Having been turned down by Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman, the LSU Tigers elected to remove the interim tag from head coach Ed Orgeron Saturday.
Given the circumstances, I think this is a good move.
And there’s a parallel for it: Dabo Swinney at Clemson.
In 2008, Swinney, then the receivers coach, took over for the fired Tommy Bowden. He proceeded to go 4-3, but got the job thanks in large part to the enthusiastic response from recruits.
Orgeron is very similar.
While he has more head-coaching experience, having failed spectacularly at Ole Miss and having success at USC as an interim, nobody regards Orgeron or Swinney as schematic savants. They are both highly regarded for their recruiting and infectious enthusiasm.
Swinney has succeeded largely by taking his recruiting foundation and surrounding himself with some really great coordinators like former OC Chad Morris, now the coach at SMU, and DC Brent Venables. He’s even been outspoken about taking less money for himself, in order to pay his coordinators more.
Putting aside the seemingly impossible task of taking down Nick Saban’s Alabama until he slows down, why can’t Swinney’s approach at Clemson work at LSU with Orgeron?
LSU is going to keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who put together 2016’s best plan to defend Alabama’s new spread option offense. That is a great start. It has some awesome recruiters on staff including, defensive backs coach Corey Raymond and receivers coach Dameyune Craig. And I wrote when LSU fired Les Miles that the Tigers were very smart to put Austin Thomas in a GM-type role.
Assuming Orgeron is not going to be making elite money right off the bat, LSU should have some serious cash to throw at an elite offensive coordinator.
It worked at one Death Valley, why not at the other?
Plus, it’s low risk, as SB Nation’s And The Valley Shook points out.
Orgeron probably offers the highest “floor” of any coaching candidate, due to his recruiting ability and low price tag. Even if he were to immediately revert to what we saw at Ole Miss, he would leave behind a talented roster for a successor, and likely offer an easy way out in terms of finances. Big contracts for Fisher or Tom Herman would leave LSU far more locked in for a certain amount of time due to buyout provisions. That would tie the university’s hands for a time if the program was underperforming, and possibly even limit options in finding a successor.
Whomever comes in is going to have some serious talent to work with.
LSU has 11 four- and five-star commitments and currently sits at No. 5 nationally in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. JaCoby Stevens is one of the most athletic football players in the country. Tyler Shelvin is a true nose tackle with great power. Austin Deculus is a mauler of an offensive tackle who could also dominate at guard.
The Tigers also have two top QB recruits coming in with Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan. That’s important, because perhaps no program has had a greater gap in the quality of its QB play relative to the play of its other positions in recent years than the Tigers.
LSU is an awesome recruiting opportunity.
The state produces about 15 four- and five-star prospects annually, making it one of the most talented states nationally. But LSU has the state all to itself; it is the only Power 5 program in Louisiana. The Tigers never lose prospects to Lafayette, Tech, Monroe, or Tulane.
There is fierce loyalty within the state to the Tigers, as so many prospects grow up LSU fans. The only school consistently competitive with the Tigers in recent years for prospects LSU actually wanted from the state has been Alabama.
Additionally, Baton Rouge is just three hours from Mobile and four from Houston, two major hotbeds of recruiting talent. And there is strong junior college football in bordering Mississippi, from which the Tigers can compete with just about anyone on an admission-standards basis.
Other than Alabama, the SEC West may be returning to normal standards.
The Tide are still the Tide, but the timing for Orgeron to take over the LSU job could not be better from an opponent standpoint.
Arkansas has not made much progress under Bret Bielema. Gus Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin should enter 2017 on scorching-hot seats at Auburn and Texas A&M, respectively. Ole Miss’ recruiting is in shambles as many prospects aren’t willing to sign up with the NCAA’s axe looming. And Mississippi State is coming off its worst season since Dan Mullen’s rookie campaign.
Annual cross-division rival Florida will still be tough, but the Gators’ recruiting has tailed off under Jim McElwain, compared to what it was under Urban Meyer and even Will Muschamp.
Over his last 56 games, Les Miles went just 39-17. It seems very reasonable to expect Orgeron to average 10 wins a season, a full win better than what Miles had been doing since 2012.