Sunday, December 29th, 2002

LSU Tigers Defensive News Conference

Opening statement:
“We had a good week of preparation in Baton Rouge; (was) really pleased with the approach of our kids and the focus of our kids on Texas. They obviously have an outstanding football team. They’re very powerful and high potent offensively. They’ve got outstanding athletes. We’re real pleased with our preparations thus far and since we’ve been in Dallas. The kids have really approached the game the right wayÑ a good mental attitude and focus for what we want to do and try to accomplish in this football game.”
On facing an offense like Texas:
“They’re outstanding with Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson is just as talented. He’s a guy you’ve got to account for as well. (Cedric) Benson is an outstanding back. They’re very big up front. They get great movement up front. They’re very versatile in what they do. They have an outstanding quarterback. He’s a good decision maker that can obviously hurt you throwing the football. They’re a two-dimensional team. They can do a lot of things to you to hurt you. So you have to be multiple and give them some different looks and change things up on them.
“You can give them some bad plays but you have to account for the big-play ability they have. We’re going to have to tackle well. We’re going to have to execute well like every other game. But their big-play ability (and) decision-making ability makes it tough.”
On LSU’s defense:
“I think we played really well early in the season. We got some guys banged up and didn’t play as well as we wanted to for about a three-game stretch. The last two games we played pretty good on the defensive side. (We) got back to playing a little better on stopping the run, which is the basic thing. (We) gave up some big plays at the end there versus Arkansas, which we were obviously disappointed with. We’ve gotten our confidence back defensively. I’ve been pleased with that the most.”
On the keys to success for the LSU defense, especially for the secondary:
“When you’re able to play coverage and get pressure with four, it’s tougher to throw the football obviously and not having to blitz all the time and susceptible to the big play. I think that’s been a key for us. We’ve got a lot of experience back there. Norman (LeJeune) and (Demetrius) Hook(fin) have played a lot of snaps for us and have really played well this year. We’re really pleased with the jell we’ve had back there this year.”
On Bradie James:
“Bradie’s been a great player for us this year. He’s a great leader; typifies the word student-athlete. The guy is what you want, what you dream about as a coach because he’s very smart and intelligent on and off the field. He understands the game and you can relate with him easy. He’s very coachable. He’s a great player. He makes us look like we’re good coachesÑthat’s for certain.”
On moving Michael Clayton to see some playing time at defensive back:
“It was to create some depth for us more than anything. He’ll get some snaps on defense. But more than anything, (it was) from a depth standpoint and add obviously some athleticism. He’s a kid that’s got an awful lot of innate ability to play defensive back. We’re trying to ease him into it.
“Coach (Nick) Saban and I talked about this really during the bowl practice. We’d practiced for about a week in terms of improving our football team. We just kind of moved him over from a depth standpoint. We’ve got some guys banged up and injured, and more than anything, didn’t want to pull any guys out of their redshirt year. We just wanted to be able to have another number back there.”
On dealing with the defensive mistakes in the Arkansas game:
“It’s something you deal with as a coach and as a player. We pointed out the mistakes we made and the kids understands that. It’s the situations we practice all the time. We just didn’t play and coach very smart toward the end of the game and I take full responsibility for that.”
On containing Texas QB Chris Simms:
“We talk about affecting the quarterback. You’ve got to affect him from a coverage standpoint, hopefully a pressure standpoint and being able to give him some different looks. You’ve just got to be multiple and try to keep him off balance. Don’t let him get into a rhythm of the game. Once he feels and sees that rhythm, he’s hard to stop. He’s an outstanding quarterback. He’s also a streaky quarterback. He starts hitting some balls down the field that you can’t let happen. You can’t let him get on fire. You’ve got to keep him off balance.”
On putting pressure on a quarterback as a defensive key for every game:
“Whether it’s a sack or it’s a hit on the quarterback, that’s affecting the quarterback. We’re making the quarterback move in the pocket. We’ve played some good quarterbacks this year that got rid of the football.”
On Texas RB Cedric Benson:
He’s an elusive guy. He’s got big-play capabilities. He’s a guy that’s a shifty guy but also has a powerfulness to him. He’s able to break tackles; has great field vision. The guys he’s got up front to create a lot of seams for him.”
On Texas SE Roy Williams:
“He’s a guy you obviously got to cover up. You’ve got to make you always account for him. We’re always going to know where he’s lined up.”
On what previous opponents may be similar to Texas on offense:
“Taylor Jacobs from Florida kind of reminds me of the two wideouts from the standpoint of a guy who can vertically stretch the field; can catch the ball underneath and make a guy miss. (Florida’s Rex) Grossman and (Ole Miss’ Eli) Manning remind me a lot of (Chris) Simms. I don’t know if we’ve faced a great back like (Texas’ Cedric) Benson and the offensive line to go along with that. I think Ronnie Brown, the kid from Auburn, and Benson are very similar.”
On learning as a coach and working with head coach Nick Saban:
“I learn everyday. Working under Coach (Nick) Saban has helped me a lot developing as a coach and using his experience and expertise working on the defensive side. I’ve learned a lot and learn everyday as a coach. It’s been great. The kids have responded to everything we’ve asked of them. I think we have an outstanding defensive staff. We work well and have worked the kids hard. They’ve approached every week as an opportunity to improve.
“We kind of got labeled last year as not being very good but I think the kids have responded the way you’ve wanted them to respond. They’ve rose to the occasion each week. They’ve been excited about playing and have made a lot of plays this year.”
On being promoted to defensive coordinator:
“I went to Coach Saban and asked him when Gary left. He said he wanted to take the due process and look around and make the right decision for the program. I’ve told people he could have done the politically correct thing and when outside and hired a 30-year veteran that had a lot more experience and a lot more prepared for the job. He wanted to do what was right for the program. I’m very blessed and lucky he did what he did.
“I really enjoy LSU and these kids. I don’t envision myself being on a pedestal. I’m just one of the guys who works hard for us to win games on Saturdays. That’s the way I approach it.”
On practicing in Texas Stadium:
“We’ve had a lot of fun at the Cotton Bowl. They’ve shown us some great hospitality. We’ve done a lot of things. I think the best part has been practicing in Texas Stadium. It’s like a dream come true for a lot of guys. A lot of us aspire to play on the next level. For us to have a chance to practice in Texas Stadium, it’s the next thing closest to playing on the next level.”
On how to balance the fun and business aspects of being in a bowl game:
“We’ve got to live by a motto: ‘When it’s time to play, play hard; when it’s time to work, work harder.’ We’ve had curfew until about 2:30. Curfew is now 12 o’clock. Now the business aspect of the reason why we are here is picking up. So now, we’re really getting ready to get into game week. It really feels like game week. We’re just anticipating the game now. We still have activities but we know the time is drawing closer and it’s time to get ready.”
On the Texas offense:
“To me they are the most balanced team we’ve played to date. Defensively, you try to keep a team one-dimensional. If a team is balanced, it tends to throw you off guard because they have the upper hand on you. If you keep them one-dimensional, just running the ball or just passing the ball, you can anticipate what’s about to happen. This team they throw the ball well. They have athletes all over the field. They have a good running back and a good quarterback. The whole receiving corps is one of the best we’ve ever seen. It will be a test but we won’t be any push-around guys. We’re looking forward just to compete and having this opportunity.”

On the LSU defense:
“On the defensive side of the ball, we play as a unit. If one person messes up, we can’t point a finger at anybody because it’s the whole defense. You got out and execute the right stuff the correct way, you will come out and play good ball.”
On defensive keys for LSU:
“We’re going to have to execute and play with toughnessÑmental and physical toughness. We’re going to have to believe what we see and play with confidence.”
On playing against such a potent offense like Texas:
“I feel like it’s a challenge. I feel we’re just going to have to go out and play ball. They’re going to put their things on the table and we’re going to put up ours. You can’t be afraid going out against the opponent you’re going to play.”
On playing Texas:
“We’re just going into this game and try to be physical with these guys; try to knock the heart out of them so they don’t build that confidence.”
On Texas SE Roy Williams:
“We give him a lot of respect. He’s made a lot of plays this year. He’s a great guy to watch on film. We want to go into this game and be physical with him. We’re going to step up to the plate. We love challenges. We love when we play good receivers. We love when we get big receivers. We want to bring it to the table and we’re going to bring it to the table on (January) 1st.”
On Texas QB Chris Simms:
“He’s a smart guy. We respect him. We’ve faced a lot of good quarterbacks this year in our league. This upcoming game will be a challenge for us again. We love facing good quarterbacks and good receivers. That’s a good combination. It gives us a chance and opportunity to show that we have a good defensive backfield.”
On Texas RB Cedric Benson:
“If you can get to him and kind of eliminate him from making those big plays, then he’ll kind of settle down. But if you let him see that he can a lot yards and there’s gaping holes from him to run through, then he’s going to have a lot of success. It’s just very important for us to stop him from being to make those big carries we’ve seen on tape.”
On playing the caliber of offense like Texas:
“I think this year and playing in our league, there are a lot of teams like that with those kind of guys. Texas does have skill guys that show up in the games and I think it’s very important for us to stop them. If we stop them, that’s pretty much the offense. If we can get pressure on (Chris) Simms, contain Roy Williams and stop (Cedric) Benson from running, we will have a successful morning.
On the style of the LSU defense:
“We’re very gritty. We want to get pressure on the quarterback. We want to establish that we’re going to stop the run. I think we have good guys in the secondary who are just playmakers. All this is going to have to come together in this game because they have guys that can bust the game wide open in two or three plays. We’ve got to stop the things they’ve used for success this year.”
On LSU playing in two straight New Year’s Day bowls:
“Any player wants to put the program in the situation that the program is good for the younger guys. You want the program to stay strong. Once you go to a university, you’re always a part of that university so you always want to see it do well. So to be a nationally recognized program is great. That’s what you strive to do as a player.”
On playing in a “home field” advantage for Texas:
“I think it’s just the fact of being the underdog. Anytime you’re the underdog, you’ve got a little bit more bite because you feel like everybody is trying to kick you. If it’s their backyard (or) our yard, it doesn’t matter. If you’re the underdog, you’re going to fight hard.”
On keys for the LSU defense in this game:
“We need to make them one-dimensional; take something away from them. I’ve seen him (Chris Simms) rattled. I’ve watched a lot of game tape. I’ve seen a couple of teams get to him; make him make some bad decisions and get happy feet. He doesn’t like to get knocked around too much.”
On Texas’ offense adjusting to what defenses have tried against it this season:
“They’ve made adjustments well because they’re a good team. So we’re going to try to come with something new, something unseen, something unheard.”