The first time current LSU football coach Ed Orgeron held a team meeting as Ole Miss head football coach, he ripped his shirt off and challenged his players to a wrestling match. Ever ready like he was Ric Flair, giving a thundering slap to the chest to anyone who dared try him.
Now, a much more subdued Orgeron heads back to Oxford, Mississippi, with the top-ranked team in the nation. The Orgeron whose most infamous moments at Ole Miss were off the field involving a Hummer commercial and a parody song about him called “Colonel Reb is Crying” is not the same man pacing the LSU sidelines.
Orgeron has repeatedly said he’s learned from his failures at Ole Miss, where he compiled a 10-25 record from 2005-2007, and remains grateful for the opportunity he was given with the Rebels.
People can still point and mock Orgeron for his voice and his accent, but no longer can they mock him for not having success. He’s 9-3 in top-10 matchups in his three-plus seasons at LSU, and on the verge of winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
“Coach [Pete] Carroll told me you’re not going to figure out what type of coach you are until you’re 50, 51,” said Orgeron, who is now 58 years old. “I didn’t want to believe that, but it just takes a while. Especially when you get your butt beat you’re going to learn how to get better. And I do believe that that job trained me for the job that we’re doing today. So, I’m appreciative of it.”
Orgeron left the wrestling matches and shirt-ripping at Ole Miss, but he didn’t just change his motivational tactics. He’s stepped away from micromanaging the team like he would do in a defensive line room, which he claims was his biggest failure at Ole Miss.
Orgeron turned the keys to the offense and defense over to offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, passing game coordinator Joe Brady and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. The results haven’t just been positive, they’ve been historic.
The hotshot 30-year-old Brady is now a Broyles Award nominee, an award given to the top assistant coach in college football. He is set to receive an extensive raise this offseason after revolutionizing LSU’s previously archaic offense.
Senior quarterback Joe Burrow is the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and the offense is averaging 46.7 points per game, good for fourth in the country.
Orgeron expects other teams, both professional and college, to call about Brady, but he thinks there’s a sense of loyalty to LSU for Brady, who had been a graduate assistant and a member of the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff prior to arriving in Baton Rouge in January.
Orgeron had to fight off a similar run for Aranda, who was heavily pursued by Jimbo Fisher when he took the reins at Texas A&M in December 2017. After A&M’s pursuit, Aranda was given a four-year extension with a $2.5 million salary to stay at LSU, making him the highest paid assistant coach in the country.
“A guy like [Brady] is going to have opportunities, but we’re going to compete as best that we can to keep him,” Orgeron said. “All those things are going to happen after the season. Joe’s worried about breaking down Ole Miss’s coverages right now so he’s not even thinking about that stuff.
“But after the season, we have coaches that are going to get chances to go elsewhere, but the ones that we want to keep we’re going to fight like heck to keep them.”
Brady likely won’t be the only coach getting an extension and a raise. Orgeron entered the season as the 30th highest paid head coach in college football with an annual salary of $4 million.
He shouldn’t have to rip his shirt off and challenge anyone to a wrestling match to get it either.