LSU legend Bert Jones thinks Orgeron the right man to lead the Tigers
Former LSU legend Bert Jones said the program is in great hands with new coach Ed Orgeron.
“I love Coach O,” said Jones, who was at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Friday to be honored as part of the Class of 2016 inductees. “I think he’s going to be fabulous. We’ve got great players coming back. He’s a great coach.”
A Louisiana native, Orgeron was named the Tigers’ permanent head coach in late November after taking over for the fired Les Miles in September and finishing the regular season with a 5-2 record.
“Coach O” capped the season by leading the Tigers to an impressive 29-9 victory over Louisville in the Citrus Bowl (below).
Best known for his gravelly voice, intensity and strong Cajun accent, Orgeron was the overwhelming choice among his players. Some critics, however, questioned whether he was the right man to lead the Bayou Bengals after late-season losses to Alabama and Florida. He didn’t exactly dominate as Ole Miss’ head coach.
LSU has traditionally boasted a bruising defense and a stalwart running game, but the lack of an effective passing attack to compliment that ground attack ultimately proved to be Miles’ undoing.
The Tigers finished the regular season ranked 101st nationally in passing offense (187.6 yards per game) and 60th in total offense (425.7 ypg).
But Jones sounded confident that Orgeron, a defensive line coach by trade, can quickly right things to give the Tigers some much-needed offensive balance. Among his top priorities was to lure Pittsburgh’s Matt Canada to Baton Rouge to become his new offensive coordinator.
“He truly is a passionate guy and players will respond to him,” Jones said of Orgeron. “He’s a great recruiter and is just an excellent football coach.”
LSU notably took to the air early against Louisville before leaning on the running game to seal it. Quarterback Danny Etling threw 21 of his 29 passes in the first half and Malachi Dupre enjoyed his most productive day as a Tiger, finishing with a career-best 139 yards.
But Orgeron will ultimately be judged by the LSU faithful by how he fares against Alabama, the 500-pound gorilla in the same SEC West Division that has beaten the Tigers six consecutive times en route to claiming four national championships within the past seven years. The Tide will go for their fifth during Nick Saban’s decade of dominance Monday night against Clemson.
“Coach O is probably going to work really hard to beat them,” said Jones, who is already a member of both the Pro Football and the Louisiana Hall of Fames. “You just have to learn to beat the best.”
But it speaks volumes that an influential alum of Jones’ stature sounded sure that Orgeron would do just that.
Jones became LSU’s first consensus All-America quarterback in 1972, throwing for a school-record 1,446 yards and 14 touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a 9-2-1 mark and a berth in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.
He was named the National Player of the Year in 1972 by the Sporting News and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting following the season.
Jones led the SEC in passing as both a junior and senior and capped his career with the Tigers as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (3,255), attempts (418), completions (220) and touchdowns (28).