After leading USC to a 38-31 win over Arizona Thursday night and radically changing the atmosphere around the school’s football program in just 12 days, it appears interim head coach Ed Orgeron is, indeed, auditioning for the full-time job. After Thursday’s win, USC athletic director Pat Haden said he would certainly consider Orgeron for the job depending on how the rest of the season goes.
The players have certainly bought in to whatever Orgeron is selling and it showed early in the Arizona game. Despite missing reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee and the team’s most productive defensive player, Morgan Breslin, the Trojans came out on fire against the Wildcats. They led 28-3 and 31-10 before allowing Arizona back into the game late thanks to a few defensive lapses.
Orgeron, the team’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator under previous head coach Lane Kiffin, is a fiery Cajun with an unbelievably stereotypical accent. The 52-year-old native of Larose, Louisiana couldn’t be more different from Kiffin, and clearly the players think that’s a good thing.
After the game, starting quarterback Cody Kessler had the following to say about Orgeron:
“No disrespect to the coach who was here before and I’m not getting into that, but you want a coach that you will freaking just go to war for every time (like) this man here to my right. I don’t only speak for myself. I speak for the whole team. We would go to war for this guy any day of the week. Any time he needed us we have his back 100 percent.
“When you have a coach that you can see and feel that he cares about you so much and wants you to be the best that you can be and succeed, that’s love right there. I couldn’t ask for a better head coach. All of us would go to war and put our lives on the line for this man any day of the week.”
That showed as the clock wound down on Thursday night’s game, when the players gave Orgeron a Gatorade bath celebrating his first win as USC’s head coach.
It’s about more than just Orgeron’s fire. He has also tried very hard to bring fun back to the program that seemed absent during Kiffin’s four-year tenure.
Orgeron brought back desserts to the training table, re-opened practice to the media, has created an open-door policy for all of his players and has emphasized playing fast, hard and physical in practice. But he has also allowed players to play music in the locker room, invited family members of players to attend practice and the pre-game walk into the stadium and has let his assistants control their own rotations during games.
All of those things have led to a much happier, open, enjoyable atmosphere around the program.
While Haden is certainly going to do his due diligence when finding a coach and select the best candidate after a nationwide search, it’s pretty clear the players would be happy if Orgeron got the job.
Our sources close to the program have told us that even if he isn’t hired as the full-time coach, Orgeron will almost certainly be retained by whoever the next head coach is. His ties to the area, recruiting prowess and love for all things USC would make him a valuable asset for the incoming head coach. Plus, we already know the players love him.