While recruiting in Louisiana years ago, Tommie Robinson got a call from his co-worker at Southern California, Ed Orgeron.
“T-Rob,” Orgeron started, using Robinson’s nickname, “you need to come look at this kid, Derrius Guice.”
He’ll get a good look now.
Orgeron and Robinson are back together, this time at LSU. And their running back is none other than Guice, now one of the 2017 Heisman Trophy favorites who starred at Catholic High, an electric then-high school junior who caught the attention of the two USC coaches four years ago.
“I don’t know a lot about Derrius Guice,” said Robinson, who spent the last year at USC along with that 2013 season. “I’ve had a chance to coach at a lot of schools, and when I go into different schools, different situations, I don’t want to know too much about the kid. I want to formulate my own opinion. I didn’t start doing research and homework on Derrius. I know the kid is a good back, probably one of the best in the country. At this point, that’s all I want to know.”
LSU introduced its two new hires Thursday during a news conference, welcoming in Robinson, the new running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, and former Louisiana Tech assistant Mickey Joseph, who will coach receivers.
Robinson is set to sign a three-year contract with a $575,000 prorated salary this year, according to a memorandum obtained by The Advocate that he signed this week. His salary moves to $600,000 for 2018 and 2019. LSU agreed to pay a $237,500 in buyout money to USC, according to the document.
Mickey Joseph understands the top priority of his new job as LSU's receivers coach.
Joseph will sign a two-year deal paying him $225,000 a year, according to the memorandum he signed.
Joseph is a well-known guy in this state, a New Orleans native and a Louisiana high school legend out of Archbishop Shaw in the 1980s.
Robinson is not. In fact, in a 32-year coaching career that included 11 stops, this is his first in the Southeastern Conference. He makes sure you understand that he’s not unfamiliar with this territory.
“This is my first time ever coaching in the SEC,” he said. “I grew up in the SEC, grew up in Alabama.”
It’s been a whirlwind few days for the 53-year-old former Troy State safety. He accepted the LSU job Tuesday, flew with his wife from Los Angeles to Baton Rouge on Wednesday and dined with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada that night.
He woke up at 5:30 a.m. Thursday to “do a little offense and a little recruiting,” he said. “Been real fast.”
Tommie Robinson once rotated five running backs during a game.
It’s only going to pick up. The staff holes now filled, the Tigers can begin the process of installing Canada’s offensive system, something set to transpire from now until the start of spring practice March 11.
Robinson already knows a thing or two about Canada’s scheme. He spent most of December studying how Canada’s Pittsburgh offense last season managed to score 42 points and beat Penn State in September.
The studying paid off. USC scored 52 points on the Nittany Lions, winning the Rose Bowl.
“Matt has a system,” Robinson said. “He’s been very successful with it. We’ll come in and learn the system, and we’ll do the things he’s been successful with.”
Much of that probably involves Guice, the guy Robinson remembers recruiting during that season at USC with Orgeron. Robinson calls that season “the most fun” he’s ever had in coaching.
Orgeron took over midseason that year at USC, replacing the fired Lane Kiffin. The Trojans won six games and lost two under the guy they call Coach O. It’s why Robinson decided to leave the West Coast powerhouse to come here — well, that and his new titles.
“The sell was Coach O. He’s giving me the opportunity to be an assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, something I want to do and look forward to doing,” he said. “At the end of the day — one thing I’ll always do, I’ll always be honest and keep it real — it was always about him. He’s a true friend of mine.”
It was a recruiting land for Orgeron, luring Robinson to make this cross-country move. Others have done it before: Orgeron and LSU general manager Austin Thomas.
Southern California decided against hiring Orgeron after the 2013 regular season and, a year later, former LSU coach Les Miles hired him. Thomas left LSU last spring. He spent less than three months in Los Angeles before moving back to Baton Rouge.
Robinson’s hire only continues this recent connection between the two programs.
“It’s nothing personal. It’s a small industry,” Thomas said. “When you get people you trust and know and are comfortable with, those are the people you tend to hire. When Coach O said he wanted to go get Tommy, he’s the best in the country, we’ve got to go get him.”
Ed Orgeron continues to secure his new coaching staff.