There is coach speak, and there is double talk.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin performed both during his weekly press conference Monday in Oxford, Mississippi, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron smelled the crawfishing — backtracking — from 330 miles away in Baton Rouge during his press conference.
No. 12 Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1 SEC) hosts LSU (4-3, 2-2 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS.
Coach speak happens when a coach downplays his own team, exaggerates his team’s injuries or builds up his opponent so his team does not appear cocky or overconfident going into a game and thus avoids firing up the opponent. Double talk is when someone contradicts a statement he just made, aka talking out of both sides of your mouth.
“He’s not in very good shape,” Kiffin said of his star quarterback Matt Corral, a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy who rushed 30 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-26 win at Tennessee Saturday. “Hasn’t been for the last two days. Hopefully, he’ll play, but I do not feel good about that right now.”
Then, minutes later, when asked about plans to honor former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning of New Orleans at halftime of Saturday’s game, Kiffin apparently forgot about Corral’s so-called questionable health.
“It’ll be really cool,” Kiffin said of the Manning ceremony. “This will be a very hot ticket. You get to go see Eli Manning and Matt Corral, so it’ll be a pretty cool thing Saturday.”
Suddenly, he felt better about Corral playing.
Moments later, Kiffin crawfished to his original stance when asked about his tailbacks.
“We don’t want our quarterback running 30 times. We don’t even know if our quarterback’s going to play this week,” he said. “So our running backs need to step up.”
When told of Kiffin’s comments about his quarterback, Orgeron laughed it off.
“Knowing coach Kiffin, he’s throwing me a smoke screen,” Orgeron said.
Orgeron and Kiffin were assistant coaches together under Pete Carroll at USC from 2001-04, and Orgeron was an assistant under Kiffin in 2009 at Tennessee and from 2010-13 at USC.
Corral’s comments after the Tennessee game would support Orgeron’s comment.
After missing one play in the fourth quarter because he injured an ankle on a tackle, Corral said, “Yeah, I just rolled up my ankle. It’s all good, though. Just a little stinger. Like it went dead for a second. But it was good after.”
Corral is No. 10 in the nation in passing efficiency with a 169.2 mark on 122 completions in 184 attempts for 1,728 yards with 14 touchdowns and one interception. He has rushed 88 times for 450 yards and is No. 3 in the nation in total offense with 363 yards a game. He completed 21 of 38 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns with an interception at Tennessee. He had 426 yards of the Rebels’ 510 total.
“Well, that’s not a stat that I’m excited about,” Kiffin said of Corral’s 30 rushes. “We’d like that to be a running back and not our 200-pound quarterback.”
Kiffin was asked about his name being listed in numerous publications as a possible replacement at LSU for Orgeron, who was fired last week and will finish out the season. He has been named in previous coaching searches as well.
“I don’t think I’ve ever addressed that with the team,” Kiffin said. “The team knows how we focus, so I’ve never addressed that. Maybe I should, but we don’t worry about things we can’t control.”
Kiffin expressed surprise at Orgeron’s firing just two years removed from a 15-0 national title.
“Crazy,” he said. “You know they just beat a really good Florida team (49-42 on Saturday) when I’m sure not a lot of people gave them a chance after the Kentucky game. Shows they have great players and they can play really well. He actually texted me after the game Saturday. He’s an awesome guy. You know, phenomenal coach.”
Orgeron was Ole Miss’ coach from 2005-07 before being fired after compiling a 10-25 overall record, 3-21 in the SEC. He is 49-17 overall and 30-14 in the SEC in his sixth season at LSU.
“Now more than ever,” Kiffin said, “it is so much more than what have you done in the last year, but literally what have you done Saturday?”
The smoke has barely cleared from the announcement of Orgeron’s firing on Sunday, and the Tigers have already had two players plan to leave the fold.
Koy Moore, a junior wide receiver from the New Orleans area, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Monday. Moore has five catches for 71 yards on the season. He had no catches Saturday against Florida and was thrown to just once.
And LSU commitment Aaron Anderson of Karr High in New Orleans de-committed on Monday. Anderson is the No. 16 wide receiver in the nation and No. 13 prospect in Louisiana. He is now considering Alabama, Colorado, Florida State, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky and Ole Miss, among others. Anderson had committed to LSU on Dec. 19.