New Offensive Coordinator Meets Media

LSU offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe
LSU offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe
Steve Franz
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Assoc. Athletic Director/Communications

BATON ROUGE - Newly hired LSU offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe meet with members of the media on Monday, discussing a variety of topics. The following is a look at some of the comments from Kragthorpe as he and the Tigers prepare for National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Opening statement...
"I'm excited to be here at LSU. It's a great opportunity for myself, but not just for myself but for my family to move to Baton Rouge. We are in short order of trying to get that done. My wife and sons have already come down and gotten a chance to look around. They'll go back to Tulsa this weekend and hopefully get down here as quickly as possible. We want to make this a family transition, and I think that's one of the things that was so appealing about coming to LSU. I know the atmosphere that Les (Miles) creates for his coaches, his team and his players, and that's a family atmosphere. We're excited to be a part of the Tiger family and looking forward to getting going. I know it's going to be a quick transition for me. We start spring practice on March 11. I'm excited for that. Getting to know the players a little bit has been fun for me over the course of the last week, and I got in on the last recruiting weekend, which I thought was very beneficial for me to kind of see the place and get to know more of our players from a current standpoint and future players that will sign on Wednesday. Again, I'm excited to be here in Baton Rouge"

On what he has seen of LSU's offense on film...
"I haven't had a chance to watch a lot of film. I did take this past fall off. I took a little sabbatical from coaching. I got a chance to watch us (LSU) on television quite a bit and a chance to watch the Cotton Bowl and a few clips here and there offensively during my interview process, but I haven't had a chance to really sit down and dissect what we were doing offensively and what we'll continue to do. We'll do more of that in the next coming weeks after we finish this signing class on Wednesday, but I think we have some excellent players, some very talented guys that we can do some things with to put the ball in their hands to make them playmakers and showcase their playmaking ability. I'm excited about the parts of the puzzle that we have and fitting those together."

On his impressions of QB Jordan Jefferson...
"I had a chance to meet with Jordan the other day. I had a chance to meet with all the quarterbacks, and as the week unfolds we'll meet more in depth. He's a very engaging personality. I think he's a guy who is excited about his senior year coming up. It's a big year for him, not only from a standpoint of continuing his career here at LSU but obviously putting himself in a position to showcase himself to play on Sundays. That's one of things I know he's excited about getting to work and getting going and coming off a huge game. I thought he played extremely well against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, so that's a good platform for him to springboard off of going into spring practice.

"He's got a lot of ability. Again, the first thing I looked at when I was watching that game is his ability to keep plays alive and to make plays with his feet. There were huge plays in the game -- I think a 3rd and 9 situation and a 3rd and 19 situation -- that were critical points in the game when the game was really in the balance there in the first and early part of the second half that he made a lot of plays with his feet and got first downs that kept drives alive. That's one of the things we always talk about with our quarterbacks, keep the drive alive, get another set of downs, a fresh set of sticks and put yourself in position to keep that drive going, and he did a super job of that. The other thing that impressed me in that game is I thought he did an excellent job of throwing the ball deep down the field, which is something we want to do. One of the bases of our offense is obviously we are going to be strong running the football. Les has done a great job of that wherever he's been. We did that a lot when I was at Texas A&M, and that's one of the places that my path and Les' path crossed. We want to be a strong, powerful running football team that has the ability to be a quick-strike passing team also, and I thought Jordan did a nice job of that in that game."

On developing quarterbacks...
"I think one of the things that I've always taken, and I've been around a lot of great quarterbacks in my career as a coach, some as a player and then obviously growing up around the BYU system when my dad was coaching there, guys like Jim McMahon, Mark Wilson and Steve Young actually came in there right at the end of my dad's tenure there, but I heard Steve say one time in an interview that all you had to do was film him from his hips down, and he could tell what kind of game he played. To me, coaching the quarterback is about two things -- you play with your feet and you play with your head. You have to be able to make quick decisions with your head, put the ball where it's supposed to be put, get the ball in the playmakers hands, and the other thing is you have to be able to make and manufacture some offense. That's a Dan Henning term. I worked with him at Boston College and learned a lot about coaching the quarterback from Dan. I think one of the things that has happened particularly in this conference in the SEC, the defensive linemen are such good players, and now you're seeing the multiplicity of defensive schemes with all the zone blitzes. It's not going to be a perfect scenario back there every Saturday night. You're going to have to make and manufacture plays with your feet. We talk a lot about footwork, putting yourself in position to deliver the ball fundamentally and then obviously putting yourself in a position to put it in the guy's hands where it's supposed to go."

On the ideal relationship between an offensive coordinator and head coach...
"I think Les and I are on the same page. We've known each other for a long time. Our paths first crossed when I was at Texas A&M as an assistant and Les was there. Then, I had quite a few friends on the Dallas Cowboys staff. Ernie Zampese was a good friend of mine. His son, Ken and I had worked together, and he was a consultant back at Dallas when Les was there as the tight end coach. When Les came back to Oklahoma State, we missed each other for a couple of years. His first couple of years he was there at OSU, I was with the Buffalo Bills, but then, his last two years as head coach at Oklahoma State before he came here to LSU were my first two at Tulsa, so we actually played each other in 2004, and he got the best of me that day. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for Les in terms of his offensive philosophies. I think our philosophies mesh very, very well in terms of what we talked about before, wanting to be a power running football team and couple that with a great, down-field, quick-strike passing game."

On if he prefers to be in the booth or down on the field...
"That's a great question, and that's something we really haven't talked about. Just initially, my thought process would be that I'd prefer to be in the booth. I just think you can see things a lot better. There are obviously some pros and cons of each. When you're down on the field, you get a little bit better feel for the game, but I think with technology now, with headsets and ring-down phones you can talk to the players. Initially my thought process would be that I would be upstairs, but that is something that could certainly change. I've done it both ways as a play caller, and I've done it both ways during a season. There might be a point in time during the season where if I'm upstairs and I decide I really need to be down on the field, I could do that, or if I started on the field and felt like I wanted to go upstairs, I could do that, too. I just need a little zip line that I can get down there real fast if I need to during the game."

On the simplicity of his approach...
"I think the biggest thing in offensive football is you want to have enough variety that you can attack the defense. You want to have enough variety of schemes and plays that you can feel like going into a game and playing throughout the game, you're in a position where you can attack the weaknesses of the defense and any defensive weaknesses you might see as that game progresses. Yet, by the same token, you can't have so much volume that you can't be good at practicing all those plays. We don't want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Certainly we want to have enough variety where we can put the ball in the guy's hands that can make plays for us, give the quarterback a lot of answers in the running game in terms of run audibles and those things, and yet, by the same token, we only have so many hours and so many practice repetitions that we have, we want to be good and not what I call 'hang your hat on them' plays where we can have a base offense, a staple offense and then wrinkle off of those things. The thing we do offensively is we teach concepts -- passing game concepts, running game concepts -- and then we'll wrinkle off those from week to week or as we're going through spring practice, from day to day and teach those."

On the offensive players...
"I'm excited about the group we have presently on campus. I'm excited about Zach Mettenberger. He's here right now, so I've had a chance to visit with him a little bit and a chance to watch him on film throughout the course of the fall and obviously since I've been here. I think we are in position to sign a great class. Obviously Wednesday is approaching real quickly, so I know coach Miles will have more comments about that on that date. I like the present group of players we have and the potential group of players that we are going to sign on Wednesday."

On playing two quarterbacks if it's an advantage...
"I've done it before. I did when I was at Texas A&M as an offensive coordinator. We had Branndon Stewart and Randy McCown and played both those guys, and at Louisville I actually played three quarterbacks my last year -- two we had kind of gone back and forth with and one out of necessity. We ended up starting our third-team quarterback at West Virginia because our two other guys were hurt. I'm not opposed to that at all if I think they bring different dimensions to the game or they are good enough that you can do that. I think there are enough practice repetitions where you can get that done. You do have to be careful. I think that you're getting both of those guys prepared and ready to play each week, and sometimes that's a challenge, particularly this year we'll have some short weeks where we're going to have to do that, but I'm certainly not opposed to that."

On if the quarterback spot will be up for grabs...
"Absolutely, and we didn't talk about Jarrett (Lee) yet. He's a very good player, too, and he's a proven commodity here. All jobs are open in terms of the way I look at it offensively, and I think that's the way that all the players want it. If you're the quarterback, you certainly want the best left tackle and certainly want the best tight end in there. I know from a standpoint of just putting a team together, when you step in there as a player with those 10 other guys being the 11th player, every one of those guys in that huddle you want them to be the best possible player to help us be successful on offense, defense and special teams. I don't think there is any question that we have a good group of quarterbacks, and all jobs are open. We do have an incumbent or incumbents because both of those guys (Jefferson and Lee) have played, but the best players are going to play. I tell people all the time, 'if you want seniority you join the army. If you want to play with the best players, come to LSU.'"

On what it's like to be back as an offensive coordinator rather than a head coach...
"It's great. I tell you what; when the academic guy comes by, he walks by my office and goes to Les' office. That's great. I don't mind it one bit. It's actually been kind of refreshing. I was a head coach for seven years. I did go back to Texas A&M last year in the spring and worked for Mike Sherman for six months. We had some family health issues that kind of dictated me changing my priorities and spending the fall in Tulsa. That's worked out great. My wife is doing great. She's excited to be down here in Baton Rouge. She's out looking at a house right now. I've given here a ceiling, so if she goes over that, we'll have a discussion about that later on. She's excited to be here. She's excited about me getting back into coaching. I really enjoyed the fall. I had a great fall. It was very different. I tell people all the time that you don't know much you miss (it) until you're gone. I missed football, but I also realized there were a lot of things I had missed in my life. I got to watch my son's games, which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that. I got to watch a lot of college football, but by the middle part of November, it was time to go. It was time to get back in and look at different opportunities, and this, by far and away, just jumped out at me, the chance to be the offensive coordinator at LSU and work for Les. We are excited to be here as a family and not just me as a coach."

On the 'Wildcat' formation...
"I think it's a heck of a formation because again, on offense you want to make everybody account for all 11 players on the field, and for a long time, people didn't have to account for the quarterback in the running game. Whether it's a quarterback actually doing those type of things or it's another player doing it -- I know Spencer (Ware) is very capable of doing that and is also a guy who plays baseball and had a huge play in the Auburn game with the halfback pass -- so I think you want to make the defense defend the quarterback and the running game. Whether that's the quarterback actually running it or the guy who has a different jersey number that is playing the position of quarterback at that particular moment, that's something we're definitely going to be interested in looking at."

On high expectations for this team in 2011...
"I think when you come to a place like LSU, that's inherent, and that's why you come to a place like LSU, because you want to play with the best against the best in those types of arenas and those types of atmospheres and getting a chance to start out against Oregon in 'Jerry World' where they are going to play the Super Bowl this Sunday. I think that's a great opportunity, too. I think as a coach, as a competitor, you want to put yourself in a position to play against the best and with the best every week, and that's certainly the case here at LSU, and that's one of things that was intriguing and very appealing about coming here to LSU and working for Les."

On his role in recruiting...
"I think it's very important for the head coach to be involved in recruiting obviously, and then the offensive coordinator, to me, is just an extension of that. The way we've talked about it at others places I've been and the way I set it up when I was a head coach, it's almost like a company and a hierarchy. I'm going to be involved in the recruitment of all of the offensive players, certainly some defensive players in my area because I will recruit an area, but I will be very involved in the recruitment of the offensive players and the procurement of those guys. I'll travel extensively doing that and then obviously quarterbacks. Quarterback is always a marquee position, so I'll be involved in nationally recruiting quarterbacks. That's something we're talking about right now and looking in different areas in which I would recruit. I do have some experience recruiting in Louisiana, a lot of experience recruiting in Texas and then wherever they want to put me, I can just throw on the purple and gold and go."

On his other potential coaching opportunities and if he wants to be a head coach again...
"I talked to a couple of different college situations and then obviously the NFL. I had been in the NFL before, so I talked to a couple of teams in the NFL. I won't get specific about that because I don't feel it's necessarily fair to them, but this was a very simple decision for me. I did come here, and I was supposed to go some place and interview the next day. My wife came here, and my wife has been around a lot of football now. I've coached for 20-something years, and I've been in the Big East, Pac-10, Big 12, never coached in the SEC, but she had a chance while I was interviewing with Les and a couple of the other offensive coaches to go look around Baton Rouge and tour, and she came back and said this is a great place. She's pretty perceptive. She made one bad decision in life; that was marrying me, but outside of that she's done a pretty good job. She was excited about coming here, so again, having seen what Les had done at Oklahoma State first hand, and again, having a great appreciation of that, maybe a little better appreciation than we have here in the room just simply because I was there every day watching it. Seeing what he's done here at LSU, I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be part of his staff, and I have a lot of respect for Les and the way he operates. He's a great man of character. I like the way he operates, not only from a football standpoint but off the field and the character development of our players and the way he involves our families. The best football game I've seen yesterday was when (Offensive Line Coach) Greg Studrawa was full-time quarterback while all the coaches' kids were playing touch football out in front of the Lod Cook Center. It's a great family atmosphere, and I think that's one of the things that Les creates.

"In terms of being a head coach again, I would certainly entertain that opportunity. I had a couple of chances to interview for some of those spots this year, but I'm not dying to be a head coach again. If I die and I'm not a head coach again, that will be fine with me. I just want to be at a place where I can compete, have a chance to win, work with good people and be in a place where my family is happy. I don't have any immediate plans of being a head coach again. I'm not going to be looking to be a head coach again. If something happens, great. If it doesn't and I stay at LSU for the next 10 or 15 years, that's great too. I'd love to do that."

On his wife's health and how being a year off affected his outlook on coaching...
"She's doing great. She was diagnosed with 'MS', and there are some great medicines out there for 'MS.' What's encouraging, too, is there is a lot of neurologists out there who think they are three to five years away from finding a cure, which would be huge for us and thousands of people. In conjunction with that, she has a heart issue, and she had to have a heart surgery to be able to go on the 'MS' medicine, and that's when I went to Mike Sherman and I said, 'I don't know if this thing is going to work for me to be here right now.' Mike was unbelievable about it. I'm really happy for Mike and the season that they had. I think he's not only a great football coach, but he's a great person. He was very understanding of my situation in terms of wanting to take a little bit of time to make sure my No. 1 priority, which is my wife and kids, was in good position and good shape. But, at the end of the season, like I said everything was going great. She's doing great with the medicines and her heart surgery. Things that were on her EKG for 40 years are gone. There are great doctors in Oklahoma City that took care of her there. Everything is full speed ahead in terms of that and her health. Again, if she didn't feel good about it, then I wouldn't have jumped back into coaching, but she feels great about it, and she's excited to be moving down here to Baton Rouge. She's really excited. She can't wait to be down here.

"I think it changes your perspective on life when you go through something like that (his wife's situation), but it also strengthens your family. I know when you go through tough situations, it does strengthen you, and you learn a lot about yourself, and you learn what's important. Football is a very important part of my life. It's been something I have really, really missed. It's been an important part of our family's life. My wife and kids have enjoyed being around college football, and I had two great years in Buffalo, two in the NFL, so it's good to be back. Everybody is excited about it. I think that's the best way to phrase it, not just myself but my wife and kids. I've got two that will be in college next year, one is already in college, one going to college, and my youngest guy, Nick is going to move down here in about 10 days. When I had called him the night Les offered me the job, I called him and I said, 'Nick, I think I'm going to take this job at LSU. I think this is going to be a great situation. When do you want to move down here?' He said, 'How about tomorrow?' So, he's excited to get down in here and get going. They are down here right now. They'll fly back to Tulsa tonight, and we'll get them back down here in about 10 days."

On if he has an ideal run-pass ratio...
"I think it goes from game to game. That's one of the things that Les and I talked about in the interview process. I've been in games as an offensive coordinator where we've thrown 56 passes and won the game. I've been in games where we threw eight passes against Nebraska in 1998 against the 'Black shirts.' They were the No. 2 defense in the country and No. 2 team in the country at that time, and in that game I actually called 22 straight runs, but those were three touchdown drives. The bottom line is score points, whatever it takes to score points and utilize your players. Like I've said, I've been in games where I've thrown it 20 straight times. It just depends on what the defense is doing to try to stop you and being good enough at both throwing the football and running the football to take advantage of what the defense is taking away or leaving you the opportunity to attack. Ideally from a game plan standpoint when you talk about balance, yes, people say this many yards of rushing or this many yards passing. Where I talk about balance more is balance with your players, personnel groups, getting your players onto the field and putting them in position to make plays and doing a good job of that, and also within the formations, having enough balance, so if we are running a play, we have a play-action pass off of it. If we have a run that is a stretch run outside, maybe we have a shot pass or a naked, play-action pass off of it. If we have a strong, down-the-field passing game, we want to be good in the screen game and the draw game to keep those big guys from pressuring the passer and doing things to move the launch point of the quarterback. I'm sure as we go throughout spring practice, we'll talk more about those specific schemes, doing enough, again to put you in position to challenge a defense, and yet, by the same token be very conceptual for the quarterback and for the rest of the guys on the offense."

On the offensive terminology...
"We are going to keep the same terminology that we've used before. Les and I talked about that. The easiest thing for me to do is come in and learn the terminology instead of teach the terminology to 80 people being new coaches and new players in terms of the way I view them. I felt like that was the easiest thing to do, and I've done that a couple of different times."





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