BATON ROUGE, La. — It’s SEC Week in the LSU football world.
The LSU football team opens its first week of SEC preparation Monday, as the Tigers get ready to face off against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday night. To preview the game, LSU coach Ed Orgeron spoke to the media Monday. He discussed lineups, injuries and what to expect from the Bulldogs.
Here’s what Orgeron said, as typed live on the scene by SEC Country.
What LSU football coach Ed Orgeron said
- It seems like we’re getting into the season now. It’s cranking up. We were very excited to walk down that Tiger Walk for our first game. I want to thank the fans. It was a great, electric atmosphere. We were pleased that we won the game. We’ve got some things we need to fix. But there were things we were pleased about.
- On defense two turnovers, two interceptions by two freshmen. Five sacks. Two by K’Lavon Chaisson. One was a grounding, they gave him a sack. And two by Corey Thompson, who has four on the year already.
- Special teams, obviously the punt return touchdown by D.J. [Chark]. Obviously we need to fix our field goal unit and we’re going to work on it very hard this week. There won’t be different guys. Those are the guys we have. But we’re going to try different techniques.
- We’ll continue to work on the penalties. Those are the things we continue to work on. They’re unacceptable.
- Arden Key has been cleared for play this week. We’re going to play him as much as we can. We’ll see this week what he can do.
- We’re plus-three in the turnover margin. That’s one of the things we wanted to get better at. And we’ve got to keep it up against a very tough Mississippi State defense.
- I have a lot of respect for Mississippi State. The year I took off, I spent some time with Dan Mullen. I have the utmost respect for the way he recruits and the way he runs his program. I think the biggest thing about their staff is they hired Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator. You can see that he’s making a difference in their football team. His pass defense is No. 1 in the SEC.
- Their special teams and kickoff return is good. Field goals is 2 of 4 on field-goal attempts, but he’s had two blocked.
- Most of our guys are healthy. I don’t know if Rashard Lawrence will play this week. I don’t even know how much he’ll practice this week. But we’re fired up to have Arden Key back.
- Jack Marucci does tests. Arden had to pass a couple of tests here and there. Every week he was getting closer and closer to our target. We had planned the whole time that we thought this was the game he’d be ready to be back. He’s a little bit heavier than he was last year, so he’ll need to get in game shape. He’s been doing drills. Now he’ll be doing team work. We’ll see what he can do. But K’Lavon Chaisson is a very formidable backup. We’ll see what he can do in his condition.
- First of all, our protection and the knowledge of our offense. Matt Canada is doing a great job of managing [quarterback] Danny [Etling]. In the spring, Matt didn’t know what Danny’s strengths and weaknesses were like he does now. I think that’s the difference.
- Route concepts and footwork. That’s the difference with our receivers. That and they’re catching every ball we’re throwing them.
- It’s a good problem to have. Obviously, Greedy [Williams] waited his turn. Someone blinked. He moved in. And he’s holding on to that spot. He don’t want to give it up. That’s what we love about competition. There’s no sacred spots on our football team. We want the guys who are playing the best. And Greedy’s doing that right now.
- First of all, we have a new grouping that keeps Corey Thompson in the game. That’s what Dave Aranda has worked on just for that reason.
- I try to share ideas with other coaches, especially recruiting. And I said to Mullen, ‘You’ve had success recruiting quarterbacks. What do you look for?’ He said toughness. Didn’t hesitate. Dan’s a tremendous coordinator. He does a great job of calling plays from the sideline. And obviously [Nick] Fitzgerald is very smart.
- We have a lot of shifts and motions. Guys are jittery and jumpy. When the quarterback gives us a hard count, we jump off on first count. We shouldn’t be doing that. We need to calm them down. Play the older guys at first and quit creating all these penalties that put us in bad situations.
- If you put too many people in the box, Fitzgerald can throw that football. He’s a good decision-maker. He’s a good runner. He can scramble and throw the football. He’s a very good quarterback.
- I kind of like playing on the road because on Tuesdays we get our John Deere tractor and we put it right behind the offense and we play their fight songs and cowbells. I respect Mississippi State. The last time I was in that stadium, I was really impressed. It’s going to fire up our guys. But we need to get our snap count down and get experience.
- We’re about as detailed as we’ve ever been on special teams. In the past, the special teams coach would be in the defensive meeting room. Now it’s special teams 24/7. I do believe if Coach Mack [Greg McMahon] was a full-time coach our guys would be better. He’s a guy that I will highly consider when a 10th coach comes available.
- I believe we have enough veteran players and we have the ability to respond with the deep ball if we ever get behind. We can run the ball and we have a defense. Look at Mississippi State in the last two years. We’ve been up on them and they came back late. This is going to be a close battle.
- Especially how they’re getting them. We look at the techniques other teams use on strip attempts, interceptions. How many men pressuring? Where are they? We do a good enough job of creating turnovers. But it’s the strip attempt. I think the more attempts you get, the more turnovers you get. We have a goal of creating three turnovers per practice. And most of the camp we’ve done that. We studied film, we studied teams.
- It’s not bad [Arden Key’s weight]. He started gaining weight before his shoulder surgery. I think right now he’s close to 265. We want to get him down to 260 or 255.
- [Aranda and Canada] are the two best I’ve been around. I’ve been around Pete Carroll and Jimmy Johnson. Matt Canada knows this offense like the back of his hand. I don’t think there’s much that can startle him. He can make adjustments and they fix it immediately. Dave is the same way. I’ve never been a part of a coach on the sideline that can see all 22 players when the ball is snapped and know what everyone did. He still hasn’t told me that secret. It’s not halftime adjustments. It’s sideline adjustments. They’re excellent at it. I’m glad we’ve got them.
- The year before I got here, at halftime Mississippi State had 200 yards running between the tackles. We try to eliminate that in our game plan. We’ve got to do the same thing this year. Obviously if Rashard Lawrence doesn’t play, we’ll need to move some guys around.
- I think it’s another year in the offense for Fitzgerald. They’re doing things in the offense similar to what we do with Danny. They cut out the things he doesn’t do very well. It’s a combination of those things.
- I wanted to get Jeffrey Simmons. He was one of my No. 1 guys on the board. He’s a difference-maker. He’s blocked a punt already. Got a couple of sacks. Ten tackles and a tackle for loss. He’s a first-round pick. We’ve got to know where he’s at at all times. He’s a challenge for our guys. When I went to Mississippi State three summers ago, I was amazed with their size on defense. They might have 5-stars, but they might also have 2-stars from the Delta that no one has heard of who gains 30 pounds and they’re stars.
- It’s been a great journey. Whatever happens, it happens for a reason. I’ll move on to the next day. I should’ve punted the ball [10 years ago while coaching Ole Miss against Mississippi State]. That’s why I have mentors now. I ask them what they think. Those are the things you learn from. That was not a very good call. But I’m very appreciative to be at LSU. [If that happens again] I’m punting. I want to keep this job.
- Jeff Grimes handles the field goal protection unit. [Graduate assistant] Chris [Forestier] coaches the holder, snapper and kicker. The geronimo unit is coached by Dennis Johnson, myself and Corey Raymond. The kickoffs are coached by Dennis. The punt return unit is coached by Raymond. Kickoff return is coached by Mickey Joseph. Punt unit is coached by Tommie Robinson.
- First of all, Alabama has done a great job. They deserve to be where they are until somebody beats them. But I don’t worry about the rankings this time of the year. We’ve got Mississippi State. To me, we’ve got to go beat them. They’re the only team that matters.