Today, LSU head coach Brian Kelly met up with the media to talk about the Tigers’ big 31-16 SEC victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs while also looking ahead to the team’s opponent this week in New Mexico.
To start off the press conference, Kelly congratulated Jay Ward and BJ Ojulari as both earned SEC honors this week for their stellar play defensively against Mississippi State. Ward, who plays both safety and nickel for the Tigers, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week with 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a game clinching interception. Meanwhile, Ojulari was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the third time in his Tigers career after having four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and two quarterback hurries. Both players played a huge role in limiting the Bulldogs’ explosive passing attack to only 214 passing yards and one touchdown.
“Some individual performances have already been highlighted. Obviously, you guys are aware of Jay Ward and BJ Ojulari as SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Defensive Lineman of the Week. We are proud of their accomplishments and like to note those accordingly. Those kinds of performances are highlighted. It is very difficult to become a player of the week in this conference and we would like to give them due notice.”Brian Kelly on BJ Ojulari and Jay Ward earning SEC Player of the Week honors
Those were two of the players that shined in the Tigers’ SEC victory. Moving forward, Kelly wants his team to build on the victory and put in a consistent product on the field week in and week out.
“We have to look to persistency and consistency. After a good win, you have to follow up with a complete performance. Our expectations and standards are that we have a great week of preparation.”Brian Kelly on building on the Mississippi State win
The Tigers will try to build on that performance this week against New Mexico.
“New Mexico is a challenge. We had Zach Arnett’s defense and Mike Leach’s team this weekend and that defense is a handful. We saw that Mississippi State was difficult to handle, especially in the first half. They keep you off balance. Zach came from the Rocky Long tree and we go against a Rocky Long defense this weekend.”
“It is a good defense. They have caused people fits. They’re a defense that is in structure, has some similarities. They’re allowing 13 and a half points per game. Third down they’re outstanding. I think they’re fifth in the country. They forced seven turnovers this past weekend. Seven. So you can imagine, I think top 5 in the country in terms of forcing turnovers.”
“Offensively, and again obviously head coach Danny Gonzales does a really good job. He’s a noted offensive mind. He’s always been really good as a play caller. It’s a pistol midline option offense ball control. They have got some talented players on the perimeter. It’s one where obviously they’re playing obviously good defense and very opportunistic on the offensive side of the ball.”
“So Kendrick is the quarterback from Kansas, he transferred in. He’s athletic and we’ll have to do a really good job with our option responsibilities.”Brian Kelly on New Mexico
Whether it has been Florida State or Mississippi State, the LSU Tigers have performed the best in the fourth quarter. Kelly contributes that to how the team has conditioned in order to perform the highest late in football games.
“Yeah, I think it’s how you practice. We don’t condition during practice, after practice so it’s a matter of managing the practice structure itself that you are getting your team to a workload that the games become easier and then you start to see that in the third and fourth quarter where you can wear down your opponents.”Brian Kelly on conditioning
Before the start of the game, it was reported that Anthony Bradford would not dress in the Mississippi State game, the media got an update from Kelly on his situation.
“Anthony is activated for this week. He’s in a competitive situation with the guard position but certainly will have an opportunity to earn playing time this week.”Brian Kelly on Anthony Bradford’s status
Kelly’s quarterback Jayden Daniels has been great in his communication with both Kelly and quarterback coach Joe Sloan as Kelly would later indicate.
“Yeah, I love coaching somebody that is open to the dialogue during the game. You can have conversations with him during the game and he can make the corrections in game. Some can’t so you just don’t even try to do those things, but Coach Sloan is talking much more conceptual. I’m trying to deal with some technical things on the sideline because sometimes, I don’t have the big conceptual picture from the sideline so he’s handling both ends of that.”
“Coach Sloan is talking with him about some concepts and some different looks and I’m trying to really focus on some specific things. I think that’s worked out pretty good. He handles both of those conversations well.”Brian Kelly on he and Coach Sloan’s communication with Jayden Daniels
Going back to the offensive line, Emery Jones made the start at right tackle as LSU did have two true freshmen start at tackle. Kelly evaluated on how the true freshman from Catholic High performed considering it was his first ever start and for it to be at right tackle.
“I would say that he exceeded expectations. Look, you know, he’s not going to be perfect, but he’s active. He’s got great feet. He is a great open field tackler.”Brian Kelly on Emery Jones’ performance in his first start
The coaching staff is still trying to figure out the best ways to get Kayshon Boutte the football while Jayden Daniels is continuing to build chemistry between himself and the preseason All-American. Kelly states that it is both on the coaching staff and Kayshon to improve.
“Yeah, I think that’s a little bit of both. I think, look, this is never one sided, right? It’s never all on the player. It’s never all on the coach at this level. I think you have to look at both, right. We got to look at how we can move him around and utilize his talents. Then, he’s got to continue to work hard and work on his skill set and continue to work hard in practice so it’s always going to be that, at this level and at the next.
“It’s always going to be on the player, it’s always going to be on the coaching staff to work together. This is working together as a team, you know, is how you get better. It’s never just one side of it so absolutely. We’ve got to do our job as coaches to move him around and be creative. He’s got to do his end of continue to work hard and be the best player he can be.”On how to find ways to get Kayshon Boutte the ball
The special teams unit made some good plays including the Slade Roy recovery, but also had trouble in kickoff and punt return coverage. Kelly addressed the issue on special teams and how they can improve on the issues in coverage.
“Yeah, so a couple things: The kickoffs are a direct result of the kicks. The kicks that have been returned have been line drives down the middle of the field. That is going to compromise your coverage. We don’t have a chance to get off blocks and get properly covered.”
“Now can we get off some blocks and make some plays? Absolutely. We’ve got to be better there so this is not all on the kicker. However, it does expose you with those types of kicks.”Brian Kelly on special teams coverage
Kelly said earlier this season that he would not truly evaluate his running game until SEC play, and with a great fourth quarter, the offense showed that it can run the football efficiently to close out football games.
” Look, I mean I think last week we talked about run efficiency and where is that as it relates to week 2 and I said I really can’t tell you until we start SEC play. Our run efficiency was much better. When we needed to run the football, we were able to do that to close out the football game, so I’m pleased with the efficiency of being able to run the ball in short yardage situations to close out games inside the 10-yard line, what we call our white and blue zone. We’ve been effective running the football there and then our backs are kind of what we expected.”
“They’re all going to contribute in some fashion. I think they all did. I think they all lended themselves to what we’re doing from an offensive perspective.
“Getting Emery back helped. You saw him catch the ball out of the back field. He was really good in pass protection. I think he’ll get better as he continues to get reps and he’ll add to the depth of that position.”Brian Kelly on the Tigers’ efficient running game
Getting Emery back certainly helped the offense and for Emery, getting back on the football field after not playing in more than a year was a sigh of relief for the former Destrehan five star running back.
“He was elated after the game that he actually played football for the first time in a long time. He was sore. He was tired and I think he had all the feelings that he remembered in playing so I think the post was really good.”
“He was really nervous going in, but I thought he, you know, afforded himself very well. I thought he ran with pretty good vision for a guy that hadn’t played in a while. I talked about rust, there was some.”
“Again, I think, all in all, caught the football, played with low pads and he’ll get better, so I thought a good first game for him.”Brian Kelly on John Emery’s return
Defensively, Harold Perkins was another freshman with an exceptional performance defensively. Kelly was asked if the five-star freshman would have an increased role this season.
“Yeah, I think there’s a role for him. Certainly, he adds something to our pass rush. We certainly saw that. That’s why he got the opportunity to play out on the edge a little bit. You saw him inside with some blitzing inside. I think we found a niche for him in terms of where he can help us. I would say that you’re accurate in that he can continue to evolve into that position.”
“Now is he going to beat out BJ Ojulari at that position? I don’t think so, but he certainly can lend some support to that position in certainly some dime and nickel packages.”Brian Kelly on Harold Perkins
LSU defensive coordinator Matt House came up with a great defensive scheme against Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Kelly talked about what made the scheme so effective on Saturday.
“Yeah, I mean I think the ability to put the pieces in place, moving Jay down has obviously benefited us greatly. Greg going back to the safety position has added a communication level that’s really benefited us greatly. I think that in itself has solidified the back end for us. We’ve been able to rotate in corners and give guys the necessary rest in that end of things.”
“Then, we’re mixing things up. We’re not lining up with one post safety the whole time. We’re lining up and showing one post and playing two high and vice versa so I think schematically we’re where we need to be.”
“The nature of having a guy like BJ Ojulari and Ali Gaye where you can play three down and four down and not change personnel is quite difficult sometimes. We saw that against a very veteran and skilled offense. Quite frankly, they didn’t know what they were getting from snap to snap.”Brian Kelly on what worked defensively against Mississippi State
Then, I got to ask Coach Kelly a question about Malik Nabers and how he has grown mentally from muffing two punts against Florida State and bouncing back with a couple of clutch catches in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State. This is what he had to say.
“Yeah, I think we hear this all the time, in that he has, he’s been able to focus and refocus. He’s been able to move on to the next play. That is a great quality to have, especially in the game of football.”
“Look, you’re going to have some adversity and he’s had it. He’s dealt with it. He’s moved on and he’s stronger for it. He’s been really good. We have seen his ability to make dynamic plays for us on the offensive side of the ball and I just think from that perspective he’s really grown.”Brian Kelly on Malik Nabers
The coaching staff has shown that they are not afraid to continue making changes in the starting lineup and they did this past week on defense switching Jay Ward and Greg Brooks. The switch proved to be a great call as it could be a move that will stick for the rest of the season.
“Yeah, we were looking for better communication. Jay is a very active player. He’s a physical player. We saw that with the play this weekend. Greg is too, but Greg is a veteran player that is used to playing back at that safety position and a very good communicator.”
“It was just getting to know our personnel better and really plugging them in where we felt that we would be better served. Whether it was on the offensive line, whether Frazier’s a guard, whether he’s a tackle, whether Emery Jones is better at guard or tackle. We’re just trying to get to know our personnel and find out what the best lineup is and that was kind of what that was.”Brian Kelly on switch in the secondary
Jayden Daniels has been a dynamic runner and has been efficient when he does decide to throw, but Kelly was asked if he wants his quarterback to run less.
“Yeah, I mean I think when we evaluate when he runs, we want to see that if it was within the progression and it was a really good coverage or maybe that play wasn’t great against this coverage or we got beat at a particular position and he got flushed versus you turn down, you know, a potential high/low read and you took off, right?”
“So that’s what we’re trying to evaluate and it’s really a little bit of both. I think there’s still growth there where we can stay a little bit more patient and a little bit more locked in on the progression and then there are sometimes where there are really dynamic runs where there was really just nothing there and he made something happen.”
“So you want to be careful where you go, Hey, you’re running too much, and then when he needs to be dynamic, he’s not so we have to be very careful and along the way keep coaching him to really do a great job of getting through his progressions and seeing the things necessary that allows us to be balanced in both.”Brian Kelly on balancing Jayden Daniels running and passing
One of the players that Kelly has continued to praise is freshman tight end Mason Taylor despite him not having his most productive game on Saturday.
” I think he’s very confident in his ability, so I think it starts with confidence first. I think second, it’s a pass catching tight end. A guy that has really good hands. His ability to run after the catch, extremely athletic so I think it’s skill set, confidence, and he’s put on the necessary size to go into traffic and make some plays.”
“We didn’t find him very well on Saturday. Maybe a couple of freshman mistakes. He stepped out of bounds on arrow route where he needs to know where he is, but I’m okay with those. That’s a learning curve and those are great opportunities to point out to a freshman that he’s not going to make that same mistake twice, but I would say confidence and then just the physical attributes that he has.”Brian Kelly on Mason Taylor
The last question of today’s press conference was about the Tigers’ depth at kicker and that if Kelly has ever rotated kickers in the middle of the season.
” I think I have changed kickers in mid-season. I’m not interested in changing kickers right now. I think our kicking situation is much more technical than it is anything else. We just got to clean up some technique, but we’ve got a scholarship kicker as well. We’ve got a transfer from Northwestern who is talented as well in Finison so Dibert, Finison, Ramos, Peyton Todd’s a really good punter. We’re pretty deep in kickers. Bramblett obviously punted the ball very well.”
“I really think that there’s some great depth there, but we’re not going to say there’s never competition at the position. If we feel like we need to make a change in a particular area, for example, we got to change kickoffs versus field goal, extra points, we’ll consider all of those things for the betterment of the football team.Brian Kelly on depth at kicker and if he has changed kickers in mid-season
If you missed out on Brian Kelly’s press conference, click below!
Make sure to check back on our website later as I look at some of the big takeaways from Brian Kelly’s first SEC win as LSU’s head coach.