LSU MEDIA DAY
Coach Miles’ quotes are followed by LSU player quotes
COACH LES MILES
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Les Miles. Coach, opening remarks.
COACH MILES: Really enjoyed the hospitality of New Orleans. Our guys sought to qualify for this game. Really kind of focused it right along, and the reason is such a strong attachment to the city of New Orleans and obviously the state of Louisiana.
We’ve enjoyed the fact that the last three times that the national championship was played in this building that an LSU team was fortunate enough to qualify. And that was our goal. And the reasons are obvious. And the enjoyment of our hospitality of the Bowl committee and the enjoyment of being in New Orleans is the reason.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Coach, first of all, if you could talk a little bit about the up?and?down season Michael Ford has had?
COACH MILES: Really, I think that Michael Ford has come to play and improved really kind of start to finish, playing his best football now.
But there’s a differing maturity, if you will, in players, and it happens through a season, sometimes in a series of games. And he has done that and looks forward to very much finishing this campaign with his best play.
He’s a very, very quality man.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the fact that you had so much time off to get prepared for the game, and with you and with your staff, any differences it made in the way you would prepare for a normal game?
COACH MILES: We’ve been fortunate to play in some late Bowl games, even the Cotton Bowl a year ago, and even the national championship in ’07.
We really kind of identified our calendar and told our guys what to expect. First two and a half weeks were weight strength, condition, rehabilitation, and refreshing our team some.
And then really the next series of practices were more LSU versus LSU and get the speed of the game up and get our execution up, and then we really put in more game plan, opponent?appropriate material really probably five days out before we left to come here.
And then here, obviously, refine the game plan. I think that’s a solid schedule and gives you the opportunity to execute at a pretty high level, once you get to the game.
Q. Coach, can you talk about your two senior quarterbacks, just how they’ve handled the sharing of responsibilities and how confident you guys are in both of them to play significant minutes on Monday?
COACH MILES: Well, both quarterbacks have put us in this position, very much like our defensive line, very much like our secondary, our offensive line, but the quarterback position we have to get in significantly quality play there, period.
Certainly Jarrett Lee has continued to compete and continued to get better. Obviously (Jordan) Jefferson not starting the season as our starter really regaining the job as the season went on and really provided with an opportunity to learn leadership yet another way.
A difficult situation that he was in certainly provided him with an experience that’s helped him want leadership and want more for the back end of the season. And I see him really preparing to play his best football.
So both quarterbacks have been tremendous contributors. Both quarterbacks are great teammates. There will be no quarterback on our team when one is in the game doing anything but hoping that he has great success.
Q. You took over for Nick (Saban), and it was a great thing because he had a program really well established. But did it ever feel like a burden taking over for Saban, having that sort of shadow linger over the program?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I really never had that, because I’ve really interacted with the people that are LSU the way I would. I’ve kind of always felt like, you know, it was in a tremendous position. Certainly we’re grateful for the position that it’s in. But I never felt that there was a shadow or something that needed to be done.
I always really only enjoyed how my team responded to me and how my team competed. And I’ve never really responded to that, if you will.
Q. I asked Coach Saban this. I know you guys are in this bubble right now, but are you allowed or do you allow yourself to enjoy this experience at all that a lot of coaches don’t even get in their careers you’ve had twice now, but to enjoy the championship atmosphere?
COACH MILES: Right now there’s no enjoyment. I promise you that when we take the field, I will be preparing to enjoy myself for that evening.
But right now it’s all about preparation. It’s still, you know, we want to make sure this happens and that happens and how many snaps here and how many snaps there and what do we do in the red zone, tight zone, et cetera, et cetera.
And so that’s important and those things that are important really overshadow fun. And so we practice hard. We get after it. Our guys back in there are preparing. They’ll have a good, hard practice today.
And we enjoy practice. If you talk about the things that we enjoy. Here’s what we don’t enjoy. I don’t know where my room is half the time. I don’t know where my shoes are the other half. I don’t know where’s my pens. There’s all those little insignificant things that you don’t know when they change your environment.
Other than that, I enjoy my time generally.
Q. Since you came in replacing (Nick) Saban, I think most people would say you’ve tried to establish a real family atmosphere. How much of your football team feels like family, especially when you’re playing on this big stage?
COACH MILES: Well, I have to be real honest with you. They all do to some extent. I want for old (Morris) Claiborne, I want for Jarrett Lee, I want for Jordan Jefferson and I want for Sam Montgomery, I want them to be comfortably prepared and ready to play.
And that’s a family tie, if you will. And it’s a debt I owe a group of young men that worked that hard to be where they’re at, really saw their path to put them here.
This feels like my family. I have two sons and two daughters that have heard some of the same talks that these guys have heard and probably enjoy them in a very like fashion. Some not so much and some a lot.
Q. A lot of attention has been put on the quarterbacks. And you’re only one play away from having your starting quarterback injured. Do you feel like because you have two guys who have played a lot compared to (AJ) McCarron and (Blake) Sims who ?? maybe McCarron has seen a lot more playing time than Sims has, if McCarron was hurt, do you feel like your team has an advantage because your guys have ??
COACH MILES: I hope that neither quarterback, none of the four, get injured. I would like to see a game played where both teams played their best and the decision was made based on quality play.
But we look forward to if we put Jarrett Lee in the game, because he operates this offense very well.
Q. Les, could you talk a little bit about the job that Mike Gundy has done at Oklahoma State and what would it have been like if you were playing them in this game?
COACH MILES: Mike Gundy has done a remarkable job. He’s recruited a very, very high?level athlete. The speed on that field is a very, very fast?paced group of young men.
He’s always been tremendously competitive. He is and has a very competitive team. And I couldn’t be happier for him. They’ve taken that program much further than I had it when I was there, much further.
And it would have been very difficult to play these guys ?? to play that team here. What would have happened – would have been – was you would have to have gotten by the personal attachment to enjoy the competition, and certainly that’s what we would have done.
But I root for those guys every time they play. Them and that Michigan team that played in here and won. So it’s just one of those things. And those Dallas Cowboys. I’m sorry I had one of those helmets, so…
Q. You raised the point ?? were you here to watch Michigan? Did you watch them?
COACH MILES: No, I couldn’t. I would have loved to have come down here and congratulated Coach (Brady) Hoke and (Greg) Mattison, and it’s so wonderful ?? that center from Michigan that won the Rimington (Michigan senior center David Molk), he so reminds me of guys that I coached while I was there. And so I would love to have come down the road and wished them well.
I had an important task that I had to take care of my own. And we had a New Year’s Eve party that was celebrated by our team. And a watch party that was set up for our team to watch that game. And I told them, frankly, anybody that’s going to root for another team doesn’t need to come.
But, again, there were some things that we had to take care of.
Q. If somebody told you on August 1st your offensive coordinator would have to move because of a diagnosis, your offensive line coach would move over with little experience at play calling, and your starting quarterback would be out, what would you have told them, looking back?
COACH MILES: I would have told them that this team would have found a way. I would have told them that those are obstacles but not real burdens. We’ll find a way. And the truth of the matter is (Greg) Studrawa called the plays for a very successful offense at Bowling Green as a coordinator.
And I had been fortunate to have been in that room and realized that his ideas are very quality and that he has a good overview, not just the line, he has a good down?the?field view.
Now, the key piece to that was that Steve Kragthorpe said: I want to coach. I want to do this. Are you kidding me? I want to coach for the next 10 years and get after it. But he said: Frankly, I’m not certain that I’ll be able to handle the responsibility of coordinating. I’d like to be the quarterback coach.
It was very ?? and with (Steve) Ensminger and (Frank) Wilson and (Billy) Gonzales in that room, really providing a “I’ll help,” a “I’m going to extend myself beyond my responsibilities and I’m going to help, man,” that just ?? it was not a difficult thing. It really became an advantage.
Q. How so?
COACH MILES: Well, because, one, (Steve) Kragthorpe’s very talented and he suggests and helps, and (Billy) Gonzales and (Steve) Ensminger, who has a great overview of the team, Frank Wilson, who has a specific style of coaching and creates an advantage for us with the running backs, they extended themselves more fully. They realized there was a greater need.
Sometimes as assistant coach, having been in that room, your job is not to have your idea and not to progress your football, not just step and push, your responsibility becomes, first, to listen, understand what the premise is, make it yours, and then present it and coach it well.
Well, I think in this instance they said: We need you to be maybe more proactive. We need you to extend yourself more fully. We’d like to hear what you think. And it really became a collective group that really has done a great job putting it together.
Q. Wanted to ask about Josh Williford’s development and whether he’s better now than he has been?
COACH MILES: Josh Williford is a really interesting piece. He came to our first summer camp and he was a little chubby, a little out of shape. And very talented. You could tell that he had ability, but if he wasn’t going to make a change ?? so then he came to the second summer camp. He lost about 20 pounds and he was moving a lot better.
Still, in my opinion, you know, a guy that we needed to see play. And when he played his senior year and you could see that he had, in my opinion, changed his body attitude, et cetera, and then when he came to us, he continues to improve and take strides and have ability, I think probably his greatest attribute is he’s bright, he’s ambitious. He’s got a great sense of humor, and humor in my opinion gives you the understanding that a man can discern differences.
In other words, it’s not just black and white. There’s that spot in there that you just don’t quite ?? you can’t quite define. Those guys that have humor have the ability to do that, and I think that is ?? I think his want, combined with that talent, has allowed him to be a heck of a player.
Q. Quick follow, he comes from a very small school. That’s such a developmental position anyway. Did he even have farther to go, maybe?
COACH MILES: He’ll be a better player as we go forward. He’s not topped out in any way.
Q. Despite popular opinion or punditry, that your last national championship in ’07 was with Nick Saban’s players, I think the total number of actual starters out of the 22?man starting roster that was even recruited by Nick Saban was about four, who were all freshmen when Saban left. But talk about what it means to come back here, four years later, back to New Orleans, with a team that is 100 percent yours and an opportunity to win a national championship with all of your recruits and basically make yourself the most successful coach in LSU football history?
COACH MILES: Just so you know, I have not thrown my arms around what are “my” goals. You got me? It’s really allowing this team to achieve the greatest potential, to be the best football team they can be, period. That’s kind of how I see it.
The idea that this is an undefeated team, it’s an SEC champion that really played everybody, played all?comers, played six road games, played eight nationally ranked teams, I’m just letting you know that this football team, irrespective of the coach, deserves to play well in this next game.
And that’s the feel of the preparation. That’s what we want. We just want to play well in this next game.
Q. Two successful quarterbacks at the SEC level. Quite a feat. Talk about the dynamic and how it changes from day to day and how the team has kind of adjusted.
COACH MILES: It’s really interesting. Early on in the season obviously it was all Jarrett Lee and Jarrett Lee?style of play. And, frankly, it was a burden.
When you add a style, there’s just a little bit more to it, and you have to accommodate that piece. And I think the team’s done a great job. I think both players interact extremely well. I think both players understand their roles.
I would not be surprised to see Jarrett Lee in this game early on make significant plays and Jordan Jefferson step back in and do the things that he’s capable of doing.
So, again, I think teammates and team understanding is key. I think both those guys are really team guys.
Q. You’re a Louisiana guy. You’re no stranger to what New Orleans has to offer. Talk about the stay down here and how it’s been for you guys so far and being able to get out and kind of get away from football for a little bit since you’ve been down here.
RUEBEN RANDLE: It’s been fun. We had a lot of fun as a team. We’ve had a great experience so far. Only been down for about two days now. It’s been a fun experience for everybody. We’re just sucking it up and taking it all in.
Q. Talk about the Alabama defense. Everybody wants to talk about defense, defense, and defense. And rightly so: both are extremely good. When you look at these guys on film, what is it that stands out to you guys that maybe y’all can take advantage of the second time around and try to get the ball in the end zone, which is something y’all couldn’t do the first time around?
RUEBEN RANDLE: The first game was very aggressive. So I’m pretty sure they’ll try the same game plan, bringing a lot of different blitzes. We have to do a good job preparing for that.
Q. Talk about the turnovers. That was one of the deciding factors in the first game. You guys won that turnover battle. Obviously holding on to the football is going to be key. Have you guys really hunkered down on that during Bowl practice, or is that just something that’s kind of mentally in the mindset of you guys?
RUEBEN RANDLE: Oh, we definitely take each and everything we do, especially turnovers. If he’s not there, throw it away or just run for it and get positive yards. We’re not trying to really get into that turnover battle any more, so take care of the football.
Q. A lot of people want to talk about Miles and his situation. Obviously he’s won a lot of nice awards this year, including on Monday would be nice for the national championship. As you guys as players talking about your head coach, do you feel he’s overlooked in regards to other coaches in the country when it comes to being considered one of the best?
RUEBEN RANDLE: I think so. But I also think he gets the credit that he deserves also. He’s a great coach. We love playing for him. He’d do anything for us; we’ll do anything for him.
So I think it’s kind of a turning point in the season that we all develop throughout the offseason; that Coach will do anything for us, so we’re going out there to play our best.
Q. The whole riverboat gambler moniker, is that blown out of proportion?
RUEBEN RANDLE: A little bit, but he just believes in his players. We need a coach who has faith in us to go out there and make plays.
Q. Is that why you like playing for him so much, because he kind of believes you guys can make any play calls at any point, that kind of thing?
RUEBEN RANDLE: I think so. It’s great to have a coach that has faith in you, and it brings out the best in you as a player. I think that’s why we can do what we do.
Q. What do you guys see from that matchup? Defense was king in that last game. So what about the offense this time? Do you think it takes more points?
RUEBEN RANDLE: I think so. More time to prepare. Pretty sure Alabama will have a great game plan also, so I think us as offense have to do a great job executing our game plan.
Q. Facing Alabama’s defense never an easy thing. It’s toe to toe. Anything you’re going to do differently in this game or specifically improve on to try to get around them and get more points on the board?
RUEBEN RANDLE: Just keying in on things we did really well in the first game, that’s block better and pass protect better. They brought a lot of blitzes. We have to prepare for that, and hopefully we can get the ball off in time.
Q. Alabama players are saying that you were the difference in the game, you were the reason things changed. What does that say about this game and your position? Make any difference?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: That shows a lot. It speaks for itself as well. Whenever I was in that game, I added a lot of speed towards the game as far as the backfield and the quarterback position.
But it shows that they have a lot of respect for me. And I’m going to continue to keep it that way.
Q. What makes the option so difficult to stop, Jordan?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: When the quarterback is a running threat, then you’ve got your offensive line securing the edge so the running back can get on the outside. And we’ve just got a lot of threats.
As far as great running backs, good blocking by the O line and the quarterback as a running threat.
Q. Have you thought much about I’m sure you envision yourself hoisting up that trophy after the game. Have you thought about that moment, put it in perspective with everything that’s happened with getting to that point this year?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: I thought about it a lot. It would mean a lot to me to hold up that trophy, and LSU would do whatever it takes to hold up the trophy at the end of the day.
Q. There’s been some talk from some other guys about whether Alabama deserves to get another shot at this. How do you feel about that?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: I think it’s just the team that we’ll prefer to play. It’s another big game for us. And that’s the reason why we come to LSU, is to play big games.
And playing Alabama once again will and just playing it once again as the championship game, will make this game a lot sweeter when we’re victorious.
So I think they deserve it. They’re the second best team in the nation. So they deserve to play us.
Q. What do you think about sharing a title with them or with someone else? There’s some talk that the AP might vote either you or Oklahoma State (indiscernible)?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: It shouldn’t be shared. We’re number one right now. But I don’t think it should be shared, though.
Q. So much hype about the fact that this is really a home game. If it is, for so many obvious reasons, how much more comfortable are you here than if you had to play this game someplace else?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: I’m very comfortable here. Played here my senior year in high school for the high school championship game. So quite familiar with the surroundings and about the stadium. So I’m very comfortable about it.
And going to try to have the same type of performance in my senior year in high school my senior year in college. Try to make that all merge together and try to repeat the same thing.
Q. This whole year it’s been a range of emotions for you guys. Can you talk about the start of the season and where you guys have ended up and just the journey you guys have been on? Quite an exciting thing.
JORDAN JEFFERSON: We’ve been on a great journey. Been a great season for this team. We improved a lot since the first game, now to this game. And I think the team has a quiet understanding of what it means to be a champion.
Q. Do you feel the stuff you had to go through off the field you’re more prepared for a situation like this?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: I feel like I’m more prepared because what I went through before the season was a tremendous amount of adversity, more than can be compared to what will happen to me on the field as far as throwing a pick or fumbling the ball. It’s quite easy for me to overcome a situation like that being through a situation like I’ve been through at the beginning of the season.
Q. The last time you played in this building obviously for the state championship you had one of your better games as an athlete. When you play in this building, do you kind of feel like your game elevates a little bit?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: I feel like it does. Basically a home crowd for me. I grew up about 15, 20 minutes away from here. So I’ve been in the Superdome quite often.
I mean, it’s something that I would call a sanctuary for me. So I’m preparing myself to have a great game on Monday and just rekindle that flame that I had in high school once I left here.
Q. How much will it affect you knowing that you’ve got your friends and family here? Obviously a lot of players do, but especially for you knowing you’ve played in that game, now you’re playing in this game?
JORDAN JEFFERSON: I mean, it will have a major effect on me. It’s something that I will want to do for them no more than anybody else. I want to do it for the people that are here for me and that really are true fans for us and that will be standing in these stands cheering us on. So I’d like to do it for them.
Q. Go back to November 5th. Talk about that, the interception.
ERIC REID: It was a man coverage. I was on my man. I saw a big guy running free. So as a safety you’re taught not to get beat deep, so naturally I tried to get behind him. When the ball’s in the air, I just went and got it.
Q. Looking back, it looked like a guy was coming across and got held up by the ref. How often do weird things like that, where you may have been in one place if something weird hadn’t have happened how many times has that happened in the course of a game?
ERIC REID: I mean, there’s stuff like that all the time. The refs do tend to get in the way sometimes. Especially as a safety, you come down, trying to get in the box, there’ll be linebackers out, you might bump into the ref a couple times. But the rules say they’re an extension of the field, so you have to deal with it.
Q. The hype that’s been surrounding this game, is it something like you guys have experienced before, or is it just completely new, completely something you’ve had to adjust to this week?
ERIC REID: I mean, it’s the same as most of the games we played this year. You start the season off with Oregon. We played Alabama, a lot of ranked teams. It’s not something that we’re not accustomed to already.
Q. What is the craziest thing you guys have seen on Bourbon Street or any events you’ve been to this week?
ERIC REID: I pretty much stayed cooped up in the hotel, so I haven’t hit Bourbon Street.
Q. What’s the best food that you’ve had? Let’s go there.
ERIC REID: I forget the name of the restaurants we’ve been to. I’m from Louisiana, but I don’t know New Orleans. Where we went last night was pretty good. I think it’s called Zea’s or something.
Q. How cool is it we’re not only in SEC country but an allSEC national championship game? How cool is that for you guys?
ERIC REID: It says a lot about the SEC. We like to say it’s the best conference in the nation. So when you come here, you play with the expectations of winning a championship. And somebody in the SEC is going to go home with a ring.
Q. Eric, we were asking some of these Tide guys what are they most afraid of pretty much, and they kept answering with trannies. Do you take offense to that?
ERIC REID: I don’t take offense to it. But it’s not really my thing either. I stay in the hotel. So I don’t really see those people.
Q. No, no, it’s just like they’re more worried about these guys on Bourbon Street than they are about the upcoming defense. It’s just like, really?
ERIC REID: I just focus on what I can focus on. That’s going to practice this afternoon and getting better and preparing for this game.
Q. Whenever they threw that pass with Marquis Maze that you intercepted, what was going through your mind whenever it was in the air and you were running for it?
ERIC REID: Not to get beat deep. I knew it wasn’t my man, but I knew somebody had to get there, so I just tried my best to get back and get the ball.
Q. Did you know you intercepted it before the referee made the call?
ERIC REID: I thought I had it all right. After the replay I saw he had the ball first but I was able to wrestle it away. The whole time I thought it was an interception.
Q. What are you going to be thinking if they try to run it again Monday night?
ERIC REID: We’ll be more aware of it after seeing it and getting beat on it almost the first time. So we’re going to know those formations and do a better job.
Q. Seemed like Alabama wants to get their tight ends involved in this game. Do the safeties cover the tight ends usually on the defense or linebackers?
ERIC REID: Depends on the call. Sometimes the linebackers, sometimes the safety.
But we just gotta, like I was saying, doing a better job getting everybody covered on the field, and that way they don’t have any advantages.
Q. All right. And which different coverages would you have to like like, for instance, if you’re pulling back, obviously you wouldn’t go with the tight ends, but if you pull up to the line of scrimmage, you would? Is that the way it goes? Is that way too simple?
ERIC REID: Without getting into any specifics, all I can say is it depends on the call. Sometimes the linebacker is guarding them, sometimes it’s the safety.
Q. Talk about just off the field, how exciting is it to be able to play with play against Eddie Lacy two years in a row having came from the same area?
ERIC REID: It’s something that we talked about in high school. At that point we didn’t know what our lives would be like at this point, but we knew we had big plans. And we told each other when we made it to the next level we were going to see each other again, and we were fortunate to see each other a couple times.
Q. Eddie Lacy talked about how it was always his childhood dream to play in this arena. And not only is he getting to play in this arena finally, but he gets to play across the field from one of his best friends. How special is that going to be for both of you guys, regardless of the outcome?
ERIC REID: It’s not often that two guys from the same school get this privilege to play in the national championship against each other. So while we’re on the field we’re going to be enemies, but in between the whistles we’re going to be probably talking to each other saying what’s up.
Q. A lot of people, especially fans, talk about what a harsh rivalry this is, that there’s so much trash talk that it’s gone overboard; that, according to the players, there’s a lot of respect, there’s not that much trash talk. How do you rate the trash talk and do you do any or how do you receive it?
ERIC REID: I think the trash talk is pretty much done between the fans. Like he was saying, the players have respect for each other. We’re here to play football, and that’s what we’re going to do, and we let our fans talk for us if they want to.
Q. Will, 30 some days since you guys have played, and 40 something for them. What’s most important when you’re off that long to get it back and get ready for a football game?
WILL BLACKWELL: I think the most important thing is just to maintain focus. There’s a lot of distractions. Christmas, New Year’s, coming down to New Orleans and having a good time. It’s hard to focus and pay attention to practice and film when the game’s so far away.
But this team’s done a great job. And hopefully that will pay for us on Monday.
Q. You guys have been just so good the second half, just plowing people with the running game. Can you do it to these guys on Monday night?
WILL BLACKWELL: I hope so. And that’s a credit to our backs, our stable running backs. We’ve got four, five guys back there who can mix it up, big guys, fast guys, and we look to get them all involved in the game plan on Monday.
Q. Your teammates have all been outspoken about, yeah, you’re chasing a championship, absolutely, that’s number one goal. But my sense is you guys feel like you’re chasing history.
WILL BLACKWELL: Yeah, no doubt. And we understand how important this game is from every aspect, the history aspect, the present aspect, everything. But there’s no team that we’d rather beat than Alabama. They’re our rival. We have to beat each other to be the best, and that’s just how it is.
Q. You said you felt like it wasn’t probably fair that you had to go through them a second time. But the other part is if you beat them for a second time, there shouldn’t be any question about your guys’ place in history.
WILL BLACKWELL: Right. They’re a great team. Probably one of the best they’ve ever had. If we’re able to pull off this win, I would imagine it would be a pretty big deal around here for a long time.
Q. A lot of talk out of their camp that they didn’t play their best football game and they lost it the first time. You don’t feel you played your best football game either?
WILL BLACKWELL: No, they did lose, but I don’t know if that was a matter of us beating them or them missing a field goal, which is always a part of the game.
So we’re just going to come out, try to execute. We feel like we missed a few things the last game, and hopefully we can get them corrected Monday.
Q. It’s not Tiger Stadium, but do you feel this is your second home?
WILL BLACKWELL: No doubt, 60 miles away. There will be plenty of people, plenty people enjoying it. Like I said, there’s other places we’d play than Tiger Stadium, but to have the game in the Superdome is a tremendous deal for us.
Q. Can you talk about Josh Chapman a little bit, what he does up front, taking up multiple blockers, how he opens up the Alabama defense?
WILL BLACKWELL: He’s a big guy. They kind of play him for a twogap scheme, playing nose guard in their Okie defense. And he does a good job with anything down the line. He’s hard to move. He’s short, so he has a lot of leverage. He’ll be a tough assignment for me and P.J. Lonergan and Josh Williford on Monday.
Q. Let’s talk about the north Louisiana family a little bit. There’s a couple guys sitting over there on the big spotlight level. Have you talked to them a little bit about being a part of the team and how it all has to click to be where you are today?
WILL BLACKWELL: That’s one thing we do well around here is everybody has to go through that experience. There was a time when nobody knew who Tyrann Mathieu was, nobody knew who Will Blackwell was, nobody knew who Jordan Jefferson was.
And that’s something about the guys that come here. They want to be that person. They want to have that responsibility on their back. And they’ve done a tremendous job of that this season.
Q. I know when you left West Monroe High School, your dream was to be where you are today. And you’ve become a spokesperson for this team. We’ve talked about it all season long. How special has that been for you?
WILL BLACKWELL: It’s a tremendous honor for me. There’s no other place that I would rather play in and spend my career. I’m truly honored to be recognized as a leader of this team, and that’s all I really ever wanted to do.
So go out there Monday and win this game, and we’ll have a little bit more to celebrate.
Q. Talk to me about what it’s going to take to write that final chapter.
WILL BLACKWELL: We’re going to have to go out and execute, simple as that. We’ve got a good game plan. It’s coming together. And we’ve had some great practices.
So we felt like last time we missed a few things here and there that we could have done a little better. And hopefully Monday we’ll be able to execute those dreams.
Q. Can you tell in your gut I know you only had a week to prepare for them first time around versus a month this time, but give me a feel for how you guys feel about the game plan in your gut in comparison.
WILL BLACKWELL: We feel good about the game plan. We spent a lot of time practicing it, about a month. We’ve had plenty of time to go over things and adjust things. And it just comes down to who wants it more and who is going to execute things better.
So we’ll go out there and limit our mistakes and hope for the best.
Q. How fitting is it for you guys to decide it here?
WILL BLACKWELL: There’s one place we’d rather play, and that’s Tiger Stadium. And if we can’t play this game in there, then what better place than the Superdome.
So we’re honored to be here in New Orleans. Basically our backyard. And there’s no place we’d rather be than here.
Q. This is nothing more than a home game. Talk about being in the familiar surroundings and had this game been in Pasadena or Phoenix, Arizona, where it wouldn’t be as much of an advantage for you. Let’s face it, they’re going to have their crowd here, but you’re going to hear nothing but and you’ve seen nothing but all around the city (indiscernible) LSU.
BRANDON TAYLOR: Even though everybody says it’s going for a second game, LSU fans can’t come in the game, that they’ll be outside cheering for us and stuff like that. And we know that when we’re coming up and pulling up into the game, coming to the stadium, that we see all the LSU Nation outside.
Q. You went into their home, you knocked them right in the mouth and you beat them. It was a defensive battle. You can’t take anything lightly with them, because, let’s face it, that first three to four series they were hitting you with the ball pretty effectively as a matter of fact, you guys were on your heels if you take away the ending, just the beginning, it lets you know what you’re up against.
BRANDON TAYLOR: Yes. We tend to not take anything lightly. We know that everybody’s capable of winning, of beating anybody in this conference. And especially a team like that, they’re a very threatened team, very good team. They’re coached by tremendous coaches.
So you just know that we’ve got to come out and play our best game at the time and don’t slip up for us. If you make a mistake it could cost you the game.
Q. One guy who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and he was able to get to the red zone on you was AJ McCarron. Your impressions of him as a safety, as someone who knows that he can be a tremendous threat to you having a long day or a short day, talk to me about what do you see in him that impresses you.
BRANDON TAYLOR: Just the way that he manages the game, doesn’t make very many mistakes. It doesn’t take very many sets. He’s actually a great runner, and he doesn’t just throw the ball just because he’s under pressure. He’ll get up in the line, get back to the line of scrimmage before he even takes a sack.
And he’s just a really good allaround player, and Coach Saban coached him very well.
Q. Question to you: Are they the best team you’ve played?
BRANDON TAYLOR: Yes, by far they’re the best team we’ve ever played, and now we’ve got to play them again. So now we’re playing the best team twice. So we just gotta go out there and try and dominate.
Q. With all the BCS Bowl games that have been played, a lot have been very high scoring, 45, 70 points, all kinds of highscoring games, is that what the casual football fan should expect, or maybe something different?
BRANDON TAYLOR: I just think that the fans should expect two teams going head to head, trying to get the ring, bring the championship back home to their school and for the fans.
So you can expect anything out of these two teams. Never know what’s going to happen at any given time because we’ve got a lot of playmakers on both of these teams and people trying to make big plays.
Q. When Coach Miles took over when Coach Saban left, for a while he didn’t really get the respect that Coach Saban had, and even when you won the championship still there was talk that Saban was looked at by some as (indiscernible). What do you think it would mean to his reputation to beat Nick Saban and get two championships in four years?
BRANDON TAYLOR: I think it would mean everything because we’ve accomplished so much, and then making history at LSU by having an undefeated season. There are things you don’t see at many schools. He hasn’t been here very long, and it just shows how good he recruits and how good of a coach he is.
Q. I’ve heard people kind of laugh sometimes at his postgame press conferences, some of the things he comes out saying, some of the words he comes up. Are there times in team meetings he’ll come out with a word where you guys go: What does that mean?
BRANDON TAYLOR: Yeah, we don’t really know where he get those words from, but Coach Miles is a down to earth guy and he’s not very uptight or anything. He’s a great person.
And we learn to respect that because you need that as players. Don’t need a coach that’s mean or uptight all the time. Just need somebody you can clown around with sometimes. But he knows when it’s time to do both. He does a great job managing both things.
Q. Will he be eating AstroTurf? I know he eats the grass at visiting stadiums. Does it go for synthetic grass as well?
BRANDON TAYLOR: I don’t think he’ll be able to pick any of this and eat it. But he might have some in his pocket.
Q. I’m asking all the players this: Are you in favor of a college football playoff?
BRANDON TAYLOR: Not really, because I think it takes a toll on our bodies. I think it makes the season a lot longer. And I just feel that the BCS is doing a great job of putting the two best teams in the game (indiscernible).
I think a lot of people don’t like it because like conference play, like a difficult schedule.
But it shows every time that the two best teams are in the national championship, so I think it’s working out very well.
Q. For LSU being in New Orleans, as far as the party situation, maybe not as a big attraction, but how do you avoid that kind of trouble when you come down here?
BRANDON TAYLOR: As a team we set a curfew at 12:00 every night. So there won’t be nobody really going out. We are just going to stay in the hotel and come close as a team and family know that we’re here it’s just a business trip for us.
Q. First of all, how excited are you to be back here playing for a National Championship and playing against kind of a friendly foe with you all, Alabama?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: It’s amazing. It’s what you worked so hard for. Anytime you can get back here, play in the big game, it’s amazing. I’m just fortunate to be here with this group of guys. We’re trying to get the job done.
Q. A lot of fans talk about what a harsh rivalry this is and how you all carry yourself with a lot of swagger and a lot of trash talk. But Alabama players seem to say that you carry yourself with a lot of class. Talk about the trash talk, when you’re playing these two teams?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Trash talk come with it. But I think both of these teams are both humble when it comes to each other. We both have a lot of respect for each other, and we respect each other on the field. The trash talk is just something that comes with the game.
Q. And the last game, it was a defensive battle. And so the DBs especially got to shine. Is that what you see happening again this week?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Well, hopefully we can I know we’re going to try to do our part on defense. We’re trying to keep them out of the end zone and try not to let them score. So hopefully so.
Q. They struggled in the red zone. They moved the ball a little bit. Are you all a “bent but don’t break” defense, or were there things you would like to improve from the last game against Alabama? How were they moving? I guess Trent’s going to get his?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Like you said, Trent is Trent. But with this defense, based on what you said, we’ve bent a lot this year, but we haven’t broke. And we just try to go out and play our style of football and that’s trying to keep teams out of the end zone.
Q. Is it just sort of okay, stay deeper than the deepest and if they move in front of you, like eventually you guys are going to make a play, somebody’s going to make a play?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: That’s right. We just try our coaches do a good job of having us in the right spots and the scheme we play in, and when opportunity presents itself, we just try to take advantage of it and make plays when we can.
Q. Tell me a little bit about facing guys like AJ and Trent and just the Alabama offense coming in, what you all plan on doing?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: I mean, they’ve got a good offense. They’re pretty balanced with the passing around, mechanics. He has an arm, he can get the ball out to his receivers. And everybody knows Trent. He’s going to do what he does and that’s run the ball. We just have to come together, execute what we’ve got planned, try to get the job done.
Q. When you were at Fair Park High School, did you imagine sitting on a stage like this, when you were recruited, and I know you were talking yesterday about being a wide receiver, but did you imagine being one of the top DBs sitting on this stage getting ready for the National Championship?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: I never, never. You dream about playing in the big games, but at this point that I am now, I never imagined it.
Q. Mo, I have to ask these questions, and I apologize. Tell me a little bit about your decision on the future after this game and just what’s going to go into your decisionmaking?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Everything right now is LSU. I mean, NFLwise I haven’t gave it no thought. I mean, everything right now is LSU. And I’m trying to win a National Championship.
Q. How much are you going to talk to your mother, Opal? We’ve talked to her a couple times. How much will you confer with your family and talk about what the right decision is?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: After everything is done I’ll sit down with Coach Miles and my mom and see what’s the best decision for not just for me, but for my family.
Q. Is there a possibility, say LSU wins a National Championship, would that defer your decisionmaking at all?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: I mean, I don’t know. We just have to wait and see.
Q. And I guess I think your mom said you’re going to, like you said, wait a week and all that kind of stuff. Your advisors, different stuff like that, does it take into account the possibility of being a top five pick, being the top DB in the country, different things of that nature?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: It does. But as of now, I’m here, I’m here to stay with LSU right now.
Q. You are an incredibly talented defensive back. I think it’s kind of funny that you have a teammate who, because of his nickname, and I think can steal the ball, he’s got that knack, but here you are, how much license and rein does he have on the field? Is he doing his own thing a lot of time and do you have to cover for him? What do the guys say about it?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: He’s a solid player, all around the board. You can’t take nothing away from Tyrann. And after seeing a video, I mean, he deserves his nickname that he has as the Honey Badger, because obviously it takes what it wants, and Tyrann takes what he wants on the field.
He’s always in the right place at the right time, and he always is making plays, and we count on him to make those big plays for us.
Q. Is he a team guy? He kind of does he wears a suit, dyes his hair, calls attention to himself, is he a good team guy?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: You’re around him 24 hours of the day you’ll see what a great guy he is. He has excellent character. And he’s all for the team.
Q. These are two teams that obviously know each other very well. What would surprise you?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think they’re definitely going to throw us some new looks, some looks we never seen before. Maybe some plays we never even seen before.
So that’s why we practice, to approach the game with the knowledge that to expect the unexpected. So we’re looking forward to playing those guys come Monday.
Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Trent Richardson?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think leading up to the Heisman, I kind of met him through Russell Shepard. Once we got to the Heisman, just became kind of close. Talked about football, talked about life, and just got along pretty well.
Q. (Question off microphone). Do you expect that kind of game Monday night?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Saying it’s two pretty good defenses playing in the game and two pretty good teams overall. I don’t think we expect the score to be 45 to 30.
So we really expect our defense to stop those guys. And I know those guys think the same.
Q. Your coach obviously took over for Coach Saban. There’s some that didn’t give him the respect that they did Coach Saban, and winning a National Championship still didn’t (indiscernible), what would a win on Monday night, two National Championship wins (indiscernible)?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think it would do a lot for his reputation. Coach Miles is a great coach. And he’s a great teacher. And I think he definitely can evaluate talent and able to put groups of guys together who get along with each other and are able to play hard, fight hard for each other.
Q. You talked a little bit yesterday (indiscernible)?
TYRANN MATHIEU: It depends on the competition, and it depends on the edge that you’re trying to catch that week. So if anything, get the guy out of his game, whether you know his mother’s name or know where he went to high school or where he grew up at, I think those kinds of things the players think about the whole game, like how do you know that. I just try to catch an edge any way I can.
Q. Talked about Trent Richardson, the person, what about the player, Trent Richardson? Obviously the first time around he didn’t get in the end zone but he was able to get some yards. What allows him to have success?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think obviously, I think, our view of him, and everyone else’s view of him, he’s a great player, a great running back. And he’s pretty much a beast. He’s a freak in the open field, and usually takes one or more defenders to bring him down.
I think as a defense and as a secondary, we’re looking forward to helping out the rest in support and bringing him to the ground.
Q. You had to overcome a lot to get to this point, a lot of offthefield stuff going on at LSU, including your suspension. What did you gain from that experience and what have you learned getting to this point through all the trials and tribulations?
TYRANN MATHIEU: When I struggled at, I truly believe you have to go through things to strengthen your faith and to definitely broaden your horizon and to definitely open your eyes to let you know what you’re in it for. And that’s teammates and that’s LSU as the institution.
So you never want to forget that. Just teaches you to keep a high spirit at all times. And I truly believe the things we went through this year, if we can get through that, we can pretty much get through anything on the field.
Q. Tyrann, along those same lines, some of the challenges and struggles you went through as a child, how much stronger did that make you?
TYRANN MATHIEU: It teaches you to fight for everything, and nothing’s going to be given to you. So with that being said, you know, you try to take that to the field. You don’t want to take any play off and you don’t want to take any opponent lightly.
So preparation and hard work and determination is really my motto.
Q. As a child, how important was it for you to go into your aunt and uncle’s home for the support and everything?
TYRANN MATHIEU: It obviously was a blessing to be able to see two different sides of the scale. And they definitely helped me out a lot and definitely took me out of a rough situation. So I commend them for doing that for me. And I truly thank them.
Q. You talked a little bit about the trash talking. Probably have the chattiest guy on Alabama Marquis Maze. I asked him about you. He said: I can’t really remember a lot of trash talk. Do you have any ammo on him as far as the school and his mom or is he more (indiscernible)?
TYRANN MATHIEU: He’s definitely one of the more talkative players on their team. But when you are playing against a great team like Alabama, you don’t try to pick out individuals. You’d rather just focus on the whole team and you’d rather just watch film of the whole team and get a better understanding of the team.
Q. Do you say anything to Kirkpatrick before this game and just thoughts, statistics from the play or whatever?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, obviously didn’t mean to cheap shot him or to hold him up or whatever the case may be. I think I was just trying to get to my technique, the technique we practice every day in practice. And unfortunately I wasn’t able to get there and kind of held on to his jersey.
No, I haven’t had many words for him. So I wish him the best of luck in this game and wish him the best of luck in the future.
Q. What do you think your story tells kids in New Orleans?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, you know, to never give up, to never give in. And there’s a lot of negativity surrounding the city. And it’s a lot of people trying to pull youth down. So just strive for the best and just pray every day and work hard at what you want to be in life and keep guarding your life, and all those plans can come true.