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Orgeron replaces Kiffin, leads the Trojans

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The unceremonious firing of former USC head coach Lane Kiffin in the early morning hours following the Trojans’ lopsided loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28 concluded what had been a high-profile, high-controversy regime at Los Angeles’ premier football program.  

The man who steps in atop the Trojan staff has a lower profile than the embattled Kiffin, but he brings 28 years of coaching experience and is in his 11th season overall at USC (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12). Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron has added the role of interim head coach to his resume in relief of Kiffin

“Coach O brings an incredible passion and we think he can do a great job under these circumstances,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said in his press conference announcing the coaching change Sept. 29. 

Orgeron, a 1984 graduate and four-year starter on the defensive line at Northwestern (La.) State, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in the same year. After stops at McNeese State and Arkansas, Orgeron coached the defensive line at Miami from 1989-1992 before spending a year in private business in 1993. He first joined USC as the defensive line coach in 1998 following stints at Nicholls State and Syracuse, and Orgeron added the roles of recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Orgeron left USC in 2005 to become the head coach at Ole Miss, a role he filled until 2008, when he jumped to the NFL as the defensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints. Orgeron then joined Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee in 2009 as the assistant head coach and followed Kiffin to USC the following year. 

“Coach Orgeron has been around,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s a veteran college football coach.”

Recruiting has been one of Orgeron’s biggest hallmarks at Southern California. For three consecutive years from 2002-2004, USC brought in top-five recruiting classes with Orgeron at the helm of the efforts. In 2004 he earned recognition from Rivals.com and “The Sporting News” as National Recruiter of the Year. 

Following NCAA-imposed sanctions from violations involving former Trojan stars Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo in 2010, USC is in the second of a three-year, 10-scholarship disadvantage. Regardless, Orgeron earned recognition from multiple outlets in 2011 and 2012 as one of the nation’s top recruiters. 

Now past the season’s halfway point, Orgeron is tasked with leading the Trojans out of their disappointing start and through a schedule that still includes No. 9 UCLA and No. 13 Stanford. 

“We have a lot of big games ahead of us,” Haden said. “We have a lot to play for this season. The season is not over. Ed will bring the fun and joy back into the game.”

At the time of the change, USC was 3-2 and coming off a 62-41 loss to the Sun Devils. The following week, Orgeron led the Trojans to a 38-31 home victory over Arizona in his debut Oct. 10. In the win, USC posted a season-high 546 yards of total offense, but Kelly said he does not expect the Trojans to look much different from what they have shown through six games when they battle Notre Dame (4-2). 

“He’s not going to go in there and scuttle the offense and defense and special teams,” Kelly said.

“His personality is coming out in this football team, but he knows all of his players. There’s an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator for a reason. There will be some slight variations, and we’ll have to be prepared for that. Again, they’re going to be who they are six, seven weeks into the season.”

Orgeron said as much during the Sept. 29 press conference, although he did allude to changes in the atmosphere within the USC program.

“I want our guys to believe and have a little fun,” he said. “One of the things we can do as a staff is get really close to our players, circle the wagons, have fun and let the chips fall where they may.”

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu