I didn’t like the Orgeron hire on Day One. Yes, I would have preferred another guy. And I feel we didn’t fully pursue Tom Herman, accepting the first bump in the road as an excuse to jump out of the bidding, and blame him for it. But it really isn’t about Tom Herman. And I know it’s a great story and Orgeron is a great guy who bleeds purple and gold, but… let me just quote myself when the search first started:
I’ll spot him the South Alabama game, and he’s still at 8 wins. So, I ask again… what the hell are we doing? This is a “nothing’s wrong” hire. You promote the assistant and keep the staff when things are going well and the head man left for a better job or retirement. LSU fired Les Miles four games into the season in order to make a drastic change and… ended pretty much re-assembling the staff. So far, the only coach he’s fired since getting the job permanently is Bradley Dale Peveto.
This was a chance to do something bold, and instead we settled. This was a status quo hire right after the administration made a clear signal the status quo wasn’t good enough. If we were going to do this, why didn’t we spare ourselves the headache and just keep Les Miles? What’s the difference? This is an administration without a plan.
I don't want to say that Coach O is a guaranteed failure. It's more that I just don't understand Alleva's thinking at all. You can frame this however you want, and Pomansky has proved himself to be a master at PR, but this hire is about minor tweaks, not a major blowup. I felt that once you fired Miles, you were on the path of major blowup and it was time to see it through. Alleva clearly felt that it was just time for minor tweaks and a major messaging overhaul. This is a sequel, not a reboot.
When it came time to blow it all up, Alleva blinked. True change is difficult and unpredictable. There’s no guarantee Tom Herman is going to succeed at Texas. Heck, it was just three short years ago that Charlie Strong was the hot assistant can’t miss hire. We see how that worked out.
But there comes a point at which you’ve decided to make a change that you have to go in whole hog. It’s like Mike Ehrmantraut’s speech to Walter White about half measures. Or when you Yoda tells Luke there is no try. Either do. Or do not. Joe Alleva is trying to carve out a middle course of change without the pains of the full upheaval of the football program.
So far, it’s not working.
The biggest selling point for Orgeron was that he would hold disaster at bay: he's maybe the best recruiter in the country, and he saves the university so much money they can literally get serious consideration from any OC in the country. Those are not insignificant competitive advantages. Most importantly, the rest of the SEC kind of sucks. Saban has driven off all of the top tier coaching talent, and now you can make a serious argument that Kevin Sumlin is the most successful active SEC coach outside of Saban (he has the best winning percentage at his job save McElwain's short tenure).
It's not that there’s been no interest for the open OC job, it’s just that there hasn’t exactly been a stampede. Lane Kiffin went off to Florida Atlantic, just so he wouldn’t have to coach against Nick Saban. I’m not a huge fan of Kiffin, but he was clearly our top choice. Talks with Lincoln Riley never got past hello, and waiving millions of dollars at him didn’t so much as move the needle for a guy who gets to coach a returning Heisman finalist and NCAA record-holder for efficiency at quarterback next season.
I’m not overly worried about the OC position. Matt Canada hasn’t accepted the job as of this writing, but it seems likely. (Ed. Note: as of press time this morning, he has accepted the position)
He’s not a guy most of us knew a year ago, but it’s a good hire. Failing to get Kiffin turned into a bit of a positive, as it forced Orgeron to go to his Plan B. It’s encouraging to see how he worked when his first plan didn’t work out.
Everyone was thrilled with getting rid of Peveto because he is Public Enemy No. 1 of the Tiger Nation. There was rejoicing in the street over that call, but since then… nothing. Orgeron hasn’t moved to fill that empty position which is sort of a big deal given that Peveto is the defending National Recruiter of the Year, and this is recruiting season. This is the time that Peveto has value. You put up with him during the season for his recruiting skills.
And in his absence, LSU’s class is slowly falling apart. Both quarterbacks that were committed to the school are wavering, and one decommitted, leaving LSU in very much the same situation it was last year when Shea Patterson chose Ole Miss, and left LSU without a QB on the board.
LSU lost out on three of its top targets, Dylan Moses, Chris Allen, and Isaiah Buggs. All are at a position of serious need, and all are from Louisiana (Moses and Allen from Baton Rouge, Buggs from Ruston). These aren’t small losses. LSU needs to win the state of Louisiana and Baton Rouge in particular.
According to 247’s composite rankings, LSU currently only has one player in the state’s top 10 committed right now. Last year, LSU had 9 of 10. In 2015, only three of ten went out of state and as it stands right now, three Louisiana recruits are committed out of state. Even a clean sweep of the remaining top ten would only get us to 2015’s level. Even in 2012, largely considered a disaster, 6 of the the top 10 stayed home (though all of the top 3 left).
Paul knows a lot more recruiting than I do, but at the same time, I’m not encouraged by how hard he’s been forced to play spin doctor recently. He’s doing yeoman’s work telling us that all of the bad news maybe isn’t that bad.
Up is down. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. And little miss can’t be wrong. Paul’s trying to be positive, and I certainly understand that viewpoint, but I fail to see how consistently losing out on recruits and then having some in the barn decommit is trending upwards. This seems like fairly bad news to me.
The only way its trending upwards is if the players Peveto was the primary recruiter on weren’t as good as advertised and weren’t our high profile targets. Which sounds feasible until you remember the whole National Recruiter of the Year thing. Why the hell would he be assigned to recruits we were cool on?
And now, we’re losing players, too. Former five-star Chidi Okeke left the program, but no biggie, because it’s not like we needed offensive linemen for next season. LSU will return four or five starters on offense next season, depending on Malachi Dupre. On defense, LSU will return just four players as well. Even with Dupre’s return, LSU will rank near the bottom of the nation in returning starters.
Everything’s going great.
But here’s the thing. We’ve entered the dead period of recruiting, so Orgeron has a chance to regroup and fill out his staff. He made his reputation on recruiting and let’s at least look at the good news, LSU still has the No. 5 class in the country. Hold the line, finish strong, and LSU can certainly bring in a top three class. The news has been bad, but we started in a pretty good place.
This is a chance for everyone to catch their breath, look at the board, and come up with a plan. Let’s get everyone on the same page.
There’s also a simple way to get everyone on board with the new coaching staff: win. The real fear is that this a period of instability that won’t end with next season, and we’re going to be right back in the same place, only doing the full measure of change next time instead of the half measure. Orgeron needs to allay those fears, but he honestly can’t do that until next September. Though a nice finish on National Signing Day wouldn’t hurt.
There is no grading on a curve. There is no warm-up season. Orgeron might not be the most impressive name in the annals of coaching, but neither is anyone else in the SEC West not working in Tuscaloosa.
Honeymoon is over. Get results or we’ll find someone who will.