LSU is in position 'to take the next step,' says a 'more comfortable' Coach Orgeron
HOOVER, Ala. — It was as if Joe Burrow felt the need to convince those around him.
Speaking with reporters at the Wynfrey Hotel on Monday during Southeastern Conference Media Days, LSU’s senior quarterback was surrounded. Most of the questions were about Burrow himself. Then one centered on head coach Ed Orgeron.
Burrow said Orgeron is much smarter than given credit for. He said he is more than just a football guy — he is a football mind. Burrow said Orgeron, a defensive-minded coach, has taught him intricacies on the offensive side of the ball. The two are constantly having conversations. That’s the side of Orgeron people do not see when he is fired up on the sidelines at Tiger Stadium.
“I would run through a brick wall for him,” Burrow said.
Ironically, just a few minutes prior, Orgeron said the same about Burrow.
“I do believe that Joe, if we let him, would run into a brick wall no matter what it took,” Orgeron said on the main stage at the Wynfrey.
There is a certain demeanor this LSU team has after winning 10 games for the first time since 2013 last season. Confidence. Swagger. Togetherness. These Tigers have it all, and Orgeron displayed that during his SEC Media Days session.
This will be Orgeron’s third full season as the head coach in Baton Rouge. He is 19-7 over his first two complete seasons. That’s one more than Saban won did in his first two years in purple and gold in 2000 and '01 after inheriting a 7-15 program and three fewer than Les Miles, who inherited a 22-4 program a year removed from the national championship in 2005. Orgeron, who inherited a 19-10 program over the last two seasons and four games of Miles in 2016, has proven that he can win consistently at LSU.
But he knows he must win more. That much was evident Monday.
“I'm much more comfortable being head coach of LSU,” Orgeron said. “I do believe we have our players in. I believe last year was pivotal year. We've proven we can win. Having a 10-win season is good. It is not great. It puts us in position to take the next step at LSU, for what LSU deserves.”
Orgeron believes LSU is in this position because of the people he has put in place around the players. He said this is the best coaching staff he has ever been a part of. One of the newest members of that staff will have a hand in potentially taking LSU from good to great as Orgeron wants.
“When he came over last summer (in 2018), we had the Saints come in and talk to us about their red zone package, empty package,” Orgeron said. “And we asked Joe to come on over and talk about the RPOs (run-pass options). He did a tremendous job, a big-time job. And I always wanted the Saints' passing game and to run RPOs, so it was a natural fit.”
A reporter almost scoffed at the idea of Orgeron wanting to implement the spread system on offense, saying LSU has been "threatening" to do such things for years, which is true. LSU has flirted with doing that before but has never been fully committed to it.
Orgeron, who has full belief in Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, shut down any speculation that this year’s offense will revert to past ways.
“First of all, we're going to run the spread offense,” he said. “It's in. It's in the playbook. So it's not a 'threat,' I promise you that. We're going to run it.”
What held Orgeron’s predecessor back in the latter years of his tenure at LSU was a lackluster passing offense. Miles’ Tigers ranked No. 14 out of 14 schools and No. 11 in the SEC in pass offense in his last two full seasons as head coach in 2014 and '15, respectively.
LSU jumped to No. 8 in that category in Orgeron’s first full season in 2017 and to No. 7 last year. The hiring of Brady shows Orgeron is not complacent with that improvement. If LSU completely revamps its offense, then the Tigers could have what it takes to challenge for a College Football Playoff berth for the first time.
Orgeron is going to do everything he can to make that a reality.
“It's going to take character, take grit, to go through our practice schedule in the fall to have a create a great atmosphere to have a championship football team,” Orgeron said. “That's my job to do that, and it comes natural.”