5 Reasons USC Fans Should Be Thankful for Ed Orgeron
Ed Orgeron has been the gift that keeps on giving to the USC football community. Everything that can go right, has gone right for him as he's led the Trojans from being a mediocre and irrelevant team to one of the most-talked about programs down the stretch of the 2013 college football season.
The interim head coach is just three days and a victory away from going undefeated in Pac-12 play, and finalizing his rèsumè for the vacant head-coaching position. If the Trojans are successful against their crosstown rivals, the UCLA Bruins, Orgeron might as well don a red-and-white suit and call himself Santa Claus, as he will have given USC fans the best gift ever.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's take a look at five reasons why USC fans should remember Coach Orgeron on Thursday when they pile holiday-themed dishes onto their plates and sit around the table, giving thanks for all the great things in their lives.
He's Brought Joy Back to the Program
Even before USC broke the curse in Corvallis, Ore. and beat Stanford, Ed Orgeron brought some much needed heart and soul back into the football program.
For three-and-a-half seasons, the Trojans languished under sanctions and the coaching style of Lane Kiffin, who has never been known for his charm or personality. Orgeron mastered that from seemingly his first week of practice, when he reopened practices to the media and brought cookies back to Training Table.
Orgeron has made USC football fun again and in doing so, he has reinvigorated the fanbase.
He Plays the Backups
Javorious "Buck" Allen. Ty Isaac. J.R. Tavai.
These are just a few names we know very well now, thanks to Ed Orgeron.
When Lane Kiffin held the reins, Allen most specifically was a victim of the depth chart, only getting face time if starters Tre Madden or Silas Redd went down. As fate would have it, Allen would need to be relied upon because of injuries to those two running backs, but even before that, Orgeron gave him moments to shine.
And when the coaching staff let him loose, Allen could not be stopped.
The breakout star for USC has 576 yards and 11 touchdowns on 88 carries this season, nine of those TDs coming in his last four games.
Not only Allen, but other underutilized players, like wide receiver De'Von Flournoy and safety Demetrius Wright, have gotten playing time under Orgeron. Were it not for him, we would have missed out on some of the most explosive, exciting plays from Allen and other backups this season.
He's Developed Cody Kessler
He's not all the way there yet, but Cody Kessler is showing signs of stud-like talent in his time being coached by Orgeron and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton.
Kessler went from looking shaky and unsure of himself back in August to now confident in the pocket and able to make decisions on the fly. In November, he's completed 72.8 percent of his passes, has thrown eight touchdowns and only one interception. He's stepped up and delivered dimes before taking big hits, and each time he got up just as composed as ever.
USC fans have Orgeron and Helton to thank for transforming Kessler into a very capable quarterback, one who will undoubtedly be able to lead the team over the next two seasons.
He's Made Playing Through Injuries Look Easy
USC's injury woes used to be painfully obvious, but with Orgeron, it's almost as if some of them don't matter anymore.
Silas Redd and Tre Madden go down? Bring on Buck Allen and Ty Isaac. Torin Harris and Anthony Brown are out at cornerback? Josh Shaw and Kevon Seymour can fill in. The secondary in particular has been one of USC's biggest liabilities this season due to injuries and just a general lack of experience. But down the stretch, we didn't see them give up too many long passing plays.
Lesser-known skill-position players have been able to fill in for starters, something that we didn't see enough of under Lane Kiffin. He played non-starters begrudgingly, but under Orgeron, we have seen the rotation of players as one of the key reasons USC has improved throughout the season.
He Beat Stanford
It was a long time coming, but the best thing Ed Orgeron did for USC was beat the Cardinal for the first time in five seasons.
When Andre Heidari made the game-winning field goal, the Coliseum exploded in cheers from the home crowd. As the final seconds ticked off, USC fans flooded the field of the Coliseum as years of frustration and failure were finally exorcised. In that moment, Orgeron and USC told the world they were back and not to be taken lightly anymore.
Normally, fans of high-profile programs like USC don't rush the field—ever. But after what the program went through because of NCAA sanctions and everything that has happened in their wake, rushing the field seemed the only reasonable thing to do in that moment. USC got the better of Stanford for the first time in seemingly forever, and Trojan fans won't let you forget about it any time soon.
None of this would have happened this season, were it not for Orgeron. And for that, USC fans owe him—and Pat Haden, for that matter—the biggest "thank you" of all.