All State Insurance uses the motto "You're in good hands with All State."
Lane Kiffin could use the same slogan to describe Ed Orgeron and the Vols' defensive line.
Kiffin made Orgeron one of his top priorities after taking the Tennessee head coaching job. Orgeron, respected as one of the best defensive line coaches and one of the top recruiters in the nation, hasn’t disappointed since his arrival to Rocky Top.
Orgeron is serving as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator for the Volunteers and has helped the team garner 12 commitments already for the 2010 recruiting class. After spending three years as head coach at Ole Miss, Orgeron spent last year as the defensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints.
“I couldn’t be happier than working for Lane Kiffin and being at the University of Tennessee,” Orgeron said in an earlier interview. “Coach Kiffin is one of the best head coaches in the country, a great offensive mind. Working for him and his father Monte is truly an honor.”
This isn’t the first opportunity for Kiffin and Orgeron to work together.
The two served together on Pete Carroll’s staff at USC prior to Kiffin taking the head coaching job at the Oakland Raiders. Orgeron served as recruiting coordinator at USC before leaving for Ole Miss, Kiffin took over as recruiting coordinator after his departure.
Orgeron proved he knows what it takes recruiting in the SEC while at Ole Miss, with a lot of his players helping Houston Nutt to a Cotton Bowl appearance and victory last fall.
Orgeron has a knack for identifying great players and often is the first coach and school to offer a prospect. Once a prospect receives an offer from the veteran coach, many other schools often follow.
“I love being the first one to offer a young man,” Orgeron said. “We trust our talents in evaluating talent. It doesn’t matter to us if anyone else offers or not; when we are sold on a young man, that’s all it takes.”
While head coach at Ole Miss, Orgeron still tutored the defensive linemen along with former USC player Ryan Nielsen. Ole Miss's defensive line was one of the best in the country last year, and is expected to be a solid unit again this fall.
After Orgeron’s arrival at Rocky Top, the veteran recruiter made upgrading the talent level on the defensive line a high priority.
Five out of twelve of the current Volunteer commitments are on the defensive front, including five-star Jacques Smith and former five-star and former Florida player John Brown.
Orgeron also played a major role in receiving a pledge from Louisiana defensive lineman Risean Broussard. He and Frank Wilson both are very well respected in the southern Louisiana parishes.
They also have already secured a commitment from one of the top prospects - if not the top prospect in Louisiana - in 2011 defensive tackle Anthony Johnson. The standout defender plays at O.P. Walker High School in New Orleans, Wilson’s former school.
Johnson participated in one of Tennessee’s summer camps last month and came away more impressed than before.
Johnson knew he could trust the coaches recruiting him, but after spending three days with them his relationship the entire coaching staff has grown and expanded a lot.
“I knew they wouldn’t lie to me about how great it was there, but it sounded too good to be true,” Johnson said. “It was as good as or better than what they said it would be.”
Johnson also enjoyed being coached by Orgeron, who the standout defensive tackle calls the best defensive line coach in the country.
“He had me fired up before I could get out of the car,” Johnson explained. “He is one of the main reasons I chose Tennessee. I wanted to be coached by the best; at UT I know I will be with Coach O and Coach Monte Kiffin.”
Smith also participated in one of the Vols summer camps. And, even though he committed to the previous staff, he solidfied his pledge after getting to know the new coaching staff a lot better.
“I really like Coach O a lot,” Smith said. “I can see why he is respected as one of the best in the business. I learned a lot from him in just one day at camp.”
A big, fast athlete, Smith has the size and strength to play defensive end or the quickness to play linebacker. He's a disrupter on defense that moves piles when he arrives.
Orgeron is also known for taking shorter defensive linemen and turning them into All-American nose guards.
That reputation played a big role in securing J.C. Copeland’s pledge.
Copeland may barely reach 6-feet, but his explosiveness off the ball and his quickness is hard to contain.
Scout.com Director of Scouting Scott Kennedy had this to say about Copeland.
“Quick first step off the line, Copeland is consistently the first player off the ball. He uses his hands well to control and dispatch of his blocker. Outstanding in pursuit and a good change of direction. Needs to work on getting off blocks if he loses the battle of initial contact. Has a tendency to stay blocked if the offensive lineman gets into his chest. Has a terrific motor and goes sideline to sideline and downfield.”
One of the biggest surprises so far in this recruiting class is defensive lineman Patrick Harris of Chabot Junior College in California.
Harris impressed Junior College experts in a recent combine.
"Patrick is a monster," said Kevin Lustgarten of JCFootball.com. "He has great speed, great explosion and will be a great player at the next level."
Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was at Harris practice today.
"I'm very excited about playing for Coach Orgeron," Harris said. "Coach O is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country, I want to get to the next level and I'm confident he can help me do that. Tennessee offered me about a month a go; they were the first to offer."
Former five star defensive tackle and former Florida Gator is very familiar with Coach Orgeron.
“He has been recruiting me for a long time,” Brown said. “He recruited me while he was at Ole Miss and before I chose Florida. Coach O is the best defensive line coach in the country and Coach Monte Kiffin is the best defensive coordinator in the business. Coach O has been recruiting me ever since high school - he hates taking no for an answer - and I finally gave him a yes."
Orgeron isn’t only focused on the defense in recruiting. He and the Volunteer coaching staff are going after the best athletes in the country, no matter who has offered them or whether the prospect is committed elsewhere.
This writer got the opportunity to watch Orgeron in action for three years at Ole Miss. As the head coach of the Rebels he was all over the field, running from drill to drill. His high energy and enthusiasm is contagious.
Expect this year’s defensive line unit for Tennessee to play harder than they ever have before. Effort and energy won’t lack from this group. Orgeron won’t allow it.
In other words Tennessee defensive line and the Vols recruiting aren’t in good hands, but the great hands of Ed Orgeron.