Ed Orgeron tried to be Pete Carroll.
When he left USC to become Mississippi’s head coach in 2005, Orgeron said he attempted “to do everything we did here with Coach Carroll.”
It did not go as planned.
“Some of them worked and some of them did not,” said Orgeron, who compiled a 10-25 record. “I thought about it long and hard, waiting for my shot again. I really evaluated myself.”
Orgeron now has an opportunity to show what he learned. On Sunday, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin and selected Orgeron as the Trojans’ interim coach.
The gravelly voiced Louisiana native, the Trojans’ defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, takes over a team that is 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12 Conference.
Carroll told reporters Monday that Orgeron would “do great.”
“Ed has been through enough as a head coach and he’s got a real way about him that resonates,” said Carroll, who left USC to become coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. “And he can take control of a very difficult situation and make something happen that’s positive.”
Orgeron, 52, is accustomed to making adjustments. Since returning to USC as part of Kiffin’s staff in January 2010, he has lived in a hotel room across the street from campus. His wife and three sons live in Louisiana, and he returns home when he can.
During a news conference Sunday, Orgeron spoke of providing “energy” and “excitement” to the job and the sideline, welcome news for Trojans fans distressed about Kiffin’s seeming preoccupation with a laminated play-call sheet.
USC has an open date this week, so players and fans will get their first dose of Orgeron as head coach on the night of Oct. 10, against Arizona at the Coliseum.
Don’t expect “over the top, rah-rah” from Orgeron, former Trojans defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson said. Orgeron’s stint as Mississippi’s coach from 2005 to 2007 changed him.
“Once you are in charge of an entire team and an entire coaching staff, you have a different perspective,” said Jackson, an NFL first-round draft pick who played for the Trojans from 2004 to 2007. “The old Ed that I know as a coach, he’s grown based off his experience.”
However, Orgeron remains fiery after nearly three decades in coaching.
Haden said he was “blown away” observing Orgeron putting players through their paces during practice a few weeks ago.
“The passion that Ed had coaching defensive linemen through that same stupid bag drill he’s run for 27 years, it’s just incredible, " Haden said.
Senior Devon Kennard has played defensive end and linebacker for the Trojans. He does not anticipate Orgeron changing his style much now that he is overseeing the entire team.
“Coach O is Coach O,” he said. “He’s going to bring energy that a lot of guys aren’t used to. ... I’m excited for everybody to feel what we feel in the D-line room.”
Orgeron said there would be differences.
“Being the head coach, you can’t do the same things you do as an assistant,” he said. “You have to choose what you do and what you say.”
Orgeron worked at Northwestern State, McNeese State, Arkansas, Miami, Nicholls State and Syracuse before Paul Hackett hired him at USC before the 1998 season.
Carroll kept Orgeron on staff in 2001 and also made him the recruiting coordinator as the Trojans built the foundation for their return to prominence.
Orgeron left for Mississippi after the Trojans defeated Oklahoma in the 2005 Bowl Championship Series title game. He was fired in 2007 after the Rebels finished 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference. Orgeron joined the New Orleans Saints staff for a season before Kiffin hired him at Tennessee.
While at Tennessee, he had a star turn of sorts when he appeared on the big screen with Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock in the movie “The Blind Side.”
It was a small, supporting role, Orgeron playing himself as Mississippi’s head football coach.
“She was one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met,” Orgeron said of Bullock. “We had fun. It was a good time.”
But the most memorable moment for Orgeron came when he arrived on the set.
“I think most of the guys making the movie were graduates of USC,” Orgeron said, “because I walked in there and they were saying, ‘Hey, Coach O! Fight on!’ ”
Now, he will succeed Kiffin, with eight games to show USC fans, Haden and possibly other athletic directors that he is a capable head coach.
It’s a short audition, but for Orgeron it’s the role of a lifetime.
Times staff writer Sam Farmer contributed to this report.