Orgeron returns to college with passion

Tennessee assistant coach Ed Orgeron greets fans during the Vol Walk before last Saturday’s Orange and White Game at Neyland
Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee assistant coach Ed Orgeron greets fans during the Vol Walk before last Saturday’s Orange and White Game at Neyland Stadium.

(Editor's note: This is the first of a nine-part series as the News Sentinel takes a closer look at Tennessee's new assistant football coaches.)

A shirtless, muscular recruiting guru with a Red Bull in his hand is what most envision when they think of Ed Orgeron.

Yet there's more.

Energy drink or not, Orgeron was at one time considered one of the best defensive line coaches and recruiters in the nation. Everything changed following a tumultuous three seasons as coach at Ole Miss, where he was mocked for his energetic style.

Orgeron quickly became a caricature of himself.

Sure, Orgeron is excitable. Yet his peers consider him an aggressive, hard working, ultra-organized recruiter.

If the 47-year-old can have some success in his first season at Tennessee and add to his resume, Orgeron could soon replace his long title at UT (assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach) with a much shorter title (head coach).

Orgeron's former boss, Southern California coach Pete Carroll, quickly dismissed the notion that Orgeron is a recruiter first and everything else second.

"There's no way," Carroll said in a e-mail to the News Sentinel. "They don't know who he is. He's a great coach and a great recruiter for the same reasons.

"He understands the whole business of recruiting and has a great passion for it and will compete as well as anyone. But he takes that same energy and drive to coaching. He helped develop many top-level guys for us."

Will work for college

Orgeron was fired at Ole Miss following a 10-25 record from 2005-07.

After the most disappointing time of his career, Orgeron was more than ready for the comparatively relaxed life of an NFL assistant coach than he ever thought he would be.

No more recruiting calls. No more dealing with boosters and media pressure. Just football and some well-deserved family time in his one season as the New Orleans Saints defensive line coach in 2008.

But relaxing soon turned to boring - at least from someone's point of view.

"I like the NFL but my wife thought I was bored," Orgeron said. "I was just coaching the defensive line, didn't have a lot of say in the defensive scheme. There was no recruiting. I had a lot of time off. I've never had a lot of time off like that."

When Orgeron wasn't coaching, he was likely working out or with his family.

More mature and dedicated than ever before, Orgeron was doing great personally. Past public transgressions were long gone. Dues had been paid.

Professionally, that was another story.

"There was something missing," Orgeron said.

Orgeron was missing the organizational challenges of coaching, such as putting together a recruiting plan or scripting practice - duties that he lost when Ole Miss fired him.

"College coaching is a lot harder than the NFL," Orgeron said, almost with a sense of pride. "I'm not one for idle time. I don't like idle time. I like the passion. I like the energy, the fans and stuff like that.

"I enjoy college football."

First-year UT coach Lane Kiffin understands Orgeron's passion through their time coaching together at Southern California.

"You don't want to underutilize him," Kiffin joked. "He's less productive when you do that with him."

Right (hand) man

Following the conclusion of the Saints' season, Orgeron was off to Destin, Fla., for a beach trip with his family.

Kiffin and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin quickly interrupted. The two were determined to secure Orgeron's services for UT.

UT had the money (eventually $650,000 for the first year) but Lane Kiffin had to offer more. The title - and duties - of assistant head coach were a must.

Lane Kiffin, 33, had no problem with either.

Orgeron, however, still wasn't certain he should head back to the all-consuming college game. For the first time in his life he had extra time to spend with his family in his native Louisiana.

"They wanted me to come back (to college football)," Orgeron said. "I wanted to stay with the Saints. We all voted. I voted to stay in the pros. They're the ones that convinced me to come back to college."

And now Orgeron's influence on UT's program has been widespread.

He handles planning, organization and daily meetings. He's one of the coaches most responsible for making sure players are faring well in class and staying out of trouble.

When Lane Kiffin needs a coach to step in, Orgeron is there.

"I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like without him and how much further behind we'd be right now than where we are today if he wasn't here," Kiffin said. "With all the different things that come with the head coaching job here and all the different directions that you're pulled, it's so valuable to have him - more than anyone else."

Kiffin isn't the only one who's happy with Orgeron's designation as second-in-command.

"(Lane) has treated me like that. Monte has treated me like that," Orgeron said. "The whole staff has."

Monte, my mentor

Orgeron didn't just come to UT to be a coach. He came to be a student.

Orgeron refers to coaching under Monte Kiffin as earning a "football doctorate".

Monte Kiffin's resume frequently garners that sort of awe from the coaching world and certainly from Orgeron, who through his association with Lane Kiffin was familiar with his father.

"I have total respect for him," Orgeron said of Monte. "I didn't come in here as 'Hey man I know it all.' I came here very humble and said 'Here's the greatest defensive mind in college football, in NFL football.'

"I've got to prove myself to this guy. I'm going to come in and keep my mouth shut and I'm going to start from square one with him."

The two seem a great fit on the practice field. Monte Kiffin is the mostly quiet one who occasionally bellows. Orgeron is the fiery one who rarely lowers his tone.

The two have also meshed schemes well - as evident by UT's nearly unstoppable defensive front in spring practice.

"There are some times in our defense where we are containing," Orgeron said. "But there are times in our defense where we cut guys loose. The biggest thing about Monte is he makes things simple for our guys. If this guy does this, you do that and that's it."

The next step, again

Learning from Monte Kiffin has Orgeron thinking about his future and that desire to be a head coach again.

“I want it to be right,” Orgeron said of his next opportunity. “I really enjoy what I’m doing right here.

“One of the reasons I came here was to work with Monte. There were some things that I thought I needed to learn just a little bit more. I’m getting that from Monte right now. My next step, I think that I’ll be better prepared for all of the things that I need to do.”

Orgeron's next shot might not be that far away. Ole Miss finished 9-4 last season with Orgeron's former recruits leading the way. Two former Rebels were selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Saturday: offensive tackle Michael Oher (23rd pick by the Baltimore Ravens) and defensive tackle Peria Jerry (24th pick by the Atlanta Falcons).

"I had a vision and a picture," Orgeron said. "That picture came through last year with the recruits that I had.

"Obviously, we didn't get it done but that's not going to be my only shot. I'll be better prepared this time. I'll be better prepared hiring my staff.

"But I really think that when the opportunity comes this time, I'll do my research a little bit better on what I'm going into and where I'm going."

Orgeron, however, doesn't seem in a hurry to go anywhere as long as Monte Kiffin is wearing orange.

"Everyday when I come to work, I get to say 'I get to work with Monte Kiffin,' " Orgeron said. "It's been great."

I can coach, too

Way before Orgeron was a recruiting coordinator, he was thought of as a premier defensive line coach.

"It's kind of funny," Orgeron said. "That (recruiting reputation) came later. I really learned how to be a defensive line coach with Jimmie Johnson. I was considered a good line coach at Miami.

"I went to Syracuse. I had success there and really became known as one of the better defensive line coaches in the country."

Orgeron has coached countless defensive linemen who went onto the NFL, such as Cortez Kennedy, Warren Sapp and Russell Maryland.

Yet a couple of reformation projects come to mind.

At USC, Carroll once ripped Orgeron after offering Mike Patterson a scholarship and seeing the plump defensive tackle play poorly in an all-star game shortly thereafter.

Under Orgeron, Patterson went from 324 pounds to 285, became an All-American and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft.

Defensive tackle Kenechi Udeze followed a similar path. He was 350 pounds before dropping to 285 and turning himself into a first-round pick in 2004 thanks to Orgeron's tutelage.

Orgeron said that his history with defensive linemen helps him get players' attention. It seems to be working at UT.

Senior defensive tackle Dan Williams dropped 25 pounds during spring practice at Orgeron's behest.

Defensive end Chris Walker was named the most improved defender of spring practice and credited Orgeron with the improvement.

"I love coach O's energy, just being around him," the junior said. "All the people that he has coached and all the things that he has done for other people. It's just a big honor for us to be coached by him.

"They talk about how great a recruiter he is but they don't know how great a coach he is. Our defensive line has gotten ten notches better since he's been here."

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Comments » 136

VAvolfanRON writes:

coach O's energy......get em coach

bhjohnso#207063 writes:

YOEEYO YO YO YO YO YO FOOTBALL

i love the guy...makes me want to get out there and run through a brick wall.

Volfan1 writes:

Hallelujah!
It's great to read about all things Orange..Yes, Orgeron in Orange, too.

VAvolfanRON writes:

chuck....nice comment on the article!!

now that spring practice is over.....he's on the prowl...here come the recruits!!!!!

btw.....did yall see that Chris Lofton had 61 points?....i know its European...but still

Coach_Joe writes:

That last line? "Our defensive line has gotten 10 notches better since he's been here."

I've met Dan Brooks and he's a fiery guy as well. Don't know how a kid could slam Coach Brooks like that. I guess we'll see come Sept. 5th though.

Oh, and I know I didn't post first because I actually read the article before I posted.

the10sevol writes:

Sign 'em up, coach 'em up. Pretty straightforward. Godspeed, Coach O and the rest on recruiting trips, bring us home some big uglies! Oh, and a qb. Thanks!

dvhill100 writes:

Great article. I am looking forward to the other coaches being featured.

For all the critics of him as a head coach, he hit his Peter Principle, came back to the level he is good at, and can work toward being ready for a HC job sometime in the future (after we have a couple of NC's of course).

If we can keep this staff together, I think the sky's the limit. They are recruiters from He!!, and since TN isn't a very big state, you have to have that kind of staff since you can't live on home grown talent. Great talent will always win more games than bad coaching decisions will lose.

They are all excellent coaches too. Really, the only coach that is questionable is LK. He just has to prove himself as a college HC. All the talk that has everyone outside TN in an uproar will be a non-event if he wins.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

I'll bet Houston Nutt the new coach at Ole Miss is singing the woners of coach "O"..by leaving him a flurry of solid talent...that enabled Nutt to coach Ole Miss to the fifth best team in the nation last year...run off by Arkansas, Nutt was at a low level in his career...but Coach "O" to his surprise left him with great talent...What is that old saying, "know when to hold them andf know when to fold them". Last year's batch of Ole Miss players is thought to have maybe three first rounders in the upcoming Nfl Draft....Not bad huh Houston?

Fear_The_Kiffin writes:

hands down we have the best coaching staff in college football, maybe ever assembled. Who would have thought last fall that by this spring we would be the envy of football fans across the country as far as coaching staff goes. they are all trembling in their little boots right now because they know what awaits them for the next ten years. two national championships minimum, 4 sec championships minimum. Write it down i said it. FEAR THE KIFF!!!

VAvolfanRON writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

great post!!!...you are as excited as i am!!!!....lol

it's gonna get crazy....now if you would've just posted that instead of that first phooey!!!!!....lol

VAvolfanRON writes:

yea.....and we are wondering if UF will have enough players out on bail for the game

VAvolfanRON writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hey.....its great...but, i have to tell you that im a huge fulmer, majors fan...as well as kiffin

Im over it.....we have turned the page and on to great things.....that's why the gators are on here....trying to convince themselves that we are still at the bottom

1manningfan writes:

? is how long will he stay in Knoxville? I hope atleast 5 years.

VAvolfanRON writes:

in response to tweetdriver63#346474:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

tweet..i know....i think i saw the was 17 of 22 3 pointers!!!

VAvolfanRON writes:

in response to 1manningfan:

? is how long will he stay in Knoxville? I hope atleast 5 years.

my fear is the same as yours...this staff just cant stay together...they have too much talent......

Voluvr writes:

It's a double edged sword, but I'm excited about our head coach hiring people that everyone else will want to hire away or that can take his job. That means you have the right people in place.

I don't think that had ever happened with the last group.

VAvolfanRON writes:

Voluvr..this staff is superior...hard to argue about that.....i just hope we can keep them..they are building someting special.......

btw..did you see the pic of Coach in his O/W shirt?....he's so fired up

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Houston Nutt is the winner as he laughs all the way to the bank...The new Ole Miss coach is reborn after the Razorbacks ran him off...I'm sure if you ask him he would say that coach "O" is the greatest recruiter ever. Shocked at the talent at Ole Miss, Nutt guided the Rebels to the fifth ranked team in the nation last year...Coach "O" he will tell you left him a pile of top talent...can he do that for the Vols...I bet he does to the delight of Vol fans. Look out!

SLOBBER_knocker_U writes:

in response to Coach_Joe:

That last line? "Our defensive line has gotten 10 notches better since he's been here."

I've met Dan Brooks and he's a fiery guy as well. Don't know how a kid could slam Coach Brooks like that. I guess we'll see come Sept. 5th though.

Oh, and I know I didn't post first because I actually read the article before I posted.

How can you compare Dan Brooks to Coach O? Coach O is ten times better. It's not even close. If Dan Brooks is so good then why hasn't he been picked up by another team? We used to have first rate talent and second rate coaching and the talent bailed us out of many situations. Now we have first rate talent and first rate coaching for the first time in a long long time.

prideofthesouthland writes:

Good read Hooker.

tnbigg writes:

Agree - good read. Also - Glad Orgeron is here. Can't wait to see what happens this year on the field. If the Gators do win...it will be the last time for a long, long while. Beat your chests and scream your worn out song Gators. It's so old to us now that it simply sounds like a guy who eats too much chile, drinks too much beer and brags and pharts all day and all night. Be comfy in your self induced stupor. The clock is ticking.

teampenny#658108 writes:

Ga had the number one pick and another first rounder the school had them ready for the pros. However, they won no championships. It takes talent, good team chemistry, luck and the right coach. If you love CF it is what the players get done in school-not in the pros. Would rather have Tebow than Stafford, not sure if Ed or this staff will be able to sign players players like him. Time will tell. Go Vols

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to dvhill100:

Great article. I am looking forward to the other coaches being featured.

For all the critics of him as a head coach, he hit his Peter Principle, came back to the level he is good at, and can work toward being ready for a HC job sometime in the future (after we have a couple of NC's of course).

If we can keep this staff together, I think the sky's the limit. They are recruiters from He!!, and since TN isn't a very big state, you have to have that kind of staff since you can't live on home grown talent. Great talent will always win more games than bad coaching decisions will lose.

They are all excellent coaches too. Really, the only coach that is questionable is LK. He just has to prove himself as a college HC. All the talk that has everyone outside TN in an uproar will be a non-event if he wins.

Absolutely dead-on, dvhill. Couldn't agree more.

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

VOLFORLIFE writes:

Great job, Dave Hooker and KNS! This is the sort of thing we need during the "doldrum" period. Maybe you could stretch the articles out to lead into fall practice, and maybe it won't seem like such a long time until it's "...FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!!"

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

ClassicVol (Inactive) writes:

What's this being first to post thing? A bunch of little kids is guess.

ctownvol writes:

in response to gatorz4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Your mama is so ugly the government is going to move Halloween to her birthday.

ctownvol writes:

in response to ClassicVol:

What's this being first to post thing? A bunch of little kids is guess.

Yes sir. You hit the nail on the head.

rootin4volz writes:

in response to Volfan1:

Hallelujah!
It's great to read about all things Orange..Yes, Orgeron in Orange, too.

Good Idea...We can start calling him Coach Orangeron! Maybe that'll help get him to stick around for quite a while!

rootin4volz writes:

in response to gatorz4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Gay-terd4...We're dumping the excess baggage, just like a Coach O DL, and will be coming at Little Timmy'z Azz lean and mean and with our ears pinned back. It's gonna be sweet to be the team that finally is able to lay him on the turf and have him screaming like a girl to stop!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Good link.

Imagine energy and stirring on the Hill!

Whoda thunk it?

HCLK moving and coaching on every play of the O/W.

What's this world coming to?

txvolsfan writes:

in response to gatorz4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

WRONG, Coach O will be hunting GATORS!!!
poor, poor TEBLOWS!!!

ctownvol writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Good link.

Imagine energy and stirring on the Hill!

Whoda thunk it?

HCLK moving and coaching on every play of the O/W.

What's this world coming to?

And he did all of that with not one fritter.

CT_VOL writes:

in response to gatorz4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL...what kind of dogs are those? Vizsla's ?

Frank

1manningfan writes:

in response to BobbeaVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

go wash your mouth out with a buck shot b!tch!

gohawks1 writes:

Now this is what we've been waiting for - a series of articles (1 of 9) on the new coaching staff. Great read, and looking forward to the next in the series.

the10sevol writes:

in response to BobbeaVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Umm, Peyton graduated. A long time ago.
I'll bet if you google "Indianapolis Colts" you might find the boards where he plays now, and your posts might be relevant.
Or maybe not.
GBO

Colliervol writes:

in response to BobbeaVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

One of the top 5 QB's to have ever played the game. Will hold all the records by the time he's done.

Hall of Fame Naffy. That's the only words you need to remember. Cause that's the only ones that we are all going to remember. Nothing else is relevant. Thanks for playing. You get the consolation prize.

Colliervol writes:

in response to TarHeelsRule:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are somewhere close to my kids when they were 10. Clueless. Come back when you get a little more experience and maybe we'll pay attention.

rockytop_pop writes:

in response to gatorz4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hopefully all the gators will be sober enough to realize what hit them this fall when we roll into the swamp

Colliervol writes:

As for as O goes, he's going to be a big contributor to the rebuilding of this program. He certainly wasn't ready to be a head coach at Ole Miss. Maybe he'll get another chance one of these days and he'll be better prepared for it. He can motivate and recruit though and those are important cogs in the Big Orange wheel these days. I'm really looking forward to watching him the first time the team runs through the "T" against Western KY. There's no telling how fired up he'll be.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

Coach O is exactly what this program needed at this time. I hope he stays around long enough to mentor a younger coach and leave a lasting culture of high intensity.

rustyfourqbtn writes:

bobbea, why the beef with peyton? honest question, i hope you can give a mature honest answer.

Colliervol writes:

in response to BobbeaVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'd bring the white bread or the white cheese or the vanilla ice cream but, with your track record, you wouldn't like them either. So I don't think I'll bother.

OrangeMandM writes:

in response to rockytop_pop:

hopefully all the gators will be sober enough to realize what hit them this fall when we roll into the swamp

"Last dance with mary jane,
One more time to kill the pain"..... Tom Petty. lol

rustyfourqbtn writes:

bobbea, so you agree his number being retired beside reggie white and adkins is where it should be. i think coach majors number needs to be retired as well. btw, thanks for the humble answer.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

very good article.

I believe in Coach O. He will do a fantastic job recruiting and coaching!!

murrayvol writes:

in response to ClassicVol:

What's this being first to post thing? A bunch of little kids is guess.

It's a signature moment for some....not so much for others. I see no harm in the practice.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Colliervol:

You are somewhere close to my kids when they were 10. Clueless. Come back when you get a little more experience and maybe we'll pay attention.

Or we may not.

GaytorHater writes:

in response to BobbeaVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey BobbeaGator, you are an idiot !

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