Live from Media Day: LSU can't win without Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Dabo channels his inner Rocky Balboa, historic win streaks and more
NEW ORLEANS – Quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence were the headliners Saturday morning at Media Day for the College Football Playoff Championship game.
But LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a hot topic as well. He’s the most important player on either team whose health has been a question mark leading up to Monday night’s game.
Edwards-Helaire declared himself “100 percent” after rehabbing a hamstring pull suffered in practice leading up a CFP semifinal win against Oklahoma. The running back saw limited action in that game, more as a result of the lopsided score than limitations from the injury.
“He’s a different dude,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “I think he’s the heart and soul of their offense.”
Edwards-Helaire has rushed for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns as well as catching 50 passes for 399 yards and another touchdown, despite being just 5-8 and 209 pounds.
“I say this all the time: Clyde walks in the room, he’s 6-4, 270,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said. “That’s the kind of persona he has. The things that he’s done this season for our football team, not only on and off the field makes him the heartbeat of our offense.
“I think that when Clyde is not in there, we’re very predictable. When he’s in there, you can’t overplay the run, you can’t overplay the pass. You have to be balanced on defense, and that enables all the other guys to make plays.”
Burrow said LSU was able “to get by” against Oklahoma with Edwards-Helaire being limited, but, “we wouldn’t be able to win this game without him.”
Tough neutral site for Clemson
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is technically a neutral site for the championship, but everyone expects LSU to have a lot more fans than Clemson because the stadium is fewer than 100 miles from Baton Rouge.
“Yeah, it’s a road game,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s pretty cool. It just worked out that way. You don’t know these things in advance, but I think it’s really cool for LSU. How cool is that, for them to be able to just hop on a bus and ride up the road 40 minutes or so. It would be like us playing for the National Championship in Greenville, South Carolina, 40 minutes up the road.”
Swinney compared the challenge to the movie Rocky IV in which Rocky Balboa fought Ivan Drago in his native Soviet Union.
Coach O, you agree?
“We’re in enemy territory,” Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “I think this is almost like worse than an away game. It’s like we’re in another country. Everybody here is an LSU fan. There’s not really many of us.”
Burrow said the fact that the title game was going to be in New Orleans was motivation for LSU all season.
“We went into the season saying if the national title is in New Orleans, we weren’t going to let anybody else be there,” Burrow said. “We had to be there. We weren’t going to be at home on the couch watching 2 teams coming in our state and watching them on TV. That was the motivation for us.”
Special winning streak
Whoever wins Monday night will finish the season 15-0. It would be Clemson’s second consecutive 15-0 season.
“I feel if we reach that 30-0 mark, we’ll be in a hemisphere of our own,” Clemson running back Travis Etienne said. “I mean, going out 30-0 against one of the best college football teams in history.”
Swinney said whether the streak continues or not, Clemson’s run has been remarkable.
“This has been historic,” Swinney said. “Our program and even this team is not going to be defined by a scoreboard Monday night. Yeah, we win and we’ve won 30 in a row, and these guys went 15-0 again back-to-back. But man, it’s been special.”
Another power outage
It wouldn’t be a championship football event in New Orleans without a power outage.
When the Super Bowl was played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after the 2012 NFL season, the game was delayed in the 2nd half when a power overload knocked out the lights in the building.
The lights went out again near the end of Clemson’s portion of Media Day, which was held at Xavier University’s Convocation Center about 3 miles from the Superdome.
Severe thunderstorms struck the New Orleans area while Media Day was going on and the Clemson session concluded uninterrupted on auxiliary power.
The weather was so severe at the conclusion of the Clemson session that the team’s departure was delayed about 15 minutes. Trevor Lawrence spent the extra time signing autographs for the crowd. The LSU session started about 15 minutes late because of the delay.
Ensminger focuses on football
LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger was focused exclusively on football.
Ensminger coached in the Peach Bowl 2 weeks ago just a few hours after his daughter-in-law, Carley McCord, died in a plane crash along with 4 others in Lafayette, La. The group was en route to the game when the eight-passenger plane crashed.
“I’m here to talk about football,” Ensminger said before taking questions. “I won’t be taking questions about my family. We appreciate all the support that Tiger fans and everyone in this country has given my family. We’re here for football and I’d like to talk about football.”
Brady plans to stay at LSU
Ensminger’s sidekick, passing game coordinator Joe Brady, said he plans to stay at LSU and Orgeron said the school in close to securing a new contract with the Broyles Award winner as college football’s top assistant coach.
“I hope I’m a Tiger as long as they want me at LSU,” Brady said. “My intentions are being at LSU.”
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward has been working with Brady on a new deal as NFL teams have begun eyeing the rising star.
“Scott put the plan into place a long time ago,” Orgeron said. “I do believe that we’re almost finalized with the plan. I do believe Joe is going to be a Tiger. But you know, as in coaching in football, anything can happen. But I do believe that the talks that we had with Joe are very, very positive, and he’s going to be at LSU.”