Coach O is back. On what seemed to be a quiet Sunday in college football, LSU fired head coach Les Miles after 12 seasons in Baton Rouge. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was also fired.
With the official announcement, LSU announced that current defensive line coach Ed Orgeron would be the interim head coach.
Orgeron has been on LSU’s staff since 2015, having previously served as USC’s successful interim head coach after Lane Kiffin’s exit, a less-successful head coach at Ole Miss, and plenty of other jobs.
1. If there’s one thing Orgeron can do, it’s recruit, especially in Louisiana.
At Miami, he recruited future Pro Football Hall of Famers like Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy.
During Orgeron’s first stint at USC, after being named the recruiting coordinator in 2001, he helped the Trojans to top-five signing classes for three straight years.
When he returned to USC with Kiffin, the school’s first recruiting class ranked No. 3, per the 247Sports Composite. Orgeron ranked as 247Sports’ No. 4 recruiting coach in 2011 and No. 5 in 2013. In 2016 as LSU’s line coach, he ranked No. 22.
Not to mention, Orgeron is a Louisiana native himself. He played his college ball at LSU and Northwestern State in Louisiana, and got his coaching career started as a graduate assistant at NSU.
"99.9 percent of the young men who are born in Louisiana dream of playing for LSU," Orgeron has said about Louisiana, one of the country’s best recruiting states. "We're gonna tap into that inner source, we're gonna get after it, we'll get the best players in the state to play here, and stop certain people from crossing that line!"
LSU’s 2017 class currently ranks No. 4 in the country.
2. He’s not the same coach he was at Ole Miss.
Orgeron was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07, and it didn’t go all that well. He compiled a 10-25 record over the three seasons.
But more than his record, Orgeron was known in Oxford for his fiery demeanor and questionable tactics. To be more specific, one of his former Ole Miss players referred to him as an “asshole” when describing a moment when Orgeron challenged members of the team to a fight.
But those Orgeron days are long gone.
His relationship with the media has also drastically improved. As the interim head coach at USC, you could see how different he was compared to his prior reputation.
3. He’s not afraid to mix things up as an interim head coach. It’s worked for him before.
After the Trojans fired Kiffin five games into the season in 2013, Orgeron was elevated to interim head coach for eight games. He led the Trojans to a 6-2 mark over that span and generated a lot of good will.
More than that record, he became known for changing the culture. He would do simple things like cater Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles for his players and have people like Dr. Dre and Ray Lewis talk to the team. He gave hand-written notes to every member of the USC band, thanking them for what they do.
Trojans safety Dion Bailey spoke in 2013 about how refreshing Orgeron was:
He really emphasized that this time around being a head coach he wants to do it the right way, he really learned a lot from his time at Ole Miss, he asked us our input about a lot of things on the team, and he really inputted our input into the schedules and event-planning, things like that. He's always looking out for what's better for us, what makes us comfortable, taking care of our bodies. That really made us appreciate him, and from then on, guys have been behind Coach O and would run through a brick wall for him.
USC athletic director Pat Haden indicated Orgeron was a candidate in USC’s coaching search, and some thought USC should keep him on, especially after USC beat No. 4 Stanford. But USC hired Steve Sarkisian as its new head coach instead, much to USC players’ public dismay.
4. So what changed between Ole Miss and USC? It was intentional.
Below is an excerpt from a story on a speech he gave at a high school coaches clinic shortly after becoming LSU’s line coach, which was mainly about how different he wanted things to be after Ole Miss:
After he left Oxford, Orgeron said that he dedicated himself to studying as many successful head coaches as he could. What worked for them. What would work for him. A few years later, when things fell apart for Lane Kiffin in Orgeron's second stint at Troy, Coach O knew how he wanted to proceed when AD Pat Haden named him interim head coach.
"We were all separated as a program," he said. "In film sessions, coaches would say ‘well, my unit graded as an A.' A receiver would say ‘I caught 13 passes.' We weren't a team."
It began with a tug-of-war contest in his first meeting after he took over. It progressed to things as simple as cookies in the cafeteria. Movie nights. Music in the locker room. Shorter, less physical practices with clear goals for each day, like "Turnover Tuesday" and "No Repeats Thursday." Guess speakers like Ray Lewis, Marcus Allen and Dr. Dre.
"I don't know who Dr. Dre is!" he proclaimed. "I guess he makes headsets."
Orgeron stressed togetherness for everybody in the program, from coaches and their families through players to trainers, managers and support staff, who were welcome at team functions like dinners and Friday movie excursions to Paramount Studios. Even the marching band.
"I love the music," he said. "I love the band. I love them to come to practice. I love the jock rallies. I love the LSU Tiger Band and the Golden Girls. I love the fight songs," Orgeron said. "Are you kidding me? ‘Hold that Tiger?' Think about it."
In game preparation, he reverted the Trojans to Pete Carroll's "compete every day" philosophy, with an internal focus. The results were a 6-2 run that led many to think he might get the job fulltime.
"Each game is a new challenge -- it ain't about them. It's about us."
5. Already miss Miles’ personality? Orgeron’s got a ton of it, too.
If there’s one thing Orgeron brings in terms of personality, it’s charisma. He wants his players to have fun, something that gets lost in college football.
One of the more memorable things he did as the USC interim was host the “Trojan Bowl” during a practice: the third-stringers and walk-ons got dressed in pads, while the older players directed practice for them.
No, Orgeron obviously doesn’t have quite the same personality as Miles, but Orgeron is a players’ coach and will keep things interesting, which is exactly what LSU needs as it tries to bounce back from a disappointing start.
6. So, could he be LSU’s head coach in 2017?
This is obviously always a possibility when dealing with an interim head coach. In fact, reports came in as early as Sunday.
One source indicated to me that Orgeron is a legitimate candidate for the FT job. "If he does well, they'll adjust his contract" #LSU— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) September 25, 2016
I think what we’re dealing with here is a what-if situation. If LSU is not able to land a candidate like Tom Herman or Jimbo Fisher, it could find Orgeron is more of a viable option than the other candidates on the board.
But a source close to LSU told SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey that “making a coaching change on an interim Ed Orgeron would always be easier than making one on Miles.”
Time will have to tell with that last one. But one thing’s for sure: LSU football has one hell of a coach for at the very least the rest of 2016.