The following is the transcript from the SEC office of Coach Ed Orgeron's time before the media in Birmingham Wednesday, edited by our staff in some instances.
Opening statement from COACH ED ORGERON: What a pleasure to be here at the Southeastern Conference Media Days. First head football coaching job at a university for myself. Proud to be back here in the south and proud to be back here to start the season. The guys are ready to go and chomping at the bit.
I will tell you this, I'm really pleased with the talent level that was at Ole Miss when I got there, especially at some positions. Have to run the football in the Southeastern Conference to be a championship team.
I believe that you have to be strong on the defensive line, and with my background we'd better be strong in the defensive line, and we also want to be strong in the offensive line. Wide receivers, we have a lot of guys that played a lot of games that are pretty good there. We've got speed there. I feel good about these guys.
Three tight ends return. We have a lot of depth there and the tight end will be a big part of the offense.
The quarterback position. Really see it as a great opportunity for our young men to learn how important competition is on the practice field. And the main focus of my program is about competition. I want to put the best against the best on the practice field and let them go after it and have a competitive situation.
Micheal Spurlock had a good spring for us in the USC offense we brought in. Robert Lane played several practices but wasn't able to show us all his stuff. He has all the qualities of an outstanding quarterback, all the intangibles of leadership, toughness. Steps up in the huddle, then people listen to him. We'll see how things are going to play out.
I don't think the quarterback position is that important for us to win or lose games. I am the defensive coordinator. I learned from coaches who were my mentors. I saw Pete Carroll win at USC in a short time. He started that program playing great defense, and coached it every day.
We should have a tremendous defensive line. There are young men there I am excited about. I got a chance to coach McKinley Boykin in the spring. He is from here in Alabama. He's had a tremendous career so far.
Michael Bozeman played last year. Pretty good player there. Got to keep our guys fresh. Jayme Mitchell played last year and he is a big ole boy. Brandon Jacobs is also there. So I feel good defensive end position. Our guys are going to sack the quarterback. Chris Bowers from Louisiana is a little light in the britches but really quick. And he's going to be a big player for us. We moved to 4-3 defense with sometimes 7, 8, 9 man fronts. I've been pleased with the play on defense.
Patrick Willis was a positive, especially this spring with the way he took command on defense and played from sideline to sideline. Of course he'll have to prove it in the games. That's where the true test of a player is. We all know that. We should be pretty good in the defensive secondary. We'll play a lot of zone coverage, same thing we did at USC. We'll take a lot of chances and play good fundamental hard-nosed football with an attitude. And on special teams I want to be really aggressive. Block punts and kicks. Be sound and smart.
Two freshmen are coming in there. We have a freshman kicker and a freshman punter. I have not seen them live yet. Starting next Thursday we're going to have to test these young men out in a competitive situation in practice.
Overall it has been a blast being a head coach. The first six months of recruiting have gone very well. The only thing is I don't want to stop at the trucks stops too much and eat too much catfish and potato logs and I'll be all right. Having said that, I'd like to open this up to any questions. Anybody?
Q. Mike (Spurlock) is a little ahead at this point? What is the distance between him and Robert Lane at the quarterback position?
ORGERON: There is a little bit of distance there just because of the practice. But I expect Robert to make that up very, very fast. We're going to take our time and make a decision. It doesn't matter who starts out in the first offense the first day; the other guys will go in the next day. All the people will get the opportunity to make it as fair as we can, then see what happens.
Q. There was a lot of rumor and talk about your first meeting with the team. How much was true?
ORGERON: You know, we had a very good meeting, and a lot of similar things that we did prior to my arrival at Ole Miss that fired up the team. Some of it true; some not so true. But I wanted to set a standard and go ahead with what type of coach I am going to be and what I expect from them. It was very good to me.
Q. You talk about adjusting but also having the talent when you got to the Ole Miss. Of course you came from a program that obviously played well against Oklahoma (in the national title game). Was there an adjustment for you coaching Ole Miss talent after being there with that much talent at USC?
ORGERON: No. On the plane ride coming here I thought of the first days at USC when Coach Carroll came there and I tried to remember the plays. I got a depth chart out and looked at the players that were there and I had recruited guys that played and so I could remind myself how it was going to be in the beginning. It really helped me to compare. Some of the players that we had there (at the start at USC) were a little bit better at some positions (than at Ole Miss), and obviously some were not as good. That's the gauge that I used in our first year together. I will say this, that the most amazing thing that we did to turn around that program was to recruit the players we did and then they played at an early age.
Q. With the other coaches also here - Spurrier, Fulmer, Meyer - do you feel that you are kind of under the radar or a little overshadowed today?
ORGERON: No, not at all. Not at all. I respect those guys. You know, that's why they put the cleats on. That's why they put the helmets on.
Q. Coming from south Louisiana, why don't you tell me about that background work ethic that you learned down there.
ORGERON: That really was a key for me in my recruiting, in my coaching career. To be able to learn that I had to work on it. My family taught me that I had a choice to stay down there, maybe shovel shrimp, or to go be a football player and get an education. That's probably the most important thing I learned (that helped me get to) Northwestern State; then Syracuse, New York and Los Angeles, California.
Q. You had a lot of player position evaluations in spring. Will you continue that in August or is it too late to keep switching positions for players?
ORGERON: The depth chart will be etched in sand. It's not deep sand in Oxford, but it will still be etched in it. I want them (UM players) to take note that it is special to start for the University of Mississippi and just because you did something yesterday doesn't mean a thing to me. I want to know what you did today, on a daily basis. So we will make evaluations, and we will continue to move guys.
Q. Talk about recruiting. What are your impressions of recruiting for a Southeastern Conference team, and how tough is that?
ORGERON: I think it's fantastic. I love the competition. Competition makes you better. I believe that the talent in the south is by far the best in the country. Look at the draft, 47 players in the draft were within six hours from Oxford, Mississippi. I think it's tremendous. I look at recruiting in the state of Mississippi, in the state of Tennessee, in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. It's a tremendous opportunity for us. We also have connections in California, in Texas and New Jersey.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in building the program you want to build?
ORGERON: I say this to you, I don't look at them as challenges. I look at them as part of our program. Be able to compete on a daily basis, be able to come to work with a great attitude and be able to learn the system and learn what we could be. I am not going to be like past coaches. I have my own identity.
Q. As a first year head coach are you glad that the instant replay is in effect?
ORGERON: I think they did a tremendous job formulating the way we're going to do it and I am looking forward to it.
Q. This is a two-part question. First, there's been a great exodus of talented kids from the state of Mississippi to other places in the SEC over the years, and secondly, are you finding much resistance when you talk to kids convincing them that championships can be won at Ole Miss?
ORGERON: To address your first one, we go to every school in the state of Mississippi, and I feel every young man that was born in the state of Mississippi wants to play for Ole Miss. We have to show them a great program. That's my feeling. I do believe that being with USC, and winning the way we did against Oklahoma helped me recruiting (as soon as he got to Ole Miss).
Q. What kind of specific things do you see in Patrick Willis that make you think he is going to be a special player?
ORGERON: I think he has speed. I didn't know he had speed. You know, everybody can have speed. But he plays fast, has ability to hit, has ability to play sideline to sideline. Linebacker, defensive scheme has to have coverage skills and basic skills and he can do both. I am really impressed with his demeanor, his willingness to learn and study.
Q. Do you think there should be something across the board as to how to report injuries?
ORGERON: We will discuss it when it comes up.
Q. How does it truly feel to be a head coach?
ORGERON: I go out to the field every day and I just feel great being there. That's what I've always wanted to do. I won't allow myself to have bad days as a football coach. It's a tremendous honor to be a head coach and working up through the ranks and earning the opportunity. I realize that you have to grasp every day and get after it. These things are not given. They're earned.
Q. Has there been a culture shock? You have been in Miami, Syracuse, Los Angeles, and now Oxford. Can you talk a little bit about that?
ORGERON: Well, my boys love it, they go froggin' in the morning at 6:00. They have four-wheelers, they go fish, they play baseball all day. They play football, and it's all very similar to the way I was raised. My wife is from Jonesboro, Arkansas. I was born in south Louisiana. Go to south Louisiana. I think that would be a little more of a culture shock (for some). To me it's about having a good home and a good family and a good university and I think the fans are very good. I go to work, and I go home. So that's very easy for me.
Q. Very quick two-part question. One, have you had a chance to set down guidelines for coaches because you had a couple of problems with your coaches, and two, do you think those problems could be a mark to be used against you?
ORGERON: Let me answer the first one. The first one we had, immediately I spoke to people - the athletic director and the chancellor, and a decision was made immediately. Whether those things could be used against us or not, I think they could be used as a positive for our program, that we have a clean program and a very disciplined program and we'll not tolerate that action.
Q. How do young men in the 21st century respond to your style and how do you think they respond to enthusiasm of the sort that you seem to have?
ORGERON: I think they love it. It's the way you want to play football. Most of the young men in the south were coached that way and I think they like it.
Q. Kind of a second line, coming in as a new coach, your team was mostly recruited by another staff or another head coach? How did you sell yourself?
ORGERON: I think change is good. Change is good for the young men. Change is good for the coaches and I came in with immediate credibility for these young men. And it didn't take them long to see what I was about. Took about two days. I wanted them to understand the program we're going to run and this is how we're going to run it. I gave them very few choices about how we're going to do things and the manner that they do things. I showed them the way I want them to do it and they have been fantastic.
Q. You are gearing up for opening day but before you get into that, are there Saturdays you have looked at on the schedule that jump out at you, that you are excited to get to?
ORGERON: Seriously, I have to, as a head football coach, treat every game the same. I have to prepare and respect our opponent. But really, about our opponents, it's going to be about how we are prepared, how well we play offense and defense, how good a shape we're in, all about us. How we take care of the football. Any given day anything can happen. As somebody who grew up in the south, and as a fan, there are some teams that burn inside, yes, they do. But as a head football coach I have to attack every game the same way.
Q. As a head coach, what's one or two things that you didn't expect that you had to learn real quick to be successful?
ORGERON: Really I can't tell you anything that's happened that I didn't expect. Every day I get up and get up early and prepare myself. Anything can happen. And I really believe that it's not what happens to you; it's how you react to it. And I believe my reactions have been appropriate. It's a natural fit for me to get up in front and talk to the team. It's a natural fit for me to be coaching. Natural fit for recruiting. So I haven't met anything yet I wasn't prepared for. Gamedays or Saturdays I have been involved in, but most facets of the game I have never been involved in as a head coach on game day. So that's one of the things that I look forward to because you have to be prepared for anything on game day. So as I go through the year and the experience of being a head football coach, I think things may pop up on game day that I wasn't prepared for.
Q. One thing you said in your opening statement I wanted you to expound on some, you said "I don't think the quarterback position will be that important as to whether we win or lose."
ORGERON: Yeah. I am saying in our system, in what we're doing, I don't think that we could put all of the emphasis on the quarterback. That's what we're saying. I don't believe that we could put all the weight on the shoulders of the quarterback because we don't have that experienced a quarterback. If we had an experienced quarterback coming back, I think we could do a lot more things, like say a Matt Leinart (at USC) could do this or that. We'll not put the game in the quarterback's hands, and just put it on him if we are going to win or lose.
Q. You talked a couple of questions ago about needing a couple of days to kind of set the tone. Can you give us specific examples or habits or trends or a player by player basis, things that you saw that you put your stamp on right away?
ORGERON: Just being early. Being on time. Sitting up straight. Having a little energy in practice, having energy in meetings. Being excited about what we do with a smile on their face. I want us moving full speed. I want to be able to perform at a high level. The only way to assimilate the game is to have great practices.
The Q & A transcript of Coach O at SEC Media Days
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