(Photo: Usat / USATODAY)
(Photo: Usat / USATODAY)

CFP Transcript: Orgeron on call from Trump, injury updates

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Below is a transcript of the teleconference with LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and the media on Tuesday afternoon.

BRETT DANIELS: Good morning, everyone. This is Brett Daniels from the College Football Playoff communications team. Thank you for joining us today for conference call here with Coach Orgeron. I would like to first congratulate him and the LSU Tigers on their Peach Bowl victory this past weekend, and we look forward to having them in New Orleans next week.

At this time, we'd like to open it up for Coach to make an opening statement. Once he's completed that, we will begin the Q&A session. Coach, go right ahead.

ED ORGERON: We're very honored to be playing in the National Championship football game and very honored to have it in New Orleans, our great home state of Louisiana. A lot of respect for Coach Dabo Swinney and the job that he's done with a phenomenal football team. He's got some great players on there. Those guys have established a winning championship football team at Clemson. This is going to be one heck of a challenge for the LSU Tigers.

You mentioned a couple of times the plans Scott Woodward had in place for Joe Brady. Did you all want to get him retained before the season was over, and did you all anticipate the NFL would be the toughest sell?

ED ORGERON: We just had a plan, but all the coaches have meetings after the season what would be appropriate and what we wanted to do, so just a preliminary plan we worked on, and that's it.

And with Joe Brady, did you all anticipate the NFL would probably be the toughest sell with him?

ED ORGERON: You don't know. You never can tell -­NFL, college. I think Joe is an outstanding coach, so you have to be prepared for both.

I know a decision hasn't been made on Michael Divinity yet, but let's say he is back on the team. You guys have made due without him for quite a few weeks and have actually looked really strong the last few weeks. What kind of role do you imagine he could have if he does return?

ED ORGERON: You've got breaking news. Michael Divinity will be back with the team. A final decision was made this morning. So good job breaking it. How about that? Good deal.

We'll see. Obviously, Mike has been a tremendous pass rusher for us. I know we're definitely going to use him. He'll be back in a role, what he's doing, and we'll see what fits best. He's definitely going to play for us, and we'll definitely use him in the best situations we can.

Hey, Coach, good morning. Coach, there were reports that the President, Donald Trump, called you after your victory the other night. Is that true? If yes, can you tell us anything about the conversation?

ED ORGERON: Yes, he called me yesterday morning. I was very honored to get a call from President Trump. He was very pleasant to talk to, very complimentary of our football team, our coaching staff, complimentary of the way the state of Louisiana has rallied around us, and was complimentary to the way we played all year and wished us good luck in the game.

Did that surprise you that he called you?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, it did. They told me the president's office called, and I thought it was the president of the university. He said, no, the White House. I said, okay, here we go.

Coach, I'll sneak in one more before I get out of here. Tickets for the game, how many tickets does each player get? And obviously with the game in Louisiana and the Superdome, everybody wants to go. How do you deal with that distraction and everything?

ED ORGERON: I don't know. I guess it's the regular NCAA allotment of tickets. I don't know the exact number that they get. I'm sure it will be the exact number that they usually get, whatever the NCAA allows us. Obviously, we can't let it be a distraction. Obviously, it can be a distraction for me. I know a lot of people that want tickets too, but we're only allowed a certain amount of tickets. I think that everybody has to handle that on their own personal basis, and that's it.

Hey, Coach. I know you don't like – you said throughout you don't like to make this about yourself, but if you would just talk about the honor you feel or someone in your position feels being a Louisiana guy coaching LSU in the National Championship Game in New Orleans. No one's ever been in this position before.

ED ORGERON: It is special, no question. It is special. But you've got to put those things aside. Growing up, I always wanted to be the head coach of LSU. I loved watching Cholly Mac play. I loved watching Ronnie Estay, Arthur Cantrelle. Of all the other schools, I always kept my eye on LSU and always pulled and watched what they were doing. I remember the times that they played in the National Championship and know what a big day it is in the state of Louisiana, how it affects everybody in Louisiana.

So, yes, am I proud to be part of that? Yes. But as you know, it's always going to be about the team and the players and all of us together on one team, one heartbeat. It will be a very proud day for our players to represent LSU, and it will be a very proud day for the people of the state of Louisiana. But they'll only be proud if we win, and we understand that. Although we're 14-0, we did a lot of great things, this is a monumental game for us. It's a big game. It's a game that we have to play well to beat Clemson.

This morning you gave a little update on Damien Lewis and said he wasn't going to practice this week. If you get him back, obviously, things are normal, but how will things kind of adjust? Will it be kind of the same way you all played it on Saturday, or in what ways do you all kind of go around him?

ED ORGERON: I think we put Adrian at that right guard since he did so well, we'll do that first, and having Ed at left guard. I think that would be a natural deal. We haven't talked about that at the snap yet. We'll be breaking down Clemson on Thursday, and Jack will have a more definitive answer for us on whether he thinks he'll be ready for the football game. So we'll start practicing with Adrian at right guard and Ed at left.

Last year it was something that might have been more influential than this year. This year the depth is there. How does it feel to have that for such a pivotal point in the season as this?

ED ORGERON: It's a big plus. It's a big plus to have that. Also, Dare Rosenthal will be eligible to play in this game. That gives us more depth at tackle. So if Damien comes back, we're as healthy as we've been on this football team all year.

23 of 61 athletes on your team – I'm miswording this question. You have 61 players from Louisiana. 23 of them are from Louisiana, like 23 upperclassmen, juniors and seniors. How do you think they feel having the opportunity to play their last LSU Tigers game in their home state?

ED ORGERON: Very, very prideful. Obviously, when you come to LSU, these are the games that you expect to be in, and then it's a bonus having it in the state of Louisiana.

I do know this. We did not speak about it in the team meeting room, but I do know it's in the back of everybody's minds that, if we do well on a daily basis and take care of the teams that we need to take care of on a weekly basis, that we'll have an opportunity to play in the National Championship in our home state. That was in the back of everybody's mind. It seemed far away at the beginning of the year, but as we got closer and closer and closer, it seemed like a goal that we can attain, and now we got it.

But we need to take advantage. We need to take advantage of the home crowd. We need to take advantage of playing at home. And we need to play our best football to beat Clemson.

As you guys prepare for Clemson – I know it's a little early, but a lot of the conversation is going to be about the two quarterbacks on both sides. What have you kind of seen out of Trevor Lawrence on film, and what kind of makes him special considering he's only a sophomore and has played as well as he has in these big games already?

ED ORGERON: He's a winner, 25-0 and hasn't been beat yet. That tells you a lot about him. Just watched the film, watched several games this morning, three or four games the last couple of days. The way he takes command, the way he takes charge, obviously, the RPOs, his reads are right on it, has a strong arm. But his ability to run, he surprised me.

I haven't played against Clemson, haven't studied them, but his ability to tuck the ball and leaves his arms up front, he is an outstanding runner, makes some big time plays in big time ball games and for a big chunk of yards. Obviously, he made some big gains against Ohio State, which helped them win the game.

Not only Trevor, but just you mentioned you watched several Clemson games so far. What kind of stands out about their whole team and what makes them so good?

ED ORGERON: Athletes, speed, scheme. Their receivers are big and tall and athletic, fantastic. Etienne is one of the best backs we'll see all year. Louisiana product, outstanding young man. I tried to recruit him at the end, very fast. Again, he made two explosive plays to help against Ohio State. He's a prolific rusher, one of the best rushers in Clemson history, scores a bunch of touchdowns, very fast.

I think the thing, when you look at Clemson's offense, you think about athletes and speed in space. When you look at defense, you think about Brent Venables, the great job he's done, his ability to adjust against the different offenses he's seen. I think he's an excellent coach. I've always known Brent for a long time and respected him as one of the best defensive coordinators in all of football. Their defensive line is quick and strong, can rush the passer, his blitzes are phenomenal.

So I think it's a great matchup. When you get to the championship game, you're going to play against a team with some great coaches. You've got a team with some great players, and that's what we have.

Coach, have you ever had a player that arrived at your team ready to play more than Derek Stingley Jr.? And how much did his father have in his development, do you think?

ED ORGERON: I never had a player ready to play like Derek Stingley Jr., and I think his father had a lot to do with it. In fact, I know he did. I'm very good friends with his father. I have a lot of respect for his father. He's an excellent coach, an excellent dad. Him and Derek have a really unique relationship. Sometimes a coach's son doesn't want his daddy to coach him. I remember when I went home, I tried to coach my boy, and he said, hey, Dad, I've got a coach. It just so happens that Coach Stingley is a backfield coach.

I've said this time and time again, on Sundays and Saturdays at 1:00, you can come into the indoor practice facility, and there was Derek working out with his dad, and he had all the DBs there for a voluntary workout. It was just a phenomenal work ethic, phenomenal character. I just think it's a great family. This was one of the biggest signings we had, an outstanding young man.

His dad is at your practices regularly, right?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, he coaches at Dunham, but when he's not at Dunham, he's at our practices. He's always there. He's quiet, sits there on the side. I always talk to him, say hello to him, and congratulate him on his success at Dunham. We talk. We're friends. He has a great relationship with Derek Ponamsky. Derek has been phenomenal to us. His whole family has.

Where do you think you missed Divinity the most when he hasn't played this season? Will you use him more inside or outside, do you think?

ED ORGERON: It all depends. It all depends where we need him. I think our inside guys are playing well. We could use him outside in some situations. That could allow JaCoby Stevens to go back to a safety position or a corner position, what we're talking about if we have to play some base. And then obviously in our pass rush scheme, Mike is one of our best pass rushers. So I think he immediately goes back to starting on our dime package.

My question kind of revolves around Chris Curry, and you guys obviously had a great performance from him this last week. I wanted to just kind of ask you, though, kind of what's the latest on Clyde and how you guys plan to manage his workload over the next couple of weeks before the National Championship Game.

ED ORGERON: We're going to look at how much he can do. Our first practice is going to be on Thursday, and we have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday practice. We'll go through a week of preparation. Then the guys have two weeks break, and then we'll start the preparation on Wednesday. So I think by next Wednesday he should be full speed. We'll take it slow with him, see what he can do. He's getting treatment right now. He's a little sore. We'll see how much he can do this week.

But not having Clyde in there gives those other guys valuable reps. I've got to say something to Chris Curry. In this world of transfer portals and all that, taking the easy way out, it says a lot about his character, his grit, his toughness. He told me, he said, Coach, I'm going to be one of your best backs. Just watch.

And during the Bowl practices, when Clyde's not out, then we've got to find out who's the best back to put in there. Obviously, those two young guys are ahead of him, but he has some great practices, and the plays that we're running, the style of plays that we run, we felt that Chris was the best one to run it. Boy, I'll tell you what, he took his opportunity. We said next man up, we put 11 men on the field, and we fight like Tigers, and he did it. I'm so proud of him.

You were the interim coach in 2016, so, obviously, you were kind of in a tough spot there recruiting, but how many times did people kind of ask or had you heard about how did Travis Etienne get out of the state of Indiana?

ED ORGERON: All the time. Hey, I wonder how it is. I know how it happened, and every time I watch – every time I heard about Clemson play or every time I've seen him having success, I'm sick to my stomach. Obviously, we like our running backs. We've got great running backs here, but we wanted Travis Etienne at the end, but it was too little, too late.

And one last one. It's New Year's Eve, the team is 13-0, you haven't done anything wrong, I guess, but what are some New Year's resolutions, if you have any?

ED ORGERON: Probably to try to eat less, and it won't happen (laughter).

What do you recall about Travis' recruitment and kind of the decision at the end to try to pursue him?

ED ORGERON: I was an assistant here. Travis kept on coming up, kept on coming up. But one reason or another, we never offered him a scholarship, and then after I became interim coach, we had a couple of players that we had been recruiting for a while. We thought we were going to get them, and we thought, if we offered someone else, we may lose them. Then we got shut out. I offered Travis really late at interim. I had a home visit with him, told him how much we wanted him, but it was too little, too late. He had made up his mind already.

Something that I think we should have done a better job of, we should have recruited him at an earlier age, like we do all our great Louisiana backs, and keep them in state. He's the one that got away.

Regardless of what you may have tried to do already with Coach Brady, being a coach for so long, do you feel like that's not going to be over until it's over? Which February is about when NFL and college hires are wrapping up.

ED ORGERON: We'll see. Let's see what happens at the end of the run here. We have a couple of weeks left. I do feel that Joe is going to be a Tiger. I feel like everything is just about wrapped up, and I feel good about where we are. You know football, you never can tell what's going to happen, but I feel confident saying Joe is going to be here with us at LSU. He's a great young man. We've just about got everything wrapped up. Not completely finalized yet, but we're very close.

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