LSU football coach Ed Orgeron said he is more involved with team to avoid repeat of 2020 | Guilbeau
HOOVER, Ala. — LSU football coach Ed Orgeron did not know several members of his team were going to skip a practice on Aug. 28 last year to march to the school president's office in protest of widespread violence against Black Americans by police around the country.
Orgeron, in the end, said he admired the action and the cause and praised the players. At first though, he was not happy about it and would have at least preferred to have known about it beforehand.
"I didn't even know they were doing it," Orgeron said at the time. "I wasn't informed of anything. I walked into a 1:30 meeting, and there wasn't a lot of people there."
Orgeron admitted Monday at SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel that he had lost touch with his team, which stumbled to a 3-5 start before finishing 5-5 - LSU's first non-winning season since 1999. And he does not plan on that happening again.
"It's about me getting this football team together, us playing together," he said. "We've had more team meals, and I've had more leadership committees."
It was not all because of COVID-19. Orgeron lost focus somewhat after the magical, 15-0 season of 2019, and he did not know what was going on with his own players.
"I told these guys, you've got to promise me, if anything is going wrong, let me know first," he said. "If I can fix it, I will. Let's communicate. If there's something that we need to be done better in our university that I can help, I will help. We're giving them all the means that we can to have an open line of communication, and I think that's going to help for this year."
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Another issue last season was that several defensive players did not like new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini's old-school, in-your-face approach, especially when it never worked on the field. Orgeron, an experienced defensive coach, also mistakenly did not involve himself very much with the defense.
LSU fielded its worst defense in school history, finishing 127th out of 127 FBS schools in pass defense (327 yards a game) and 124th in total defense (492 yards a game).
Scott Linehan, who was LSU's new pass game coordinator in 2020, also did not interact well with players.
Orgeron – in the post-national title afterglow with a new contract that pays him $6 million a year – cut corners, delegated a little too much. He did not even interview Linehan and spoke only briefly to Pelini because he liked him – or thought he did - before hiring both. Both were replaced after a year by significantly younger coaches: Daronte Jones as defensive coordinator and DJ Mangas as pass game coordinator.
"There were some interviews that were not face to face," Orgeron said. "When I hired Bo, it was not a formal interview. I believed in him, and it just didn't work. I said I would never do that again. Every one of these (new hires) guys, I interviewed them in person. I had a long interview with them, specific questions that I asked, things that I maybe should have asked or shouldn't have."
Orgeron asked Jones, Mangas and new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz a lot about getting along with players.
"I did my research. I called people that knew them. I wanted to know how they interacted with the players," he said.
Orgeron even called players the coaches had coached.
"I said, 'Tell me how he is on a daily basis,'" Orgeron said. "Everybody can be one way in an interview, but I want to know how they're going to be every day."
Orgeron is more hands-, ears- and eyes-on now.
"Do it the way I want," he said when asked what lesson he learned from last year. "That's it. If it's not done the way I want, I'm going to fix it. If I see something broke, I'm fixing it."
LSU may have finished strong last year with two wins, but it was still 5-5 and still needs a lot of fixing.