NEW ORLEANS – As a former interim head coach at Southern Cal in 2013, current LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has a great deal of admiration for Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and what he has accomplished with the Tigers since getting the opportunity to be their interim coach in 2008 before taking over the full-time duties in 2009.
“I want to congratulate Coach Swinney and his outstanding achievements so far that he’s done as a coaching career,” Orgeron said Sunday morning during the College Football Playoff National Championship Head Coaches Press Conference. “I think he’s a model of other coaches that have been interim coaches and had success. He’s a friend of mine. I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for his football team. I want to thank the playoff system for having us here at the championship game. New Orleans has been great. It’ll be a great game.”
Orgeron also has plenty of respect for Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and knows his unit — which ranks No. 1 nationally in both scoring defense (11.5 points per game allowed) and passing defense (151.5 yards per game allowed) — will present a staunch challenge for LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and its high-powered offense, especially with 2019 Butkus Award winner Isaiah Simmons flying around at multiple positions on the other side.
“You watch their tape, they’re in the right place at the right time,” Orgeron said of Venables’ defense. “He knows how to attack protections. They use that No. 11 in great spots. We’ve got to know where he’s at all the time. But you know the team that we played, we played some really good defenses, and our guys have done a good job.”
Orgeron is not sure exactly what LSU will see from Clemson’s defense on Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in New Orleans, but expects his group to be ready for whatever Venables throws at them.
“Obviously with our offense, we have seen new defenses that we haven’t practiced against sometimes. Sometimes we’ve seen the same defense,” Orgeron said. “I think this game is going to come down to adjustments made during the game. Obviously Clemson has had a lot of time to practice, we’ve had a lot of time to practice. Sometimes people put in something new, sometimes they don’t. They may run the same stuff. We’ve watched every play they’ve run, they’ve watched every play we run, so we are going to be prepared.
“But I think when it comes down to coaches making the proper calls, I think what we have an advantage of with this year more than any other team I’ve been with, that Joe can execute those plays, and we put playmakers in space and let them play.”
While today is a Sunday in reality, LSU is sticking with its usual game week routine and treating today like their normal “focus Friday.”
“Yeah, you know, we didn’t talk about going to play for the National Championship,” Orgeron said. “We talked about we have to prepare to beat Clemson, one game at a time, just like we’ve done. We have trusted the process. Today is focus Friday. The guys are getting excited. They are getting antsy. I can feel it. I’m getting antsy, too.
“But I think we have to continue to work up through game time. They are going to make plays. We’re going to make plays. We have to work for 60 minutes and focus on winning the game and not worry about all the other stuff, block out all the noise just like we did all year.”
After a long but rejuvenating layoff from LSU’s CFP semifinal game against Oklahoma on Dec. 28 to the national title game, Orgeron and his players are itching to finally take the field at 8 p.m. ET Monday and try to win it all.
“You know, for us, we needed the rest,” he said. “We gave our guys ample rest. We practiced four days, we gave them three days off, and then we went through a regular game week of planning. So I think it’s been good.
“It seems like right now everybody is getting a little antsy to play. Those things, sometimes you’ve got to adjust to whatever they tell you to do, so we don’t blink. They tell us it’s 16 days, it’s 16, they tell us it’s seven, it’s seven. We just go.”
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