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DandyDon.com Questions Mike Detillier on Coach O, The Coaching Search, and the Florida Debacle
Scott: Mike, I want to start this Q&A with a “hats off” to your longtime friend Coach Ed Orgeron for his success last week and for the way he has handled everything since being named LSU’s interim head coach. How surprised were you to see the team put up 42 points and 634 yards against Missouri, and what do you think were the main reasons for such success?
Mike: Look, I go back a long, long way with Ed. We both grew up on the bayou. I went to Central Lafourche and Ed and Bobby J went to South Lafourche. All of us knew where to stop to have a good time. What a ride for him, but he overcame a lot and learned from mistakes. Isn’t that what life is all about? Thrilled for him personally, and I know that walk down Victory Hill was for all the folks on the Bayou that supported him when he was sorta down a little.
I was surprised just how successful they were offensively. They ran many of the same plays, but in different formation setups. You saw three wide and four wide sets and they got the tight end involved.
Coach O told me this many times, that he believes in today’s world of college and pro football you have to push the ball up the field via the air. Throw the ball deep early in a game, even if it doesn’t work successfully, to get a team out of playing so many in the box. He learned that from Sean Payton when he was the D-Line coach with the Saints in 2008. LSU has great speed at wide receiver and so he believes you use it as much as possible. He believes that in some games you have to set up the run with the passing game. He has full confidence in Danny Etling at quarterback.
You saw Missouri couldn’t just stack the box and even with a beat-up offensive line LSU had great success.
Another issue he stressed was to finish strong. This team was playing one or two good quarters and they struggled in the fourth. First TD in the fourth quarter was against Missouri. That’s all about focus and still being aggressive late in games. Pedal to the metal. Team work. Play strong for four quarters.
The other issue is that they looked fresh and not heavy-legged. This team was practicing 60 to 75 plays per day in the middle of the week before a game. Les Miles had great success at LSU, no question about it, but they were leaving a lot of their game on the practice field and they showed little life early on in 2016. They were just beating themselves up in practice.
Ed changed that and went to running 25 plays per day in practice. He knew what they were doing didn’t work because he did the exact same thing at Ole Miss. He wore his Rebels team out and he told me if he gets another chance he would never do that again, but would put in more time like the pros in film study and Focus Friday on the little details. He did it at USC and was 6-2. He picked that up also from coaching with the Saints in 2008. This team played with energy and excitement and they played with pep in their step.
He also wanted to make this game fun again. In another lesson from his Ole Miss days, he felt he took the fun out of playing and they would lose their focus and enthusiasm. Positive attitude. He knows this LSU team is talented and they are now on a mission to prove just how good they are. Just a few little things done differently, but it is all about communication and execution of plays offensively and defensively.
Really, I was stunned how well they played on defense. They finally played like DBU against statistically the best offense in the SEC. Orgeron and Dave Aranda stressed all week to tackle strong and little yardage after the catch and be more aggressive in coverage. It was hard to get to the Missouri QB, but they got pressure and got those long arms up quickly to deflect his view. The tackling was excellent against the offensive playmakers of Missouri.
Scott: Give me an Ed Orgeron story, not from a personal standpoint, but as a coach… maybe something most people don’t know about.
Mike: Wow, that’s a tough one. Ed recruited Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” to Miami (Fla.). Johnson was a superb athlete from Pennsylvania at that time and his father and grandfather were in the pro wrestling business. Dwayne said little to nothing. They called him “DooDee.” He said nothing, zero. They had Warren Sapp and Mike Riley and many others who were talkers on that Hurricane team. Ed always tells me he can’t believe that the words coming from “The Rock’s” mouth is really coming from him since he was such a quiet guy. One day in practice, Dwayne was kind of dragging a little and Coach O told him, “Hey Dwayne, you want to play some football or maybe you want to get into the wrestling game?” Ed told me “I guess he showed me, he made millions as a wrestler.” When WrestleMania came to the SuperDome a couple of years back I had a chance to interview The Rock. You were limited to just a few minutes with him since there were so many wanting to talk to him, but once I told him I grew up with Ed, Dwayne went on and on with Coach O stories and we stayed talking for 15 to 20 minutes. He told me that his father and grandfather wrestled in a different world of character guys in the wrestling world and many were really crazy. He told me Ed was as crazy and as intense as any of them, but he enjoyed playing under him, and Coach O made such a positive mark in his life.
Scott: I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. LSU is very fortunate to have Coach Ed Orgeron, someone who not only has head coaching experience but also experience as an interim head coach. To me, this is a win-win situation for both LSU and “Bébé” as it essentially gives LSU a “trial period” with a new coach and gives O a seven- or eight-game audition to prove he’s the man for the job. I get asked often about how many games I think Coach O needs to win to earn the full-time gig and my answer is that he could probably win all but one, as long as the one loss wasn’t to Alabama, and get the job. Your thoughts?
Mike: I agree. He basically has to run the table or maybe lose one game, but that game can’t be Alabama. He has a shot, but let’s be honest, Tom Herman is the guy many in power at LSU want. If they can land him is another story. He will be in heavy demand. A lot of that with Coach O will be how well they play down the stretch and you got to win games in November. That run of Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and A&M will be tough and who knows what happens if Florida is thrown in the mix. You have to win a lot in November for BéBé to keep the job, but that Alabama game will be huge for him. He knows that. It’s no mystery, but it sounds cliché, but he just wants to take those games one at a time.
He has a shot and that is all he wants. Growing up and knowing him I know this is a dream shot for a dream job for him. He won’t fail because of a lack of effort and preparation. He is no rookie as a head coach.
Scott: As you mentioned, if it’s not Coach O, most folks feel like Tom Herman should be LSU’s top target. In light of Houston’s potential move to the Big 12 and the possibility of the Texas job opening up, how likely do you think it is that Herman could be lured to LSU?
Mike: You are going to have some heavy competition from Texas. If it’s Texas or LSU, then I think Texas gets the nod. LSU is a great job, and so is Texas, even with all those forces around the school who want control because they write a huge Longhorn check. That is why I think someone off the grid may come into play. No one, and I mean no one, thought Nick Saban would leave Michigan State to come to LSU. But it happened. There is always a dark-horse guy who maybe you wouldn’t think would leave a school that does and people you think might be interested aren’t.
Nebraska hired Mike Riley. Mike had always said he wouldn’t leave Oregon State. Pete Carroll was the fourth head coach offered the job at USC before they decided to hire him.
Scott: Who are some of the other top candidates, in your opinion?
Mike: Bobby Petrino, Louisville. I think he wants to coach in the SEC. I would call David Shaw at Stanford. I think he is going to be open to calls, college or pro. Chris Petersen at the University of Washington. I think Petersen will get a ton of calls, or his agent will, during the year. And certainly Coach O comes into play, if they can win big.
Scott: Jumping back to this season, let’s talk about the Florida “postponement.” I hate to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, but it sure seems like Florida AD Jeremy Foley really didn’t want to play the game and instead played SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to his advantage. You see it that way?
Mike: This is a drop of the ball by Greg Sankey. He should have ruled on the venue by Tuesday afternoon and instead he threw the ball to Jeremy Foley. Foley just kept tapping the brakes. What gets me is that Foley said that Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when he was driving home he was sure that the game would be played at 11 a.m. Saturday in Gainesville and then the storm took a radical turn to the West. That was not the case at all. He was lying about that. The storm path was very very close to what I saw Sunday afternoon.
Then Foley says Thursday afternoon he was worried about the safety of people in Gainesville. Well, we all understand just how devastating a storm can be and our sympathy is with the community, but if you were that worried Thursday afternoon, why weren’t you worried Wednesday afternoon. Foley had no intention of playing the game that week.
If Sankey would have ruled on this Tuesday morning, the folks at Florida and families could have had accommodations made. This area would have bent over backwards to help the people of Florida and Gainesville. All of us here in Louisiana have been through this sort of damage and potential damage to property and life before. I have lived here all my life and I know how good the folks of Louisiana are when things happen to others in different parts of the state or another state, or even overseas.
That SEC insurance policy for catastrophic events came into the money picture. But if I am the insurance company, I would object to paying that money to Florida since they had other options. Sankey should have ruled on this himself on Tuesday morning and made a deal that the game be moved to Baton Rouge and then have both sides agree that the next two years the game between LSU and Florida be played in Gainesville. Got to give a little to get a little. Simple.
This has been a joke across College Football America and Sankey is the guy who refused to take hold of this situation and rule on this much earlier in the week.
Scott: If the game is rescheduled, the most likely date would be November 19, but that would give LSU a grueling November stretch with consecutive games against Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M. And that last game of the stretch, the one against the Aggies, is currently scheduled for Thursday (Thanksgiving Day). If Coach O could manage to navigate a stretch like that without a loss, there would be no way to deny him, but man, is that asking too much?
Mike: That is asking a lot from this team and Coach O. Ed will get this team to play hard no matter what happens. He has no control on this. He just worries about what he has control of. This is now in the court of Greg Sankey and the powers that be at LSU and Florida, but you have to find a way to play this game. It is not fair to anyone not to play this game. The devil is in the details and getting all parties to agree on it. There’s a lot of tension there, and it didn’t have to be. Sankey created his own tension issues between the schools. And it has become a laughing stock issue across the country. Almost like kids fighting over a toy and the parent doesn’t get involved. This is the commissioner’s screw up, but he has to find a fair way to resolve the play the game issue.
They can find another way, but if I am LSU I would not give away that home game versus South Alabama and I don’t think Florida wants to give up Presbyterian.
Scott: Switching gears, how has Coach Orgeron and his staff handled recruiting – something that is obviously more challenging with coaching uncertainties swirling?
Mike: I know they have spent a lot of time getting back to the recruits who have verbally committed and the players they are hot on the trails for. The negative is the uncertainty and it opens the door for other schools to come into play. Coach O and his staff have no control of the future, only the present. Ed pays special attention to more than just the “skilled” players of the college football world. Quarterbacks, offensive linemen and defensive linemen. Those three spots are the hardest to get at the pro and college level. He understands that he has to spend more time on those spots. Louisiana and the I-10 corridor are so heavy with halfbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs.
But it is a tricky balancing act to pull off and that is why they put in a lot of time and effort in the “down time” of this weekend to patch up any sort of misgivings and reassure the commitments and players on the radar that LSU still wants them there and just give them a chance to make their mark on the field. This staff has no track record as a group at LSU under Coach O. Les Miles did have a great track record of recruiting and stability at LSU as a head coach.
Scott: Ok, looking ahead to the next two weeks, LSU will get Southern Miss and Ole Miss at home…
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier’s NFL Draft Report. He’s also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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