Ed Orgeron’s veneer is all about passion and emotion. If the new LSU coach hasn’t copyrighted the phrase “One heartbeat,” he should get on it quickly to outflank some unscrupulous huckster. (Hey, even I know people who can slap a slogan on a T-shirt.)
But observers who merely dismiss Coach O as some hyper-caffeinated Cajun one-trick pony do so at their peril.
With his two new coaching hires announced this week, Orgeron showed his strategic side, elements in a tricky game of political football that can definitely impact the real football his Tigers will play on the field in this and the seasons to come.
Orgeron brought in Mickey Joseph as wide receivers coach and Tommie Robinson as running backs coach. Robinson will also shoulder the titles of assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator (the better to justify your salary, my dear). They replace running backs coach Jabbar Juluke — the former Southern safety and St. Augustine grad is now coaching at Texas Tech — and wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig (still a free agent).
Both hires were clearly designed with recruiting in mind. Robinson was named Pac-12 recruiter of the year by 247Sports.com for his work with this year’s recruiting class at Southern California. Joseph is, like Juluke, a New Orleans native and qualifies as a prep legend from his days there at Archbishop Shaw.
Juluke and Craig were removed the day after national signing day Feb. 1 — Craig outright fired, Juluke temporarily reassigned within the athletic department before he went to Texas Tech. It’s a harsh side to the coaching business, but hardly a novel one. Coaches get dumped right after signing day all the time.
Once again, kids, sign with the school, not the coach.
Citing unnamed sources, one internet report said a group of New Orleans-area high school coaches were planning a meeting to discuss boycotting LSU football over the Juluke firing. It’s a notion Joseph disputed in an interview with The Advocate and again at his and Robinson’s introductory news conference Thursday.
“I have good relationships with these coaches,” Joseph told The Advocate on Tuesday. He followed that Thursday saying, “We don’t know how that started or got out there.”
The notion of a massive anti-LSU boycott among Crescent City coaches appears to be overblown. It seems preposterous on the face of it. High school coaches should not be in the business of steering their players to or from a school.
Once again, kids, go where you want to go, not where your coach tells you to go.
That said, much of recruiting is image and perception. Alabama has been successful at raiding a number of the state’s best players in recent years — three off this year’s Advocate Super Dozen, plus Baton Rouge native Dylan Moses, who finished his prep career at IMG in Florida — in large part because it hasn’t lost to LSU since 2011. And LSU did have a problem back in the 1980s with keeping players from New Orleans like Joseph in state.
That’s the interesting factor to Joseph’s hiring. Job 1 for him will be to keep the New Orleans-area players at home, something he didn’t do when he came out of Shaw in the late 1980s.
Joseph went to Nebraska. He was part of a popular trend back then that saw many of Louisiana’s best and brightest leave for schools like Tennessee, Florida State, Colorado, etc.
What’s old can be new again if Orgeron and LSU allow it to perpetuate. He can be excused for being unable to completely lock down the state in his first recruiting class — many recruits’ minds were made up or close to it before he got the LSU job long-term — but going forward, it’s an issue he needs to address.
Unlike Robinson, who coached in the NFL and at Texas and even Oklahoma State under Les Miles, this is clearly the biggest job of Joseph’s career. He was at Louisiana Tech last season and coached in the SWAC before that with stops at Grambling and Alcorn State.
LSU needs Joseph to grow into the coaching part at a position that has been a revolving door on the staff — he’s the fourth man to take that post in the last four seasons. In the meantime, it’s his recruiting acumen that has him back home in South Louisiana. And it’s his and Robinson’s jobs to take what is a good recruiting situation for LSU and make it better.
That's the Orgeron strategy.