HOOVER, Ala. — In a navy suit with an LSU pin affixed to his lapel, Louisiana’s tanned and burly native son strode into the Wynfrey Hotel with the confidence of someone ready to answer the question on everyone’s mind.
What's different this time around, Ed Orgeron?
He answered that immediately upon his arrival Monday afternoon, when he wheeled past fans in the lobby hollering for his signature to put his gravelly voice to work on Radio Row.
He answered it again when he reached the main ballroom and stood on the dais beside an LSU helmet to break down his team — finally, officially, his team — in front of a congregation of college football writers.
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It was the very first question offered to him after a long, winding opening statement: How do you think you are different now as a head coach than you were during your time at Ole Miss?
Again and again in the rooms reserved for radio and television, he was peppered with the question: How is Ed Orgeron 2.0 going to avoid the failures of the original version? The one whose Ole Miss teams went 10-25, leading to his ouster after three seasons?
Each time, his answer was the same: What's different? Everything. All that remains is the proof.
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron opened his SEC media days remarks on Monday with a request for…
His temperament is not the same. Call it maturation. He no longer considers himself a defensive line coach in a head coach’s clothes — after all, he’s going to keep those clothes on this time.
“I’m calmer now,” Orgeron said. “I don’t do the things I used to do. I don’t take my shirt off anymore. … I look at myself as a head football coach now. I’ve eased into the head coach mode.
“If I wanted to be a head coach, I had to start acting like one.”
He has mellowed with experience, he said. He greeted most of the questions sent his way with a smile. He often prefaced his answer with, “That’s a good question,” before delving into his answer.
He appeared to clearly understand his role as the face of the program. Between tight windows for interviews on Radio Row, he took a break to greet those fans gathered in the lobby with Sharpies and memorabilia.
“Let me go see my guys and take care of ‘em,” Orgeron told his handler.
Perhaps he was caught up in the moment. For several fans, Orgeron wrote “Geaux Tigers” ... without actually signing his name.
A woman holding two young children screeched with glee when she saw Orgeron so close. She pleaded for him to take a group picture, and Orgeron dutifully obliged, mugging for the camera as the woman clutched her children.
As the face of the program, Orgeron appeared to be in his element. But what about the other, more important side? The one that demands results?
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What about this Ed Orgeron is going to yield the positive outcomes that evaded him a decade ago?
Orgeron had his chance, and it blew up on him. He had to treat the failure as a learning experience, drawing on that as well as advice from mentors Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll to craft this new and improved version of himself as the leading man.
He knew the question would be asked over and over again Monday, because it was the obvious question. He has answered it plenty of times since he was officially hired as LSU’s 33rd head football coach in November.
He knows there’s only one thing he can do to put that question to bed, and that is to be successful.
Orgeron had the words ready Monday. He knows his answers won’t be satisfactory unless he gives them truth on Saturdays this fall.
“There’s a need for me to prove the perimeter; I don’t feel the pressure from that,” Orgeron said. “I know this. I understand the expectations at LSU. I was born in Louisiana, and they’re very high.
“But we have the same expectation of our staff and ourself. I don’t feel the pressure, but I do acknowledge that it’s out there. And I still need to prove that now that I’m the head coach, and we need to win. I get that.”