Being numero uno is tough

All the decisions of the Ole Miss football program now rest at his feet, but Orgeron has shown a passion for the game that indicates he can handle whatever faces him.

There is no bigger step in business than being elevated from the #2 job to the #1. Been there. Done that.

As #2 you always have someone else around to make the ultimate decisions.

"Hey boss. What do you think we should do about this or that?"

"What do you think?"

"Well, here's my idea but of course it's up to you."

Number 2 people sleep better at night. They worry less. They agonize very little. All the hell the #1 guys go through are not part of the #2/s life. I don't care if it's a football team or a life insurance agency. Grand Canyon separates the two.

The day is coming when you can ask confirmation of the above from Ed Orgeron and he will agree. Probably not now—but some day. At the moment Orgeron is so full of his new job as head coach of the Rebels that he is probably convinced everything is going to go just as he visualizes it. The players will give him 100 percent. There will be no bad calls by the officials. Plays will be run exactly as they were drawn up on paper. No one will be seriously injured. And of course Ole Miss will win them all in this glorious season of 2005.

After all he's coming from a team which more or less did that. USC won them all. The quarterback won the Heisman Trophy. Whatever needed to go well did just that. And of course he had a wise and experienced head coach in Pete Carroll to make the final decisions. Orgeron was an assistant at the school for seven years with the power to make suggestions and formulate plans but not to make the final decisions. The same was true during his stay at Miami and Syracuse and Nicholls State. He was always responsible for a portion of the overall effort, a department head so to speak, but he did not carry the burden of an entire program on his shoulders and now he does.

At the age of 44 he is now a head football coach at a major Division I school and is entering the school of total and complete responsibility. It won't be easy.

The man has fire in his belly. There is no doubt of it. The night I saw and heard him in person at our alumni association meeting I was genuinely impressed with how brightly that fire burned. His fire ignited similar fines in the bellies of everyone in the room. It was remarkable. I'd never seen that level of enthusiasm from any Ole Miss coach before. And that could be a problem.

Not living in Oxford I don't have the opportunity to attend practices and judge for myself the level of talent the Rebels will put on the field this year. But I do have friends up there whose opinions I respect and I am an avid reader of each and every evaluation piece that appears in my favorite newspapers. And, frankly, I'm getting mixed messages.

One of those messages is that the defense is going to be more than just adequate. It is going to be pretty good with players such as McKinley Boykin, Michael Bozeman and Patrick Willis around.. Those kids are experienced and they can play. No doubt about it. But our play at cornerback the past two years has been very, very average and that's putting it kindly. Will Travis Johnson and Trumaine McBride be able to step up and play this difficult position the way it needs to be played? McBride recorded only three interceptions last year. Johnson had but two. Ole Miss had only 13 all season total from everybody. The team needs to do better than that.

In addition the Rebs' sack count was only 22. We need to keep our fingers crossed that that number will also improve.

Nevertheless, those who have watched practices think defense is our strength.

But offensively there are more questions than you'll see on The Price Is Right. You have to start with the quarterback position where it appears Micheal Spurlock has the inside track on winning the job. This kid has talent but up to now it's been only practice field talent. It's one thing to play quarterback with no one looking over your shoulder from the grandstand. It is quite another with 60,000 to 100,000 critics watching every move.

The Rebels also need an above average running back. Maybe there is one in the pack. Maybe not. We won't know until the Memphis game. But running backs in addition to being born are made by the offensive line playing in front of them. There is no doubt but that the line is the biggest concern going into this upcoming season. If the kids Orgeron is counting on today to grow up in a hurry don't, for one reason or another, grow up in that short length of time, where can he reach out and find talented replacements? This is not the NFL. You can't trade for them or buy a free agent. That's why head coaches sleep less than assistants.

I admire Ed Orgeron's enthusiasm for the game, the facilities, the job itself at Ole Miss. But I hope he understands the journey from USC to Ole Miss is more than just 1,500 geographical miles.

It is truly to the moon and back again. It is a trip that others have successfully made before but more have not than those who have. That's why they pay head coaches the big bucks.

Being number 1 represents a promotion for any coach, more money, more glory, more fame, more respect—and a lot more worries as well, as Ed Orgeron will begin to learn in a very short length of time.

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