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Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: LSU


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Coach Mike Shula

Video Clip Watch Press Conference Now!

Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions

Opening Comments:

"We're playing our toughest game of the year against the best team we'll possibly have faced so far. Our football team is coming off a good win, feeling good about themselves, our players are. But we realize what kind of challenge we've got Saturday night just going in there and playing in front of the atmosphere that we're going to have down there. We've got to be at our best. We've got to play better than we played last week. We've got to minimize our mistakes more so than we have at any other team. We're going to have opportunities and when they come we've got to take advantage of them. Last week we didn't play quite as consistent as we would have liked and we're not going to be able to say that this week and still win the game.

"We've got some guys who are beat up a little bit but we think we're going to rest some guys this week. We won't go out in pads today and hopefully most of these guys will be ready to go for Saturday. But it's going to be a day-to-day thing with pretty much all of the guys that we've talked about and we're going to have to have a lot of guys ready to go."

When you look at LSU's defense, what area gives you the most concern or what makes their defense so good?

"It starts up front. Those guys up front are collectively the most athletic group, good size. Marcus Spears might be the best defensive lineman in the country, probably is. They do a lot of things with him. They slant and angle him, different directions. They get up the field fast. They chase down screens after they're rushing the quarterbacks. And they can make a lot of plays themselves, more so maybe than any other defensive line that we've seen. Our biggest challenge for the offensive line will be to not allow them to have that type of penetration in the backfield and try to get some movement on them and get on to their linebackers. But it will by far be our biggest challenge for the offensive line and for (Ken) Darby and those guys.

"Defensively, I could talk all day about (them). Their corners are two of the best corners in the country. They cover. They play a lot of man coverage. They get up in your face. They're going to be challenging our young receivers. They do that because they're very athletic. They've got great speed, good change of direction and they play the ball well. That combination of guys that con cover real, real well with a good defensive line--and I haven't talked about their scheme yet, especially when they get you in to third downs. And that's their thing is to try to get you, when on first and second down, get you into third and long and then they have a real good nickel package, blitzing; whether they're going to blitz or not, but when they do, they do a great job of it."

Can you talk about the history of the series a little bit? You've even been involved in wins down in Baton Rouge that have been pretty routine for Alabama.

"It's been a very interesting series to be a part of and also to watch after I got out of school. Both teams have played real, real well on the road. Hopefully that's the case this year. I think it's different now. LSU, gosh, last year's team and this year's team and their talking about it being possibly being their greatest teams ever, last year winning the national championship, this year a lot of returning guys. Fourteen returning starters. And yet they're still young. And a big part of that trend and the thing you talked about has a lot to do with the players on the field. And we feel like we've got our fair share of good players, too. We've just got to get some of them healthy. We've got to go out there and play mistake-free football and play to our strengths and hopefully try to slow their offense down a little bit."

Coach, last week you talked about how much respect you have for Coach (Sylvester) Croom and his staff over there (at Mississippi State).  Are Coach (Nick) Saban and that staff sort of in the same league with the schemes that they put together and the success that Coach Saban has had at many levels of football?

"Yeah. He might be in a league of his own that way, just what they've done over the course of his career there, especially in the last couple of years. I coached on teams where he was an assistant coach in the NFL and he brings a lot of that into his style of defense and really throughout the team. And yet he caters to the younger guys so to speak. A great example is with their quarterbacks. They've got two guys, they give them opportunities and they make a lot of plays. They're both athletic. They both can throw the ball. And they've got a lot of talent around them.

"What they're doing coaching wise in all three phases they do a lot of different things. It's tough when you look at any of the weaknesses in their systems to try to attack, they're very, very sound. And when you have that type of system with real good athletes, that's why they are as successful as they've been this year and last year."

Coach, can you talk about the job of your offensive line with the injuries in the backfield and how they've stepped it up and continued to get better and better week in and week out?

"They've played real well. I think a big part of that is the senior leadership with Evan, Wesley and Danny Martz, who as a first-time starter has played much better this year than he did at any point last year when he was playing part-time. J.B. Closner has gotten better with another year as a starter. It's been the strength of our offense and that combination with our backs with the way Ray (Hudson) was running and now Ken Darby it's been very helpful for us and helped us win football games. As the season goes on the games get bigger and it seems like the personnel that they are going against seem to get better and better. None more so than this week."

Speaking of Darby, how surprising is it to you that you've got a guy who basically took over starting halfway through the season, he's 22nd nationally and second in the SEC in rushing at this point?

"It's kind of a nice surprise. It gives you a great feeling as a coach. When Ray started the season we all thought he's got a chance to be a really good player.  And sure enough he comes out and shows everybody that he is a really good player. We were kind of saying the same thing about Ken, that here's another guy that's got a chance just with opportunity to be a really good player and now he's been, what, two or three games, maybe four games as a starter now? He's had two games for 200 yards, 197. He's very talented and his work ethic, especially at the start of training camp has been really, really good. He's very conscientious on the corrections that Coach (Sparky) Woods has for them and has gotten better because of it. It's good to see it, a guy like that with talent who is really working to get the most out of his talent, to have the kind of success that he's having. Again, it'll be a big challenge for him this week, too."