Tuesday Press Conference Report

Coach Sylvester Croom held his Tuesday game-week press conference as scheduled, to discuss the upcoming contest with #4-ranked Louisiana State (1:30 CT, no network TV). Topics for discussion ranged from the need for State to get back to a ‘core' offense and stick with it irregardless; the quality of this Tiger team; Croom's relationship with LSU defensive coach Bo Pellini; and the surprising discovery that he and Tiger quarterback Jamarcus Russell are distantly related.

Opening Comment: "We've got another big game this week against another very good SEC opponent. Of course they had a tough loss last night in an overtime situation, they'll be disappointed today but I'm sure they'll get over it fast and look forward to picking up a SEC West win against us just like we'll be trying to do against them.

"We came out of the game healthy for the most part, we're got a couple of guys that are a little nicked-up and won't practice today. And Will Prosser will be in his normal routine, he'll do some limited work just catching the ball. We've got a couple of guys with viruses that may miss some work, other than that we're in real decent shape.

"As I said after the ball game I was pleased with the effort and the intensity. Defensively we did some very good things, we still have to execute better there as far as our zone-blitzes so we don't void zones and give up plays. Offensively we just have to play a whole lot better. We're going to do that by getting back to our base things and seeing if we can execute the core of our offense. We definitely are improving, we're better than last year. But we still have a long way to go; the goal is not just to play hard and play well, the goal is to win. We've got a great challenge this week against a team I'm sure will be very angry when they come in."

Getting back to a ‘core' offense: "We got out of the rhythm of running the football. We tried to spread them out a little bit the other night and create some better running lanes for Jerious Norwood. Sometimes you do things to make it easier, but we're going back to doing it the hard way. We're going to knock them off the ball and if we run it thirty times and only gain one inch, then we're just going to gain one inch. But we're not going to try to finesse people. We're going to block people and run and do it the sure, hard way. It's my fault we tried to finesse them, tried to trick them and get something easy. Hey, nothing comes easy for us around here. So that's the way it is and we're going to do it the right way. We're going to hit people in the mouth and block them and if we can't we get beat, it's that simple."

Omarr Conner limping Saturday night: "Aww, he was just trying to get some sympathy points, that's all. He's alright."

Conner's first four games of 2005: "I think he understands the offense a lot better. He still has some technical quarterback things sometimes, like his left leg will ‘lock out' and that makes the ball sail. That's the disciplined of staying balanced when he's throwing. For the most part he has so much better understanding of the offense. In the meeting today we watched one of those routes he threw to Jerious, I've been running that pattern the last ten years and I don't think I've ever had a quarterback go that far back in the progression to make that throw. The guy is always open but most times the quarterback doesn't get to that point in the progression. He did and that tells me right there, a wide-route into the boundary, that he does understand where to go with the football. There was a couple of times though I thought he felt the pressure and bailed on the pattern a little too fast instead of stepping up and staying strong in the pocket. I thought he ran the ball better and was smart as far as protecting himself but got positive yards. I thought he played with a lot of courage and stepped up and showed some leadership."

State's rushing defense success: "We're playing better defense. And you've got to understand most of those guys played last year. We worked on that a lot and we're better at it, they understand the scheme better, and we're pretty solid in our front-seven. Our linebackers are playing better. We're tackling a lot better, we can still improve in that area. But having the same players and the same coaches for a second year and being better fundamentally has a lot to do with it. And the good thing about it is we'll have most of them back for another year."

Using smaller defensive linemen: "You remember in the Florida game we went to a similar scheme which allowed us to put Quinton Culberson and Gabe O'Neal in the game, we decided at that point even in our recruiting we wanted speed at linebacker and defensive ends. We will take a couple of big guys inside to anchor the middle and hopefully take up at least three blockers, to allow a guy like Culberson to run. It helps tremendously. In this conference guys can run and you're going to end in situations where your linebackers and safeties are one-on-one with people in space. If you don't have speed to match theirs you're not going to get them on the ground. That's been a big plus for us doing that and we will continue to recruit with speed in mind on the defensive side."

Is W.C.O. versatile enough to play smash-mouth: "Oh, yeah. That's really where it starts, with the ability to run the football. With the fullback and the running back we've got… I wish we had a big back and we're going to recruit some 220-pound backs with the size I like to do that. I like to run the football and the passing game feeds off that.

"Our system allows us to do pretty much anything that our talent will allow us to do. We can go in with three backs in the backfield, or three tight ends, or four or five receivers in a heartbeat, if we have them. That's the beauty of the offense, it allows you to adapt to whoever your best players are. Right now our best is keeping guys like Bryson Davis and our tight ends on the field, so that's what we'll do."

Will more true freshmen be activated: "There's always the possibility as a season goes on. At this point I couldn't say definitely either way, but the prospects are quickly diminishing."

LSU's return game: "It's scary, it creates nightmares. All their skill people, whether it's the return game, throwing the ball or running the ball, anybody who touches the ball starting with their quarterback is dangerous. Every time the ball snaps offensively or returning, your heart is going to be in your throat because every one of their guys can take it to the house. Especially Skyler Green. It's really going to test our kicking game, we've done a good job in coverage but it's really going to be tested this week."

LSU's new coaching staff: "You can't notice a lot of difference. Les does a fine job, and with the kind of talent they've got… He's a sound coach. They're going to play well. They've been through a lot and I'm sure last night was a tough loss for them. But they weren't playing the Sisters of the Poor."

LSU defensive coach Bo Pellini: "Bo is an excellent coach and a good person. He and I worked a lot of drills together at Green Bay, we always had curfew duty together. He's not going to try to play tricks, he knows what my philosophy is and I know what his is. It's going to come down to guys executing and playing fundamental football, because both of us believe in hard-nosed football.

"Every now and then I probably try to get a little too finesse and fancy with the offense, but that's over. We're going to line up and hit people in the mouth and if it ain't good enough we're going to walk off the field and go home."

LSU's defense: "I really just studied their scheme last night. And I never really look at the names, but I noticed their front and middle linebacker, he impresses me a great deal. Their front is exceptionally quick. Tennessee has a very strong offensive line and on contact quite often it appeared the LSU front was blocked out of position but they have a great knack of slipping blocks and finishing plays and getting back to the ball before it gets to the line of scrimmage. They run extremely fast and their pursuit is excellent. They gave up some big plays to a very fast Tennessee team and I'm sure they'll get those things corrected."

On Jamarcus Russell: "Well, the first thing is I just found out this summer he is a distant relative, and that made me even sicker. I wish he'd come out of high school a year or so later, maybe that relationship would have gotten him here! He is a unique specimen to say the least. Huge, excellent arm, doesn't run very much but is capable or running. We're going to have a hard time getting this man on the ground because you tell guys go for the arm or body, I don't if we can reach his arm as tall as he is. And going for his body is like trying to wrap around a concrete pillar. It's going to be interesting, we're going to get a couple of guys on him real fast, real fast to get him on the ground. But he's definitely improved over last year and he knows what he's doing in the offense. He has touch and distance to throw the out-cut from the wide side. I don't see anything he can't do."

Forgetting State's SEC West losing streak: "This is the only game that counts. It's all that matters. The games played all those years ago and the ones played thereafter we can't do anything about. Today is the only thing we can do anything about. All we're going to do is go out today and practice and get better, and when Saturday comes around we'll play that game. Then we'll worry about the next one. This is all that matters."

Using Eric Butler more: "It's no secret other teams have figured that out too, because they held him a lot the other night, grabbed him by the faceguard and tried to make sure he didn't get off the line of scrimmage. They figured out real fast where we wanted to go with the football. Yeah, we're always trying to get him the football, and in a lot of different ways."


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