By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Steve Ensminger can be a man of few words when it comes to dealing with the media. He shared a choice one for outside critics who questioned his ability to succeed as LSU’s new offensive coordinator.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron formally introduced Ensminger as his OC at a press conference in the Team Room at Football Ops on Thursday afternoon.
“What a day for the LSU Football team,” Orgeron opened before ceding the podium to the long-time assistant and former Tiger quarterback.
Ensminger, wearing a neon purple and gold tie that had to predate his last full-time coordinator stint (Clemson, 1997-98), offered a mixture of overwhelming appreciation for the opportunity and defiant confidence that he was the right man for the job.
“I had a guy call me last night and ask if I’d read something in the papers. Hell no, I ain’t read the papers in 20 years,” Ensminger said. “I don’t read the damn paper. I don’t go on Twitter. I don’t go on Facebook and I tell my family to stay off of it.
“All I can do is what I can do. I can’t let any outside influence say ‘Hey, you’re not good enough or you can’t do this.’ Bullshit. I’ll do it.”
The 59-year-old got choked up repeatedly through roughly 15 minutes of taking questions. He spoke of dreaming about this job through a coaching career that’s taken him from being a coordinator in the Southeastern Conference to high school coach and back again.
Ensminger recounted lying in bed surfing through the channels on Wednesday night. He came across the scene from the movie “Miracle” where Coach Herb Brooks gives his team a speech about ceasing great moments before the big game against the Soviet Union.
“This is my opportunity,” Ensminger said, fighting back tears. “I embrace it, I look forward to it, and I promise we’ll make this state proud.”
His passion did lead to questions as to why Ensminger had to be convinced to take the interim gig under Orgeron in the first place during the 2016 season, a moment of indecision he acknowledged prior to the 2016 Citrus Bowl.
“Last year I was hesitant because it wasn’t my offense,” Ensminger said of his interim tenure. “Don’t get me wrong, I understood the offense and I knew how to call it. I just had to tweak some things. I was a little hesitant, but I have a year now. It’s my offense. It’s my terminology. It’s my direction.”
The more pointed questions were directed to Ensminger’s boss, Orgeron, who just 13 months ago proclaimed Matt Canada “the best offensive coordinator in the country” upon hiring him to the same position.
Neither Orgeron nor Ensminger mentioned Canada by name and won’t in the future due to a legally-binding separation agreement that was obtained and published by The Advocate on Wednesday.
Orgeron was asked point blank why he didn’t simply hire Ensminger upon his own elevation to full-time coach if he was the right choice for the job all along.
“I thought about it,” Orgeron said. “I remember my statement, ‘I’m going to go out and find the best offensive coordinator in the country.’ And I did. I did all I could to do the things I promised the fans. All the while I knew I had Steve Ensminger there and he’s a great coordinator.
“Things didn’t work out, but we’re moving on. I had a chance. I knew the best coordinator for LSU was Steve Ensminger. Deep down in my heart I’ve always known that.”
There was no hesitation by either party this time around. LSU officially introduced Ensminger as offensive coordinator the day after Canada’s final official day as a university employee.
Orgeron said he’d “researched” other potential candidates but didn’t interview anyone for the job outside Ensminger. He shot down reports out of California that he’d made serious overtures to USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin before settling on promoting his tight end coach.
“Tee and I are really good friends, and I received a call asking if there was any interest,” Orgeron said. “I told them that while I do respect Tee, and he’s an excellent offensive coordinator, that I have my guy. All due respect for Tee Martin.”
The coach also hinted at another hire to come while praising the offensive staff he planned to put in place around Ensminger. He didn’t mention Jerry Sullivan by name, but he did say LSU was “going to bring in a guy that’s an expert at (coaching receivers).”
Hours later LSU officially announced Sullivan joining the staff as a senior offensive assistant and passing game coordinator. He’s expected to take an active role in assisting Ensminger in building a new passing game and working with LSU’s receivers after spending last season in a support staff role.
“In my research,” Orgeron said, “there’s no one better than Steve Ensminger to be able to do this, along with the staff we’re going to provide him.”