It seems unlikely Ed Orgeron figures in USC’s long-term plans as a successor to Lane Kiffin, but for eight games, he’s Kiffin’s successor, and that’s good enough for now.
“I’m going for it 110 percent,” he said Tuesday on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference, when I asked him if he planned to stamp his personality on the program. “We’re going to go as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may.”
There’s little doubt Orgeron will give the Trojans something they lacked under Kiffin: An outgoing, damn-the-torpedoes personality. He’s a gung-ho Louisianan who coached defensive linemen under Pete Carroll during USC’s glory years and returned to that position under Kiffin after a failed tenure as head man at Mississippi when he went 10-25.
That’s “failed,” as on the field. He’s a tireless recruiter, documented in Bruce Feldman’s book “Meat Market.”
As Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez noted (his Wildcats are USC’s next opponent Oct. 10, after a bye week), the unknown part of USC going forward is what happens on offense. Orgeron’s side of the ball is well covered with coordinator Clancy Pendergast, but the offense, which was largely Kiffin’s baby, now belongs to coordinator Clay Helton, and how he might tweak it is unknown.
“He and I have had several talks,” said Orgeron, who added it would help if and when USC gets back Silas Redd, the runner who has been out with a knee problem since spring.
“Cody (Kessler, the quarterback) can do some things well. We want to keep it simple — get back to playing good, solid football. We’re turning it over too much.”
As for the general sense he gets from his team, which doesn’t practice until Wednesday because of the week off, Orgeron said, “I actually think they’re kind of fired-up, looking forward to a fresh start.
“We’ve got eight games left. We’ve got a lot of football left. Let’s represent USC and do the best job possible. We’re going to play with excitement and energy and get after it.”
Other assorted snippets from Pac-12 coaches:
Mike Riley, Oregon State: Riley, 60, indicated he wasn’t interested in the USC opening, saying “I think I’ve made it clear in the past,” that he intends to stay at OSU.
Rodriguez, Arizona: The Wildcats had a short Sunday practice but a “long meeting” with quarterbacks, receivers and coaches, after a forgettable performance in the rain in Arizona’s 31-13 loss to Washington. Chief among the culprits was QB B.J. Denker, reamed out on the sidelines more than once by Rodriguez, who said it’s the “same scenario at quarterback (in pecking order). He knows he can play better. He’s always responded well. He’s a competitive guy.”
Sonny Dykes, Cal: The Bears host Washington State this week in a matchup of coaches whose association dates to when Dykes was a graduate assistant coaching tight ends and Leach was on the staff at Kentucky.
“It’s funny, a lot of the guys who have worked for Mike have changed (the Air Raid offense),” Dykes said. “Mike has kept the more pure version of it. He’s a firm believer in getting good at doing some specific things. He limits the playbook.” Expanding on Leach, Dykes said, “He’s true to himself. What you see is what you get. He doesn’t put on a front, ever. (As a GA) I just tried to keep my mouth shut and learn as much as I could.”
Jim Mora, UCLA: The Bruins visit Utah Thursday night, and Mora says the Utes (3-1) show a mix of offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson’s offensive touch and head coach Kyle Whittingham’s defensive chops.
“Dennis is a guy that looks for the big play,” said Mora. “They’re very protection-oriented, very good at exploiting perceived weaknesses. Dennis has his handprints all over their offense. Yet with Kyle, you see discipline, toughness and ball control. You see a team that doesn’t make mistakes and hurt itself.”
For more on the game of the week in Pac-12 play, Washington at Stanford, keep watch on Adam Jude’s blog and our Seattle Times website.