By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
O, the times are changing.
One day into his new gig, LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron is wasting no time in implementing changes across the football program, with more meetings, fewer (and more available) practices, and a renewed energy to a program in desperate need of it.
“We’re going to flip the script, things I’ve done in the past to re-energize the team,” Orgeron said Monday at his introductory press conference. “You can expect a new staff, a new style of play on offense. We don’t have a lot of time to change things, but we are going to tweak things.”
First order of change? A host of new titles for his assistant coaches. Steve Ensminger moves from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. Ex-LSU assistant Pete Jenkins assumes Orgeron’s vacancy as defensive line coach. Dave Aranda becomes associate head coach. Eric Mateos inherits the tight ends from Ensminger, Dennis Johnson — Orgeron’s ex-assistant on the line — takes over outside linebackers, pushing Bradley Dale Peveto to special teams full-time. Dameyune Craig takes Orgeron’s title as recruiting coordinator, Austin Thomas is named general manager, and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes coordinates the running game.
Get all that?
It’s the beginning of what Orgeron expects to be many changes, which includes what he calls “a new look on offense.” Orgeron says he’s a pro-style offense guy, but he sees ways LSU can enhance an offense that ranks 110th nationally in yards per game and 111th in scoring.
“We’re going to spread the ball out a little bit, do some different things, change the style of play,” he said. “There’s a lot of things on offense that we’ve done well, running the football, and we want to have a different passing game. We want to be more creative, find ways that the quarterback can get the ball down the field throwing it. Obviously, we know people hold up the box on Leonard and Derrius Guice, and we want to put the ball in our playmakers’ hands. We want to throw short for the quarterback and move the ball down the field. You have to score points these days.”
How much the schematics changes remains to be seen. What’s quite evident, though, is a new energy Orgeron’s instilling. Players showed up to media interviews Monday laughing, smiling, and joking around. They were saddened by Miles’ departure, but moved on from it — as per Miles’ wishes.
“Coach Miles had a 48-hour rule, win or loss,” said fullback J.D. Moore. “After 48 hours, you have to move on. In his own rule, we’re going to hav eto move on and remember how great of a coach he was, but move on and prepare under new leadership.”
Moore and much of the offense hasn’t been exposed to that new leadership yet. Orgeron spent much of his time previously working with the defense — the line in particular. Greg Gilmore’s advice for his new teammates adjusting to his position coach: set your alarm.
“Don’t be late,” Gilmore laughed. “He’s going to demand greatness out of you. They’re going to want to play for him and see he’s a good leader. He’s going to do what he’s been doing, but instead of being on one side of the field, he’s going to be on both sides, looking over everything. He’s just gotta sprinkle some of that Coach O jazz on offense and keep it on defense, and we’ll be fine.”
Other than the advice from defenders, the offense only has yesterday’s team meeting to go off of in terms of firsthand experience with Coach O. But they’ve noticed him before.
Boy, have they noticed him.
“Coach O’s a different kind of high energy,” said tight end Foster Moreau. “He’s up there in the (Tommy) Moffitt level of high energy.”
Danny Etling spent time with Orgeron last year on the scout team, which Coach O would “take over” during practices, Etling said. He’s long since worked through the Cajun accent.
“I understand exactly what he’s saying now,” he said. “Most of the time it’s” — he pauses, with a laugh — “positive reinforcement.”
Turns out, everyone knows Orgeron’s voice by now.
“You could always hear Coach O (at practice),” Moreau said. “Especially during individual periods…yeah, you could hear him barking over there.”
Speaking of practices, Orgeron’s bringing change there, too. They’re open to the media — a massive departure from the secretive tenure of Miles — and shorter, with more emphasis on the film room.
“(There will) be less time on the practice field, more time in the meeting room, and hopefully we’re fresh,” Orgeron said.
Music to the ears of the Tigers.
“It’s more of an NFL style of practice, where you have a lot of time in the meeting room, and the work load is efficient, fast-paced, in and out real quick,”Moreau said. “I’m really excited about it. It’s always been quantity of reps over strict quality of reps. I’m excited to see how it works.”
“He brings tremendous energy. That’s his M.O. — he brings a lot of hype and energy,” added Moore. “We all respect him in the room. We’re ready to get to work.”
No one’s more ready that Orgeron, a lifelong LSU fan and South Louisianan who is now in his dream job. He greeted the press with a thunderous, “WHAT DO YOU SAY, GUYS?” It’s clear he’s relishing his time, however long it may last, as the Tigers’ head coach.
“Growing up in south Louisiana being the head coach at LSU is a dream,” he said. “But it is a well-respected position that I am holding right now, and I hold it in high esteem and I understand the expectations at LSU. And I fully, fully intend to meet all those expectations.”
Orgeron exceeded expectations the last time he was an interim head coach. When the Trojans fired head coach Lane Kiffin in 2013, Orgeron rallied USC to a 6-2 record over its last eight games, including an upset win over Stanford. It was a far cry from his tenure at Ole Miss, when he was 10-25 overall and just 3-21 in the SEC.
“Every job is different. Every situation is different,” he said. “I am glad that I had the experience of being the head coach in the SEC before. I’m glad that I had the experience of being an interim coach. I think every time you go through a head coaching job you learn where your strengths are and your weaknesses are and the more you do it the more you find out what type of coach you are. I do believe that the style of coach that I was during my last head coaching job was the style of coach you’re going to see now, a style of coach that I’m going to let my coaches coach. We’re all going to be accountable to each other. I want our team to play with energy. ..I think being at home and playing in front of the Tiger family is a little bit different. The expectations are high. I understand that. It’s what I love. If you don’t like it, don’t come, you know?”