As much as Ed Orgeron might have preferred a different route to the top coaching job at LSU, the Louisiana native was never going to be able to hide his enthusiasm for his new opportunity – and didn’t try.
“It’s a great day in my life, I promise you that,” Orgeron said, calling it “a dream, obviously” to be the Tigers’ head coach. “It’s a well-respected position that I’m holding right now and I hold it in high esteem. And I understand the expectations at LSU and I fully, fully intend to meet all of those expectations.”
The 55-year-old Orgeron, who was formally introduced as Les Miles’ interim replacement on Monday, said he has no idea whether he'll have the job past this season and isn’t saying whether he sees his opportunity as an audition to remain for the longer term.
“Take the future aside. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. Let the chips fall where they may,” Orgeron said, adding that his sole focus was on his players’ success. “All I want to do is see them win. I want to them happy, and whatever happens after that is going to be fine.”
Orgeron said he’s tapped current assistant Steve Ensminger, a former LSU quarterback, to replace offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was fired on Sunday along with Miles.
Orgeron noted that he had also elevated defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to associated head coach. As for Orgeron’s old position as defensive line coach, he’s adding a new, but familiar face to the staff in Pete Jenkins, who is now 75 and has had two previous stints as a defensive assistant at LSU, starting in 1980. Orgeron said Jenkins would be his “mentor and my right-hand man.”
“We’re going to flip the script,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to do things different, we’re going to do things that I’ve done in the past to re-energize this team.”
The decision to fire Miles, who was 114-34 in 11-plus seasons, stemmed largely from stagnation that has plagued the offense in big games in recent seasons, particularly because of an anemic passing game.
Orgeron said the offense will be “tweaked” to feature more spread formations. He did not say whether he’d re-open the starting quarterback job, which has been held by both Brandin Harris and Danny Etling this season already. But he did say, “I’m still a pro-style guy,” which could lend itself more to the pocket-passing skills of Etling.
Known by players as “Coach O,” Orgeron was born in the bayou country southwest of New Orleans, in the town of Larose, close to where former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert grew up.
Orgeron, a defensive lineman in his playing days, and Hebert were teammates at South Lafourche High School and in college at Northwestern State.
Orgeron was a head coach once before in the SEC with Mississippi, but never had a winning record there and was fired after three seasons. He fared better as interim head coach at Southern California in 2013, going 6-2 in place of Lane Kiffin, who’d been fired that season.
Orgeron also had a brief stint as an NFL assistant in 2008 with the New Orleans Saints, serving as a defensive line coach. He then left the Saints to become the defensive coach and recruiting coordinator for Tennessee, under Kiffin, in 2009.
LSU’s first game under Orgeron is Saturday in Tiger Stadium against Missouri.