LSU would love to have Derek Stingley race to the rescue
Scottsdale, AZ - The LSU Tiger football team is shorthanded in the secondary as they head into their Fiesta Bowl match-up against UCF.
LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda shared a story of newly signed recruit Derek Stingley, Jr. from Dunham High School in Baton Rouge during his Saturday morning press conference in Phoenix. Aranda recounted seeing Derek at practice earlier this week, lamenting the fact that the top player in the state can't suit up for his team on Tuesday against the Knights.
Here's more of what Aranda and his LSU defensive players had to say during their media session:
Q. Obviously you're going to be pretty shorthanded this week. How have you gone about replacing some of these guys?
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ARANDA: Well, I think, first of all, you know, when you look at an opponent, whoever you're playing, when we look at it, we always try to see what their strengths are and if there was any weaknesses there, how can we exploit those weaknesses. What makes UCF so unique is their use of tempo. So it does limit you in a traditional way of identifying, communicating, checking this, adjusting to that when they're just on the ball so fast. Sometimes the ball is snapped within ten seconds. So there's a lot of just "get lined up and playing" and there's more isolations. So those add to those inherent strengths that tempo give when you are minus guys. So I think that's what you start with. And so starting there, then you talk about ways that we can clout corners, ways that we can mix in zones, ways that we can try to attack protections, get off the field in third down, limit our total number of snaps. We looked at it the last two years, the time of possession of wins of UCF and their opponent, there's a great stat there that shows 9% win for them the last few years. When they lose, it is 50/50. We want to be on the other side of that, I think. Adjusting to their strengths, utilizing what we can with the matchups that we've got, and then getting off the field this third down, critical part there.
Q. With the depth at corner, with injury and the draft, what does your rotation look like in the secondary?
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ARANDA: We're playing -- Eric Monroe is going to be playing some. We've got John [Battle]. John is in there playing some. JaCoby [Stevens] is in there. He's been down low at linebacker spot, kind of our corner spot quite a bit. We're playing him deep a little bit more. More guys having to take on a little more roles. I give Bill Busch, coordinator, credit. They really drove that home as to how important that is. I think our guys really latched onto it and really attacked it. You like the feeling that you've got when you're at practice and guys are attacking their job and understand the importance of it when it's a new job for some of them. We're trying to get more guys involved.
Q. You mentioned [Glen] Logan as a possibility. What lines up for you?
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ARANDA: Yes. So similar idea there, he hasn't really played that position quite a bit. He's going to play some of that in this game. I look at it as if we can dictate when we're off the field, we can stick together, I think, our normal rotation and our normal techniques. And I think two years ago, we played -- two and three years ago, we played a few pace teams, and I think we knew what a 13- or 15-play drive was like and what that does to you. We have not really played pace teams this year. So I think that kind of adds to the intrigue of this game in terms of how it's handled, what happens in all of it. I think the Auburn game was the only game we played pace. I think the heat played a factor in that. And there was a point in the second quarter we got worn down. We had some long drives in that second quarter. So if we can get off the field and we can keep people at the normal spots. If we cannot, we've got 13-, 14-, 15-play drives, then guys need to play different spots. We're practicing as if that's the case. Hoping that ain't the case.
Q. With [Darriel] Mack at quarterback, are his two starts and half of another game enough to get a feel for the guy?
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ARANDA: Yes. We're going off of what we got. So I look at -- I see he's got a really strong arm. He's got a good touch on the deep ball. I think they love to run him. So the run/pass numbers are different when he's in the game. I think third down in general, they're about 60% pass. With him in the game, it's 50/50. That's true throughout other down-and-distance situations and things. So he brings into effect the use of all 11 guys. So the danger there is if the throw game gets going and we have to be able to help and cloud this, double that, then it opens up running areas for them. And so that would be worst-case scenario for us. So we respect his ability to throw. They do a good job of lookovers. I think the pace -- they go fast, they go fast, they go fast, and then when it is a critical down, they go fast and slow down, and they see what you're in and they change the call. One of the greater things that they do play-callwise is call the beater. They've got a good idea of what you're in and they call the play that's going to beat that play. They do a really good job at that. We played Missouri two years ago, and we played some two-man in that game, and they hadn't really seen two-man, and I think the second series after we showed the two-man, we started getting tight-end screens and the beaters came right away. So that's always kind of tells when something comes up, what is the answer? How long is it? Is it the next drive? Is it the drive after that? Is it after halftime? With these guys, it is the very next series. It will be one of those deals to where if we can keep them contained and on our terms, it will be good. If it's not, some of the situations we've got on the perimeter and the interior, it'll get interesting real quick.
Q. Do you, in your experience, factor in the lack of experience by the player and in this case, him, and the big stage?
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ARANDA: Yes. You look at that. You want to be able to force him on point and make him beat you, for sure. I think, you know -- now, that's going to be true whether that's an offensive tackle or receiver or running back, but especially a quarterback. You don't want him to complete balls in critical spots and take away the stuff that they do best.
Q. Is that tricky to try to put more in the game plan?
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ARANDA: It is. I think what you need to be able to do is -- for example, we practice on Mondays. It's kind of an intro day to the opponent, and we are going against our offense quite a bit. So what we need to have more of is staple pressures, staple stunts, and then along with situational calls. Right? Last play, third and 30, things of that nature. So the situational stuff we prepped. The staple stuff we haven't. That's been for the sake of "Hey, man, this is what we're going with. This week we're just running these four calls. Let's put all of the reps we've got into that." That's kind of been the case. I think you take a game where -- I think there's two two-minute drives -- I'm trying to remember. The first one, we're at 60-some plays. We ended the game at 120. We played a whole other game from that last two-minute drive to the overtimes. So what ends up happening in a game is you're always kind of -- either we're chasing someone or someone's chasing us. That's the game within the game right away, you know.
Q. Do you think Auburn maybe wasn't motivated? Were they beat up? Was that a factor? People like to say that when a bigger school plays a smaller school, maybe they weren't motivated. Do you think that played a role?
DEVIN WHITE: I'm ain't going to say they weren't motivated, but I feel like they went through a tough stretch as far as SEC games. And I played in the SEC so I can tell you it is not easy going through a stretch of playing -- the two teams that they played, it is not an easy stretch. I know -- I played [Kerryon] Johnson, and he was not the same. When he got to the SEC championship, he was beat up, you know. He wasn't the same player. You see what he's doing right now in the NFL as he's healthy. It plays a part in a player, being motivated. My team is going to be motivated, and my team is going to be ready to get a win. And that all starts with the leadership. We've got great leadership on this team.
Q. What kind of impact has Coach O had on you? I talked to a lot of players yesterday and what he's meant to them and what he's meant to this program. What's on your mind?
DEVIN WHITE: Coach O has a positive impact on me. We're alike in a lot of ways. I think the most important way that we're alike is we're all about Louisiana. He's a Louisiana native; I'm a Louisiana native. I'll do anything for my state, you know? I just want to make the state proud. I know he's the same way, because we're in practice, he's always talking about protecting the state, making the state look good. What we do is for the people of Louisiana. And I feel that. That makes us similar in a lot of ways.
Q. You kind of talked about UCF's pace and the tempo they run. Aside from that, what stands out when you look on the other side and players that stand out to you?
DEVIN WHITE: I like their running back, Number 30. He's a great running back. He's fast. They like to give him the ball and the space. I'm ready for the matchup. That's going to tell me where I'm at as a player because he's a smaller back, kind of a shifty back. Some people might feel like that I can't cover some, but I don't think anybody feels like that. But I get to show I can do a little more than go sideline to sideline, in between the tackles to make plays. I'm looking forward to that matchup.
Q. You were a part of last year's bowl loss. You understand how important a win can be through the off-season.
DEVIN WHITE: Yeah. When you lose in a bowl game, you have to go a long time with off-season training with that loss on your mind. I think one of the things that motivated us this off-season is like, man, we really lost the last game and, you know, it was all due to us, lack of leadership, some things that didn't go right at bowl practices. And this year we didn't want it to happen. We want to go on to the next. We want to start the next season off with a win. Let that carry us into the next season. That's all we've been focusing on, is getting a win.
Q. What did you take away from the A&M game other than you probably don't want to do that again?
DEVIN WHITE: I think -- man, that was a crazy game. I think I took away like just having to compete for so many quarters and just having to be a leader and step up. That really kind of challenged my inner leadership skills. It made a man out of the whole team. It was also just -- I don't know, it taught a lot. Anything you think about, I feel like it taught us. Seven overtimes, that never happened before. They had to run out on the field. I mean, I don't know. It was just so much. It's hard to explain.
Q. There might be some things to carry over from that that you learned from that game like leadership or just sticking to it, that sort of thing, that would apply in other games?
DEVIN WHITE: I feel like leadership and execute. You have to keep executing. A person that makes the most plays, they win the games. I just say execute and getting off the field, just going and putting teams away.
Q. You said next man up, but there's so many things that happened to your defense going into this game. Does it even feel like the same, thing or does it feel like almost a different defense in a way? 5
DEVIN WHITE: I mean, when you got certain guys who have established themselves as being the best, such as [Greedy] Williams at the cornerback position and even Kristian Fulton at the other side, those guys are some guys that you didn't want to throw the ball. But they recruit. Everybody recruit. I feel like we do a great job of recruiting. We recruit the best players. Now you're going to put a guy in. It is time for him to make a name for himself. Those guys are going to be motivated to do what the guys in front of them did because they know, "Now is my time. It is a great chance for me to make the big step going into the next season so everybody knows this is my spot and I'm here and who you can talk about next year." Being at LSU, one person go down, you stick another one in and the train keeps on rolling. We don't blink, we don't look back, we don't whine, we don't complain. We just go. We don't make excuses. That's one of the greatest things of playing at a university like this because things are going to happen. All you have to do is stay focused and good things will happen for the team.
Q. UCF has the nation's longest winning streak. of scoring 30 or more points a game. As a defensive player, do you get excited when you look at that and say, "We could be the team that could shut these guys down"?
TERRANCE ALEXANDER: Definitely. You want those pedestals to overcome. Like with the win streak, that's to let you know that they're going to have a game plan. They're going to have a really good game plan and they're going to stick to the game plan. It lets you know you have to come prepared, the same as they're going to be prepared. So it is really fun for these types of games. You don't really get the opportunity to say you ended a win streak or you did this or did that. So it is really -- it is going to be really exciting. It is going to be a good game. I'm excited for it.
Q. When you look at LSU coming in on that streak, have you guys talked about that? We want to be the team that finally takes these guys?
TERRANCE ALEXANDER: Not necessarily. It's just the next game for us in the season. Maybe once the season is over we can have all those discussions. Right now, it is focusing on the task at hand, focusing on the game plan and all of those things come to fruition when it is time for us. Right now we have to focus on LSU.
Q. Prior to this bowl game being paired up, did you recognize the seasons they were having the last couple of years? When you did kind of take notice of their streak and stuff like that?
TERRANCE ALEXANDER: Definitely the debacle of the national championship things, I saw that but I never really put too much energy into thinking about it. But they won all of the games, so I mean you can't tell them anything about winning. They won the games. But, like I said, ours is just focusing on ourselves. This it is definitely going to be a good game. We respect our opponent. We're not shy to say that, but we're ready to play.
Q. When you look at the other side, you're concerned about their tempo and their pace. What else stands out to you when you look at UCF and some of the skill talent they have?
TERRANCE ALEXANDER: They have a lot of fast players and they have a ton of speed, but so do we. Like I said, LSU is just focusing on our game plan. They're a really well-coached team. They don't shy away from the game plan too often. There have been times they've been down and come back in. Even the last game, they found a way to win. It will be a fight. We just have to keep fighting.
Q. What are you going to do to prepare for the Fiesta Bowl?
TERRANCE ALEXANDER: Right now I'm prepared with the team. We're having a lot of practices on the film study, and we're trying to finalize what we're going to do with technique and our game plan.
Q. What position would you play besides the one that you play now and why?
TERRANCE ALEXANDER: I don't know. I would say there's a lot of other positions I would like to play on defense. If I didn't play on defense, I would like to play either receiver or running back just to be explosive and elusive. I like receiver, always make big plays. I like cornerback. I like to be able to make big plays. That would be the reason I would like those positions.
Q. You guys have talked about concern about UCF's tempo. What other concerns stand out in terms of players?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: They have good running backs, some very explosive speed, and they use them well. So they have -- we have to execute even though they're running that tempo. We have to make sure they don't run the ball inside the tackles, outside the tackles, and have big plays. So it is really just executing on all phases, on defense, all 11 players just doing their jobs and we can be successful.
Q. UCF has the nation's longest winning streak and longest scoring points of 30 or more points. As a defensive player, do you get excited when you look at the matchup: "We're the team that could shut these guys down"?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: It gives us more opportunity to show what type of defense we are and who we are, and shut down the offense, a good offense like that. And basically executing and playing LSU football.
Q. Before you even knew about this matchup with UCF, what did you kind of know about them? They haven't lost a game in two years. Is that something you noticed? Maybe beginning last season or maybe the bowl game?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: I learned about the bowl game from Auburn. I played high school football with Nate Evans, who is the linebacker for them. I played with him. I watched him. Watched a couple of his games, and always stay in contact with him.
Q. Was there some communication with Nate when the matchup was set? Any trash talk?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: I haven't talked to him ever since. Once we found out, I haven't talked to him. I haven't seen him either, actually. There's going to be a great opportunity To play against him this time. It will be great.
Q. When you did start playing football? MICHAEL DIVINITY:
I started playing football in middle school when I was in 7th grade.
Q. Who influenced you to play?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: Honestly, no one influenced me. It was just the environment I was raised in. A lot of people didn't make it out of the environment. So just being able to -- my mother put me into football and to see me succeed at it. I kept going with it, and look where it got me today.
Q. Did you play any other sports other than football?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: Yes. I ran track in high school. I played baseball, and that was it. And basketball.
Q. How are you going to prepare for the Fiesta Bowl?
MICHAEL DIVINITY: Watch film. Every day I practice and bust my tail, make sure I take care of all of my weaknesses and also strengthen up my strengths, and just go out there and play LSU football.
Q. UCF has the nation's longest winning streak, longest streak of scoring 30 or more points a game. As a defensive guy, do you get excited to say this is a team that hopefully we can be the ones that finally shuts these guys down?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: That's the goal. I remember a couple of years ago, we played Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl, and they were scoring on everybody, and he was scoring at will, and we kind of shut them down. So a team like us that's from the SEC playing an out-of-conference team that's really good, we're up to the challenge. We're excited to do it. They definitely got talent, but we've got to match them physically.
Q. There's kind of like a UCF/SEC thing. I don't know how much you were aware of that. They beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl last year, and they claimed to be national champion. Alabama people got upset. There's been this back-and-forth thing. Are you aware of that, and is this game like a pride thing too for the SEC?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: It is definitely a pride thing. They call themselves the national champs, and I can't blame them. They're a hell of a team. We definitely want to shut them down. We want to play our type of football, not only SEC and everything but LSU defense, and have a really dominant game. And if we play like that, the offense is going to move the ball and we'll have a chance to beat them
Q. You guys talked about maybe you will be the team that breaks their streak?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah. Kind of, sort of. It also helps that they're undefeated for the last two years. It's going to be tough. It is going to be a grind-it-out game, and it will be an up-tempo game, but we're ready.
Q. If you guys win, will you have beaten the defending national champs?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yes and no. Kind of, sort of, but not really.
Q. When you look at that team and some of the guys have talked about the tempo and how that's a concern, aside from that, what stands out?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Personnel-wise, what jumps out about them is just speed. Number 30, he was a track guy. All of the running backs are 4.3s and 4.4s, so we have to bottle them up. We've got to contain them because, if not, they'll be going 70 to the house. That's what really jumps off, is just the speed of the running backs.
Q. Let's talk about being here in Arizona and some of the things you guys have been doing, places you've been going. Are you a golfer?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah. I actually got a little help with golf yesterday, which I needed. But Arizona's pretty cool. I've been to Oregon, Washington, California, and this is new to me. And so seeing the mountains while you practice and getting to do things with teammates has been real fun.
Q. You guys are going to go watch some basketball tonight. Are you a big fan?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Big basketball guy. I'm a Lakers fan. LeBron James, wherever he goes, I go. So I don't know. Nuggets are in first place, though, and Phoenix has a pretty good team this year. So it is going to be a good game to go out there and watch.
Q. Just getting back to the game, what do you hope to get out of this game? They have a winning streak going. Is that something you guys have been trying to think about making -- getting a stop on them?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: Yeah. They've won 20-some straight games in a row. They're very talented, and they're motivated. They feel like they're a team that should be in the Playoffs, that should be considered one of the top teams in the country, which they are one of the top teams. But it is going to be fun to play somebody that's on such a big win streak and somebody that's just as talented as us.
Q. Everybody's talking about them being the national champ. So after this game, if you guys win, are you considered to be in that category?
RASHARD LAWRENCE: No, sir, not for our standards and how we do things. I don't think that will give us a national championship or people will look at us as national champs.
Q. Who inspired you?
GRANT DELPIT: Probably my dad, always. He always -- people always say their dad, but my dad is a big inspiration in my life. I love LSU. Anybody who's come through LSU, I also look at them.
Q. What's your favorite teacher and why?
GRANT DELPIT: Favorite teacher? Let me see. I would probably say Miss Scott because she's actually coming to this game. She was my elementary teacher -- science teacher. She was -- science is a hard subject to like. She made it fun. "Miss Scott, you're my favorite teacher. Thanks for coming to my games."
Q. What does it mean to be able to represent your home state and your town in a New Year's Six bowl game?
GRANT DELPIT: That's definitely huge. Fiesta Bowl, New Year's Six, representing LSU and Louisiana. Making people in Louisiana proud is definitely a blessing.
Q. To you personally, what does playing in a game like this mean? Does it mean anything more than a normal game for you? Is there anything that gets you more fired up because of a game like this?
GRANT DELPIT: Definitely everything that comes with it. Normal games, we get all of this, and the hospitality we're getting is crazy. So definitely just New Year's Six bowl, getting ready for it, preparing for it. The week is definitely going to be big, I think our biggest stage. Just ready for it.
Q. Have you gone horse riding with Devin [White]?
GRANT DELPIT: I would never get on a horse ever! Never be around a horse. I don't know why you would want to do that. I'm from the city; he's from the country. Two different people. No, I would not get on a horse.
Q. What do you think of the fact that he's that interested in that and has a horse right by campus and all of that?
GRANT DELPIT: He was riding the horse on campus. That's probably the craziest thing I've seen, is seeing Devin ride that horse on campus. It just shows how country he is at heart, and just love horses like that. It is an individual taste, I would say.
Q. He seems like a really good guy, though. What do you think of him?
GRANT DELPIT: He's a great friend. He will always be there for you. He's very outgoing, as you can see also. Just having one of those guys around, that's huge. Devin, he's a likable person. Everybody likes him. He always talks to my grandma, things you wouldn't think of. He's definitely a family guy.
Q. He was talking about how it was really important for him to get people back up after the Florida game, before you played Georgia. That might have been the thing this season that means the most to him. Just talk about that, how you guys kind of had this sort of real disappointment against Florida and then you were able to do what you did against Georgia.
GRANT DELPIT: I mean, in the SEC, it is hard to be down because you play, I think, like seven SEC games straight. So just being in the SEC is definitely tough. You got to learn how to bounce back. So the loss against Florida was definitely tough, and I just feel like that we did bounce back. Played a tough Georgia team. They're in the Sugar Bowl now. So just playing a team like that and bouncing back after a loss is definitely a big emphasis. Guys like Devin [White] and leaders on our team definitely picked us up after that game, just prepared us for the next one.
Q. Does the same kind of thing apply here because you have the seven-overtime game? It was awhile ago, I know, but still. Now you've got various people missing on defense. Does it apply going into this game, too?
GRANT DELPIT: Definitely just coming up with lots of games. How we bounce back, how we respond, definitely can be big. That game, probably one of the games of the century. Being on the losing end of it is bad. You never want that, but we know we played a tough game. We don't have any -- we have a couple of regrets but as a team, we played hard. We try to bounce back, and I think it won't be too hard to bounce back from that.
Q. What was that feeling like while that seven-overtime game was going on? Did this seem like crazy in your head or were you just so focused?
GRANT DELPIT: That game was definitely one for the ages. It got to a point in the fifth or fourth overtime where my adrenaline was running, I wasn't even tired anymore. I was trying to do anything I could to win the game. The adrenaline takes over at a certain point. I wasn't tired at all. I was just trying to win the game at all costs. It didn't work out but it was definitely a fun experience, I'll tell you that.
Q. When it ended, you did feel exhausted, though? Did it all catch up to you?
GRANT DELPIT: It did catch up with me at the end. You don't have that feeling after putting it all on the line, knowing we played a good game. Nothing you can do about it now, but definitely disappointing.
Q. Do you feel like with all of the sort of changes on your defense going into this game that you've had enough time to kind of pull it together especially in the secondary?
GRANT DELPIT: Yeah, I think we have.
Q. You have people missing. A lot of people you would have playing aren't playing.
GRANT DELPIT: I would tell guys like Terrance [Alexander] and Devin [White] they're playing big roles. I would tell those guys that's why you came to LSU, to play in big games like this. So you have to capitalize. It is your time now. Make it count. I think those guys are ready for it.