BATON ROUGE, La. — At 2-2 with a berth in the College Football Playoff all but lost and the face of the program for the past 12 years out the door, the LSU brass felt the program needed an upgrade in one major area: energy.
Queue Ed Orgeron, who on Monday was introduced as the Tigers’ interim head coach.
The 55-year-old defensive line guru will be tasked with leading LSU through a difficult SEC West slate in what can only be viewed as an audition for the full-time gig. His focus isn’t on that, only his main task of energizing his roster.
As sad as the LSU players were to see Miles go, they were equally as pleased to see Orgeron receive the promotion.
Orgeron has been junior defensive tackle Greg Gilmore’s position coach the length of his college career, so he’s well aware of what the team might be like under the new regime. If his experience in the meeting rooms and on the field is any preview, Gilmore promised that fire is about to be started.
“Honestly, he’s got to sprinkle some of that Coach O jazz on offense and do what he’s been doing on defense,” Gilmore told SEC Country. “The one thing I think about with Coach O is on days we’re dragging, when we’ve had a hard day before, when we come in with less energy, those are his key moments as a coach. I don’t know if he gets tired, and he keeps up going in those moments and that’s what’s going to help keep us rolling. He comes in there and we watch NFL film and he talks about having a great practice. He’s positive and jumping around. He fires us up and makes us want to play for him. We’re blessed as a D-line and as a team now, and we’re blessing to have him because I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
The defensive line knows the type of enthusiasm Orgeron brings to practice day in and day out, but the whole team is eager to experience it.
Like so many of his teammates, sophomore guard Will Clapp was sad to see Miles go. As he put it, all he’s known is Miles and Cam Cameron since he’s been at LSU. Yet, he could not hide his smile when discussing his first practice under Orgeron on Monday.
“Saturday was a very low point, but if anyone can do this, it’s O,” Clapp said. “I’ll put money on it that he comes in screaming, doing what he always does with a smile on his face. (On Sunday), he paid his respect to Coach Miles, then got us going. Everyone was pumped and ready to go. I’ve never been this excited for a practice with a new coach. The dude has got to have Red Bull in his office or something because I don’t have that much energy and I’m 20 years old.”
The jolt of energy comes after LSU’s 18-13 heartbreaker at the buzzer in which Danny Etling connected with D.J. Chark for a game-winning touchdown as time expired. Celebrations ensued only for the officials replay to reveal that snap did not go off in time.
That loss — LSU’s second of the season and first in conference play — put a damper on the team’s morale through the first month of the season. If there ever was a time the Tigers needed an injection of gusto, it’s now.
“We’ve been through a lot this year already and last year, so we need some positive energy to come and get us rejuvenated and to get us going,” sophomore outside linebacker Arden Key explained. “Coach O has been in this situation before. He knows the ins and outs, the mistakes he made the previous time there and he’s learned from it. He’s a great guy to be here and we love it. His energy is contagious. We know every day we see him and he’ll come with energy and get us pumping.”
The change at head coach and on the coaching staff represents a new era in Tigers football. The question is whether after a 2-2 start, it alters the direction of the 2016 season.
Whether it’s a new face of the team, new leadership or just replenishing energy up and down the roster remains to be seen. However, multiple players are confident that more wins will go hand-in-hand with the uptick in what Gilmore trademarked to “Coach O jazz.”
“He’s just full of life, full of energy and full of happiness. That’s what he does. It’s a little crazy that he has more energy than I do,” sophomore tight end Foster Moreau laughed. “He never lost his spark like most people do. I’m happy to see that spark out there. The team is pretty self-sufficient on energy, but that extra push from Coach O and his efficiency and a little bit of a change might be good for the team.”
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