Orgeron's genuine approach paying dividends in recruiting
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Austin Deculus has some comical Ed Orgeron stories.
Who doesn’t have a tale or two about the new LSU coach?
Like the time Orgeron called Deculus’ high school coach, Ed Pustejovsky at Cypress (Texas) Cy-Fair, and was muttering in his gravelly voice something incomprehensible to the point where Pustejovsky had to ask who was on the other end of the line.
“I remember when he’d call Coach P up at school and he was like rrr-rrr-rrr and then Coach P was asking him, ‘What?’ and he’d say, ‘It’s Coach Orgeron,’” Deculus said Tuesday at the Under Armour All-America Game. “He would say, ‘Austin is my boy,’ but at first my coach couldn’t really understand him.”
Or when Deculus took his visit to Baton Rouge and Orgeron basically challenged him to an eating contest at Texas de Brazil, an all-you-can-eat steakhouse.
Deculus is a 6-foot-6, 325-pound mammoth of a teenager who did this interview eating a chocolate chip cookie and downing a carton of milk. He can eat. And Orgeron put him to the test.
“We had a little chow down on my official visit and that was funny,” Deculus said. “He was like, ‘You better watch out. Momma let me out on the town tonight.’ I’m like, 'Have fun coach.'”
Rated as the seventh-best offensive tackle in the class, Deculus does not hesitate to effuse admiration for Orgeron. Not only does he understand him – “I’m originally from Louisiana and he sounds just like my grandpa,” – Deculus gets Orgeron.
He loves that Orgeron loves his new position. Hired after going 5-2 in an interim role, Orgeron isn’t using the LSU job to propel himself anywhere else. This is the top rung. He’s the guy who called LSU his “dream job” and really means it.
That sincerity is contagious to Deculus and Orgeron has it in spades.
“I love him,” Deculus said. “I love how he’s such a good influence on everyone. One team, one heartbeat. Everything that he preaches is true. I love him so much. LSU made a great decision on keeping him.
“When they were talking about bringing in a whole new coach and if it wasn’t him they’d bring in a whole new staff, I was scared about that. I didn’t know what else I would do afterward but luckily everything worked out.”
Kary Vincent, another four-star that LSU poached from the state of Texas, has had similar experiences. The four-star has met many of the biggest coaches in the game and he said it’s easy to tell when a coach is giving you the business.
The Port Arthur (Texas) Port Arthur Memorial standout said he’s certain Orgeron isn’t selling him a bill of goods.
“Coach O is a very genuine person,” Vincent said. “He’s very family-oriented and very sincere in everything that he does.
“He’s known for his famous voice, which really attracts a lot of people. A lot of people like him for that. That’s one thing I really love about him – he’s really sincere. He’s that coach when you go to visit him he’s not going to B.S. you. He’s going to remember every name in your family.”
Ohio State is still pushing for Vincent, rated as the No. 21 cornerback in the class, and Texas is trying to get him to visit, but the four-star seems certain LSU is the right place for him.
“The chances are really none to none of me going to any other school,” Vincent said.
To no one’s surprise, LSU is killing it in recruiting. The Tigers have the sixth-best class nationally, five-stars Tyler Shelvin and JaCoby Stevens are committed and many other top prospects including five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson are serious about possibly playing for the Tigers.
In-state and regional recruiting are always strengths and LSU has done fabulously well going into Texas this recruiting cycle and landing four top prospects from that state.
But there are still significant challenges.
One word: Alabama.
The Crimson Tide have beaten LSU six straight times and have won eight of the last 10. Alabama has the top-rated recruiting class again and does anyone seriously believe it’s going to fall off anytime soon?
And for all his wondrous recruiting capabilities, is anyone really certain Orgeron is a phenomenal coach who can keep pace in the power-packed and cutthroat SEC? He’s yet to be tested to this level.
He was 5-2 at LSU this season after taking over for Les Miles and Orgeron was 6-2 as USC’s interim coach in 2013 after Lane Kiffin was canned. His only other head coaching experience was a 10-25 (3-21 SEC) debacle at Ole Miss from 2005-07 where nothing went right.
There are questions to be sure.
“He’s a great recruiter,” Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell said. “He has that reputation and that has followed him around for quite some time. He’s tireless. He’s had success selling some pretty good products. USC is a pretty good product to sell and LSU sells itself in the state.
“Do I think he can win the SEC West? Anything can happen. People think Alabama is going to win it for the next six straight years, but anything can happen. I wasn’t in favor of an interim hire. This should have been a national search because this is such a big hire and one of the top five jobs in college football. I can't say it’s a bad hire, but there is a lot to be proven, especially after his Ole Miss run.”
There is a lot to prove these days at LSU and college football’s behemoth in Tuscaloosa isn’t giving an inch. But the first step to regaining national prominence is to believe it can be done. And these recruits have faith in LSU’s new leader.
“Same guy that I met two years ago, same guy that I keep on seeing every visit,” Deculus said.
“Nothing has changed. He’s just so humble because he’s basically one of us. He’s always dreamed of being the LSU head coach.”