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Ole Miss coaches on recruiting trail

Starting Monday, the Ole Miss football coaching staff will begincombing the country for talented high school and junior collegeprospects. They’ll spend a week in motels, living out of asuitcase.

Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron provided a preview of hisrecruiting game plan during Tuesday’s alumni meeting at theFernwood Country Club. Recognized as a master recruiter across thenation, he helped Southern Cal win a national championship threeyears ago, serving as the Trojans’ defensive coordinator.

“I told my assistant coaches that I want them out of the motelby 7 a.m. I don’t want to see them back at the motel before 7p.m.”

That’s known as a 12-hour day. Coach O wants his assistants tovisit 12 high schools per day, meet the coaches and size up theplayers.

Coach O said he skips the noon break every day. “I’m too busy toeat lunch. I expect my coaches to do the same.” He does allow themto brown-bag it or bring a lunch pail to work from home.

Speaking to the crowd of Rebel faithful, Orgeron urged them toencourage prospective athletes to hit the books as hard as they hitopponents on the football field. The NCAA has raised the admissionrequirements to 16 core subjects.

“We are wasting our time recruiting players who don’t have thegrades,” said Coach O. “They simply can’t get into college with alow ACT or SAT.”

For many years, colleges have been embarrassed by the lowgraduation ratio of their so-called student/athletes. Only a smallpercentage will land a professional contract. That means themajority are minus a diploma after 4 or 5 years at an institutionof higher learning.

Coach O said he doesn’t mind playing freshmen if they are goodenough. “We played 17 freshmen last year and four of them made(freshman) All-American.”

In 2005, Ole Miss had 24 Academic All-Americans, best amongSouthern schools.

Growing up in southern Louisiana, Coach O had an outstandingprep career at South Lafourche High School in Galliano, La.,playing football, basketball and track. He became a 4-year starterin the defensive line at Northwestern (La.) State.

“My dad told me I had to get a college education if I didn’twant to spend my life working off shore,” on an oil rig. “He toldme to work hard and do my best at whatever I tried.”

Coach O said he had a standard scholarship sales pitch when hevisited a prospect’s home. “I tell the parents and the player thatI’m going to work their son hard in practice. I expect him to go toclass and get an education.

“If he skips class, I’m going to run him. If he does it toomuch, I’ll kick him off the team. Most parents like to hear that.Some players don’t like it and they don’t come to Ole Miss.”

Certainly, recruiting is a high-pressure business. “I tell myassistant coaches, if you go into a home thinking you can’t sign akid, call me. I’ll do it.”

Franklin County defensive lineman Marcus Tillman had made anearly commitment to sign with the LSU Tigers. Enter Coach O.

“Marcus had made a commitment to sign with that school acrossthe river,” meaning LSU. “I changed his mind and made him an offerhe couldn’t refuse.”

Tillman, a powerful 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, started as a truefreshman last season and played remarkably well. Coach O saidTillman had to grow up in a hurry.

“Marcus dominated at defensive end,” said Orgeron. “He’s goingto be an All-American. He works hard and he wants to learn. He wonour academic and athletic awards in the spring. He’s humble,too.”

Coach O praised Tillman’s parents. “Marcus comes from a greatfamily.”

Tillman’s younger brother, Bo, stands 6-6 and weighs 310 pounds.He helped the FCHS Bulldogs win the Class 3A state championship asa junior.

In his spare time, Coach O spends quality time with his family.They include wife, Kelly; their 15-year-old son, Parker, and twin9-year-old boys Tyler and Cody.

A week at the beach is all the vacation Coach O enjoys beforegoing back to work. He also likes to jog.

In case you missed it, an 11-under par 61 wonthe Ole Miss scramble at Fernwood. David Strong and son William,teamed with former LSU pitcher Jason Albritton to win first place.Don Alford, Tim Alford, Pete Alford and Greg Gatlin won a scorecardplayoff over John Ott, Kory Kenny and Don Langston to settle secondand third place at 62.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com