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UB notebook: Orgeron gives players food for thought

University at Buffalo interim head coach Alex Wood got former Southern California interim head coach Ed Orgeron to give the Bulls players a pep talk this week.

Wood worked with Orgeron on the University of Miami coaching staff from 1989 to 1992. Orgeron took over at USC when Lane Kiffin was fired after the fifth game of last season. USC was 3-2 at the time. Orgeron led the Trojans to a 6-2 finish in the regular season. But he was passed over for the head job in favor of Steve Sarkisian.

“Over the weekend while we were off, he happened to call me because he must have read it somewhere,” Wood said of Orgeron. “He said, ‘Hey, congrats, good job, you’re the right dude and all that good stuff. You’ll get it done.’ ”

Since Orgeron turned a tough situation into a success last year, Wood set up a video conference with him during the Bulls’ team meeting on Monday. Orgeron was in Knoxville, Tenn., working at a football clinic.

“So we tapped into him yesterday on Skype, and he talked to our team a little bit about his experience as the interim head coach at USC and how they came together, and how those players rallied for him and played hard,” Wood said.

“So what are friends for?” Wood said. “The players seemed to appreciate what he had to say. His message was spot on about working together. Still continue to develop and cultivate relationships with one another. It’s a new start in some regards. It gives you new life and new excitement about what can happen.”

Orgeron, 53, could be considered a “reach for the stars” kind of candidate for UB Athletic Director Danny White. He is a huge personality and is known as a phenomenal recruiter. He has worked in big-time programs since 1995 (not counting one year with the New Orleans Saints in 2008). He could be a candidate for major-conference jobs at the end of the season.

On the other hand, he failed in his one head-coaching gig at the University of Mississippi from 2005 to 2007, going 10-25. UB’s White was at Ole Miss in 2005, and then again from 2009 to 2012. It’s probably implausible that Orgeron would consider the UB job. But there are only 128 of them in major-college football.

“Everyone’s got to hold the rope,” UB linebacker Jacob Stockman said when asked about Orgeron’s message. “That’s what he told his team when he became interim head coach, and they really bought in and ended up in a bowl game.”

“He asked us: ‘If it was running backs and tight ends against the linebacking corps and you were holding a rope, who would win that fight?” Stockman said. “If it was O-line vs. D-line, who would win the fight? And at first there were some egos, and the reaction was O-line or D-line. Then we got the hint. If we’re going to fight, let’s fight together in the same direction.”

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Wood is preparing his team for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. home game against Central Michigan. UB’s top two MAC East rivals, Bowling Green and Akron, both lost Saturday. “We’re just a win away from being in the thick of this thing, based on what happened this past weekend,” Wood said. “That excites us as well.”

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White offered this description of what he wants in a new coach in a radio program on 1520 AM Tuesday evening: “With any coach, we want an inspirational leader. We want somebody that has a high level of talent in terms of their interpersonal skills, their ability to connect with recruits, their ability to connect with the student-athletes on their team, and obviously connect with the community and donors, as we’re trying to build a program. Somebody with credibility in their sport. If you look at some of the head coaches we’ve hired in various sports, most of them have a high level of credibility and profile in their sport. … I think really good coaches are really talented in terms of how they communicate and connect with people.”

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com