WSU DC SEARCH: The case for & against Orgeron

ON THE SURFACE it seems glaringly odd. Ed Orgeron is a lights-out recruiter and has an excellent track record as a defensive coach. But not only has he not been scooped up, he hasn't been reported as the frontrunner on any of the DC jobs this offseason, let alone the head coaching posts. Why is that? And would he make for the right DC fit at Washington State under Mike Leach?

The primary reason I believe Ed Orgeron hasn't been hired yet is because he's simply become too popular. Orgeron is the backup quarterback, the most popular guy on a squad when a team is losing, the guy the fickle fandom starts screaming for to come into the game when the starter has a bad game(s).

What head coach wants to potentially jeopardize their own standing by hiring that guy? The guy alums, boosters and media all start championing for the head job if/when the seas get a little choppy?

Mike Leach would seem less susceptible to that notion, but that doesn't mean he's impervious to it. On one hand, Leach is uber-confident in what he's doing at WSU, doesn't ever seem to second guess himself and has made it clear in his three years in Pullman that any critics can go pound sand. Still, with the salaries now being paid to head coaches, there's also no reason to act recklessly.

But now that we're at 36 days and counting since Mike Breske was fired, Orgeron and Clancy Pendergast are one of two possibilities WSU fans, alumni and boosters are most likely to see as a home run hire at this late stage. That doesn't mean someone else won't turn out to be the cat's meow, just that he is unlikely to make that same monster-sized splash.

One of the big fan arguments against an Orgeron hire would be the worry he uses the WSU DC job as a stepping stone in a year or three. And such a scenario would indeed be disappointing. But even if that were to happen, the potential recruiting and on-field defensive improvements would seem worth it from this chair.

Orgeron has four national championship rings in his dresser drawer (USC, Miami) along with a first-hand knowledge of Pullman, and a reputation as one of the finest recruiters in the land. On paper, he seems to make a tremendous amount of sense as a WSU DC.

But Orgeron, from last year to present day, has reportedly gone from seeking head coaching jobs, to DC jobs, to possibly even d-line assistant coaching jobs. And still no one has made him their hire yet. And that speaks volumes to me. It will take a head coach, completely secure in both his standing and beliefs, to hire this guy.

In Year Four, I think Leach's offense is going to hit new heights. The entire starting offensive line is back with more than enough wideouts in the wings to replace what will be lost to graduation. There are two promising running backs returning and I believe WSU is going to have a good QB no matter which guy ends up the starter. The special teams will be better (they have to be, right?) And so the real question for 2015 in my mind -- it's all about the defense.

With the freedom Leach gives his DC, it's easy to envision Orgeron flourishing at WSU given his track record. Orgeron is a master motivator, one of those coaches who can get raw defensive talent playing better and faster from the jump: I don't believe Cougar fans would have to wait as long to see results/improvement with Orgeron as they might with some other DCs.

There's also the new facilities at WSU, which will make all of the coaches' jobs easier to recruit to - WSU has more highly rated verbal commits in the '15 class than in several previous cycles.

There's no arguing with the fact Ole Miss was 10-25 in Orgeron's three years as the head coach. Ole Miss was a mess back then but Orgeron proceeded to assemble nationally acclaimed recruiting classes. Unfortunately for him, he never had a quarterback and so despite a vastly improved defense, the offense floundered and the losses piled up. If Orgeron had been given a fourth year, I believe he would have begun a streak of bowl appearances at Ole Miss and we're probably not having this conversation.

Orgeron has been out of coaching a year now. And from reading recent articles in the L.A. Times and elsewhere, he's desperate to get back into it.

The interim head coach at USC after Lake Kiffin was fired in 2013, Orgeron affected an eye-popping turnaround but wasn't retained in a messy divorce with AD Pat Haden. One of the enduring images from that season was after USC's upset win over No. 4 Stanford: Throngs of Trojan fans celebrated deliriously on the field, while Haden clapped wanly and looked like he was about to throw up.

Haden already knew he was going to go in another direction at the end of the season. And Orgeron's immense, still-growing popularity had just made things that much more difficult for Haden.

It's something that seems to have followed him to this day. Could Leach be the guy who bucks that trend?

NOTABLE NOTE:
The latest reports in mainstream media say Pendergast, who 48 hours ago was the "clear leader" to take over the LSU DC job, is no longer in the running having taken his name out of the running. The LSU site on Scout.com reported Orgeron "is not a legitimate candidate for the DC spot, but it does sound like he’d be interested in joining the staff should another opportunity come available." LSU finished first in the SEC West in 2011, but has since tied for second in 2012, was third in 2013 and tied for fourth this season.

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