Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has applied lessons from a tumultuous three seasons at the helm of Ole Miss to be a better leader in his time at USC. He may not have been prepared to be a head coach in 2005, but each passing week of 2013 proves that he is now.
"I had to look at myself", Orgeron told USA Today reporter Dan Wolken in a Nov. 7 profile.
All one can ask from a person's failures is that they learn, and that's the foundation for earning a second chance.
Orgeron's second chance may not, and likely won't, be at USC.
Athletic director Pat Haden's move on the head-coaching vacancy determines Trojans football's course for the next half-decade—or longer. This hire is also Haden's opportunity to put his own stamp on the most prominent position in the Pac-12, let alone the USC athletic department.
Orgeron may not be the hire USC needs to recapture its past glory, but he's proving he's ready to lead somewhere in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
With its 62-28 trouncing of Cal on Saturday, USC improved to 4-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the Pac-12 since Orgeron took over for ousted Lane Kiffin.
The Trojans are playing loose—a point of emphasis Orgeron has repeatedly stressed in his month at the helm—and integrating previously unused players like running back Buck Allen into more prominent roles.
The Trojans' rejuvenation has the nation taking notice, including ESPN's flagship show College Gameday, which will broadcast live from the Coliseum before USC's Week 12 game against No. 4 Stanford.
With the added attention on the program comes inevitable discussions of Orgeron's future—and those eyes turning to USC may also include athletic directors who will have their own coaching vacancies to fill in the coming weeks.
Orgeron took over the USC job under unusual circumstances.
Because of the slow start, Kiffin's dismissal, scholarship reductions and injuries slashing the roster size, Orgeron came into a much lower-pressure situation than that which awaits the next full-time head coach.
And as CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman captures in his feature of Orgeron last month, it was mounting pressure that vexed the coach in his previous run.
The SEC is a veritable pressure cooker that breaks down coaching regimes with staggering efficiency. Last offseason alone, four SEC programs hired new head coaches. Four more introduced new leaders in 2011 or 2012, including Ole Miss.
Though the Pac-12 differs culturally from the SEC in myriad ways, the conference isn't without its own great expectations. There's been comparable coaching turnover in the Pac-12 to the SEC, and no program there has set as high a bar as USC.
USC's collective eagerness to return to college football's mountaintop—quickly—promises to make the job one of the sport's highest-pressure positions in the coming years.
None of that's to imply Orgeron isn't prepared to take over a program and be successful, however.
Orgeron's failed Ole Miss tenure was not for a lack of talent. On the contrary, he recruited the players who were the veteran leaders of successor Houston Nutt's only winning teams while in Oxford, Miss.
He's proved his ability to attract talent and, in this one-month stretch, demonstrated more flexibility to work with his players' skills.
The ideal situation for Orgeron is one that will allow him to build through his trademark recruiting over the course of a few years, without expecting instantaneous championship results.