BATON ROUGE, La. — When Ed Orgeron was a young defensive line coach, he and his colleagues in the business were treasure hunters. The Holy Grail they sought? A copy of renowned defensive line coach Pete Jenkins’ training techniques.
“When we were young, everyone tried to get a copy of his drill tape,” Orgeron said. “He wouldn’t let it loose.”
But just as you can find DVDs of movies still running in theaters at a swap meet, defensive line coaches had their ways of getting it anyway.
“If anyone got a copy of the drill tape, it was pirated,” Orgeron said. “And they would not tell him.”
Orgeron doesn’t have to resort to such methods now that the 76-year-old Jenkins is back for his third stint as LSU’s defensive line coach. Many assumed that Jenkins was just going to fill that role on an interim basis when Orgeron took over as head coach last season. But Orgeron kept his mentor around, and LSU’s defensive linemen are learning things they never knew thanks in part to Jenkins’ vast film archive.
‘Nothing’s really changed but the size’
When senior defensive end Frank Herron is asked about Jenkins’ film collection, he can’t contain his grin.
“Oooo!” Herron exclaimed. “I think it’s [all the way] from the ’60s. Those films are great. I’ll be talking to him, and he remembers those plays like they were yesterday.”
It may seem unlikely that black-and-white film could resonate with college kids who grew up in a high-definition world. But sophomore defensive end Rashard Lawrence confirmed that the Tigers are on the edge of their seats when Jenkins reaches into his library.
“I love it. Any film you show me, I’ll watch it,” Lawrence said. “It’s helpful.”
Jenkins has saved plays of his best players from a college coaching career that dates back to 1968 at Troy.
“He’s coached some of the best players in the country over the years. And he continues to,” Lawrence said. “Being able to watch some of the best players he’s coached is very helpful.”
One such player Lawrence has studied is Henry Thomas, who played at LSU from 1983-86 and went on to a 14-year NFL career that included two Pro Bowls. Another is Ramsey Dardar, a first-team All-SEC nose guard in 1982.
“There’s so many of them I can’t think of them [all],” Lawrence said.
Herron can rattle off a few more names. His favorite seems to be Tommy Clapp, father of current Tigers center Will Clapp, who played at LSU from 1984-87.
“Those films, it’s the same technique [as now],” Herron said. “Tommy Clapp was on a lot of that film.”
When told that Clapp had a reputation for pushing the rules to the limit — or maybe a step beyond — Herron laughed again.
“Coach Pete says he wasn’t dirty. He’s just tough as nails,” Herron said. “He said if he had 10 Tommy Clapps on defense, he’d win every year.”
Though much has changed about offensive football in the decades since Jenkins started his career, current Tigers players say not much is different in the trenches.
“What they did is kind of what we’re doing. Using your hands, good footwork,” Lawrence said. “I would say linemen are just a lot bigger now. Some of those guys were maybe 260, 270 pounds. Everyone is around 300 now. I would say nothing’s really changed but the size of the linemen.”
When the Tigers sit down to watch those old films, they don’t consider them obsolete. They look at them as a way to gain generations’ worth of wisdom unavailable to opponents.
“Coach Pete has been coaching so long, it works. Why change something that works?” Herron said. “Coach O still asks Pete questions every day. He’s a guru.”