Ron Higgins: Change is good. . .when it works

“Change is good,” LSU football coach Ed Orgeron says.

Hiring Matt Canada as offensive coordinator and his Harlem Globetrotter weave man in motion scheme in 2017?

Not a good change.

Hiring passing game coordinator Joe Brady and his brilliant third-down situation and red zone play calling in 2019?

An unbelievable lucky change.

“I didn’t realize how good Joe was when I hired him from the Saints,” Coach O said.

Hiring retread defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Bo Pelini in 2020 to duplicate the success of his previous LSU D-coordinating stint for the 2007 national champs?

A disastrous “any spare change left to buy out his contract” change.

Hire “fired from my last two jobs” passing game coordinator Scott Linehan in 2020?

Another “one and done” budget hit change.

Change is only good when it works and Orgeron’s hiring batting average of .250 can jump to robust .625 if his four latest staff hires Jake Peetz, DJ Mangas, Daronte Jones and Blake Baker turn out as hits.

The difference between Orgeron’s hiring searches in the past month compared to previous years is he knows exactly what he wants on both sides of the ball.

Defensively, he loves the 4-3 but prefers a coordinator who can coach multiple formations and knows how to adjust in-game.

Offensively, Orgeron has drastically evolved. As the Tigers interim. he wanted a USC, pro-style attack circa the early 2000s when he was a D-line coach for the national champs led by head coach Pete Carroll.

But not now.

“We’re going all spread,” Orgeron said. “You see the innovative offenses in the SEC, we want to be just like them.”

More precisely, he wants Brady’s 2019 “obliterate all 15 opponents en route to a national championship” offense.

“When I think of that offense,” Orgeron said, “I think of empty packages, lookovers, guys running wide open, throwing downfield, making tremendous explosive plays, also a short passing game. . .and giving the ball to our playmakers in space.”

Brady’s offense won LSU a national title and a Heisman Trophy for quarterback Joe Burrow, produced hefty NFL first-round draft paydays for Burrow, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and earned a multi-million dollar contract from himself as offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

So, Orgeron called Brady and asked him who he could hire that could channel Brady’s offensive brilliance.

Brady looked around the room, then recommended he hire Carolina quarterbacks coach Jake Peetz as LSU’s offensive coordinator and Carolina assistant and former LSU analyst DJ Mangas as the Tigers’ passing game coordinator.

“The priority for me was getting the right guys on offense, because that’s not my speciality,” Orgeron said.

So if you’re scoring at home, 42-year old Jones and 38-year old Baker replaced 53-year old Pelini in his two positions, 37-year old Peetz replaced 62-year old Steve Ensminger, and 30-year old Mangas replaced 57-year old Linehan.

Pelini, Ensminger and Linehan had a combined 45 years experience as college and pro coordinators and 15 years college and pro head coaching experience.

Jones and Mangas have a combined seven years of college coordinating experience and Peetz has none, he’s never even been a play-caller.

Mangas has play-calling experience as William and Mary’s coordinator in 2017 and 2018 when he was the second-youngest offensive coordinator in college football. His offenses averaged 15 and 13.6 points per game, ranking 112th and 121st out of 124 teams on the FCS level.

“Sometimes in a lot of cases, you can learn from some of the hard times more than you can learn from some of the good times,” Mangas said. “It’s crazy to look back and say maybe it didn’t necessarily go as planned but there was a lot of good that came from that experience.”

Orgeron purposely went to the younger demographic in hires, especially on offense, for a reason.

“Younger (coaches) know the spread offense,” Orgeron said. “We (coaches as old as the 59-year old Orgeron) weren’t born in the spread, we weren’t raised in the spread. Those guys (Peetz and Mangas) happened to be experts in the spread. They’re young, but they’re bright, smart and innovative.

“They come from a different era. We were hard-nosed, basic, get-after-’em coaches. These guys are power points, organization, and very smart. You go into an offensive meeting and you could be at IBM.

“The details in which they go about their business is impressive. They are looking at our tapes and making corrections already. They are bringing in some new plays, new style, new voices, new thoughts, new energy.”

New Tigers’ defensive coordinator Jones, the Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach, wasn’t Orgeron’s top choice and he wasn’t at the bottom of the list.

But after swings and misses on Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen, Orgeron turned to former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who just finished his first season as Baylor’s head coach, for recommendations.

Aranda suggested Jones, who was Aranda’s defensive backs coach at Wisconsin in 2015 when Aranda was the Badgers’ D-coordinator prior coming to LSU.

That was good enough for Orgeron, who often said “Dave Aranda is one of the smartest football coaches I’ve ever been around.”

Jones will also coach the LSU safeties, filling the vacancy of the fired Bill Busch.

Baker, who has been the University of Miami’s co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach the last two seasons after four seasons as Louisiana Tech’s D-coordinator, was targeted by Orgeron for the Tigers’ linebacker coach opening. Baker’s wife is from Mandeville.

As far as defensive line coach vacancy created by the retirement of 65-year old Bill Johnson, it was announced Friday morning that Orgeron hired New York Jets defensive line coach Andre Carter, who played 13 seasons in the NFL. The 41-year old Carter previously worked with Jones on the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff .

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