Ed Orgeron stood in front of a couple of hundred eager faces Tuesday at the New Orleans Quarterback Club, faces that each represent thousands more LSU fans eager to have their Tigers relevant again on the national scene.
Orgeron is just as eager to be the man to take them there. He’s 3-0 in what LSU’s game notes have not so subtly called the “Season of Orgeron.” He sees an opportunity to go from interim head coach to just coach, Coach O, and he’s pressing his case on the field and off.
“I believe when we took over the team we were like that,” Orgeron said. He raises his right hand off the podium, his fingers spread apart, not touching.
“I believe we’re getting closer,” he said, bringing his fingers together to form a fist. “Hopefully, by next Saturday.”
Remember the LSU-Ole Miss series, when the game meant the world to college football and to t…
The room filled with laughter and applause as a smile broke over Orgeron’s face. Everyone knew what he was talking about: having his team peaking at just the right time to try to take a fist to No. 1-ranked Alabama’s unbeaten season when they collide Nov. 5 in Tiger Stadium.
The fingers to a fist metaphor is clearly intended to further define the difference in the Orgeron regime from the Les Miles regime. The message isn’t intended to demean LSU’s long-time former coach, but it does make a point.
Orgeron is building a résumé. He’s unshackled the offense, invited former players to attend practices (which are significantly shorter and more up tempo), and most importantly is 3-0 with three impressive victories over Missouri, Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss. According to LSU, he’s the school’s first coach in modern history to win his first three games by double digits.
“The way we practice, guys are fresher,” Orgeron explained. “We’re playing as a team. Guys are finding a way to win. Both coordinators are doing great jobs of adjustments, getting the feel of the game. We’ve got an experienced football team. We’re figuring out what the other team does and we’re doing it better, and we’re finishing.”
The big test, the election day if you will in this season of campaigns, will be the Alabama game. Win it, or at least give the Crimson Tide a tough time as LSU has the past two times it’s lost at home to Bama, and Orgeron will get another leg up in his quest.
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But that game isn’t here yet. Orgeron can only control what he can control, play the teams put in his path, teams he has beaten handily each time.
“It’s happened fast,” he said. “I was very pleased to see the progress of the team. Taking it one day at a time. Still got some things to accomplish. Tough road ahead of us.”
Orgeron makes sure everyone knows how much the LSU job means to him. He tells a gaggle of reporters the story of taking a job in 2009 to coach defensive line at Tennessee. Miles came with an offer to come to LSU as soon as Orgeron arrived in Knoxville, and he considered reneging on the deal to coach for Lane Kiffin, his friend and Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
He said he regretted not telling Kiffin that he was being called home.
“Every day I did,” he said. “My kids were here. I always wanted to coach at LSU. The reason I had gone to Tennessee is because Lane and I were good friends and I wanted to coach under Monte Kiffin’s defense.”
LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin normally talk a few times a week, Orgeron said Tuesday.
In the main room, they were eating Orgeron up with two spoons like he was a savory bowl of gumbo. Everyone is magnetically attracted to a winner, it’s true, but with Orgeron it’s more than that.
He’s one of them, in a way not even Nick Saban was with the hint of West Virginia’s Appalachia in his voice. He looks like them. He sounds like them. If you didn’t know Orgeron was coaching at LSU, you’d swear he’s working your shift at the plant or was across the table from you at your last crawfish boil knocking back a cold one.
Louisianians want to win. But they really want to win with one of their guys calling the shots and drawing up the plays. It’s their way of thumbing a nose at a condescending world to say, “Hey, we can beat the best you’ve got with one we’ve got.”
A man approached Orgeron with a football for him to sign. He told Coach O he was thrilled that he’s LSU’s coach, that he hasn’t seen people this excited about LSU football in a very long time.
I asked Orgeron if he can feel the groundswell out there that’s building under his feet.
“We’re trying to keep our blinders on,” he replied.
Beat Bama, and the glow will be blinding for sure.