By Trey Mongrue
Ed Orgeron never planned on taking the year off.
Resigning from his post at USC after the 2013 season following the Trojans hiring of head coach Steve Sarkisian, many figured it wouldn’t be long before Orgeron landed on his feet somewhere. He went on a national tour of job interviews and had many offers, but for him, the right one never came.
Last Tuesday at around 5 p.m., that right offer finally showed up and now Orgeron is LSU’s new defensive line coach.
“When [LSU coach Les Miles] called me, I was ready to go,” Orgeron said during his and new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s introductory press conference on Wednesday. “When my Hummer left the driveway [to come to LSU], it was smoking.”
Since Miles took over in 2005, his path has crossed with Orgeron on more than one occasion. Knowing Orgeron’s value as one of college football’s most revered recruiters and defensive lineman developers, the time was finally right to join forces.
“I had chased Ed around several times for other openings,” Miles recalled. “He has a passion for football and the players that he coaches. He’s a great recruiter and has a number of relationships in this state.
“That played a very important part in the hiring of him.”
Orgeron’s coaching career has taken him from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in between. Throughout his time in the college ranks and even a short stint with the New Orleans Saints in NFL, the former LSU and Northwestern State defensive lineman has held eight different coaching titles with ten different teams – not including this latest job.
But despite being so well traveled, Orgeron’s Louisiana roots never did weaken which led him back to LSU.
“I feel like I’m at home,” said Orgeron, a native of Larose and currently living in Mandeville with his family. “I wanted to go test my skills around the country, but I knew when I got older that I wanted to come back home and represent the State of Louisiana.”
Orgeron was last in the public eye as the defensive line coach for the Trojans under Lane Kiffin. But following Kiffin’s firing after a loss at Arizona State, Orgeron took over as the interim head coach and USC went onto win seven of its last nine games.
When USC didn’t remove the interim tag after the season, Orgeron found himself flying home to Mandeville, but also at a crossroads.
Instead of jumping right back into another job, he took an unplanned year off to spend time with his wife, Kelly, and his sons Cody, a state champion tennis player at Mandeville High School, Parker, a receiver at MHS, and Tyler, a senior at LSU who works in the recruiting department.
“I didn’t think things were going to happen the way they did, but it turned out great,” Orgeron explained. “I got to be home for a year to spend time with my family and watch my kids play.”
But the itch to keep coaching remained, and he quickly noticed that after the first day he returned home.
“I think the summer was the longest time,” he said. “To not be able to get into training camp where I missed the grind, missed the hard work in developing the players, that was the toughest time to be away.”
Resigned to his living room television for the 2014 season, Orgeron made sure to watch every game that he had access to, whether it was to check in on some of the many players that he recruited or to see how defenses are attacking the spread offense.
He took in all of these televised games in a quiet, even studious, manner. That is except when he was watching LSU.
“I watched every [LSU] game and cheered every play, especially when the beat Ole Miss,” joked Orgeron, referring to his days as the Rebels’ head coach.
But now no longer a mere fan isolated to watching LSU on a giant flat screen, Orgeron is excited to be wearing a headset again and the Tigers are excited to have him roaming the sidelines. His ties to Louisiana aside, Orgeron has the skins on the wall that say he will excel in Baton Rouge.
Known as a defensive line guru, Orgeron has recruited and developed ten linemen who were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That number will almost undoubtedly move to 11 with former USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams projected to be a top five pick next April.
Favoring a four-man defensive front, Orgeron’s scheme will fit right in with what LSU has relied on under Miles. Basically, returning players like Davon Godchaux, Christian Lacouture, Tashawn Bower and Sione Teuhema are in good hands.
“I wanted to go test my skills around the country, but I knew when I got older that I wanted to come back home and represent the State of Louisiana.”
– LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron
– LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron
“We have the ability to make plays in the backfield and an attacking front four that will rush the passer,” Orgeron explained. “The linemen here just seem to be more abundant and tougher.”
In addition, Orgeron has been around the block a few times when it comes to coaching in the Southeastern Conference. Besides his three years at Ole Miss, he also coached a season under Kiffin at Tennessee in 2009.
“I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be back in the SEC,” he said. “I love the toughness, I love the physical play, I love the type of athletes and I love the coaches. There’s going to be competitive recruiting out there.”
And that is the aspect that Orgeron probably missed the most about college football.
Between him, Steele and running backs coach Frank Wilson, there are now three National Recruiter of the Year Award winners at LSU. With the announcement of his hiring coming on the day before that coaching staffs are allowed to speak with high school players again, Orgeron made sure to drive the point home that he is going to hit the recruiting trail just like the way his Hummer left the driveway.
“I learned a long time ago if you want to be a great coach, you get great players,” he said. “So I’m going out to get me some great players tomorrow.”
What makes this process different for Orgeron though, is that, for the first time, he’ll be recruiting players for his home.