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LSU coach Ed Orgeron yells to head lineman Chad Green after LSU wide receiver Russell Gage's touchdown catch was sent under review in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M, Thursday, November 24, 2016, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. The Tigers defeated the Aggies 54-39.


That has been Ed Orgeron’s watchword since the day he was named LSU's interim head coach 10 months ago. Change in the culture around the football program he took over from Les Miles. Change in the way he has been perceived compared to his days as head coach at Ole Miss a decade ago.

Orgeron may have disappointed his audience a tad at Southeastern Conference media days, when he spent most of his time giving a position-by-position recitation of LSU’s depth chart. But at Wednesday’s Rotary Club meeting in the south club lounge of Tiger Stadium, high above the field where he will lead the Tigers — his Tigers — into action Sept. 9 against Chattanooga, Orgeron held his packed audience in rapt attention.


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“We had a little joke on the way over here,” LSU deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry said as he stood to introduce Orgeron. “This year, Coach O, we’re going to talk about some football.”

Let the record show no objections were raised.

The message was clear, especially to those who attended Miles’ last Rotary Club address in this same spot a year ago. The Hat spent a rambling 28 minutes talking about the neighborhood bully back home in Elyria, Ohio, his offseason trip to Cuba and (it must be said) an eloquent segment on community in the wake of the Alton Sterling and law enforcement shootings last summer.

There were two minutes on football.

Orgeron, in ways subtle and writ large, has made a point of doing many things opposite of the way Miles did them. He wasted little time in reminding the Rotarians and guests that he flipped the script on LSU’s offense as soon as he became interim head coach 10 months ago Tuesday, with tight ends coach Steve Ensminger running the plays. And that he took LSU’s offensive philosophy to a whole other plane of consciousness when he hired Matt Canada as his coordinator.

“Matt’s very diverse,” Coach O said. “Lots of shifts and motions, fly sweeps, different plays. What do you think about that, guys?”


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What do they think? I think this crowd wouldn’t have been happier with Orgeron if he had started passing out hundreds.

But, he was quick to note, LSU will still be LSU. And with an uber-talented tailback like Derrius Guice, that means running the ball.

A lot.

“He’s a little unusual at the goal line,” Orgeron said of Canada. “He’s got a tackle screen where the quarterback throws to the tackle. He’s got a tackle end-around. (One of Canada’s offensive tackles at Pittsburgh scored two touchdowns last season.)

“I said, ‘That’s nice, Matt, but we’ve got a running back named Derrius Guice. How about we give him the ball at the goal line? If not, they’re going to run you and me out of town.’ ”

The hall filled with laughter — knowing laughter.

A representative of the Rotary Club handed Orgeron a “book” as he prepared to speak. Its title was “Beat Bama.”

It’s a daunting challenge being the coach at LSU. Not beating Alabama cost Miles his job as much as anything. But Orgeron wants the challenge. He has wanted it for a long, long time, as long as he was filling lines on his résumé with jobs at places like Miami, Syracuse and Southern California, with the Saints, back to USC and then Tennessee.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be the coach at LSU,” he said. Then, looking through the windows past the field and toward the I-10 bridge, Orgeron added: “I’ve crossed that bridge many times going toward Lafayette. Here’s how I cross it.”

He snapped his head to the side, showing how he would look at the stadium as he pointed his car over the Mississippi River.

“My wife would say, ‘You’re going to wreck!’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’ Coming back, this is how I’d cross it.”

Orgeron craned his neck the other direction.

“Going to Southern Cal and Miami, I just wanted to get my cleats in that grass," he continued. "It’s something to be from Louisiana and watch the Tigers on TV. I believe 99 percent of the young men and women born in Louisiana want to be part of LSU. I can’t tell you what’s wrong with the other 1 percent.”

It’s far less than 1 percent who get to be in that locker room beneath Tiger Stadium, waiting to spring out of that tunnel and run under the goal posts and onto the field. But Orgeron took his audience there.

“You go in that locker room, and those students are in the stadium (above) and it’s shaking. You want to get out there. You open the door, and you see Death Valley. When I walk out, you’ll see me do this,” Orgeron said, raising his hands. “I feel connected to all of them.

“I’m proud to be the head coach at LSU, because you represent Louisiana. I know, when the Tigers win, everybody feels good. When LSU football wins, the economy is good. Everyone is happy and rolling. I want you to know our staff and football team feel obligated to represent you and the state of Louisiana.”

As he finished, they gave Orgeron a standing ovation. The task for Orgeron is to get a standing ovation when he one day leaves the LSU stage for good.

For most LSU coaches, that would be change, for certain.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​