CHUCK DUNLAP: While we wait on questions, Coach, could you talk about your team as you prepare to head to Atlanta and face Georgia for the SEC Championship.
ED ORGERON: Well, obviously, it was a great win against Texas A&M to finish the season with a 12-0 win. We’re very proud of that. A lot of respect for Kirby and what he’s done in Georgia. Very talented football team, a winning program. It’s going to be one heck of a challenge.
We’re going to have an excellent week of practice, and we look forward to this great matchup.
Q. Now that you’re here for this championship game here, from day to day, you’ve talked about it week to week, how have you organized your time the way you guys work to go into a postseason like this where you have multiple games perhaps ahead?
ED ORGERON: We feel like we’ve scaled back on practice the last couple weeks. We feel that we have a very good formula where we can get our work in and also keep our guys fresh.
There will not be a lot of hitting during the week, but there will be some full-speed work, but there’s not a lot of taking them to the ground or contact. We feel like we’re able to play very fast with the way we’re practicing.
Q. Is there — do you sense the magnitude of this with your players? I mean, I know it’s something that you try not to bring up, but playing at all at this moment?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, they’re going to be excited about it, but this is a mature team. Obviously, it’s an honor to be in the game, to play for the SEC Championship, that’s what you want when you come to school here. So it’s going to be a great game. It will be a great atmosphere. So our guys understand the magnitude of it, but I really have confidence in this team’s mental approach that it’s the next game up.
Q. Coach, I know you had a good running game last season, but is Joe Burrow’s passing and the prolific offense you had this year, does that help the running game even more with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the rest of the running backs?
ED ORGERON: Sure, it’s just a matter of a numbers game. They commit too many people to the run, the pass is open, then we open it up with a lot of passes, it opens up the run game, you know, there’s a gap short or — you know, that’s part of the spread offense.
Also, I think Clyde has emerged to be one of the top backs in the country. He’s making people miss. He has a great offensive weapon. We use him out of the backfield. He’s become a great weapon.
Q. How much did you challenge your defense before the A&M game last week, and how do you think they responded?
ED ORGERON: I think that it wasn’t more or less a direct challenge, it was more or less a fixing of things that were broke, and I thought that Dave Aranda did a great job of fouling up pressures. We put more pressure on the quarterback than we had all year. We had six sacks. I thought our covers were spot on. It was a great atmosphere. Our players wanted this game very badly, and it showed.
Q. How much — when you look at what you guys have done on the offensive side of the football, how much was it helpful for you to give them a little rest in the second half of that game?
ED ORGERON: I think it’s critical. I think it’s critical that through the stretch here, especially our receivers who run a bunch of routes every day in practice, Joe to get a little rest. His arm was a little tired. Clyde to get a little rest. I think it’s going to help down the stretch.
Q. Being a defensive line guy, I can’t help but want to get a thought or two on Tyler Clark, No. 52 on that defensive line for Georgia. What have you seen out of him this year, Coach?
ED ORGERON: Quick, dominant. I’ve watched a lot of their tape because, obviously, I studied the offensive lines that we’re going to go against. I think that they’re very well coached. I think Tyler Clark is probably one of the best defensive linemen we’ve played all year. This is the best defense we’ve played all year.
It starts with their defensive line. They’re very well coached. They’re agile. They move. They can take on blocks, slant, pass rush well. They do it all.
Q. If I can focus on your team now, I realize we’re a day ahead, but Tell the Truth Monday tomorrow. What are some truths about this team and what they’ve told you about themselves this year to you, Coach.
ED ORGERON: Character, leadership, poise. They’re very focused. Obviously very talented. I think we have some outstanding assistant coaches. One team, one heartbeat. We’re playing for each other, those type of things that we preach.
Q. Coach, early on in your tenure, you had that famous press conference where your answer was “We’re coming.” What made you confident in saying that at the time that made you believe that where you’re at today was possible?
ED ORGERON: You know, I thought after that game that we had matched the physicality of Alabama. I felt that we were two or three players away from being right there, and, obviously, they were the benchmark, and everything that we had to do on a daily basis was to compete with them.
I think we’re competing with them in recruiting. Obviously, we beat them on the field. I do respect their program and the job Coach Saban has done. It’s just the benchmark to compete with.
Q. I mean, all coaches face criticism and people who are going to say that they’re not so-and-so or whoever, but is there kind of a part of you, though, that where you guys are, you kind of want to say: Well, look at us now, look at me now?
ED ORGERON: Not at all. I’ll never be about that.
Q. So, clearly, you guys you want to spread everybody out one-on-one with the DBs. When you look at Georgia, can you give an honest assessment when you look at quarterbacks? They seem to be pretty good man to man. What do you think about that matchup specifically? Can you compare it to any of the other teams you played this season?
ED ORGERON: It’s early. Obviously, we graded the film of Texas A&M. We had recruits in. We just got a scouting report on Georgia, so our guys are breaking it down. But we do have a preliminary scouting report. Kirby’s done a phenomenal job. This is the best defense we faced all year. They’ll pressure. They’ll play man. They’ll play zone. I think it’s overall comprehensive with the pass rush that they have and their abilities to cover one-on-one. I think that’s what makes it outstanding.
Q. Can you compare them to anybody else you’ve played?
ED ORGERON: I think similar defense, the best defense we’ve played so far is Auburn, and just some of the little bit I watched, they’re very similar. A little bit different in a couple of spots, but very similar.
Q. Hey, Ed, you guys obviously got — built off what you did last year, got off to a good start, got on the national radar pretty quick. But here you are last night saying you played your most complete game of the year. What did you guys do last night that maybe you weren’t even doing a month ago that you liked?
ED ORGERON: Defense, we had six sacks. 160 yards of total offense at Texas A&M, a team that we struggled with last year. We had been struggling with giving up a lot of yards of points on defense.
So I thought overall, for most of the season, our offense has been playing phenomenal, and then our defense has finally played the way I think they’re capable of. So I was proud of that. We had two 50-yard field goals by a freshman kicker. So I thought overall it was probably our most complete game.
Q. And I know you kind of touched on it earlier about some tweaks that have been made on the defensive side of the ball, but your defensive players have been hearing things all year that haven’t been very complimentary. Even last week, you get moved down, and the chairman says it’s the defensive piece. Of course, that’s after a game, I guess you all were up 56-6 on Arkansas and put the subs in and gave up a couple fourth quarter. Have you noticed some inward motivation from your guys that they’re getting tired of hearing this kind of national discussion about LSU being good except on defense?
ED ORGERON: You know, we have a saying here. We talk about blocking out the noise. So it’s very important, as you do know, with all the information that’s out there, but I do believe, without us mentioning it, there’s internal motivation, and they want to definitely prove they can be an outstanding defense. I do believe our best defensive games are yet to come.
Q. A couple of things. One, kind of the thought going into this is that Georgia obviously has to win to get into the playoff, but most people seem to think that LSU is probably in whether you win or lose on Saturday. Do you worry about that taking any of the edge off of your guys, or do you feel that’s at least a fair assessment of where things are?
ED ORGERON: No, that never entered our minds. Again, I told the team that we’ve got to finish the season. We’ve got to finish the SEC Championship, and then let’s see where we’re ranked. And then wherever we’re ranked, we’ve got to go play, and we’ve got to win anyway. That’s why it’s called the playoffs. You’ve got to win. None of that stuff matters right now. We’ve got to win this football game. This is a big football game for our team, and that’s all we’re thinking about.
Q. One more thing. Does playing in Atlanta give Georgia any edge, this being so close to home for them?
ED ORGERON: I’m sure there will be a big crowd there, but LSU is going to travel well. They’re going to be loud and proud. I expect it to be a great crowd for both sides. It will be a tremendous SEC matchup.
Q. Coach, I was just wondering how much some of the bigger games you’ve played, whether it’s going on the road to Alabama or going on the road to Texas, how much you think that’s helped prepare the team for this type of an environment.
ED ORGERON: I think it’s going to help with the crowd noise. We practiced crowd noise. We’re going to practice crowd noise this week, going out there and make the plays we’ve made in a hostile environment, we’re going to need them again.
Q. And, Coach, I know you throughout the season have shown that you’re willing to change the schedule to kind of give yourself an advantage. Do you foresee anything or any schedule change dealing with the SEC Championship game, I guess, festivities?
ED ORGERON: We’re going to have a great week of practice. We have scaled down practice a little bit the last couple of weeks, and we’re going to continue to scale it down. Our guys are going to be fresh. We’re going to leave on Thursday night instead of Friday and practice in the Dome on Friday and have a regular business trip.
Q. Ed, I guess I’ve heard you describe Joe Brady as a game changer on your staff. I want you to describe why it is that you say that.
ED ORGERON: First of all, he’s very intelligent, and his presentation is phenomenal. He’s done a tremendous job of coaching our wide receivers. He and Steve Ensminger get along fine, great.
He has implemented the spread offense, something that we wanted to learn. He’s brought the Saints’ passing game to us, Penn State’s RPOs. The guy’s a phenomenal coach, phenomenal young man. He’s in the box with Steve. Steve calls most of the plays, but Joe’s there to make suggestions. Joe may call some plays. He’s meant a lot to our football team. He’s helped us transition into the spread offense. He’s been a game changer.
Q. I want to ask you also, does Georgia’s experience in the SEC Championship Game three years in a row now, do you think that will benefit them at all with some of the guys that have played on this stage?
ED ORGERON: Sure, it gives them some confidence, obviously. I think those guys have been there before, so I’m sure they think that gives them some confidence. But, you know, we have a mature team, and these guys are going to be focused in on what we can control. I think they’ll be fine.
Q. Coach, I heard you say that your best defensive football is ahead of you. What have you seen from Jake Fromm this year? Obviously, he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes the last four games. And how similar is their offense to the one you guys beat down there in Baton Rouge last year?
ED ORGERON: Again, I have to tell you truly we’ve been focused on Texas A&M. I just received the scouting report on their defense. We’re fixing to do a scouting report on their offense. I watched two games. Obviously, we have a lot of respect for their talent. I know they have a couple of receivers out, big, strong offensive linemen, outstanding back, can go pro style and can go spread, very multiple. I have a lot of respect for Jake. I think he’s an excellent quarterback and an excellent leader. That’s all I can tell you for right now.
Q. When you were on staffs that were playing for championships and the like as an assistant coach and you were up for jobs, what is your policy to assistants that might be getting interest now — I’m not only talking about Brady — as your postseason goes on.
ED ORGERON: Obviously, when you have great assistants, people are going to come after, and obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to fight for the guys that we want to stay. Now, if a guy has a head job that’s something that we can’t match, that’s something he really wants, we have to let him go. But for Joe, we’re going to fight to keep him here as much as we can. We’ve had some preliminary conversations with him, and everything seems positive right now.
Q. You mentioned that you’ve gotten the defensive scouting report for Georgia already. I’m just curious as to where have you seen Georgia improve or change the most defensively this year compared to 2018 from the tape you’ve watched of this season?
ED ORGERON: I think their defensive line is phenomenal. That Clark is something else. Number 13, their freshman, Ojulari, is a great rusher off the edge.
I think they run, they’re big, they’re physical. They’re well coached. Kirby is an outstanding defensive coach. They have an outstanding staff.
I think the thing I’m most impressed about Georgia’s defense is how they get all 11 hats to the football. They do a tremendous job of tackling in the open field and hustling to the ball.
Q. And then, Coach, Kirby has mentioned a little bit this year, all year, that one metric he’s employed is wreaking havoc defensively. Is that something that you guys have looked at as well on your staff?
ED ORGERON: Yeah, no question. Obviously, we had six sacks last week. You have to attack these spread offenses. If you sit back, they can shred you apart. So you can see the tackles for loss, the stunts that they’re doing, the blitzing that they’re doing, and that’s all to create negative plays, which helps you win games.
Q. Kirby Smart said a few minutes ago that this game is a classic matchup because both these teams have been battle tested throughout the year. How have you witnessed that yourself through this season, and what have you seen from them, and how much do you think that plays into this one?
ED ORGERON: Look at the schedule we play. Look at the teams we beat. Outstanding Auburn team. Outstanding Florida team. Great athletes all over the place. They lost to South Carolina, they bounced back. They didn’t blink.
There’s a lot that — they faced some adversity. They climbed the hill back. They’re back in the championship game. So it says a lot about their character and their leadership and their coaching staff.
Q. Coach, you mentioned, you kind of touched on there, they’ve got a couple of receivers. Pickens will be out the first half. Cager is apparently done for the year. And Swift got a shoulder banged up against Georgia Tech the other day. Is that any edge for you guys with some of their — some questions about guys missing and maybe injury statuses of a couple of their big offensive guys?
ED ORGERON: You know, obviously, in a big game like this, people miraculously get well towards the end of the week. So we expect their best players to play. A team like Georgia, they’ve recruited well. I’m sure they have some young guys. We have the same thing. We call it “next man up” theory. I’m sure they have the “next man up” theory, and they’re going to play just as well as the starters. So I don’t think that’s going to be any benefit to us at all.
Q. Hey, Coach, where do you feel like you are depth-wise? Because it’s usually a backup that sometimes makes that big play in a championship game that is a difference maker.
ED ORGERON: You know, I think that it’s really helped that we had to sit Grant Delpit out. So we’ve got some depth at safety now. A little depth, not a lot. We have more depth on the offensive linemen, the offensive line that we have. We feel like we have depth at every position. So we feel like we’re in good shape to make a run.
Q. You mentioned Grant Delpit. Tell me where you think he is right now. I know it’s Sunday, Coach, but his progression this week to get him ready for Saturday.
ED ORGERON: I talked to the trainer. He’s a little sore. But I thought he’s played very well. I think he should be as close to full speed this Saturday as he’s ever been.
Q. Hey, Coach, just want to do the “go back in time” question here. Obviously, Joe Burrow has become what he has, but can you take us back to the initial visit with him, what were your first impressions of him, and where he’s come from then?
ED ORGERON: My biggest impressions of Joe, first of all, he didn’t want a lot of recruiting jargon. He came here. It was a business trip. We had a football meeting, and it was about, I guess, a three- or four-hour meeting, and there was five people in that meeting, including me, and Joe was the smartest guy in there.
I was very impressed with that and his knowledge of football, the way he could verbalize what he saw on the film, what he wanted to get done, what type of plan that we had for him, the things that he liked, the things that he didn’t.
I thought it was a tremendous meeting.
Q. And a follow-up to that, when you’re going through practices with him — because, correct me if I’m wrong, he wasn’t there for the spring, but when you’re going through the August, fall camp practices, are you kind of thinking to yourself, like, how is this guy here and not competing up at Ohio State for that job?
ED ORGERON: You know what, it didn’t start off that fast, to be honest with you. Now, he came in — when he came in, we were running 110s, and he beat everybody on the 110s. He competed, and he kept his mouth shut, and eventually he started winning the team over.
But to be honest with you, in fall camp, it wasn’t a no-brainer. He was competing with some other guys. The competition was very close. He was learning a new offense.
So I think it wasn’t until about mid-year that we really saw the difference in Joe Burrow, and then at the end, the Texas A&M game, when he ran the football a lot, and then his Bowl game was his best game. So I think it was an eventual process that he took this team over.
Q. Coach, I know your goal Saturday evening is to have one more point than Georgia. I’m wondering, just with style of play, if you had to draw it up, would it be a higher scoring game that you guys have played quite a bit of this year?
ED ORGERON: You know, you never can tell. Like you said, to win the game. We don’t play for like style and points and stuff like that. We just want to win, man. We want to play well to win. I have a lot of respect for Georgia. Just want to win the game any way we can.
Q. I did have a follow-up about Kirby Smart and what he does disguise-wise on the defensive side of the football. How hard is it to read what Kirby is doing on the defensive side of the football, Coach?
ED ORGERON: Again, we just started, but I think, if you stay in traditional formations — you know, everybody has traditional disguises, and he’s very good at it, but we also have some formations where it’s hard to disguise. I know we’ll have a plan. I know our guys are able to have a plan against anything anybody can give us. We’ve shown that all year, and I feel confident we can do it again.
Q. Coach, if I could take you back to when Les Miles hired you at LSU, of going back to those conversations after USC, think you took a year off. Tell me about the process of getting hired there as the defensive line coach under Les Miles.
ED ORGERON: I was very grateful. I’ve had a great relationship with Coach Miles throughout the years. I respected him, and he respected me. There’s an opportunity for me to come aboard. I respected it. I loved being the defensive line coach here, and I liked working with Coach Miles. He’s been very good to me.
CHUCK DUNLAP: That’s going to wrap you up, Coach. Thank you for your time, and we look forward to seeing you in Atlanta on Friday.