Zoom and fighting back gloom, Coach O doesn’t like being alone in a room

PHOTO BY Jonathan Mailhes

If life was normal right now, LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron wouldn’t feel like a caged tiger.

The Tigers’ spring game would have been last Saturday, and he’d have a better grasp of a team that doesn’t look anything like last year’s national championship squad because of an array of new starters and coaches.

And he’d be hopping on a plane headed for the NFL draft in Las Vegas to support LSU’s four, maybe five first round draft choices in the league’s three-day draft starting Thursday night.

Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has turned Orgeron’s organized, frenetic world into solitary confinement, tapping into modern technology so he can stay in touch with his players and respective recruits.

He and his coaching staff, from their respective homes, are trying to hold together a football team from coast-to-coast with daily Zoom meetings as well Orgeron individually dialing up players.

Orgeron is not accustomed to having spare time. Relaxing isn’t one of his strong suits. He’s had all the TV watching he stand.

“I’m done flickin’ through the channels.” Orgeron said in audio Zoom hookup with media Tuesday afternoon. “I’m ready to go to work.

Orgeron, like every other college coach, doesn’t know when that will be. He just hopes it happens in a timely manner.

“Come August, we should have camp and you have to have camp to get ready for the season,” Orgeron said. “June and July are still up in the air. There’s still some talk about these things or working out or maybe getting a little time on the football field. We’ll just see. Obviously, that’s out of our control.

“But I do believe that you need several weeks of summer in conditioning. You need several weeks in the summer of some type of football. Then give them a little break, come back to camp and get ready.”

Here’s Orgeron on a variety of subjects:

Q: Without having recruits on campus and being able to see them and not being able to go on the road and see guys practice, how much does that change the evaluation process for 2021 and beyond?

EO: “It’s tough but it’s a level playing field. It’s like everybody else. You just got to watch more film, got to be more exact. I don’t think there will be any on-campus evaluation, I don’t think there will be any camps. There won’t be any off-campus evaluations, so we have to trust our evaluation that we get on film, do a diligent job. I think our coaches have done that.

“It’s easy to get these guys (recruits) on the phone right now because everybody is at home. So, there’s been a lot of Facetime, a lot of talking with parents and stuff like that. I think most of the guys are over that. Everybody is ready to move into the next phase.”

Q: How much do you check-in with your players daily? Do they send you videos of their workouts?

EO: “I get videos. Our guys have Zoom meetings. I’ll call our guys on the phone. I’m in touch with them. The guys are going to hear from me at least once a week. They are with their guys (for Zoom position meetings) every day for an hour. Mostly, they spend a lot of time with their position coach. But I do call them. I’m in constant contact with them.”

Q: What has Myles Brennan been for throwing workouts?

EO: “He’s been down there at St. Stanislaus (Brennan’s former high school in Bay St. Louis, Miss.). He has a couple of guys that he played with (in high school) and a couple of other friends, and they are throwing the ball together doing the things they can do. But obviously it’s not the same as it is here”.

Q: How do you think this NFL draft will affect recruiting going forward as far using Zoom meetings and Facetime?

EO: “It will catapult us. Obviously, I’d like to be in (Las) Vegas (the scheduled site of the NFL draft before it was cancelled). It would have been pretty nice for LSU to be out there on the big stage. But when you see it (the draft) on the TV and on Zoom with a lot of interviews with LSU (players), it will catapult LSU into being an elite program, a national championship program for years to come.

“That’s what it takes. It takes great players and hopefully there will be some great players out there sitting with their parents saying `You know what? That’s what I want.’”

Q: What’s the most unique situation that you’ve found yourself in this pandemic having to recruit the way you’re recruiting right now?

EO: “The phone calls and Facetime is great. I miss being with the staff, the camaraderie of the staff, the camaraderie of the football team. We build our energy on each other. Spending a lot of time with a football team is what I miss the most.”

Q: What kind of quick impact do you think graduate transfer signee Jabril Cox of North Dakota State can have at linebacker?

EO: “We’ve done a good job with graduate transfers here. We’re glad we got him. We talked to some NFL people, they felt he was going to be a first-round draft choice if he went out. We lost some linebackers, we’ve got some good young linebackers coming back. This guy should be an immediate impact player for us.”

Q: With everything else that the 2019 team accomplished, would it mean anything to break the streak of the Saints not drafting an LSU player in the first round?

EO: “Maybe. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from those guys (the Saints). They like the culture of our program right now, they like the character of our football team. (Head coach) Sean Payton and (general manager) Mickey Loomis have a lot of respect for what we’re doing here. A lot of the Saints’ program and culture is going on right here at LSU. Hopefully, you’ll see the first year of a first-round pick from LSU to the Saints. I’d love to see it, I promise you that.”

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Ron Higgins

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