Outback Bowl Head Coaches Joint News Conference

December 29, 2013


Opening statement:
"We're thrilled to be selected to play in this game. Those of us that have been on the trip prior just know what a great experience it is and has proven to be. The hospitality that the people on the Outback committee extend to us is first class; it's second to none. Tampa Bay provides a great venue for a bowl game and the other ingredient is you always play an outstanding team from the SEC, and that's certainly the case again this year. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to be in the game and we know we have a big challenge on our hands with LSU. But it's been fun for our guys to prepare and hopefully it will be a great football game."

On LSU running back Jeremy Hill:
"He's an outstanding back and I think they have several. Our coaches have respect for all four we've seen on film. If you look at him last year, statistically, he was one of, and now he's certainly risen to the top of an outstanding group. He's a tremendous football player; strong, physical. The rest of the story to me is they are just a well-conceived offensive football team. It starts with the way they block up front. They've got big, physical guys up front that allow them to get going. They've got good skill players at every position. They've got the kind of balance, if you look at them statistically they're over 200 throwing it and 200 rushing. It's a tough team to defense because of their balance and the players they put out there, but he's certainly a marquee player."

On preparing for new LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings:
"That's really the only wildcard for us is that we don't have much tape on him. As I've said before, the job of any quarterback regardless of his style or his age is to move the team. He moved them in about as extreme circumstances as you can possibly dream up. You wouldn't put a guy in that situation in practice, I don't think, and expect him to do what he did. So that's the bottom line. I think the other obvious thing to me is they recruit a lot of good players at LSU historically. For him to move from incoming freshman to the number two guy the way he did knowing that they've got a senior who's going to go on to the NFL, I think that says a lot about the people that have seen him on a day to day basis. We're not sure what exactly to expect, but I know this, we can count on a really good player being back there and a guy who's a leader on their football team."

On preparing to face an SEC opponent:
"You see them occasionally on T.V. We don't exchange as much film obviously. Occasionally some people from our conference will overlap and play. It's pretty much come to bowl exposure, but you'd have to be blind to college football to not recognize their level of talent and the level of coaching in the conference. It's outstanding and it's well-documented. We did have the opportunity to play LSU years ago and they were riding a wave of success at that point and it was the former coach's last game. Coach Miles has come in and just done nothing but take that thing another level up. They've got outstanding players and they are very well coached. I think there's a lot of that going on in the league. When we watch the tapes and the cut-ups that's what you're seeing. It's an outstanding football conference and I think that's well documented."

On the importance of a good defense:
"I think that's pretty much true in football, at least I still believe that and I think most coaches that have been in their jobs for a while believe that. In any sport, defense is important. For us typically that means we have to improve and that's something our team did this year. We came into the season with three linebackers that we expected to play at a high level. They're all seniors and they played an awful lot. They've practiced well and they really, I think, helped lead our football team. We always have stories. For us to lose our corner early and Jordan Lomax came out early. For Desmond (King) to jump in there, none of us could have predicted that. Things like that enable you to move on and hopefully improve. I think the guys have really done a good job in moving forward and advancing. This is certainly, I think, going to be our biggest challenge defensively, the team that we're facing."

On the LSU offense and what to expect with a new quarterback:
"We don't know; it's a little bit like a first game. I wasn't joking about that, I wish it was three days of preparation rather than three weeks. All that being said, what they were doing was working pretty well this year. So we have to be ready for anything. I don't expect a wholesale change, but I'm sure we'll see a wrinkle or two, and that all makes sense. I think philosophically what they try to do we expect to see that. I don't think they're just going to take those receivers out of the game. It would be okay if they chose to.

On Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz:
"First of all, the obvious thing is he has great size and great ability. He had that when he came to us. He's one of the few guys that looked like that when he showed up. He's a four-year player. I talked about the linebackers and C.J. is the same way, he's a four-year player now, he's more productive than he's ever been. He's a very willing blocker and a very good blocker. He's done a really nice job in the passing game, particularly down in the red zone. When you have a guy with that size, he's aggressive to the ball, and he does it on the practice field as well. I think that will serve him well moving forward too. We're excited about him being on our football team. He'll draw attention I'm sure. He does have the ability to make some plays. It's good to have some players that can do that. He's certainly capable of winning a one-on-one contest."

On coming down to Tampa before Christmas:
"It's just something we do and we've been to enough bowls now where we've had trial and error. The most revealing trip for me is our (20)02 Orange Bowl trip. It was just a total disaster in retrospect. It's sad because we had a really good football team and we played a game that was totally non-representative of the team we had. It was just everything we had done well we really did poorly and I attribute that to the way we handled the trip and ultimately that's my responsibility. I think it's good for us, especially being a northern team. We practice indoors and you can control the climate, but it's not the same as being outside. Yesterday, for us, was a humid day believe it or not. Those things make a difference. So I think for a team coming out of the north it's just good to get in the environment. If you're not used to practicing outdoors get back in that routine a little bit and hopefully get a couple of your worst practices out of the way before the game comes."


Opening statement:
"I concur with Kirk. The opportunity to be selected by the Outback Bowl and to be here in Tampa, our players, and coaches and coaches' families are enjoying the venue. Our practice facilities and hotel we stay in is just what we want. We're enjoying the preparation, again, playing a quality Big Ten opponent in Iowa. Watching the film we have great respect for the discipline of their program and the style of team they put on the field. We're looking forward very much to the competition."

On the Auburn win representing what the Tigers can do:
"Certainly the body of work this season is looked at by our team, and I think to play our best is always the challenge. In the last game with each individual on offense, defense, special teams, you want them to play their best in this game. In the Auburn game and the other games that we've played, we know what we're capable of and we'd like to see how good we can be in this game. So the incentive to do that is a great Iowa team."

On playing a Big Ten team:
"If you're from the Big Ten, you really enjoy seeing some of those old helmets. I was fortunate to be on great Michigan teams and prepared for that conference. That conference is a tremendously competitive very capable football conference. The more that you study the teams that they played and succeeded in beating, the Big Ten conference is every bit as capable as any conference in America."

On getting Anthony Jennings ready for his first start:
"We really focused on him running drills as opposed to necessarily have practices and plays. We put a little bit more burden on him in terms of preparing to handle the huddle, handle the play call. That, besides the physical execution of the play, has made a little bit more burden that much."

On the Iowa linebackers and defense:
"I think they play the scheme as well as I've seen it played. It's a traditional scheme but there's nothing traditional about how they play it. The technique is excellent; they're on their keys. They're always in position and physical. They know how to take on blocks. I think the linebacking corps, I think the secondary and the defensive front all play a very disciplined concept and it allows them to play at a very high level no matter who they play, no matter if it's a spread team or a two-back team. The concept transitions those different offenses extremely well."

On how he would describe LSU football:
"I think the concept is the same as any collegiate football team. You're coming to school to get a degree and it's important to our guys that they graduate and they put themselves into a position to have success beyond football. I think people that come to LSU want to play at a very high level, want to play for the national championship, and in this instance, a championship. I think there are some similarities between our program and all the other well-run programs in this country."

On the team getting accustomed to new quarterback Anthony Jennings:
"It's like anything, it takes time. It's interesting, in that last game, with the second-team center and second-team quarterback, there was no quarterback-center exchange issue whatsoever. We were fortunate it happened that way I guess. We haven't had any real problems there as we move forward. I think (Elliott) Porter, our starting center, and Anthony have just operated very effectively. There are some different throws and some different abilities at the quarterback spot. He does the things that Zach (Mettenberger) does to a certain regard, and he does some of the things that he does better."

On how Jennings is handling the spotlight:
"The greatest characteristic of Anthony Jennings is poise. He's always had it, he's never been motivated by situations, it's what he does. He did it in the spring of the year. He pursued the starting job with great effort and energy. He's always been a guy that came in and sought extra coaching, sought knowledge of the game when he was second team. The confidence of the team, really, when he went under center didn't change; we kind of knew what to expect. We expect him to play well."

On what he sees in Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis' system:
"I think any offensive coordinator always does some things that speak to the talents he has. You can see what they're doing; it's just the challenge of stopping it. I think he's a very talented coach that calls a game with experience and understanding. He's a very capable play caller."

On the opportunity for a fourth straight 10-win season:
"I think there are some seniors in there that really see that, feel that, and want that. I think the motivation for playing this game, if you're a competitor, is playing a quality team. Victory is really motivation enough. You have to play well; you have to play smart, play tough. You have to be called upon to show all the talents and skills you have."