Ed Orgeron had a vision for what he wanted LSU football to be when he took over as interim coach from Les Miles in 2016.
It wasn’t just a stream of random thoughts and wish-upon-a-star dreams. He had a plan and committed it to words in a pair of professionally prepared binders that detailed his long-term plans for the program. Binders that wowed then athletic director Joe Alleva and others involved in LSU’s coaching search.
“The things I learned at USC,” Orgeron said then when asked what the binders included. “Pete Carroll (then USC’s coach, now with the Seattle Seahawks) made me a complete coach. I put all those things down, thoughts; all the things we had done at those great programs, it became our program here at LSU. It was the things I learned from great programs, championship programs that I believe LSU ought to be and will be a championship program.”
A major part of Orgeron’s vision was overhauling LSU’s offensive philosophy. For most of the Les Miles era, LSU had been stuck in a “Here we come, try to stop us” power running game, equal parts potent and predictable. Orgeron, who figured his best chance was to go against the grain of the recently deposed Miles, wanted something different.
Ed Orgeron said he will never forget Joe Burrow's third-and-17 throw to beat Texas.
He wanted to hire Lane Kiffin and basically told Alleva that he could deliver him. But Kiffin threw a curveball and surprisingly opted to become head coach at Florida Atlantic. Having a vision never meant everything would go according to plan.
To Orgeron’s credit, he brought in another hot name to be his offensive coordinator in 2017: Matt Canada from Pittsburgh. It proved not to be a good marriage, personality-wise and scheme-wise. Canada was deported after the Citrus Bowl in January 2018, with Steve Ensminger — offensive coordinator in 2016 during Orgeron’s interim stint — reinstalled for the 2018 season.
The Ensminger scheme tasted good to Orgeron, similar to what USC ran when he was there — a pro-style attack with play-action principles. But, to borrow an Orgeron line from his cameo in the movie “The Blind Side,” he still needed something “to pepper the gumbo” offensively.
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Enter Joe Brady, who entered the press box Saturday at Texas in a suit and spectacles, looking more like an adjunct professor of economics searching for his classroom (they have classrooms in Texas’ stadium, no lie, but no air conditioning in the visitors’ locker room) than a man helping Coach O and Coach E cultivate the full flower of what LSU’s offense can be.
“Steve Ensminger and I got together and said we wanted to go strictly to the spread,” Orgeron said Monday morning on SiriusXM radio’s “SEC This Morning” show. “We had a couple of names, but the name that kept coming up was Joe Brady. He and Steve have done a tremendous job along with the rest of the staff putting in this offense.
“It’s just what we need at the right time at LSU.”
The stock has risen on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the No. 4 Tigers to a 45-38 top 10 victory over then-No. 9 Texas on Saturday night …
What Orgeron wanted, what Ensminger and Brady have wrought, was all there for everyone to see Saturday night. In prime-time, high-definition splendor, Burrow threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns and the Tigers piled up 573 yards of offense in a 45-38 thriller against the Longhorns.
At times, LSU’s offense took your breath away. There was the bang-bang-bang three-pass, 26-second drive right before halftime resulting in a Burrow to Justin Jefferson 21-yard touchdown and a 20-7 LSU lead. Then there was the third-and-17, 61-yard Burrow-to-Jefferson TD pass with 2:27 left to take a 45-31 lead.
Run the clock out with the run and nursing a six-point lead? That’s so yesterday as far as the 2019 Tigers are concerned.
LSU will wear purple jerseys, white helmets and white pants Saturday against Northwestern State.
LSU has had one three-and-out in each of its first two games, and the Tigers are averaging 50 points per night. It’s a number they’re expected to hit again Saturday night against Orgeron’s alma mater, hapless 0-2 Northwestern State. Betting lines are hard to find on FBS-FCS games like this, but according to the website OddsShark.com, the Tigers are a 56-point favorite.
That pronouncement by Burrow in the preseason that the Tigers would score 40, 50, 60 points a game this season seemed like a youthful boast.
It doesn’t seem so outlandish now.
“It took me two years to get the coaching staff the way I wanted it,” Orgeron said. “It took us two years to get some depth on the offensive line. It took us two years to get more receivers that could get the ball. It took us two years to get the two running backs that we needed to get in there.”
It has only been two games. But it certainly has everyone eager to find out what LSU can do in the next 10.
As LSU practiced on Monday afternoon, shifting its focus toward Northwestern State, starting quarterback Joe Burrow watched his backups throw.