The Loop

This Coach O story from his time at Tennessee with Lane Kiffin is the most Coach O story ever

September 18, 2019
UCLA v Tennessee

Joe Murphy

Long before achieving folk hero status as the interim head coach at USC turned head coach at LSU, Ed Orgeron was a complete and utter nut job. Well, he still is a complete and utter nut job, but as this fantastic story from SB Nation's Steve Godfrey detailed in 2015, Coach O has "mellowed" since his head coaching days at Ole Miss, where he once challenged his own players to fight him.

It took a long time for that mellowing period to begin, however. After going 10-25 at Ole Miss, Orgeron was fired in 2007, and he went on to spend one season as the defensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints. At the end of the 2008 NFL season, Orgeron was hired by Lane Kiffin, the new head coach at the University of Tennessee.

The duo spent just one season in Knoxville, an epic 7-6 year that deserves a 30 for 30 some day. For now, we have this must-read, semi-oral history from ESPN Senior staff writer Chris Low, which was published on Wednesday morning. In it you'll find a number of incredible tidbits, including the time Kiffin told Alshon Jeffery he'd be pumping gas for the rest of his life if he went to the University of South Carolina (Kiffin denies this). Jeffery, as you know, is in his eighth season in the NFL, and he famously caught the opening touchdown of Super Bowl LII, which the Philadelphia Eagles won over the New England Patriots. Swing and a miss, Lane!

But my favorite story from Low's piece is about Coach O, who was hired to be Kiffin's associate head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach. After getting off to a respectable 3-3 start, which included a drubbing of Georgia and close losses to Auburn and No. 1 Florida, a 30-point favorite led by Tim Tebow, the Vols had to travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide. It was Saban's third season at the helm, but the first in which the Tide looked like the college football juggernaut they were soon to become. The night before the game, despite being a 14.5-point road underdog, Kiffin and the rest of the coaching staff were brimming with confidence. Before Kiffin addressed the team, however, it was Coach O who had to demand the room's attention. Let's see how he did that. . .

Team meetings at the Birmingham Marriott were winding down the night before Tennessee was set to take on top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama in 2009, and Ed Orgeron wanted everyone's attention.

To get the Vols pumped up, the fiery defensive line coach took an overhead projector and hurled it into a wall, where it shattered into pieces.

Nothing says "football guy" like destroying a high-priced, inanimate object, am I right? Peak Coach O. Afterward, Kiffin told the team he had already called UT to inform the school that the Vols would be staying an extra night to celebrate after beating Alabama the following day, causing the room to go wild. Amazingly, they almost pulled it off, but Terrence Cody happened:

That game wound up being the closest one the Tide would play all year, and they went on to go 14-0 and win Saban's first national title as the Alabama head coach. And to think, a 7-6, Lane Kiffin-led team had them on the ropes in their own stadium. What a crazy year at Tennessee. If you have the time, make sure to read Low's entire story.