Despite assistant role, Orgeron’s influence spreads

Published 11:44 pm Monday, March 2, 2009

Though he has bounced between three teams in the last 15 months, the legend of Ed Orgeron continues to grow.

According to, the Tennessee defensive line coach and former New Orleans Saints defensive line coach is still using a surprisingly effective tactic he used in his first year as the head coach at Ole Miss.

He — and several other Tennessee coaches, apparently — are ripping their shirts off to impress and sway recruits.

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The first time he did it in 2005, the act took on a life of its own. Orgeron was fresh off a stint at Southern Cal, and two years earlier, his Trojan defensive line was nicknamed “Wild Bunch II,” — an homage to the 1969 defensive line that was nicknamed after the movie of the same name.

When he got to Ole Miss, the nickname was lost in translation. He tore his shirt off during the first team meeting, and players chanted, “Ole Miss, wild boys … Ole Miss, wild boys … Ole Miss, wild boys.”

It was the stuff of urban legend. It was intended to get the players fired up, but it instead led to many a punch line as time wore on with poor results on the field.

Strangely, it appears that the tactic’s track record will not prevent Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin from using it in his first year at the helm in Knoxville.

With more than 100 players in attendance at the Volunteers’ junior day — a day created for high school juniors to visit and be scouted by coaches — the shirts went flying.

As Markeith Ambles put it to VolQuest, “We were in a dark theater and all of a sudden they turned on the lights and the coaches ripped off their shirts. It was like in the army and it got crunk up in there. Some of the players that were in there did some chants. It got crunk.”

Sometimes, I am amazed at the things that make recruits start thinking they could go to this or that school. Most seem to believe that if they’re promised early playing time, they will get it. When they’re told they’ll be given a shot at quarterback or running back (though they will be switched to defense), they usually buy it hook, line and sinker.

But this topless phenomenon just doesn’t make sense to me. Personally, if I’m 17 and a coach that is recruiting me rips his shirt off and starts screaming, I cross that school off the list. I like to think I’m a pretty easygoing guy, but everyone has to draw the line somewhere.

A shirtless coach wanting me to yell, “wild boys” is where I put the stick to the sand and draw like there’s no tomorrow.

But I’m not a 17-year-old kid. I’m a sportswriter, and from this vantage point, I love stories like this. Kiffin has only been on the job a few months, but I’ve got a hunch he and his staff are going to continue to make sports news interesting for the foreseeable future.