Colorful Ed Orgeron impresses Kirby Smart, ‘keeps his team good and loose’
ATLANTA — Ed Orgeron can only hope his LSU football team can take over the SEC Championship Game like he takes over the room.
The reformed rebel has found his niche coaching the Bayou Bengals, leading LSU into battle against Georgia at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I grew up watching LSU,” said Orgeron, a 58-year-old Louisiana native who attended Northwestern (La.) State.
“When I got hired, I said I knew this was the standard, and we wanted to get there. It took us three years to get here. I do believe that you can see the process down the road.”
Few coaches are as celebrated as Orgeron, whose gruff Cajun accent is as entertaining as it is unique.
Even UGA coach Kirby Smart — who recruits against Orgeron for the top talent in the land — admits that Orgeron seems good for college football.
“He keeps his team good and loose, and they play to his character,” Smart said. “He’s done an unbelievable job. He’s created confidence and a toughness in their program. Their kids play really hard, really physical, and they play with no fear, and they do a tremendous job of being aggressive.
“You know, you look at the big games he’s coached in and played in, his teams have been successful. I think Ed is one of those people that’s smart enough to put a lot of good coaches around him and let them work, and he does a great job of managing that.”
Smart joked about the difference between Orgeron and Florida coach Dan Mullen, who he sits between at SEC Meetings.
“You can say this, in the coaching profession, everyone has respect for Coach O,” Smart said. “Number one, he’s a great person. He’s fun to be around. He’s an elite recruiter. I remember as a young coach the first time I ever heard of Coach O, you would hear stories, and they were just crazy stories.
“I mean, you heard all these things, and he’s got such a charisma about him and a character about him that you enjoy being around him,” Smart said.
“I have the great fortune at every SEC meeting of having F on my left, Florida, and L on my right, Louisiana, so I get to sit between those two guys. It’s definitely a big contrast.”
Orgeron has recognized the elevated exposure this week, and he’s about to ride it out onto the recruiting trail, with the early signing period fast approaching.
“I enjoy recruiting in Louisiana, (and) I’m going to be in 18 to 22 homes next week, so that means about 18 to 22 gumbos,” Orgeron said. “It’s going to be great. It’s kind of a party when I get there. It’s kind of a festivity. I have to go recruit and talk to the mom and dad and bring everybody. When I go now, it’s the aunts and uncles and grandmas. We have a party. We eat. We laugh. We joke together. It’s just like being a part of a big family.”
As for his family in Atlanta right now, Orgeron said his Tigers ate well and will be hungry to play Georgia.
“Our guys got to the hotel (Thursday) night, and we had a tremendous meal,” Orgeron said. “We had smothered pork chops, fried chicken, collard greens. The guys loved it. Just like one big family eating together. They went to bed at 11:00 and didn’t have to wake up until noon today. So I’m sure they rested.”
It’s a new day for LSU football with Ed Orgeron at the helm, back in the SEC title game for the first time since 2011.