Tuesday night’s sold-out Big Orange Caravan stop at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo brought plenty of energy to the tri-state area.
More energy is coming.
First-year Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin told the Times Free Press on Tuesday night that fiery assistant head coach Ed Orgeron has been assigned to recruit the Chattanooga area.
Orgeron, also UT’s defensive line coach, is considered by many to be one of the nation’s best recruiters. He signed several players who eventually won national championships as an assistant at Miami and Southern California, and the team he left behind as Ole Miss’s head coach won the Cotton Bowl this past January.
Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin, left, talks with Bob Kesling during the Big Orange Caravan at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo on Tuesday. Fans were treated to dinner and speeches by Bruce Pearl, Lane Kiffin and women's basketball assistant coach Dean Lockwood.
“Ed Orgeron will be here,” Kiffin said with a big smile before Tuesday night. “I just thought Chattanooga was such a big area for us. He doesn’t have this part of Tennessee, but he will have Chattanooga, just because it’s so powerful.
“I would never want to lose somebody from here, so I put our best guy here. It was just too powerful. There was no way I wanted to mess it up.”
Orgeron’s nonstop passion for identifying and signing high school stars was well detailed in Bruce Feldman’s 2007 book, “Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting.”
“Coach Orgeron transfers his ferocious competitive spirit into all phases of his coaching, particularly as a recruiter,” Orgeron’s former boss, Southern Cal head coach Pete Carroll, said in the book. “He’s relentless in his effort and comprehensive approach to the whole recruiting process.”
Previous Volunteers defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell recruited the Chattanooga area very well, and Kiffin hopes Orgeron will continue that success in a well-populated area nestled near the borders of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
Several area high school coaches reacted positively to news that Orgeron would handle much of the area. Those who don’t know the barrel-chested, baritone-voiced Cajun from Louisiana will soon, in all likelihood. His dogged pursuit of top-shelf prospects has become well-known elsewhere, as has his affinity for the Red Bull energy drink.
“He’s just real energetic and emotional,” Ooltewah coach Benny Monroe said of Orgeron. “He’s one of those rah-rah guys who’s always looking to motivate and excite the guys around him. He’s known to do some crazy things, like taking his shirt off and yelling a lot.
“Everybody likes him because he’s a guy that will get kids motivated. He’s pretty unusual.”
Monroe’s rising senior defensive lineman Jacques Smith is one of the nation’s highest-ranked recruits and one of UT’s two public commitments for the class of 2010. Ironically, the second is a defensive lineman also recruited by Orgeron — Rissean Broussard of Lake Charles, La.
Orgeron tried to help UT get back in the race for North Jackson (Ala.) star Tana Patrick, though the linebacker eventually signed with Alabama in February.
Chiefs coach Shawn Peek recalled one of Orgeron’s last statements to Patrick: “If I’d been at UT longer, I’d have locked you up.”
“He’s going to be high energy and bring a lot of confidence,” Peek said of Orgeron. “He thinks he’s going to bring a tremendous amount of energy. They do a real good job of selling what they’ve got as far as creating a picture so the kid can see in his mind what it will be like.”
Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds said Orgeron recently called to ask about Devin Caldwell, the Bucs’ 6-foot-5, 260-pound lineman.
“He called me and sent me an e-mail,” Reynolds said. “He really seems to be on top of things. My impression is they’re real professional. They have followed up wanting DVDs, and they’re pursuing it pretty well.
“They’re making sure they don’t leave any stones unturned. But the previous staff did a real good job of keeping in touch also.”
Tyler Smith update
UT men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl confirmed Tuesday night that he expects All-Southeastern Conference forward Tyler Smith to declare this week for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to Knoxville as a senior.
Smith is expected to work out for several teams and get a thorough evaluation before making a decision.
Several sources within the program have said Smith would declare without an agent, but attempts to reach the player have been unsuccessful.
“He’ll work out for several teams and see if he can get himself into the first round,” Pearl said. “If he can, I would expect him to stay in the draft. And if he can’t, I expect him to come back.
“I would anticipate that announcement to come shortly ... and we’re preparing to play next season with or without him.”
Assistant sports editor Stephen Hargis contributed to this report.
Video: Big Orange CaravanWatch as Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin discusses his first Vol Walk and the quarterback competition during the Big Orange Caravan’s stop in Chattanooga on Tuesday.