OXFORD – It started with Ole Miss wide receiver Shay Hodge late Saturday night, still sweaty from a 169-yard performance against Northern Arizona.
It’s “Ed Week.”
Ed Orgeron is not the head coach at Tennessee, but he’s a big part of the success the Vols have had on defense and therefore an obstacle as the Rebels seek win No. 7 and bowl eligibility.
Ole Miss and Tennessee kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday before a CBS national television audience.
The Tennessee media relations office says Orgeron is not granting interview requests this week.
Said Hodge after a 38-14 Ole Miss win over Northern Arizona: “Coach O never did anything to me, but the way I saw him treat some people, I know some guys are going to come out with a real fire in their belly and get after them pretty bad.”
The comments were dialed back on Monday, and not all players had a bad experience under Ed Orgeron.
He is a fantastic recruiter, a skill Tennessee has locked in on and promotes with Orgeron as the face of a billboard campaign in the talent-rich state of Florida.
Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett remembers his recruiting experience.
“The guy just has a way with words. He came to my house, and it was ‘Kentrell, just imagine. This time next year you’re going to be a freshman All-American. You’re going to get 1 1/2 sacks a game. You’re going to end the season with 18 1/2 sacks; you’re going to lead the nation.
“What’s the best play in football? The sack-caused fumble. You know how that feels to be on an SEC playing field and get a sack-caused fumble and the crowd goes wild?’
“Being a high school student, a collegiate coach tells you that, it gives you chills. You get goose bumps, and it’s like, ‘Man, I have to play for this guy.’ He has a way with words, and it gives you the feeling, the sense that, ‘This is the only guy I can play for.’ ”
Telling a high school football player what he wants to here in recruiting is not an approach invented by Orgeron. Certainly that goes on with Ed, but in some instances there is more relationship building, and many of those players, including Dexter McCluster, remember that. “He took a liking to me. He would always ask about my mom and dad,” McCluster said.
In the aftermath of the Orgeron Experiment it became clear, however, that his failed attempt in the Big Chair had as much to do with relationships as it did with Xs and Os.
He didn’t let all of his coaches do their thing, his style had an adverse affect on some of his players, and the stories extend to program support personnel.
Right now, Orgeron is no doubt having a strong impact on Tennessee’s success with his recruiting and his “coaching up” of the defensive line. At this point in time it’s where he needs to be, and perhaps lessons learned at Ole Miss will make him more prepared for the Big Chair another time.
You can see Orgeron’s fingerprints in the tempo and energy shown by the Vols’ front four. Senior Dan Williams may be the best nose tackle in the league. He plays sideline to sideline and has an incredible amount of tackles for his position with 43.
So maybe this matchup is personal for some Ole Miss players, not so personal for others.
This is much is clear. There is motivation in going up against a very talented defense and in the process showing Orgeron that the offensive players he recruited have evolved and can do some pretty good things.
“That’s pretty much what all of us would like to do, to show how well we’ve developed,” center Daverin Geralds said. “Me being on the offensive line and going against a D-line he’s coaching, you want to show your goods, try to play well and dominate his guys.”
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal