Ed Orgeron has eight games to make his case. Eight games to prove that he is the one who should be chosen as the full-time head coach of the USC Trojans, a job he definitely wants.
Those who have been around USC football for both Orgeron tenures -- one under Pete Carroll and one under Lane Kiffin -- have noted that there has been two different sides of Orgeron.
Under Carroll, Orgeron was the fiery and emotional leader of a college football juggernaut while under Kiffin, he seemed to have toned it down a notch. The latter version came at the request of Kiffin, who had a different way of doing things and so Orgeron adjusted.
Now that Orgeron has been named the interim coach of the Trojans for the remainder of the season, he will have free rein to conduct himself as he sees fit for the benefit of the USC program and his future job prospects.
One more thing that we’ve seen from Orgeron in recent years is an eye on a return to a head coaching spot. He spent three years as the head coach at Mississippi and had the program headed in a solid direction until the brass at Ole Miss decided it wasn’t solid enough.
Orgeron had a taste of being a head coach and he liked it, and he also felt that he deserved another chance. There have never been any questions about his ability to coach the defensive line, even after he was let go at Mississippi he was quickly hired by the New Orleans Saints, then the Tennessee Volunteers and then USC. He is also one of the more relentless recruiters in the college game with an energy and passion that resonates with high school prospects.
There has always been a special connection between Orgeron and USC that in many ways can be traced to Marv Goux, the legendary Trojan assistant coach who set the bar for motivating USC players. From the moment Orgeron stepped on campus there have been comparisons to Goux, as Orgeron coaches with a style and vocal presence that Goux would certainly appreciate.
There is no mistaking the booming voice that can be heard as soon as you step on the practice field as Orgeron is barking orders at his D-line from the corner of Brian Kennedy Field. Pat Haden even referenced the energy with which Orgeron attacked those “stupid sleds” in his practice sessions as one of the reasons that led to Orgeron getting the interim job.
For lack of a better word, these next eight games can be viewed as an audition for Orgeron and he couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. He knows these players since he recruited them and has been a part of the program for the past four years. He is familiar with every team remaining on the schedule. He has been the lead recruiter for this class so he won’t skip a beat in those efforts. But most importantly, he knows what he wants to be in a head coach.
When Orgeron left USC for Mississippi after the 2004 season, he had never been a head coach before. He had a persona of being the wild man coach, known as much for his voice or his appearance in the movie “The Blind Side” as for any of his coaching skills. As with any experience, he took certain things from his stint at Ole Miss and vowed to be better prepared if another opportunity ever came along. Well, it has come along and it’s at a school he knows well, a school where he would love to be the head coach.
It’s rare that any coach gets eight full games to prove himself but it’s enough of a sample size to show Haden that he is worthy for the job. It doesn’t mean that Haden is going to stop looking for other candidates, in fact you can expect Haden to cast a wide net in looking for the best man for the job. But as far as Ed Orgeron is concerned, the man for the job is going to be walking the sidelines for the rest of the year. He just needs to prove that to Haden as well.