NEW ORLEANS (WBRC) - Below is a transcript of comments made Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, by LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, DT Michael Brockers, CB Morris Clairborne, DB Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, S Eric Reid, and S Brandon Taylor. The comments were made during interviews prior to the BCS National Championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Michael Brockers and Morris Claiborne. We'll open it up for questions for the players.
Q. I'm just interested from both of you: Talk about the similarities in this team and the excitement. Are you guys excited to face a team that, one, you've seen before and it was such a large finish, for lack of a better term? Talk about your similarities and excitement level going into this game.
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Well, I mean, we pretty much know what they're going to do and they pretty much know what we're going to do.
But it's going to be a good game. I mean, I know they're going to try to get the ball to their playmaker, (Trent) Richardson, and going to try to run the ball, and we'll try to do the same. And we'll see the outcome.
Q. Mo, when the season began, you guys had a lot of young guys on defense as the year began. What did Coach Chavis do to get young guys ready for this season and how has that carried over from week to week?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Just trying to get them reps. Every chance you can get reps is good. Getting those young guys in, getting them familiar with the system that we were trying to run.
And every young guy who stepped up this year, and previous years, I mean, they've come and they played big.
Q. Morris, could you kind of assess the play of the guys in front of you, particularly your defensive line, what you see and how they impact the games?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: They impact the games a lot for us. We kind of complement for each other on the back end, but all the credit goes to those guys for getting back there, making the quarterback do things that he doesn't want to do with the ball. We try to hold our man down as long as we can.
Q. Morris, what have you seen from A.J. McCarron and what do you expect to see from him in this game?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: He's a good quarterback. He can throw the ball, and he has Trent Richardson to complement that for him.
But from what I've seen he's a good quarterback from the first time we faced them. He's a great quarterback.
Q. For both of you, what do you guys see in your personal dealings with Coach Chavis that makes him a good coordinator? How does he motivate you and what does he tell you that makes you the players that you are?
MICHAEL BROCKERS: I mean, just go out there and make plays. I mean, he motivates us to do what we have to do and he tells us it's a good scheme, but it's the players that are in the scheme that makes the defense what it is.
So, I mean, he tells us we're great players and we're playmakers also. I mean, just giving us that free reign over the defense to make plays, I feel that's a big part of our defense.
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: He's a great coach. Like Brockers said, I don't know how he does it with his schemes or whatnot, but he puts this team in the position to be successful and we just go out and make the plays that he put us in to make.
Q. What do you take away from that first game with Alabama that you think you might exploit differently this time around?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: I think it's pretty much going to be the same. I mean, whoever can get ?? can execute the technique and be in the right places.
Q. Michael, two?part question. Was there anything in the first game against Alabama, against their running game, that you learned that you couldn't tell on film? And, secondly, just talk about the role the tackles will have against that running game in the second matchup.
MICHAEL BROCKERS: For the first question, I think it's mostly like their zone schemes, and I really couldn't tell which way they were going. They just mix it up very well in their offenses, great offense.
The second part is we just have to get penetration in the backfield really. And I feel like that will mess up their zone schemes a lot. We get penetration, kind of keep them from running east and west and finding a hole and just making him make a quick decision and running into linebackers, anything like that.
Q. Michael, what kind of guy is Coach Chavis day to day? Is he always all business, or is he funny sometimes? What's your funniest Chief story?
MICHAEL BROCKERS: Chief is all around, you know, when it comes to football, getting us to perform well. I mean, he's Chief. He's out there telling us what we have to do and kind of correcting us on our mistakes.
But, I mean, what makes him a great coach is when we're off the field and we want to joke around, he jokes around with us.
And I feel like that's why his coaches respect him and we play so well for him, because he's so down to earth when it's not football time, when we're not doing football, and when it is football, you know, he's as strict as possible.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Coach Chavis.
Q. Favorite story?
MICHAEL BROCKERS: My favorite story is speak quietly and carry a big stick. That's the biggest one, I feel that's what this LSU team does, and especially that's what this defense does.
Q. John, could you kind of talk about the impact it is on you to be back in this game? You were very emotional at the SEC championship game. You were here with Tennessee. What's the emotional impact for you to have a team back here?
JOHN CHAVIS: To start, with me, I'm an emotional person. I don't apologize for that. That's what I am. I love what I'm doing and love where I'm doing it. And being part of this program and with this group of young men we have this year is special.
There's a lot of things you want to be able to do. And there's a lot of people that start the beginning of the year, you know, with those same ideas. These guys have worked so hard, and to watch them and be out there with them every day, you know, it's an emotional deal when they have great success. And certainly I'm thankful to be part of it.
And to be back, you know, you coach in this profession a long time, and I did before I had the first opportunity, and certainly there are people that have had several opportunities, but to be back a second time is special.
And I couldn't think of a better group of young men to be with. And certainly when you look at the LSU program and what they've done over the course of the last 12 years, I mean, it's amazing to see the kind of success.
And then you look at the kind of success that Coach (Les) Miles has had in his tenure at LSU. He's the winningest coach in the SEC. And certainly, I mean, that speaks volumes for him and speaks volumes for the program at LSU.
So it's exciting. And anytime I'm excited, I'm emotional. When I get mad, I don't cry. When I get happy, I do. That's who I am.
Q. Mo, just talk about growing up and coming to this moment, national championship, going to Fair Park High School. What does this moment mean to you?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: It means a lot. As a kid, you just dream about these type of things of going and playing for a big?time school and playing good opponents. And this point here where you play for a national championship. Some people never get this moment in a lifetime.
And I'm just fortunate to be here with this team and this group of guys I've been around for so long, just sweating, blood, tears with these guys. And it's amazing.
Q. Morris, could you talk a little bit about Coach Cooper and the job he's done with you guys in the secondary?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: Coach (Ron) Cooper has done a great job with us, preparing us for every situation we may see in the game. If we may not see it, he still gets us ready for it.
Him and Coach Chavis, they get together and they get the schemes and stuff down, and they put us in the right position to be successful.
Q. Michael, and then, John, if you would weigh in. Going into your season opener, everybody knew that Oregon could really run the ball, and it's been proven over the course of the year they were one of the great running teams in college football. I just wonder if being able to put the brakes on their offense and their running game sort of set the tone for you guys this year, and, also, for you personally, getting into the lineup, if that gave you a lot of confidence.
MICHAEL BROCKERS: Totally. I think that's the biggest part of the defensive line. We try to stop the run and try to make them pass. Because I feel like we have one of the best secondaries in the nation. So, I mean, I feel like if we stop their run, they kind of have to pass.
So they gotta pass to Mo Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu and stuff like that, playmakers that might come up with the ball, might throw interceptions. I feel like stopping the run is the biggest part of our defense.
Q. Comments from that game?
MICHAEL BROCKERS: Gave me a lot of confidence. That was my first start ever, LSU. And I feel like I just had to get the butterflies out. I feel like that game really did it for me.
JOHN CHAVIS: Well, we had a long time to prepare, and certainly our players were excited about the preparation, excited about playing a team that had just played for a national championship.
And you look at the schedule, and I don't think anybody had a tougher opener. And it was tough preparing. But our guys bought into the things that we asked them to do and certainly did it in a grand fashion.
It was really fun watching them play. We put a lot of speed on the field, and some of the plays I saw ?? and that Oregon game gave me a lot of confidence as well as the players. I know they came out of that game with a lot of confidence because Oregon is a fine football team. You get that kind of opener and that kind of momentum going, I think it certainly helped propel us through the rest of the season.
Q. Michael and then Coach, you talked about the running game, and I've talked to your offensive linemen about how they can tell they're wearing teams down late in the games. How important is the depth that you guys developed in the offensive line in practice and carrying over into the game that you guys can kind of shuffle in and out?
MICHAEL BROCKERS: I feel it's a very important aspect, because when you have a good first?team defense and then you get your second?team defense in there, they're even hungrier to make plays and they're going out there sacking the quarterback and getting interceptions.
I feel like with the depth that we have, that makes our defense even better than it is.
JOHN CHAVIS: It's not by consequences that it happened this way. We intend to play. And when I say up front ?? and people will only use this against you in recruiting, but we're going to play ten defensive linemen if we've got ten healthy guys that can go in and give us quality snaps. What it does for your football team, it builds that depth. It builds that depth.
And, listen, we lost two really, really fine players from the interior of our defense last year. And we didn't miss a beat. We didn't miss a beat because the guys that came in there ?? I could name several names ?? but Michael being one, but they didn't miss a beat because they'd been in the wars, been in the battles.
What happens, if you know you're going to play, you prepare a different way. That's just human nature. So our guys know they're going to play. They prepare. And when they get those opportunities they want to show the coaches and the team, the rest of the team, what they're capable of doing.
And, again, it makes us have the depth that we need and it gets the guys excited about going to practice, going to get better and preparing for games.
You can only get so good in practice. You've got to go play in the games before you're going to reach that level and gain the confidence that you need. And that's what we've done.
We've been fortunate this year we've been able to do it in the secondary. With our depth there, and we've had to move some people around, and certainly Ron's done a great job, as well as our guys, our young men have done a great job in terms of being able to move around and play different positions. And when you've got parts that are interchangeable, it allows you to do a lot with your defense.
So that's part of what we do. That's part of what we do in terms of getting them ready to play.
Q. Coach, could you talk a little bit about Eric Reid and his progression recovering from the injury through Bowl practice and what his status is for Monday night?
JOHN CHAVIS: He's full a go. There's no aftereffects. I think he's 100 percent. And certainly probably could have played a little bit earlier. We didn't feel that we needed to take that chance, and we wanted to get him healthy.
And, again, obviously played very well in the championship game, in the SEC championship game. Hadn't missed a snap in practice. Like I said, he's full speed.
Q. John, I don't know if you've been asked this, but what kind of job did you guys think you did on Trent Richardson the first time?
JOHN CHAVIS: Trent's a great player. And really you look at Trent and the entire offense. They've got a great offensive line. They've got a quarterback that runs their system well. He ended up with a bunch of yardage.
Certainly when you have a player gain that many yards, whether it's passing or running, you can't say he did a real good job. That's obvious. We kept him out of the end zone, which was the biggest thing. We played well when we had to.
And they're good enough to gain all the yardage that they need. There were some plays that we were a little bit out of position. And when we met with the team first thing Monday I took responsibility for that because there were some things that I didn't prepare well enough for and didn't prepare them well enough for.
So he's a great player. He's plenty capable of earning anything that he wants to, and certainly he's a big part of their offense.
But to say that we did a great job on him, I couldn't tell you that, because I don't feel like we did. But it wasn't because of the players. I mean, part of that had to do with our preparation, and that was on me. I didn't do a good enough job in preparation.
Q. He was over at 100 yards at one time and ended up, I think, with 89 and was really knocked down late in the game by some big plays by you guys. Did that have a net effect the other way, of your defense just maybe wearing him down? He carried 23 times, I think.
JOHN CHAVIS: I don't know that you ever can wear a guy down like him. He gets better, and some of the better backs get stronger as the game goes on. And certainly he has those kind of qualities.
Like I said, he's a big, physical back. But you're going to see a lot of those guys in the SEC just about every week. And I wouldn't want to be one that rated any of them. You're going to see quality backs that you have to play against. We see them in spring practice.
That's part of what you have to do in this league, because it's a league that, if you're going to have success, you're going to have to run the football.
If you're going to have success, you have to stop the run.
Q. Coach, you prepare for Nick Saban teams with various offensive coordinators on his side. What ties Nick Saban's offense together? What are the common threads you've seen over the years, and what are the keys to stopping those?
JOHN CHAVIS: I think one of the things they do well is they play to their defense. And what I mean by that is they're not going to put their defense in bad situations. They're not going to turn the ball over.
They're not going to give up field position. They do a great job of running the football, being physical. And then their play action game is really ?? it's really tough to stop when you're committing as many people as you have to to stop the run. And that's always been the same. I mean, that's what they've done.
And I think when you do that, you are to a certain degree playing to your defense. And certainly we've got an offense that does the same thing. And they do a tremendous job of possession time. I mean, that's important when you look at it at the end of the game, who had the ball the most minutes, who turned it over the fewest times. And those are two areas that will tell you a lot of times how well you played.
Q. Mo, I'm wondering if you could tell me your recruiting story a little bit, how you ended up at LSU. I understand you weren't the most highly recruited guy coming out of Shreveport. And, John, could you talk about Mo's season and what he's done for you guys?
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: LSU was a place I always knew I wanted to be. A lot of guys from my high school, like Ronnie Prude, Reginald Robinson, and Stromile Swift, all those guys came from my high school to LSU. So when I was young, I already knew where I wanted to be, and that was LSU. When I got my opportunity, I jumped on it.
JOHN CHAVIS: Let me tell you a story that went on, not as much during recruiting, but after recruiting. Like Mo said, he knew where he wanted to be, and certainly we were excited about that. We have not been surprised by the success that he's had, because we knew he was a great athlete.
We knew he had a big, big, big upside. And the biggest thing really was which side of the ball was he going to play on. And we battled that.
But obviously the head coach makes the final call. And he felt quite comfortable that we would use Mo.
And I told someone this two years ago, and I think it's a compliment to both, because everybody talked about Pat. And Pat Peterson was a great football player, still is. You see what he's done in the NFL. I said we won't drop off, because Mo's going to be every bit as good. And we felt that strong his first year in.
We didn't ?? as we look back, we didn't get him as many snaps his freshman year as we probably should have; that, again, you look back and had we got him some more snaps, I think he would have come around even quicker.
But there's been no surprise by what he's been able to do. And it's as good a football player ?? I could say it about both of these and about most of our football team. They're not all perfect, but I'm going to tell you you won't find two better young men in college football anywhere in the country than these two guys sitting beside me. They're great, great young men. You know what they've done on the football field. But I guarantee you, the things that they do and the things they believe in, you know, will qualify those statements that I made in terms of them being great young men.
Q. Coach, you talked a lot about Trent Richardson. What challenge does he present to you when they put him out on the line as a flanker, whatever, and try to get him in space?
JOHN CHAVIS: He's hard to tackle. That's where he makes his biggest plays. And I think that's been true all year. And you watch him in protection, he does a great job in protection. But even when he's in protection, you better be ready to play him because he'll come out of protection. And they've got a quarterback, if you do a good job downfield, they're going to lay it off, going to get it to him in a lot of different ways.
And when that happens, he does a great job running with the football. So he's a very talented guy no matter where you place him. And, like I said, very difficult to tackle. Very seldom does he go down in a one?on?one situation. You've got to get numbers to the point of attack when he has the football.
Q. John, it's been talked about a lot that you emphasize speed with your defenses. But can you go into detail about how you use that and some of the philosophies you use, you employ using speed?
JOHN CHAVIS: Just a couple of areas that I can hit on real quick. Number one is that to play our scheme, you have to be good at cornering, you really have to be good there. Not at one corner but at both corners. Have you to be. And it takes speed to play out there with the matchups you're going to be involved in.
The same thing with rushing the passer. And our base package ?? our defensive ends probably aren't the biggest in the country, but I think when you start looking at speed, it would be hard to find many that would rate better than ours in terms of speed.
And we've got good size. We're not undersized. But we emphasize speed because that's what it takes to rush the passer. Then we'll go into our dime personnel, we use a lot of corners and/or safeties that do a great job blitzing for us.
And, again, when we start looking at a guy that's blitzing that's 180, 205 pounds, somewhere in that area, going against a 330?pounder, then we feel like we have that advantage in terms of making him work and doing some things with the pass rushing with smaller guys.
So those are the areas that we look at first. But it seems to me that luck follows speed. And we need all the luck we can get from time to time.
And then I say that jokingly, but our guys do a great job. They play hard. They play fast. And certainly even going back to the Oregon game, you know, that was a big factor in terms of us having the kind of success with the speed of our defense.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, and Brandon Taylor. Questions?
Q. Tyrann, these guys sitting on either side of you, you're a pretty emotional, flamboyant?type guy out there on the field. These guys are very calm and kind of big brotherly type. Why does that help you? Why is it important for you to have guys like that to balance you out?
TYRANN MATHIEU: You know, I think it's the best of both worlds. And I just try to go out there, play my game fast, hoping that those guys have my back.
And I think for the most part, pretty much every game, those guys do a good job of coaching us and putting us in the right position in the heat of the fire.
Q. Tyrann, two things. First off, what was the deal with you and Tharold (Simon) swapping jersey numbers at practice this morning? And also talk about what Michael Brockers does to help guys like you and the guys next to you be able to make the big plays and get the headlines.
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, Tharold Simon, he wore No. 7 in high school. So I always joke around at practice and say I'm Darrelle Revis. That's kind of why I want the 24.
And Mike does a great job of just plugging his gap, stopping the run, just getting his hand in the quarterback's face, and I think that goes a long way with us, because we don't want to be covering guys with five seconds back there.
So they do a good job pressuring the quarterback for us.
Q. Tyrann, talk about Coach (Ron) Cooper and what he brings to you guys in the secondary as far as his style, what you like about his style.
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, you know, he gives us a chance to go out there and definitely show off our skill, our play?making ability. So we run a lot of man?to?man coverage, gives us a chance to get the best out of the guy that we're covering.
So Coach Cooper has definitely done a lot for us this year, preparing us for on and off the field, film work, practice habits.
So Coach Cooper did a great job this year.
Q. Brandon, you've been with Coach Chavis for three years, for three years now, I guess, and give me ?? tell me a little bit about how you interact with him and give me your best story about him and the way he coaches.
BRANDON TAYLOR: Actually, the best story would be him actually converting me from corner to safety the spring of going into my sophomore year. He's actually the reason I got to start and actually start playing for LSU, because I was actually a backup cornerback. And he put me in the starting role at strong safety. And I've been doing a great job, and he actually ?? he's like a father to me because he talks to me every day.
I sometimes go to his office and talk to him. And he's just a great coach. He's going to put us in the position to make big plays. It's just up to us to make those plays, because the style of defense that he runs, everybody has a chance to be successful.
Q. Eric, obviously you've all watched a lot of film on the last three games that Alabama played since they played you the first time. What have you seen from A.J. McCarron? How is he better than you saw him last time?
ERIC REID: I think he's making better reads in his passing game. He knows how to read the corners. He knows how to read the safeties to know what coverage is there and whether it's man or zone. We've got to do a good job of disguising what covers we're doing, and that way we have a better chance.
Q. Eric and Tyrann, if the rules allowed you to come out for the NFL Draft after this season instead of waiting another year, what do you think your mindset would be right now?
ERIC REID: I haven't thought about the Draft because the rules being the way they are. But I think I'd stay anyway, just to make sure I continue to develop, and that way give me a better chance to be successful at the next level.
Q. Tyrann, in a game where two teams are so evenly matched, offensively and defensively, how important is it going to be for the defense or special teams to make a play in this game? And do you think maybe defense and special teams can actually outscore the offenses in this game?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, I think we definitely are facing a great team in all three phases of the game. So we look at it from this standpoint: Our playmakers, the guys who lead this team, you know, definitely are going to have to step up and play their best football and put our team in position to win this game.
Q. For you guys on the end, reverse the question I asked Tyrann, how has it helped you guys who are very steady and kind of lower key to have a guy like Tyrann emerge and be that personable guy? The same thing with Mo with his dynamic plays. How does that balance things out in the secondary?
BRANDON TAYLOR: It helps us make big plays. When you see them making big plays and getting to the ball and getting the ball out, making interceptions, you tend to feed off of that as a player playing this style of defense. It just makes you step your game up and it's been helping us out these years, so we're just going to continue to do that.
ERIC REID: Like Brandon was saying, I think we feed off of Ty's emotions. So when Ty's having a good game, we're all having a good game. If he gets the ball on the ground, you'll see 11 of us swarming to it trying to get it, and then blocking for him if he gets an interception.
So he makes big plays, and we feed off of that.
Q. Brandon, what do you think you'll miss mostly about being a part of this team?
BRANDON TAYLOR: Just the family atmosphere around here. It's a fun place to be. Actually got a lot of clowns on this team. They like to joke around and stuff. But we actually know when it's time to do business. And just being successful around here and the fan base and just being a part of this family.
I know I will always be a part of this family. It's just being at this place and enjoying the time with these players.
Q. Tyrann, I interviewed you last year. I don't know if you remember, but you've come so far for such a young player so fast. What do you attribute that to, being able to have such success early on?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, hard work definitely pays off. Me being at LSU, surrounded by guys like Patrick and Brandon, Morris and Eric, they tend to bring out the best in you.
So you go to work with those guys every day and you see those guys working hard and you want to work harder. You want to make plays and you want to be that guy that the team looks to to be such a special player.
So I just take that with me every time I walk on the field. So we've got a great coaching staff, great support system at LSU, academic?wise and even athletically.
So it's just something to be proud of.
Q. Tyrann, it seems like you've embraced your celebrity status. Who has given you some advice about how to handle that? And you realize if you win this game it's going to increase even more going into next season. How do you look at that?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, I think Michael Bonnette does a good job of definitely keeping me humble. And just keeping me motivated and doing the things I gotta do for my team. And that's go out there, get wins, play my best football. And hopefully win a national championship.
So these guys sitting next to me always bring me back down to Earth. So I never get too ahead of myself anymore.
Q. Tyrann, where did the Honey Badger nickname come from and how does that persona reflect on your game?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think the Honey Badger nickname came from the fans back in Tiger Nation. And honey badger is such a relentless animal. He's fierce. And he definitely doesn't fear anything.
So I just try to take that same approach to the field and just try to play smart and violent football for my team.
Q. Tyrann, how often do you think of your dad, and do you ever have communication with him when he's obviously behind bars?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I don't talk to him much.
Q. Any communication at all, letters?
TYRANN MATHIEU: No. I just try to focus on the present, and that's being a student at LSU, and just try to be a great football player for my team.
Q. Brandon, Tyrann was saying that you guys kind of keep him in check. What are some of the things you guys do? Do you give him a hard time? Do you lecture him? Do you joke with him? How do you keep him in check to keep his I guess celebrity status from getting out of hand with him?
BRANDON TAYLOR: We joke with him all the time that everybody is still human around here; that we need to be humble to be where we want to be in life. And it's got us this far, so we just have to stay focused and stay humbled as players and people and be good people and just be good role models to the kids and for the fans, stuff like that, because you don't want to do anything to jeopardize your family or your reputation as a player here at LSU.
And we do a good job of that here and we've been doing a good job of it, and it's got us where we are now. And now we're playing for the national championship. And we just gotta keep rolling.
Q. Eric, could you run through the Marquis Maze wildcat pass that you intercepted, what you saw? Did you anticipate it? Just go through that because it was such a big play.
ERIC REID: We knew he played quarterback in high school. We knew he had the ability to throw the ball. We lined up in zero coverage man to man. They were in attack eligible formation. So it's not something that you see every day.
So we lined up. The play ran. I had my receiver. I saw the tight end run free, and as a safety you're taught not to get beat deep, so naturally I tried to get behind him when the ball's in the air. It's just like those ball drills we do every day in practice. I just went up and get it.
Q. Describe how you got that. Did you wrestle the ball away from him in mid?air, or how did that happen?
ERIC REID: I believe he got his hands on it first, and then I just tried to get mine on it too and wrestled it away and was able to get it away before he hit the ground.
Q. Do you make a case that that's the biggest play in college football this year, considering where we're all at here today?
ERIC REID: I don't know if it's the biggest play in college football, but it definitely kept our campaign going to get here to New Orleans.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.