Ed Orgeron knows all about the impact an interim head coach can have on a football program.
His success as an interim coach at USC — going 6-2 after a 3-2 start in 2013 — before going 6-2 in the same role at LSU in 2016 helped him get hired as the Tigers’ full-time head coach after the 2016 season.
So even though his Tigers (10-0, 6-0 SEC) are ranked No. 1, he’s wary of hosting Arkansas (2-8, 0-6) on Saturday night. The Razorbacks fired Chad Morris and replaced him with Barry Lunney Jr. on an interim basis earlier this month.
“Obviously they’re going to be fired up,” Orgeron said. “I think they get juice. Every time I’ve been an interim coach, the next week we came out on fire. But you try to change things up, you try to flip the script.
“Obviously he’s changed things around. He’s going to rally the troops. They’re going to come out and give their best effort. We know they will.”
As part of preparing for Arkansas, Orgeron is trying to shore up the Tigers defense. It allowed 402 rushing yards and 614 total yards in a 58-37 victory at Ole Miss last Saturday on the heels of the shootout win against Alabama.
“We’re going to get some things fixed this week,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to get fixed, which will be good. On defense, we’ve got to coach them better. Starts with me. We have to put them in better positions.
“We have to make plays when we get in space, make tackles. I know we’re going to get it fixed. The men in our room are going to be fine. I believe in (defensive coordinator) Dave Aranda, our coaching staff and our players. We’re going to have a great defense, I know that.”
A victory would clinch the SEC West championship for LSU.
The Razorbacks had an open date last week so Lunney will be making his debut as interim head coach against the Tigers, who are favored by more than six touchdowns.
“I guess you go all in, right?” Lunney said. “If you’re going to do it, you go on the road and play the No. 1 team in the country. It is what it is.
“And the truth is, our mantra, our attitude, our approach would be the same if we were playing Portland State again this week, you know, in a rematch with them. It’s about us. It’s about us playing our best football game that we’ve played all season long. Period. End of story.”
Lunney, a former Arkansas quarterback, is in his seventh season as the team’s tight ends coach and first season as special teams coordinator. He has never been a head coach before.
He said that since being named interim head coach Nov. 10 he has come across fans who have said, “Well, you don’t have much to lose.”
“I stand against that, and I don’t believe that,” Lunney said. “I believe, and our philosophy is, we’ve got a lot to gain. We have a lot to gain as a football team this week as far as just re-establishing our identity of who we are and how we play.
“We’ve got two football games left, and we have a whole lot to gain.”
–Field Level Media