Ed Orgeron relishes every opportunity to put on a purple and gold LSU polo. It’s a dream job for the Louisiana native.
“I’m glad to be at LSU. I love my job,” Orgeron said at his weekly news conference.” I don’t think I’m ever going to a coaching job and think it was a job. I dug ditches at Lafourche Television Company. I love being around people. I love being around young men. I love being recruiting and how could you not have a great day when you’re the coach of the LSU Tigers?”
Orgeron while on interim basis is trying to fill the shoes former LSU coach Les Miles, who roamed the Tigers sideline for 12 seasons. Replacing a coach who went 114-34 in 12 years isn’t going to be easy, but Orgeron is doing everything he can to keep the head coaching gig.
When Miles was fired less than 24 hours after LSU’s 18-13 loss to Auburn, speculation grew rapidly about who would become the next coach.
High-profile coaching candidates such as Houston’s Tom Herman, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Louisville’s Bobby Petrino were thrown around.
But LSU could already have its next coach sitting in its own backyard.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was not only fed up with the lack production from Miles, but comfortable enough to move Orgeron from defensive line coach to interim coach.
“His enthusiasm is contagious,” Alleva said at Orgeron’s introductory news conference. “He has outstanding leadership characteristics and I still believe this team has great things ahead of it and great things that can be achieved in the last eight games.”
It’s his second audition to claim the title of head coach and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Taking the reigns of a team mid-season isn’t anything new for Orgeron, he was in this exact same position three years ago at Southern California. In the final eight games of USC’s season, Orgeron went 6-2 and defeated then No. 5 ranked Stanford.
That wasn’t enough to impress former USC athletic director Pat Haden to give Orgeron the full-time head coaching job.
“It took about three months to get over the USC deal,” Orgeron told the LA Times. “It was like a death or a divorce.”
In his efforts to become LSU’s new coach, Orgeron has brought a sweeping change throughout LSU’s program.
Practices are shorter, more time in spent in the film room and each day of the week has its own theme for the day. For instance, Thursday’s are titled “No repeat Thursday” which means players learn from every mistake from practice earlier in the week and make sure not repeat them.
The new approach to practice can seem funny to the players, but they’ve bought into Orgeron’s style.
“It’s really effective for the way practices go,” said sophomore running back Derrius Guice. “Whatever the theme is for that day that’s the layout for the practice.”
Lighter practices quickly paid off dividends when LSU stormed past Missouri 42-7 on Oct. 1 and broke a school record for most offensive yards in a game versus a Southeastern Conference opponent.
After the game the LSU players spoke about being “fresher” spending less time in the sweltering Louisiana heat practicing and attributed that to their record-setting night.
The LSU fanbase has started to embrace the fiery and energetic Cajun coach. On his first radio show since becoming interim coach, fans called in and spoke Cajun to the 55-year-old coach.
But keeping up those results and keeping the fans happy will be tough. The Tigers have a three-game stretch where they face defending national champion Alabama and road trips to Arkansas and Texas A&M.
However, those challenges aren’t anything Orgeron is shying away from.
“Being at home and playing in front of the Tiger family is a little bit different,” Orgeron said at his introductory press conference. “The expectations are high. I understand that. It’s what I love. If you don’t like it, don’t come, you know?”
There isn’t a set number of games thrown out that Orgeron needs to win, but going undefeated with do nothing more than help his case.
One thing for sure is after LSU’s season ends, Alleva will begin the search for the Tigers new ball coach.
“Change in culture” as Alleva put it is something he will be looking for, but he’s seeing a change manifest everyday with Orgeron as the interim coach.
“I’m looking for a whole change in the culture of the program,” he told 104.5 ESPN. “Ed is instituting change, no doubt about it … He’s got a great opportunity to show what he can do and turn this ship around. So, we’ll see.”
Photo by Sean Gasser.