Ed Orgeron, steeped in Louisiana and its beloved LSU Tigers, talks football.
Ed Orgeron took over a flailing LSU football team last September, replacing 12-year coach and resident legend Les Miles. Things were made clear from the get-go that it was a temporary gig. After steadying the ship and going 5-2, however, Orgeron had the “interim” label removed and was named permanent head coach. The burly, gravel-voiced “Coach Eaux” is Louisiana through and through. A Lafourche Parish native who was part of Galliano High’s 1977 state championship team, he played college ball at LSU and Northwestern — then was a graduate assistant at NSU and McNeese. After a hiatus from coaching, he was a volunteer coach at Nicholls – which led to a new chapter in his career.
Orgeron is a past head coach at Ole Miss and, on an interim basis, at USC. He also has been on the coaching staffs at Arkansas, Miami, Syracuse and Tennessee. In 2008, he coached the defensive linemen – his own position from his playing days – for the New Orleans Saints. Orgeron made the following comments as the Tigers prepared for fall camp – and as he faced a barrage of questions from sportswriters and broadcasters at the Southeastern Conference’s annual Media Days gathering.
Here is some of what he had to say:
On growing up in South Louisiana:
In 1971, I was ten years old and LSU was playing Notre Dame. And it was a great game — two highly ranked opponents. And there was a young man named Ronnie Estay from Larose. He had 17 tackles that game. He had three great stops on the goal line, and LSU beat Notre Dame 28-3. I was a young boy from Larose. I think the whole city of Larose — the whole state of Louisiana — was cheering for the Tigers that night, and it was just magic. … Ever since then, I wanted to be in the purple and gold.
How his coaching style has evolved:
Here are two things I came up with:
— Number one: I was going to treat the team exactly how I treat my sons. No different.
— And I was going to treat every coach on the coaching staff with respect and let him coach his position as he knew it.
Ever since those two minor changes, we’ve been 12-4. So that’s the difference.
The pressure – the annual expectation, actually – for an LSU head coach to beat Alabama:
Coach (Nick) Saban did a great job. He did a great job at LSU. Last year was a tight game. It was 0-0 going into the (fourth) quarter. Their quarterback made two plays — we didn’t. (LSU lost 10-0).
I don’t know if it’s that big of a gap (between the two teams this year). I think we need to play our football. I think the way to beat Alabama is to recruit on their level. They’re recruiting at a high level now, and they do a great job of evaluation. And coach — coach your team very well, and get your team ready to play. Again — last year, we weren’t that far off.
Why LSU lost to Bama last year:
When it comes down to playing Alabama, it starts with protection. They’re great up front. They’re taught great. They have great athletes up front and you have to protect the quarterback. And we didn’t do a good job of that. Danny (Etling) didn’t have it the whole time — and when he did have it, he didn’t complete the passes that he should. The year before, we tried to run the football on them — we couldn’t do it. It has to be a combination — you have to spread the ball around, put the ball in your playmakers’ hands and face and let them make plays. But it all starts with protection first.
The feel for the 2017 campaign:
I obviously am excited about the upcoming season. We are very excited to have Matt Canada as an offensive coordinator. Matt runs a very diverse offense — a lot of shifts, motions, use of personnel, fly sweeps. He makes it difficult to defend . . . he talked about running a balanced offense, 50 percent run and 50 percent pass. I think he is going to do an outstanding job as offensive coordinator. I have to give credit to Matt coming in during the spring and installing his offense to a brand-new offensive staff – guys he never met before. They did a tremendous job. They gelled well.
On so many LSU players being plucked by the NFL:
Everybody said, “Coach, you must be really excited about all of the guys getting drafted.” I said, “Yeah –but now we have to replace them.”
On his hiring as permanent head coach:
I know this: I understand the expectations of LSU. I was born in Louisiana, and they’re very high. But we have the same expectation of our staff and ourselves. I don’t feel the pressure, but I do acknowledge that it’s out there. And I still need to prove that now I’m the head coach, and we need to win. I get that.
by Brett Downer