it's quite different. We're really just utilizing the weapons we have on the outside and getting people in space and trying to make defenses make one-on-one plays.
Q. What have you seen from the Georgia defense, particularly in the linebacker corps, like Monty Rice and all them, including what you saw from them last year?
JOE BURROW: They're one of the top two or three defenses in the country, giving up like nine or ten points a game, something crazy like that. They're just a super solid defense all around. DBs are really good. They play sound in their scheme. You can tell they're coached very well. So it's going to be a tall task for us.
Q. I wanted to ask you kind of what your first memories of kind of getting together with Joe Brady and talking to him about his ideas for the offense and what your take-away was. Did you think it was going to be a game changer?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, so actually, one of my best friends from Ohio State, J.T. Barrett, was on the Saints practice squad last year with Coach Joe. So the first kind of thing I heard about him was from J.T. J.T. called me and told me I was going to love this guy. We were going to be best friends. That's exactly what it's turned out to be. It's been great for us.
Q. And did you envision, when you were like a high school quarterback in Athens, Ohio, that you would be leading a big time program on this stage with this kind of opportunity in front of you still in the next weeks ahead?
JOE BURROW: When I envision myself, I envision myself on a stage like this. I don't know if I envision myself in Louisiana at LSU, but I've always -- this is what I've always dreamed of. It's never been my dream to play in the NFL. I wanted to play in games like this, SEC, Big Ten Championship games, and national title games.
Q. Joe, what would you say about the offensive line, the way it's protected you this year as many times as you've thrown the ball. Really been playing with those guys up front all season long?
JOE BURROW: Yeah, they're one of the most improved groups I've ever been around. Last year they felt they took a lot of criticism from a lot of different areas, and they worked so hard this off-season to get where we needed them to be. They've been one of the best offensive units in the country for us.
Q. As Coach Orgeron said last night, your passing game has opened up the running game, and the running game with Clyde has opened up the passing game for you. Is that a case of two areas just really complementing each other well all year?
JOE BURROW: Yes, absolutely. We started off the season, and we weren't running the ball very well, and then about Game 4 or 5, we started really rolling on the ground. I think the difference between us this year and last year is we're kind of throwing the ball to open up the run, and Clyde and those O-linemen are taking advantage. Clyde, I think, is the best back in the country, and that's the biggest difference in this year and last year.
Q. How big was that Georgia game last year for you guys in terms of instilling confidence in you guys to go and win a big game against an opponent like that?
JOE BURROW: It was huge for us. We were coming off of our first loss of the year at Florida, and we were going into that game like, shoot, we've got to play Georgia again this week. It's not the easiest task. So we knew we had to win that game if we wanted to have a special season for the rest of the year. It just turned out that way. The crowd was great. They played a huge part. We're kind of going into enemy territory with this week, so it's going to -- they're going to want revenge on us, so we're going to have to be on our game for sure.
Q. Then with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, what has allowed him to be as successful as he has been, especially over the second half of the season?
JOE BURROW: I think he's excelled in the passing game. You have to put a linebacker on him because he'll run the ball so well. I don't think there's a linebacker in the country that can cover him. So they really have to pick their poison. They want to stop Clyde in the run game or the pass game. He's so versatile in that aspect.
Q. We're here with Jacoby Stevens. Please take a moment to comment on the LSU team entering the SEC Championship game.
JACOBY STEVENS: We're very proud that we won the SEC West. It's an accomplishment for the team. We know what a great deal this is and a great accomplishment for the program heading into the Championship. We have to press on as a team. We know that we want to do more and keep pushing and keep pressing on. I know for Coach Orgeron we have to press on. I feel like this year we turned a lot of heads. We proved a lot of doubters wrong. Offensive-wise, they took care of business all year. They've been doing things that we knew that they can do with all the time they have on this side of the ball. And defensive-wise, we've been trying to play our part and contribute to this roll that we have going. We're just trying to do our best defensive-wise, even though we had a couple of games that we were playing out of character, and we had a couple games where we played LSU defense of old. We need to find and be more consistent on that balance and find what's working and keep going with it.
Q. Jacoby, when you look at the Georgia offense, particularly Jake Fromm and D'Andre Swift, the running back is pretty much like Clyde, got over 1,200 yards rushing this year. What do you see in this offense as you all look at them on film?
JACOBY STEVENS: When I'm looking at Georgia's offense on film, they're talented. They have basically a pro type quarterback in the backfield. He's very mature in his decision-making. He can make throws that a lot of quarterbacks in college football can't make. I think what makes them elite and brings them -- makes their offense to another level is the running back corps out there that's led by D'Andre. So D'Andre is a really good back. He can cut, stop on a dime. His dead leg is something to be reckoned with. But it doesn't just stop with him. They've got three other backs, three young backs that are really good. I'm sorry. They have two younger backs and one senior back that's really good, and it's their rotation is what's scary for us.
Q. What did you guys do against Texas A&M that was so effective defensively? And a lot of people ask, where has that been all year?
JACOBY STEVENS: We know that's what we've struggled with all year long. When we do a self assessment, we know that pass rushing is one of the things we struggle with. We just, as a team and as a defense, we got together and figured out -- we just talked to each other on how we can get better and what do each position group need for us to get better at our weaknesses. This week the leaders of that D-line and the front seven just stepped up, man. They affected the quarterback. They had a goal going into the game to get, I'm pretty sure, three or four-plus more sacks. I'm pretty sure they ended the game with five. That's a talented group up there, and hopefully it's a hot streak, they're catching a hot streak. And it's just about the feeling out process. You know we're playing good teams. We had a harsh schedule this year, and we played a really good offensive line. You've got to put that into play too. I think that the defensive line and the front seven really stepped it up this week and really affected the quarterback, which in turn made my job and the DBs' job, the secondary's job very easy.
Q. And Coach O said last night you all always try to block out the noise, but you all couldn't help being motivated by some of the outside conversation that you all have heard this year. Even the chairman of the playoff committee moved you all down this year and said it's because of the defensive piece. How much of that has been motivating to hear all of the outside conversation about how LSU is so good except for their defense?
JACOBY STEVENS: It's hard to block out the noise when you look -- you know, you're looking, and next thing you know you're looking, and you're the No. 2 team in the nation from recently being No. 1. And you hear all along the offense is great but the defense is not. As a competitor, you take that as motivation. You want to change that narrative, and I feel like we did that against Texas A&M. People can kind of realize what 60 minutes of LSU standard performance football is, and I feel like we still haven't played our best ball yet. We have some mistakes that we made defensive-wise on the field that we need to clean up, and we're going to do that today on Tell the Truth Monday, but that definitely motivated us as a defense, and we're going to accept the challenge, and we're going to take it on.
Q. Jacoby, you came pretty close to choosing the Bulldogs when you were a recruit, and it meant you got to know guys like Richard LeCounte and the Georgia staff fairly well. When you made that choice, did you get the feeling that you might wind up in a high stakes game like this one this week with Georgia? Does that add anything extra to this matchup?
JACOBY STEVENS: Definitely. I mean, just looking at the class that they had, of course, you knew, I'm pretty sure I told you about this, the recruiting, the group texts we had, all the commits we had was crazy. I knew, when choosing LSU, that Georgia was going to be good for now and for a long time from now. Coach Smart, he's a heck of a coach. It isn't surprising that we're playing them in a big game like this because of the talent that they recruited and the coaches that they have. I expected to play those guys in a big game like we did last year and now the SEC Championship. I expected nothing less from those guys.
Q. What did you take away from the time you got to know Coach Smart and the staff while you were a recruit?
JACOBY STEVENS: While I was recruiting there, I loved Coach Smart, and at the time, he was the defensive coordinator there, Coach Tucker, and I enjoyed talking to him all the time. They were great people. They made me feel at home when I went to go visit there. There was a reason why Georgia was one of my schools that I really looked into and felt like I could fit there. But they're great coaches, and there's a reason why they attract top talent in the nation.
Q. How dedicated are you guys to stopping the run from Georgia? They're a really physical team up front. How dedicated will you guys be to stacking the box?
JACOBY STEVENS: Right now we're going to get our game plan today on how we're going to try to limit what Georgia wants to do. They have an incredible offensive line, a really big offensive line, and a really good set of running backs. You see that a lot in the SEC. Georgia's seen that when they play teams in the SEC, and we've seen that when we play teams in the same conference. That's what you get when you're in a conference like this. We have one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation. Today we're going to focus on our corrections from the A&M game because it is a copycat league, and we're going to press on to Georgia and figure out how we can stop and limit Georgia to what they want to do, which is one of their strengths is their running game.
Q. And the second question, how is it like to play for a high energy guy like Ed Orgeron?
JACOBY STEVENS: Man, it's amazing. I always say and tell guys, when you see Coach O before we run out before the games in the locker room, you'd swear Coach O is about to put on his pads and his helmet and get ready to play. Coach O is a high energy guy. He loves the game. He's very passionate about the game. He's a true competitor. When you put well rounded people and competitors such as myself and other people on this team and our leaders like Coach O, it's going to be a great environment and an environment that is healthy that can bring in victories.
THE MODERATOR: We'll conclude today's call with LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Clyde, while we wait on questions, please take a moment to comment on the LSU team entering the SEC Championship game. CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: First off, I want to say this is a brotherhood. We expected to be in this situation. We are humbled to be in this situation, and we are ready to continue the things that we've been doing so far. The boys are ready. We're going to prepare this week and on to the SEC Championship.
Q. Clyde, Coach Orgeron said last night in his teleconference that Georgia is the best defense you've faced all year, and what they've given up against the run is not very much, and also points against is only about ten points a game. What kind of challenge is that for your offense, and what do you need to do to have success against this Georgia defense?
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: This week we're just going to have to watch the film we need to watch, execute, and let Coach Joe and Coach Ensminger figure out the details of the offensive game plan. Georgia is a great rushing defense and a great overall defense. It was the same situation as last year. They were the No. 2 rushing defense in the country, and we prepared that way with this, with our game plan, and we're going to figure the things out that we need to figure out in order to move the ball, and hopefully towards the end of this week we have everything figured out as far as the game plan and what's our strategy going into this week.
Q. And I believe you had 146 yards against Georgia in Baton Rouge last season. What do you think you've improved in your game over the last past season?
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: I would say I became more patient. I would say I became more of a smart runner, being able to read the things that I need to see on the defense and not just run. I'm able to know exactly where most run plays are going to run in and know the strengths and weaknesses of each player on the defense from the film study that I do throughout the week. It also helps having Joe on my left and my right in the backfield to let me know certain situations and what's going on in the run game.
Q. You all had these player only practices every Saturday in the summer. How did those come together without coaches being there to direct you all through drills? They were obviously pretty influential on your season.
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: Yeah, so we did those player only practices, and for the most part, they were throughout the week with the team. Then on Saturdays, any group can come in together. Early in the morning, the offense might come in or a group of receivers or all the quarterbacks or all the running backs. It just depends on the configuration of what we had planned for that week. We'll have a group message for that week, and everybody understands who needs to come in, the things that we're going to accomplish, and the things that we need to get improved, and everything was step by step. Joe was, for the most part, the coordinator of it for the offense for us. Anything that he wanted to get done, any route, anything that he saw in the playbook that he felt we needed to work on and run, we did. We got all those things accomplished. Anything from pass play in the backfield to routes out of the backfield to routes outside was my biggest thing and also running routes with receivers, picking at them, trying to get insight on how they run routes, which benefited me this year. Overall, it helped, and it's paying off.
Q. Do you have any fond memories of those times? Adrian Magee told us a story about bringing his dog and chasing Badara Traore. Do you have any memories of that kind of thing?
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: Yeah. I would say one time I brought my dog, and I had my dog pretty much running routes with me. He was just behind me the whole time. It was -- it's nice to have fun, but we went in and did the work that we needed to do. It just goes to show you that any distraction that we could have brought in, we were still going to get the work necessary that we needed to get done. Afterwards, we all just kind of chilled two hours afterward just talking, talking about the things we wanted to accomplish this season, playing with my dog. Everybody is just running around having a good time, just kind of embracing it all and understanding we had something special and we knew we had something special, and being able to execute the things we needed to do. Some things that might take people hours, we were able to accomplish in 30, 45 minutes and get everything executed and down the exact way that we want it. Afterwards, just to bond with those guys that's still on the field now, it shows a lot. It shows that we created a bond early on, and it only gets stronger week to week.
Q. What player stood out to you the most from last year's game? Maybe a linebacker on the defensive line from Georgia.
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: I mean, just thinking -- we play so many games after that, and I try to flush everything afterwards. I would say last year, I think it's Roquan, the linebacker. I'm not sure his name. I don't want to say it wrong. He was a great athlete. I needed to see where he was pretty much every play I was in. Last year I wasn't the starter. I prepared like a starter, but last year I wasn't a starter, so it wasn't my job to just know everything about him, but I went in knowing I needed to know where he was on the field at all times. That was the biggest thing for me when I got in. As far as guys on defense, he's the guy that stood out.
Q. I'm just interested, last year and previously LSU ran a lot more heavier offensive sets, a lot of 12 personnel. Nowadays you guys are a lot more spread out. As a running back in a system like that with a lot more space out there on the edges, does it make your job as a tailback that much easier? And obviously, you've had much more success this season.
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: I would say it makes everybody -- it makes the defense become accountable for everyone. I wouldn't say that it makes my job easier. I still, for the most part, we still are running the things that we ran. It's just the RPO offense that pretty much gives Joe the option to pull the ball, and it gives us pretty much that double read. If it's going to benefit Joe to pull the ball, he does. If it's going to benefit us keeping the ball and me making a play and let the Oline do their thing up front, then that's what we go towards. That's pretty much what a lot of offenses are going to nowadays. I would say colleges around have adjusted to the all pro offense, and a lot of defensive coordinators are finding ways to stop the things that they need to stop or make whatever defenses that they need to set up or whatever they need to do in order to stop it. So I would say every game you go into, I'm not thinking it's easier now than it was before because you never know. It's the game of football. You never know what you're getting into when you go in. You can only study the things that you saw before on film or what they did all before the week of. Some defenses go with, we call it the flavor of the week. They might just show things on film before that they never ran, and then this week might be the week they feel their defense can stop the offense we have going. It's all based off adjustments during the game, and that's pretty much what the game is all about -- who can make the best adjustments and execute the adjustments when the coaches want the adjustments. That's the game of football.
Q. Clyde, I know it's still early in the process here and you guys are still getting into your evaluation process of Georgia, but how confident are you that your offensive line can win at the point of attack against the SEC's top rush defense in Georgia?
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE: I'm very confident. The O-line steps up. Whenever they get called out, our people feel like they want to step up. They always do. That's the way it's been for us for the past six, seven weeks. It's always been can the offensive line hold up? And they have. So as far as the questions about the offensive line, those guys work hard day in and day out. They execute. This year we had numerous rotations on the offensive line, and it hasn't been a dropoff yet. Those guys, they prepare, and they execute, and they do the things they need to do in order to get the job done on Saturday.