Ed Orgeron preseason practice

Coach Ed Orgeron observes practice at the LSU football complex on Aug. 21, 2020.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron spoke to reporters Wednesday during a video news conference to introduce new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and new passing game coordinator DJ Mangas, discussing their hires, the still vacant coaching positions on defense and where the LSU quarterback position goes from here. See the full transcript of Orgeron’s news conference below:

“I’m extremely excited. Derek Ponamsky (LSU special assistant to the head coach) did a tremendous job researching candidates to come here and bring back a championship offense to LSU. Obviously, we leaned hard on (former LSU passing game coordinator) Joe Brady who we thought was instrumental in helping us win a championship. These two young men came highly recommended. Jake Peetz is our offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, 10 years in the NFL. If Joe (Brady) were to leave I think he would have been calling plays in Carolina. His head coach had tremendous things to say about him. We did our research on him and he’s come in here and been better than we thought he would be, to be honest. His leadership skills and organization is already changing the offense. He’s talked to all the players and the players’ parents and they’re excited. I think Jake is going to do a tremendous job.

“DJ Mangas was instrumental in our championship season. He worked hand in hand with Joe Brady, left and went to Carolina. We missed him. He knows Joe’s offense. He knows the Saints passing game. He and Jake have both already brought some fire to our offense. Our whole offense is excited. With all the guys coming back we feel we will have a tremendous offense.

“We’re still looking for the best fit for a defensive coordinator. We still have three spots to fill on defense. I’m looking to fill the defensive coordinator spot first, then we have a safeties coach and a linebackers or defensive line coach, depending on what the coordinator will coach himself.”

Which of these coaches, Peetz or Mangas, will be the quarterback guru, developing these guys?

“Jake is the quarterbacks coach and DJ will coach wide receivers. Jake is a tremendous quarterback coach in terms of fundamentals. He’s already showed some different things to our quarterbacks that they need to do. He’s going to do a great job for us.”

You said when you hired these guys that you wanted to go back to the 2019 offense. From a philosophical standpoint, when you think of the 2019 offense, what do you think of?

“I think of empty package (no running backs), look overs (to the sideline), guys wide open running down the field, making tremendous explosive plays, but also our short passing game. I think of Joe Burrow making tremendous calls at the line of scrimmage. I think of Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady making some tremendous calls in championship games, giving the ball to our playmakers in space and letting them play. I think these guys are going to do a tremendous job doing that. We’ve got some great players coming back and I’m excited about our offense.”

What led you to believe there needed to be a change on offense and what in these two guys represent what you want going forward?

“First of all, I’m very appreciative of the job (former offensive coordinator) Steve Ensminger did. I love Steve. He played here. A great Tiger and a great friend of mine. He helped me out when I needed to change the culture in that offensive room. He did it. He brought tremendous leadership. He was like John Wayne every day. But he’s getting older, and I knew it was time for him to retire. I can feel it. He was getting tired. He was getting to the office in the morning at 5 and leaving at 10 o’clock (at night). It was just time. I just felt it. I wanted to go back to the things we were doing. Steve was a pro-style coach, and he learned the spread under Joe (Brady). But obviously you’re not going to learn everything because that’s not what you do. So I wanted to bring the guys who are experts in the spread offense. I got both of them and I’m so excited about it.”

What has been your impression of the players’ impressions of Peetz and Mangas?

“Knowledge is power. Those guys are coming in with tremendous knowledge, tremendous love for the game. They’re going to get to know these guys. Every player who has met with these guys has come out with their eyes wide open. One of the biggest things I can give these guys is a compliment from John Robinson (former USC and Los Angeles Rams coach). John is a consultant for me. He sat in the offensive meeting and he comes out rejuvenated and says, ‘Coach, you got the right guys. This is going to be great.’ If John believes in it, I believe in it, too.”

In the past you have broken down responsibilities on offense like third-down and red zone. What do you imagine the responsibility breakdown between DJ and Jake to be?

“We’re going to talk about it. Obviously, Jake’s the offensive coordinator and DJ is the passing game coordinator. We haven’t actually talked about it, but I do see them up in the (press) box together, just like Steve and Joe were, him helping Jake call the plays. We haven’t discussed third down yet, red zone, how we’re going to do it. But whatever is the best between those two is what we’re going to do.”

These guys seem to be your first two choices on offense. You didn’t get your first choice on defense (Marcus Freeman), but that’s not unusual. Talk about how coaching searches go and how you don’t always get your first choice?

“The priority for me was always getting the right guys on offense, because that’s not my specialty. I knew that I could wait and get the right guys on defense and I know we’re going to get them. I have a good idea of who that is going to be, we just have to be patient, wait until the right time. But knowing I can help on defense gives me some security. Knowing we could wait and get the right guys. We still have three spots open (on defense), but I feel good it’s going to be the right people. We’ve interviewed some outstanding guys but it just wasn’t the right fit, either for me or them, too far away from home, stuff like that. We did go after the top guys who were available, but we still have some guys I think are special. We just have to wait until the right time.”

How important was it for you to go younger with these hires to relate to the players and understand modern offenses?

“Those young guys know the spread. We weren’t born in the spread, weren’t raised in the spread. Those guys are experts in the spread, they just happen to be young. They’re very smart, innovative. They come from a different era. We were hard-nosed, basic football coaches, get after ‘em. These guys are power points, organization, very smart. You go in an offensive meeting and you could be at IBM. It’s just different. I’m glad we brought it to LSU.”

What have Peetz and Mangas done specifically to impress you so far?

“I think the organization. The detail to which they go about their business. They’re looking at our tape and are making corrections already. They’re bringing in new plays, new style. Just a new voice, new energy, new thoughts. Steve Ensminger did a tremendous job and I think we got as much as we can out of him. I know he’s going to enjoy retirement and coming back as an analyst.

“We’re going all spread, everything we can with the spread offense. You see the innovative offenses in the SEC and we want to be just like them. Our offense scored a lot of points this year, but there are a lot of things we can get better at. First of all the fundamentals, the effort, the coaching. We’ve got a lot of good players and great coaches coming back. I can’t wait to get on the field with them.”

What are your thoughts on the running back rotation from last season?

“I want to talk about that with Jake. I want to see his philosophy. We want to keep everybody happy in the running back room. Obviously, that’s hard to do. Historically LSU has had two or three backs and let them play. I want to talk to Jake and between me, Jake and Kevin (Faulk, running backs coach) we’re going to come up with a plan.”

Is there a defensive formation, 4-3 or 3-4 or whatever, that best fits you, or is it a player-personnel issue?

“When I look at a candidate, I want to see how the players are going to feel. Number one. Is he going to be able to connect to the players. That’s one of the most important things as a coach. I want to protect our players and have a coach who’s going to love them but who is also going to make them better. When that coach gets up in front of our offense or defense, is he going to have a presence? Number two is fundamentals. I’m a fundamental guy. Whether it’s a 4-3 or 3-4, me personally I think you have to have both with the (modern) offenses. I didn’t see anyone shutting down these offenses this year. As defensive coaches we have to learn how to do it. I’ve interviewed some coaches who have some very good ideas, but I haven’t found the right fit yet. But we’re going to.”

Is it an open quarterback competition this spring, because it’s a very crowded room?

“Obviously, it’s a new offense so I need to talk to Jake and we need to make some decisions. But we’re not ready to announce that. Obviously, somebody has got to take the first snap. But it’s always going to be a competition. It’s always going to be the best guys play at quarterback, wide receivers, offensive line. It’s always a competition.”

Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com