DESTIN, Fla. — Ten years after, Ed Orgeron can still remember what he was thinking when he sat in the football coaches room at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting.
“When I was at Ole Miss, I would always look at Les Miles and say, ‘What a job he has. If I could ever be the head coach at LSU ...’ ”
It took a decade, but Orgeron was back in that room Tuesday. Humbled. Wiser, he hopes, for the ups and downs his career has taken since then. And another emotion, too:
“Proud to be at LSU,” he said. “(And) I’m able to contribute in a way I wasn’t able to contribute before. At Ole Miss, I could only talk about recruiting, but now I can talk about the overall program. When I first came in at Ole Miss, coming from Southern California, I thought I had all the answers. We had just won a national championship. Then you get beat a couple of times and you get humbled.”
If he is wiser for all his experiences in the decade since, the good and the bad, Orgeron knows this about his team going into his first full season:
“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Until you win the big game, nobody is going to be satisfied. That’s what’s hanging over us.”
The “big game” Orgeron speaks of is of course Alabama. It’s the game that made Miles’ job not so great and, ultimately in part, consumed his predecessor and former boss.
Orgeron spoke on a wide variety of topics concerning his program and college football at large, starting with …
Danny Etling’s health: Etling underwent back surgery shortly after LSU’s spring game in April.
“He said he’s doing great,” Orgeron said. “He’s ahead of schedule. I think he’s going to be fine. He’s not able to throw yet, but I’m sure Danny has snuck in a couple throws.”
Etling is here as a member of the SEC leadership council composed of seven current and former SEC student-athletes.
“It makes me proud,” Orgeron said. “Danny’s a good boy. It’s good that they acknowledged his leadership, he’s a good citizen and a great representative of LSU.”
His wife’s health: Orgeron’s wife, Kelly, underwent serious back surgery in California last week that caused him to miss the Tiger Tour stop in Thibodaux.
“The reason I missed Thibodaux was she had surgery the day before and she was in very bad shape,” he said. “She was very sick. I could not leave her. But now she’s made some progress. I talked to the doctors today, and I believe I’ll be able to pick her up Friday (to return to Louisiana). But she’ll still have some work to do when she gets home.”
The status of defensive star Arden Key: Key, who plays LSU's Buck (defensive end/outside linebacker) position, missed spring practice for “personal reasons” but indicated he will rejoin the team this fall. Orgeron again said Key will be back in school next week for the start of summer classes.
“Summer school starts next Monday,” Orgeron said. “I totally expect him to be back.”
John Battle’s hip: LSU’s projected starting free safety, Orgeron indicated Battle recently had hip surgery.
“I think he’s going to be fine,” Orgeron said. “He’s had it. He’ll be ready for (preseason) camp.”
Tyler Shelvin’s status: The academic standing of the consensus No. 1 prospect in Louisiana out of Notre Dame in Crowley has been an ongoing saga this offseason. Orgeron said Shelvin will not enroll in school this summer with other signees because he still has academic work to do, “but I know he’s on track.”
Willie Allen's transfer: On the subject of Allen, the offensive lineman from John Curtis, Orgeron said he and Allen have had discussions about the prospects of him transferring, but he was vague on the outcome.
“We’re still in discussions,” Orgeron said.
College football’s new early signing period: Orgeron said he wouldn’t have voted for it if he had the chance, but now that the new early signing period is here (Dec. 20-22 this year), he’s adjusting to it.
“We have to make adjustments in our recruiting style,” he said. “I’ve said it before: The manpower it takes for one signing date, and now two, is going to be a challenge.
“Obviously if you’re playing in a big bowl or the (College Football Playoff), you have to devote some time to football, some time to recruiting. We’re in good shape. We have 16 commits. If all those commits sign in December, it would be a big advantage for us.”
THIBODAUX — After being promoted to interim head coach on Sept. 25, Ed Orgeron was driven by…