By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
How does a defensive coach born during World War II relate to a group of players who weren’t even the apples of their parents’ eyes when he completed his first decade of duty in the Southeastern Conference?
For Pete Jenkins, who’ll turn 76 years old on Aug. 27, the language of film is timeless.
Now in his third stint at LSU, the thrice-retired coach uses old school game tape sessions to better to better relate to players who’re more than half a century his junior.
“He does a great job getting his point across,” starting defensive end Rashard Lawrence said. “We all have the film we need with Coach Pete from the ‘70s all the way up until now. It’s helpful to watch though because he’s coached some of the best players in the country over the years and continues to.”
Some of the film even predates Jenkins’ legendary career, which began way back in 1964 at Warner-Robbins (Ga.) High School.
How can the players tell?
Well, for one, some of the video is in black and white.
“I think that film is from the ‘60s,” senior Frank Herron laughed. ”Those films are great. I’ll be talking to him and he can remember those plays like they happened yesterday.”
“I love it,” Lawrence said. “Show me any film and I’m going to watch it if it’s helpful.”
His LSU collection includes 1980s stalwarts like Henry Thomas and Ramsey Dardar from his first tenure in Baton Rouge and more contemporary stars like Marcus Spears and Jarvis Green.
It’s a practice Jenkins passed along to his current boss, Ed Orgeron, when the latter was a young defensive line coach plying his trade under the former.
Prior to his elevation from defensive line coach, Orgeron often showed film of current NFL stars and urged LSU players to study and emulate their pass rush moves.
Upon said promotion, Orgeron asked his mentor to come out of retirement one more time and has not looked back.
“He has a teaching process second to none, and he sticks to that process,” Orgeron said. “And listen, Pete is 76 years old, but if they’re not doing it right, he’s going to let them know. They’re ain’t no sugar coating about it. He’s not going to raise his voice.
“I think they just don’t want to let him down, but he’s an expert.”
Sometimes Jenkins will pop in the drill tapes he’d use to train players back in the day. Orgeron recalls a time when Jenkins’ famed tapes were treated like state secrets to the point where coaches, tired on being denied access, would try to acquire them through more nefarious means.
“He wouldn’t let it loose,” Orgeron laughed. “If anybody had a copy of the drill tape, it was all pirated copy and I’ll tell them. But he’s got so many tapes now it’s unbelievable.”
One of Jenkins’ personal favorites, according to players, is Tommy Clapp, the father of current LSU center Will. A four-year letterman from 1984-87 and team captain in his senior season, Tommy was an undersized anchor at defensive tackle.
“Coach Pete said he wasn’t dirty; he was just tough as nails,” Herron said. “He says if he had 10 Tommy Clapps on defense, he’s win every year.”
Jenkins’ motivation for these frequent film studies go beyond illustrating simple teaching points. It’s an exercise in proving that, while the video quality has improved and the players have gotten bigger, the same techniques still hold up in the trenches.
Football is a game of leverage, footwork and quick hands, whether it’s 1964 or 2017.
“It works,” Herron said. “Coach Pete has been coaching so long and it works. So why change something that works? By showing us the old film, it shows that guys have been doing it since before him and it still works.
“Coach O still asks Coach Pete questions. Coaches call every day, ‘Coach Pete, can you help me out with this?’ He’s a guru.”
And when film isn’t enough, sometimes it helps to bring in a celebrity endorsement.
Former consensus All-American Glenn Dorsey paid a visit to LSU practice last Thursday and spent some time with the new crop of defensive linemen.
Face time with the 2007 Nagurski, Lombardi, Outland, Lott and Bednarki awards winner especially hit home for Lawrence. The ascending sophomore star spent his formative years looking up to the dominant LSU lines of the mid-2000s, and Dorsey in particular.
“That made my day. That made my year,” Lawrence said. “That was like my role model growing up trying to play like him. I watched him Saturday after Saturday every year just killing people. It meant the world to me to shake his hand and talk to him.”
Dorsey is a respected legend within the program, and as the current crop of Tiger linemen will tell you, so too is their septuagenarian mentor.