LSU coach Ed Orgeron hopes his main coaching hires will be done by the end of the week.
The fifth-year head coach gave a timeline for his coaching search in a Tuesday morning radio interview, in which he said his top two offensive staff choices are interviewing Tuesday and that his top defensive choice will be interviewing Thursday.
Orgeron said he hopes to have his hires in place by the time the team returns to campus Monday, but he admitted "that may be wishful thinking."
"I just gottta get the right guys in," Orgeron told WNXX-FM "Off the Bench." "And hopefully these guys that we have this weekend are the right guys. If not, we'll get the right guys in here."
Multiple reports have said Orgeron has targeted Carolina Panthers quarterback coach Jake Peetz and offensive assistant DJ Mangas, as well as Cincinnati Bearcats defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who has reportedly garnered interest from several schools and may also have interest in being a head coach.
Peetz and Mangas both worked under Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who helped engineer LSU's record-setting offense as passing game coordinator in 2019.
Orgeron said Derek Ponamsky, LSU's special assistant to Orgeron, has been in contact with Brady during the search, hoping to find candidates who can replicate the schemes they ran when the Tigers won the program's fourth national championship.
"Joe, who can run your offense?" Orgeron said Ponamsky asked Brady. "And he recommended me two guys, and they're here with me today."
The 37-year-old Peetz has spent seven seasons as an assistant in the NFL, four in the NCAA, most of which were spent as a quarterbacks coach. Peetz also began his career in the NFL as a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008, under then-head coach Jack Del Rio.
Peetz has also spent time successfully building game plans behind the scenes at the college level, twice as an offensive analyst at Alabama in 2013 and 2018.
Mangas spent one season as an offensive analyst with LSU in 2019, joining the Tigers staff after serving two seasons as the offensive coordinator at William & Mary. He played wide receiver for the Tribe from 2008-11, where he was teammates with Brady, who played from 2009-12.
Orgeron said he believes in Brady's offense, and that he thought in 2020, "we lost a little bit of it, but that was just because of the expertise of Joe, and I want to get back to that offense."
The 34-year-old Freeman is a former Ohio State linebacker who retired from the NFL because of a medical condition after one season, then began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He's led Cincinnati's defense since 2017, and, this year, he was a finalist for the Broyles Award for nation's top assistant coach.
Orgeron hopes to fill each of those coaching positions by the end of the weekend.
"We'll see where that goes," Orgeron said. "Hopefully, we can end it there. If we can't end it there, we'll have to go to other prospects. But we feel good about our research."
Orgeron also confirmed that former LSU general manager Austin Thomas has returned to his old job. Further than that, Orgeron said Thomas was sitting with him during his radio interview.
Thomas returned to LSU after resigning from a similar position at Baylor, where he was a senior associate athletic director, working directly with head coach Dave Aranda.
Thomas joined Baylor's staff in January 2020, after spending two years working with Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. Thomas was hired by Texas A&M in June 2018, after he spent 4½ years with the Tigers, progressing from director of player personnel to assistant athletic director to general manager, a title the then newly Orgeron gave him.
At LSU, Thomas oversaw the program's non-coaching football recruiting staff, which, with a team of students and interns, identified, assessed and vetted potential recruits.
Thomas also provided oversight and management for the football program and worked closely with NFL personnel to maximize players’ opportunities at the professional level.
"We have a lot of employees here," Orgeron said. "A lot of them are going to answer to Austin. He's going to help me manage the roster."
Roster management is a high priority for college football programs, especially with a forthcoming a "one-time transfer" NCAA proposal that could allow all players to transfer to another program and play immediately if it's their first time transferring.
LSU had 69 available scholarship players in its final two games of the 2020 season, much fewer players than the NCAA's 85-scholarship limit allows. The Tigers entered the offseason with 15 seniors and 13 other draft-eligible players who could graduate, transfer or depart for the NFL draft.
So far, Orgeron has retained eight of those players and lost four. LSU's three interior offensive linemen — left guard Ed Ingram, center Liam Shanahan and right guard Chasen Hines — have all declared they will return in 2021.
On Monday, defensive tackle Glen Logan announced he will also be returning, which means the Tigers will return its entire starting defensive line, a major victory for Orgeron and his campaign to retain upperclassmen.
Linebacker Jabril Cox, punter Zach Von Rosenberg, wide receiver Racey McMath and fullback/tight end Tory Carter are all leaving for the NFL, and start tight end Arik Gilbert has entered the transfer portal after his true freshman season.
Orgeron said he's still hopeful Gilbert will return.
"We're still in contact with his mother, his family," Orgeron said. "We still want him to come back. I just wish the best for him."