Q: Will you discuss your thoughts on the Chancellor considering a job at South Carolina (this was 90 minutes before Dr. Mark Emmert would announce he intended to stay at LSU)?
A: First of all, I think everybody knows I feel Mark Emmert is an outstanding chancellor and leader of this institution. I think he's done a fantastic job. I think that we most certainly and definitely do everything we possibly can to make sure he remains our chancellor.
I think he knows, and I would want everybody to know, that you've got to make these decisions sometimes on what's best for your family and your future. We would certainly want him to do that.
But from LSU's standpoint, from Nick Saban's standpoint, from my family's standpoint, from our program's standpoint, we think that Mark Emmert has done a fantastic job here and he only enhances our chances of being successful by being here and we'd like for him to stay.
Q: Have you spoken with him?
Q: In the last couple of days?
A: Last night – and I told him the same thing.
Q: With Toefield's injury, are there things your staff has to do to make him feel like he's still part of something while he's off doing the rehab by himself?
A: He's been to the off-season program every day. He can't really do the things all the other players do, but he has a prescribed program that's laid out by the doctors and the trainers and also the strength training staff relative to what he can and can't do.
He is running. They do his special little program on the side, so he is there every day. We tried to keep him involved and we want him to be at practice every day. He goes to the meetings and tries to learn.
I actually try to get him to provide a little leadership and direction for some of the younger players. I think that's one of the better things on our team that our players actually do is help the younger guys.
Q: When you talked to Chancellor Emmert, did you get any feel for where he was in the process?
A: No, that wasn't really the purpose of the call. All I was trying to do is let him know how we felt about him being here and staying here. That was basically the tone of the conversation. I didn't probe into what his intentions were. I'm just hopeful that he makes a good decision that is good for us as well as him, and that will be the best way I think it will work out for everybody.
Q: Was he the guy that really sold you on this place?
A: I don't think he sold me on it. I think I was sold on him, if that makes any sense. I was sold on the direction LSU was committed on going in, and I was impressed with the people I talked to about that. And I haven't been disappointed in any way since I've been here.
Q: Early last season, you said there wasn't much difference between Mauck and Randall in the types of quarterbacks that they were? Do you still feel that way after Mauck's performance in the SEC Championship and their development as quarterbacks?
A: I can't say because I haven't seen Marcus Randall play. I saw Matt Mauck play and he played well. He took advantage of the opportunity that he had.
I'm sure the little bit of experience that he gained in the Florida game and the SEC Championship game will help him. But Marcus Randall we still feel is a guy that has a lot of talent and ability, and we're going to work very hard to develop him to hopefully make a very competitive position because we'd rather have the problem of having two good quarterbacks instead of one.
I feel that's something we've got to let happen in spring practice, see how those guys develop.
Q: You didn't mention Marcus Spears' name among the tight ends. Is he still going to be with the defensive ends?
A: He's on defense for right now. We'll probably at some point in time, when we feel like his knowledge base on defense is good, maybe try him in some special situations on offense – maybe starting in something like short yardage and goal line where you need more big people. And then maybe expanding that role as he gets comfortable in one position.
I think the biggest problem with younger players is when you try to get them to do two things and they don't know how to do one and they're not comfortable and confident about one thing. It impedes their progress at both.
(Spears) seems very happy with that and has had a great off-season, is in great shape right now and can certainly be a playmaker for us on either side of the ball. We'd like to use him that way some time eventually.
Q: Is Tim Pope part of the team?
A: For the moment. He went through the off-season program. As long as he continues to do the things he's supposed to do, I guess we'll leave him there. But I'm going to have a meeting with Tim Pope before we practice tomorrow (Saturday) to see if he's actually going to continue to be there because I have those meetings quite often with Tim Pope.
Q: Is Domanick Davis going to work again with the defense?
A: No. Domanick Davis from the Kentucky game on did not work on defense or play on defense. We're not going to do that.
One thing that I did not mention that I should have mentioned… I said we're going to try Devery Henderson and Shyrone Carey at receiver. We're also going to try Jack Hunt and Corey Webster at defensive back. None of those situations are (permanent).
Spring practice is a time to experiment. When better to find out if a guy can do something or can't do something, or has an opportunity to make the team better by trying another position maybe where you feel like you don't have as much depth or you have a need?
Then if you move him back, at least you have a knowledge base and they have a knowledge base that if you ever needed them, because of injury or whatever, you could actually put him there.
Depending on how these things work out, then you determine later on whether its kind of a permanent move or not. We felt like we were a little heavy at receiver. (We) had a lot of receivers, a lot of running backs, a lot of skill guys on offense, and we felt like we needed to try some guys at other positions because they weren't all going to play.
We had seven guys at running back and six or seven guys at receiver, and we had one ball. …That didn't divide out very well in terms of how we could utilize all those players, and especially if you look at it as these guys are sitting on the bench and we have other players who are starting that these guys may be better athletes. Just because they don't pay the same position or the right position, they're not getting to play and somebody else is getting to play.
It's not only in fairness to the players that you try to look at them (at different positions); it could also make us a better team.
I also feel as a coach that if a guy is not moving up higher than where he was at the position that you moved him to, that's not the right deal either. So you need to put the guy back where he's most productive, whether it's where he feels most natural or where you feel and he feels he can make the best contribution.
Q: What's the No. 1 thing you want to accomplish this spring?
A: Well, I thought I mentioned some of the goals of things we wanted to accomplish. That's basically what they are.
The first thing is the characteristics of the attitude we want the team to have, that is to be a dominant team, to be a consistent winner – not to be a flash in the pan, one-time ten-game winner and be satisfied with that, not work as hard, not do the things we need to do to try and improve as a team. What I've tried to emphasize to the players is the way to do that.
Great players make great decisions every day about what they do and what they don't do. They just don't wait until the afternoon and say, "Oh, it's time to go out there and make ‘em." They also make them when the game's on the line because they have enough discipline and commitment to make themselves be able to focus on the moment so that they can make great plays.
That's what we've emphasized to the players. We need to be making good decisions every day about what we do and what we don't do so that we have a chance to improve as a team - that attitude, rather than the attitude of: "I've got my championship ring now and I can walk around town and show it off and get a few more dates. I just need to show up, everybody'll lay down. We'll kick butt and take names then."
It doesn't work that way. What we accomplished last year won't help us win one game next year. In fact, every body is going to be more ready to play us than they ever were before, so we need to be ready for that.
Q: When did you get the rings and how did you decide who got one?
A: We basically gave the rings to everybody on the team who was eligible, because that's a rule. Secondly, (you got a ring) if you were a walk-on and had been in the program for at least two years, or you were classified as a preferred walk-on that we had invited to fall camp. That included a lot of guys, but it eliminated a few guys who came out for the team…for the first time and didn't make much of contribution even in practice.
That's the criteria that we used and the rings acme in this week. We had a team meeting on Wednesday and passed the rings out then.
Q: Who are you using on punt returns and kickoff returns?
A: Domanick Davis averaged 14 yards per punt return last year and was one of the leaders in the SEC, but Shyrone Carey is also a guy that we worked all last year when he was sitting out. Ronnie Prude is a guy who's done that before. Michael Clayton's caught balls there before.It's mostly the younger guys in the program who probably will end up being the back-up punt return guys.