Like his program, Orgeron makes great strides

HOOVER, Ala. – It was a different Ed Orgeron here today. Much different than two years ago.

He was relaxed and appeared to be more comfortable. He was more poised before the 830 media that gathered, a record for this event, in fact.

Same for his team, too.

More mature. More talented. Deeper. More confident. More sure of itself and its direction.

Orgeron admitted those things about both him and his team.

"You learn. I made some mistakes as a head coach in my first two years, and hopefully I'm correcting those things."

That particular response was in reference to a question about naming Brent Schaeffer as the starting quarterback for last season before he ever arrived on campus.

Orgeron said given the chance to do that all over, he wouldn't have handled things like that.

"Let me say this," he said. "The reason I named him the starter is because I didn't have another quarterback on campus. So it was kind of easy to name him the starter."

He smiled at that; there were a few chuckles among the media. Orgeron continued.

"I wish I wouldn't have done it. I did it for recruiting purposes. That was a ploy, but I probably made a mistake in doing that."

Refreshing for a coach to admit such a change of heart? I think so. It isn't all the time, maybe not even all that often, that a head coach at this level will do such things.

But Orgeron did this morning, and that shows maybe how far he's come in two years.

But that was only one area that he talked of changes. Adding John Thompson to the staff was another.

"I really felt I needed help," he said of heading up the Rebels' defense. "I wanted to hire a defensive backfield coach that could help me organize the defense when I wasn't there."

Orgeron may have struggled to give up some control of the side of the ball he calls home. But he has, to an extent.

"I am going to be in the defensive room most of the time," he said. "John is going to handle all the decisions about what we do on defense. I'm just going to be there, be able to put my input, especially on the front seven, on what we need to do."

Two years ago as a first-year head coach, Ed Orgeron probably wasn't able to do those things, make those type decisions. But he says he's learned, and he's adapted. Being a head coach on a big-time level, even after many years of being an assistant at two of the best programs in the country (Miami, Southern Cal), will do that.

It just takes time.

"You know, the SEC is a tough conference," he said. "When I arrived at Ole Miss, they'd had success with the prior staff. But the talent level wasn't what I expected. We've had two great recruiting classes. I think you can see our team is making improvement.

"I really feel we're building depth. We looked at our depth chart this morning before I left. We actually have two offensive lines across the board, which is new for us. We have three defensive lines across the board. We're building depth, but it's going to take a while."

The same can be said for a first-year head coach in Division I-A at the SEC level. Based on today's appearance at SEC Media Days two years later, Orgeron has clearly moved forward himself.

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