Friendly foes: Ed Orgeron praises coaching abilities of old friend Lane Kiffin
OXFORD, Miss. — When Lane Kiffin was announced as the Ole Miss head coach a year ago, followed by Mississippi State’s hiring of Mike Leach, college football fans anticipated the fireworks that could have erupted between the two prior to the Egg Bowl.
Those fans were disappointed as the pair were downright cordial to one another.
This week, Ole Miss (4-4) finishes the regular season with a visit to LSU (4-5) to take on the Tigers and head coach Ed Orgeron, a long-time friend of Kiffin’s.
If the build-up to the Egg Bowl was a buddy movie with the two coaches, this week is a bromance.
“Lane came in as a young coach with coach (Pete) Carroll our first year (at USC) with coach Carroll,” Orgeron said at his weekly press conference.
“I believe it was the year 2000, so I’ve known Lane for 20 years and we became good friends. I respect him as a coach. There’s no question I respect his knowledge of the game. He got me to leave the NFL to go with him to Tennessee. He was going to come with me if I got the job (at LSU) if he did not get a head job and be my offensive coordinator. He’s a great recruiter. I mean me and him have recruited a lot of great players together. We have an everlasting bond, we won two championships together.”
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron on Lane Kiffin
The pair coached together on two separate occasions when Kiffin was the head coach at Southern Cal and Tennessee.
That gave the duo many chances to test one another.
“(We coached against one another) in practice all the time, but (Saturday) will be the first game,” Orgeron said. “In practice we used to go out there all the time and we were very competitive.”
The two also became close off the field, talking about a variety of subjects except one – whether Kiffin should take the Ole Miss job.
“I don’t think I did (discuss the decision with Orgeron),” Kiffin said in his Monday presser. “I had talked to him years ago about it and stuff and obviously had him on staff twice since then between USC and Tennessee. But no, I did not this time.”
The lack of communication in the fall is nothing new for Orgeron, even with Kiffin.
“I haven’t talked to him much this season,” Orgeron said. “He’s been busy doing his thing; I been busy doing my thing. I don’t talk to any head coaches, rarely, during the season.”
Talk is not required between the two. Orgeron knows Kiffin’s abilities as well as any other coach in the country.
“The game is in slow motion for Lane on the sideline,” Orgeron said.
“He can see all 22 (players) at one time, much like Dave Aranda did for us. I’ll watch the line because I’m a line guy, guys will watch the defensive backs, he watches all 22 at one time and can tell what they’re doing. He can change plays on the line of scrimmage. You’ve seen him at Alabama whistling and changing plays. He played quarterback; he knows what to do with the football. He understands both sides of the football, so I think his gameday calling, his preparation and his recruiting are excellent.”
Coach Orgeron on Lane’s Kiffin
According to Orgeron, Kiffin’s coaching abilities are almost hereditary, coming from his father Monte Kiffin.
“Monte’s still with him, they’re best friends,” Orgeron said.
“Monte taught him football. The kid was always around football, always in the locker room, always listening to football and if you’re around Monte Kiffin, it’s football 24/7. I mean the guy is always on the phone; he’s always talking and Lane’s just like his daddy.”
Coach Orgeron on Monte Kiffin’s influence on Lane
When Ole Miss and the Tigers take the field Saturday, expect plenty of sparks to fly between the heated rivals.
But expect the postgame handshake to be amiable. That is how friends do it.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.