Ed Orgeron turned a lost cause into a recruiting triumph Wednesday when the Vols signed defensive back/wide receiver Marsalis Teague from Paris, Tenn.
Head coach Lane Kiffin told a crowd of about 1,000 fans at UT’s recruiting celebration Thursday morning that Teague informed the Vols two weeks before signing date that he was going to Florida.
“I said OK, but we’re gonna keep competing,” Kiffin said.
The competition reached a different level when Kiffin hired Orgeron, the former head coach at Ole Miss who coached the New Orleans Saints defensive line last season. At a staff meeting, Orgeron said, “(Teague) ain’t going to Florida,’ ” according to Kiffin.
“Coach O, I’m with you,” Kiffin told Orgeron. “We’ll keep competing.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Orgeron said. “He’s going to Tennessee.”
Orgeron wrote Teague’s name on the top of the recruiting board and added, “Teague will sign with Tennessee on national signing day. Book it.”
Orgeron then threw his pen across the room for emphasis, Kiffin said.
“There probably wasn’t a 48-hour period when (Orgeron) let the kid alone, the family alone, the (high school) coach alone,” Kiffin said.
Orgeron’s persistence paid off. And it reconfirmed Kiffin’s belief that you never take “no” for an answer until the recruit signs.
Orgeron embodies that persistence, which is one of the reasons Kiffin called him “the heartbeat of our program.”
“There is not a morning that this guy doesn’t wake up thinking about football,” Kiffin said. “There is not a morning that this guy does not wake up thinking what’s one more thing I could do, or one more call I could make, or one more conversation I could have.”
Orgeron first gained fame as a recruiter at Miami, then later at Southern California when he and Kiffin worked on coach Pete Carroll’s staff. Kiffin made him a top priority when he began assembling his UT staff.
Orgeron has a good idea of what he looks for in recruits — especially in the defensive line, which he coaches.
“Big men set the tempo,” Orgeron told the UT fans. “These are the guys coming off the bus first. We want six inches between their eyes, and we want them in very bad moods. They don’t like quarterbacks, and neither does their coach — unless he’s the top one in the country and he’s the one we’re going to recruit.”
UT linebackers coach Lance Thompson might even include Orgeron in his sales pitch to linebacker recruits. His spiel would go like this:
“You will be a linebacker behind (Orgeron’s) defensive front four,” Thompson said. “You’re never gonna get blocked. Because (the defensive linemen) don’t want to deal with (Orgeron).”
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.