If you think Ed Orgeron's audition is going well so far, wait until you see how he handles the final stretch toward national signing day.
The 52-year-old, who is attempting to convince USC athletic director Pat Haden that he deserves to stick around as head coach sans the "interim" label, is 5-1 since replacing Lane Kiffin in late September. Fresh off an upset victory over fourth-ranked Stanford, Trojans football suddenly has some excitement swirling around it again after a dysfunctional Kiffin era that ended in debacle and threatened to derail the team's recruiting efforts.
The revered recruiter appears to have things back on track in the Land of Troy. His efforts are giving Haden plenty to think about as the regular season winds down.
Orgeron, who previously served as the team's defensive line coach for 10 full seasons, has muddled the university's current hunt for coaching candidates. Rumors continue to circulate about who Haden may be targeting, but the only known outsider to interview for the position is former USC star linebacker Jack Del Rio.
The Broncos defensive coordinator is ironically an interim head coach himself these days, filling in for John Fox during a medical leave of absence.
Regardless of who ultimately lands an interview with Haden, Orgeron has his sights set on turning this temporary task into a permanent endeavor. He doesn't shy away from the subject.
"I want to be the head coach at USC," Orgeron said during a Monday discussion on ESPNU. "I love being a head coach. I think that it's something I'm able to do, and do well. And I want to be the head coach at USC when I get the chance. I think I can perform on a very high basis to do what the Trojan family wants me to do."
Aside from the Trojans' rejuvenated play, Orgeron can point to his sustained recruiting success as a reason to trust in him as a head coach. Haden doesn't need to look far in order to review that facet of Orgeron's resume, since many of the players he's reeled during the past decade-and-a-half have enjoyed tremendous careers at USC.
Orgeron is in his second stint as the program's recruiting coordinator. He filled the role from 1998 to 2004 before returning three years ago.
In between, Orgeron built several impressive recruiting classes at Ole Miss, where he served as head coach for three seasons (2005-07). While his tenure with the Rebels resulted in just 10 victories, it highlighted his effectiveness on the recruiting trail.
Ole Miss landed the nation's No. 45 class in 2004, according to Rivals.com. That same year, Orgeron was named National Recruiter of the Year at USC.
Upon his arrival in Oxford, the Rebels enjoyed an immediate uptick in recruiting.
Under Orgeron's direction, Ole Miss rose to No. 18 in 2005. He followed that effort by pulling in the nation's 15th-best class in 2006. His three-year haul included three 5-star and 16 4-star commits.
An Ole Miss team loaded with Orgeron's recruits went on to win consecutive Cotton Bowls after back-to-back nine-win seasons under Houston Nutt.
Since returning to USC, Orgeron has done an admirable job despite dealing with crippling NCAA sanctions that eliminated 30 scholarships in a three-year span.
In 2013, Orgeron had only 12 spots to fill and still secured a top-15 class nationally. USC signed four 5-star prospects, including the top-ranked players at safety (Su'a Cravens) and quarterback (Max Browne).
Many of the players on this roster were personally recruited by Orgeron. The trust was already in place when he became head coach, and it's showing nearly two months later.
This latest recruiting cycle has surely been a challenge. The Trojans have dealt with a depleted roster and the midseason dismissal of a head coach, throwing the team's recruiting efforts into major uncertainty.
Still, Orgeron has managed to find success. Half of the team's current 10-player class committed since he took over as head coach, including 4-star guard Viane Talamaivao, who flipped from Alabama earlier this week.
If Orgeron continues to build momentum at USC, expect the effects to be witnessed beyond the win column. Prospects will begin to see the Trojans in a different light, as the dark clouds that hovered in September seem to drift farther away with each passing day and every statement victory.
Haden surely respects the victories, but he must also identify Orgeron's potential to change the program's outward image in the eyes of prospects. The man is a proven closer, consistently sealing the deal with premier players.
"If there's one coach in the country who could land three 5-stars in a 24-hour period, it's Ed Orgeron," said JC Shurburtt, the national recruiting director for 247Sports.
Orgeron is doing his best to shake off an underwhelming tenure at Ole Miss. His impact on the Trojans during the past 15 years is undeniable.
Stringing together wins helps, but convincing top recruits that USC remains an ideal destination now and in the future is what could truly give Haden confidence that he may have already found his man.
Quotes were obtained firsthand by B/R college football writer Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
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