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LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron fires up his players during pregame warmups before the first half of the LSU Alabama football game Saturday Nov. 5, 2016, in Tiger Stadium.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

HOOVER, Ala. — The day he left Ole Miss 10 years ago after being fired as the Rebels head coach, Ed Orgeron knew there were some things he had to change about himself.

“I had to treat my players like they were my own sons, and I had to let my assistant coaches coach,” Orgeron said.

One thing that didn’t change was his self-confidence. It was shaken, stirred, battered certainly, but it was still there.

“I’ll be a head coach again,” Orgeron confided in a friend back then.

A decade later, Orgeron was back here at SEC football media days, dealing with the gauntlet of questions from the hundreds of media members in attendance.

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As the only new full-time coach in the conference, Orgeron was going to be a centerpiece of the first day of this event. But the fact that he had a failed stint at Ole Miss, an SEC school, ramped that up considerably.

Orgeron started a bit stiffly in the main media room, it must be said, going through a vanilla-like recitation of LSU’s depth chart. That may enthrall the most rabid Tigers fans back home, but it had many reporters’ jaded eyes glazing over.

But then he spoke candidly about his time at Ole Miss. And just as candidly, as he always has, about what he needs to do to be considered successful as coach at LSU: beat Alabama.

“I understand the coach at LSU must beat Alabama,” he said. “We have to recruit at their level.”

He insisted the gap between the programs isn’t that vast, though LSU hasn't beaten Bama since 2011. The Crimson Tide beat LSU 10-0 last year, the fewest points for the Tigers in 2016, obviously, but for the Crimson Tide, too.

“Their quarterback (Jalen Hurts) made two plays, and we didn’t,” Orgeron said.

If he was nervous at first, Orgeron found his footing and fended off a couple of potentially sticky questions. One was about Florida designating LSU as its homecoming opponent and whether he thought that was part of the bad blood between the schools stemming from last year’s hurricane postponement flap. And the fact that because Florida came to LSU last year the Tigers have to go to Gainesville and play five SEC road games this year.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We accept the challenge.”

Orgeron was also challenged on his “tactics” of encouraging state schools to keep out-of-state football powers out of Louisiana satellite camps. He dismissed the notion that it would hamper young men’s prospects of being discovered by schools from around the country.

“Guys don’t go uncovered,” he said. “If there’s a guy on a country road, my GPS will get me there.”

It was his best line.

Did Orgeron win the day at SEC media days? More or less. It was important for him to come here and look and act professionally. At that, he didn't stumble.

Now he heads home to go about the business of winning the days that are really important.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​