It's the "Coach O Show" at LSU, and if Southeastern Conference history repeats, the Tigers can expect a productive first full season under their head football coach.
Ed Orgeron is navigating his first summer guiding LSU, having taken over four games into last season on an interim basis after Les Miles was fired following the dramatic 18-13 loss at Auburn. LSU was 2-2 at the time and finished the regular season with five wins in seven games under Orgeron, who got the job on a full-time basis in late November after the Tigers failed to land former Houston and current Texas head coach Tom Herman.
"I think our guys are excited that I am the coach," Orgeron said on a recent SEC teleconference. "I'm excited to be their coach. We have full support from the administration and have full support from the state of Louisiana.
"Things are very good in Baton Rouge right now."
Orgeron is just the third head coach in SEC football history who earned the top job after filling in the season before.
The first to do it was Florida's Galen Hall, who replaced Charley Pell three games into the 1984 season and proceeded to lead the 1-1-1 Gators to eight straight victories and a No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. In Hall's first full season in 1985, the Gators went 9-1-1 again, reaching No. 1 for the first time in program history after a 14-10 win at No. 6 Auburn only to tumble 24-3 a week later to No. 17 Georgia in Jacksonville.
Florida's 17-1-1 start under Hall amid NCAA sanctions from the Pell regime could not be maintained, however, as the Gators went 19-16 over the next three seasons. The NCAA came calling again, and Hall resigned five games into the 1989 season.
Next up was Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee, who successfully filled in for Johnny Majors for the first three contests of the 1992 season and replaced Majors later that year before a Hall of Fame Bowl win over Boston College. In his first full year as head coach, Fulmer guided the Volunteers to a 9-1-1 regular season that contained a 41-34 loss at Florida and a 17-17 tie at Alabama, which later forfeited that result due to NCAA sanctions.
Tennessee closed Fulmer's first full season with routs of South Carolina (55-3), Louisville (45-10), Kentucky (48-0) and Vanderbilt (62-14) before stumbling against Penn State, 31-13, in the Citrus Bowl. It was a fresh outlook in Knoxville, and Fulmer would go on to compile a 152-52 record, two SEC championships and the 1998 national title before losing his job in 2008.
Orgeron is hoping for a similar sustained stretch of success after his first game once the interim tag disappeared was a 29-9 Citrus Bowl thrashing of Louisville.
"It's been fun, and it's our team now," Orgeron said. "Going through the offseason and the 15 days of spring ball and implementing our offense and defense and special teams with your staff around you has made a world of difference. Now we're going into a great summer program and are having a lot of success in recruiting.
"We've got to go get it done in camp, focus on one game at a time, and do the things the LSU Tigers need to do."
LSU's first staff under Orgeron contains three newcomers on the offensive side: coordinator Matt Canada, running backs coach Tommie Robinson and receivers coach Mickey Joseph. Canada was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh a year ago and was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to college football's top assistant.
The Tigers are expected to build their attack around junior running back Derrius Guice, who rushed for 1,387 yards and 7.6 yards per carry last season, but the chief question is whether Purdue transfer quarterback Danny Etling has what it takes to guide LSU to its first league title since 2011. Last year with the Tigers, Etling completed 160 of 269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,1213 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
"Danny has practiced with the first team, and nobody has beaten him out yet," Orgeron said. "Danny is a guy who can go in and manage a game. He can make the short throws, make the checks and be a leader out there. He's got good pocket awareness, and those are the things that we want him to do.
"He's also very good at throwing the deep ball. When he's healthy, he's going to be hard to beat."
LSU has the No. 3 class of commitments for the 2018 signing class, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, so Orgeron's first full recruiting cycle is off to a good start. How the Tigers fare this fall, though, could go a long way in determining whether Orgeron's run is more similar to Fulmer with the Vols or to Hall with the Gators.
"Obviously we're a lot closer than we were last year, and the players know what to expect," Orgeron said. "We've had some great meetings and a great spring. We brought back a lot of ex-players, and there is a lot of excitement about our program right now.
"Hiring three new guys who I trust — there are just a lot of great things going on."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.