Coach O goes home

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ed Orgeron missed a lot of things while he was away from college football for 13 months. He missed watching his 3-technique getting reached and coaching up his defensive tackles to avoid that in the future. He missed the adversity of being behind in the fourth quarter and coming up with a scheme to turn the tide in the game. He missed walking off the field listening to the fight song being played.

But what Orgeron missed most was recruiting.

"I missed the chase," said Orgeron, who spent a year out of coaching and off the recruiting trail following his stint as interim head coach at USC in 2013. "I missed going out and chasing the big guy and the competition. I missed doing the work -- meeting with the parents and finding out who is the champion. I missed the fight, the challenge and not knowing if you're going to get that guy and all the butterflies that come with it.

"You don't get that in the real world. It ain't happening."

In mid-January, LSU announced that Orgeron, a native of LaRose, Louisiana, and former head coach at Ole Miss, would join the Tigers' staff as the defensive line coach. Many in the coaching ranks believe Orgeron is the best recruiter in the game today, and his track record could easily put him in the discussion as one of the best ever.

The job Orgeron did as the recruiting coordinator at USC under Pete Carroll was legendary, as he assembled a string of classes that returned the Trojans to glory. Orgeron didn't flourish as a head coach at Ole Miss, but he laid the foundation for Houston Nutt's success in Oxford with the high-profile talent he brought in, such as Michael Oher, Dexter McCluster and Mike Wallace. Orgeron also helped recruit and coach other stars such as Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy, Mike Patterson, Dan Williams and Leonard Williams over the years at Miami, Tennessee and USC.

But after he didn't get the head-coaching job at USC, Orgeron came back home to Louisiana to reflect on what his next move was going to be. But there was no way he was going to stay out of the game for too long, and when LSU coach Les Miles came knocking on his door, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn't turn down.

"It's everything I thought it would be and more," Orgeron said. "You get to a certain age, where you come home and it means a lot. It does mean a lot for me and my family to be here. Tiger Stadium and everything that makes this program one of the best in the country, it's special. I've been on the other side, but I've never been a part of the Tigers. I've always wanted to be a part of the Tigers, and I was ready to do it. I was fired up to get back out there and do what I love most -- coach and recruit."

A fired-up Coach O is a scary thing for those who have to face him on the recruiting trail, and it's no surprise to those who know him best that he has quickly poured every ounce of energy into his efforts to bring the best players to LSU.

"He's here at five in the morning, and he's one of the last to leave," said LSU director of player personnel Austin Thomas, who worked with Orgeron at both USC and Tennessee. "He's a machine. He goes home and gets five hours of sleep, and he's like the Energizer Bunny the next morning. He's up and ready to go. You get here at 6, and he's already been on the phone with two or three guys on their way to school or a few parents while they were on their way to work. ...

"Sometimes you have to just sit back and marvel at the job that he does. He's one of a kind. He's very, very effective and very, very good at connecting with people. From mom to dad to everybody that matters in a kid's recruitment, it's amazing at how he builds a bond with them. The amount of information he gathers is second to none. The whole recruiting process, it's who he is."

Orgeron knows firsthand what it's like to recruit head-to-head against LSU. Even with all the talent in its backyard, LSU is a true national recruiting program that targets players from coast to coast, and Orgeron hasn't forgotten the kids he lost to the Tigers over the years. Now that he's wearing purple and gold, he's excited to sell the strengths of the LSU program.

"I've recruited against LSU, so I know how hard it is to beat them on a kid," Orgeron said.

"I won't say everyone, but most of the kids in the state of Louisiana want to play for LSU or thought or dreamed about being a Tiger. That gives LSU a natural advantage for the in-state kids. The amount of talent is unbelievable. But it's not just about the in-state kids. Once you bring kids from all over the country to Tiger Stadium, it's over. They're sold. It makes your job so much easier. I'm finally glad I don't have to compete against that and can now sell it."

And sell it, he will.

There's an abundance of elite defensive line talent in the 2016 class and much of is concentrated within a five-hour drive of Baton Rouge. ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackles such as Edwin Alexander, Ed Oliver, Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan have all sung the praises of Coach O and say he's central in their recruitment.

"I really believe front-seven recruiting, this is the best area in the country to recruit in the South," Orgeron said. "There's more defensive linemen in the South than anywhere we recruit. This is a pretty good spot. There are more defensive linemen that come out of the South than any other place in the country. Not to say that they're better, as I coached some great defensive linemen on the West Coast, but the quantity of defensive linemen here are more abundant."

But the Tigers also will rely on Orgeron's ability to recruit at a number of positions. Even though he's committed to Alabama, LSU is making a run at No. 3 cornerback Shyheim Carter, and Orgeron is his lead recruiter. Coach O also played a key role in keeping ESPN 300 offensive lineman Donavaughn Campbell on board with the Tigers after he initially committed to former LSU assistant Brick Haley. Orgeron also was the secondary recruiter for LSU cornerback pledge Saivion Smith, the No. 20 player overall.

Surely, there will be many, many others Oregon will target as the 2016 recruiting cycle progresses and it's also a sure thing Coach O will play a large role in luring them to Baton Rouge.

"He's got great energy and enthusiasm," Miles said. "He's one of the best recruiters in the country, and I'm glad we were able to finally get him here. I think Ed's going to have a great impact on LSU recruiting and help us sign a number of young guys that are capable to come in and play right away."