As Brian Kelly takes over LSU football, here's what he must do to build a winner
LSU athletics director Scott Woodward landed his big-name candidate to replace Ed Orgeron.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will be the next football coach at LSU, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the hire told the Daily Advertiser. The sources requested anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
Kelly brings a 263-96-2 overall record from stops at Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State. He is the winningest coach in Notre Dame history.
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LSU finished 6-6 in Orgeron’s final season. Offensive line coach Brad Davis will lead the Tigers in a bowl game.
Here are five things Kelly must do to turn around the LSU program.
Hire top-notch coordinators
Tommy Rees, Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, will likely have the option of following Kelly. If Rees decides to stay at his alma mater, Kelly must hire a play caller who can turn LSU’s skill talent into a functional unit. Kelly’s previous offensive coordinators at Notre Dame include Cincinnati OC Mike Denbrock, Tulane OC Chip Long and Mike Sanford Jr., who was just fired at Minnesota.
Max Johnson proved capable enough to enter spring practice as LSU's starting quarterback. Despite poor pass protection, Johnson threw 27 touchdown passes in 2021, the fourth-most for a single season in LSU history. Garrett Nussmeier and incoming freshman Walker Howard, a five-star recruit from Lafayette’s St. Thomas More, are both talented prospects.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who Orgeron tried to hire in the offseason, will also have options. Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, Freeman’s old boss, will likely be a candidate to replace Kelly at Notre Dame. Freeman could end up with the Cincinnati job if Fickell departs.
Re-recruit the players
Draft departures and opt-outs crippled LSU over Orgeron’s final two seasons. The lack of depth was glaring, while poor performances led to locker-room fissures between offensive and defensive players.
All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will likely declare for the NFL Draft. Eli Ricks, another All-American corner, placed his name in the transfer portal. Based on Ricks’ Instagram posts praising Orgeron, it’s unlikely he will return.
Kelly isn’t inheriting a bare cupboard. LSU returns some talented players in wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, cornerback Cordale Flott, linebacker Greg Penn III, defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy and tight end Jack Bech.
Retain cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond
Raymond helped transform LSU into “DBU.” He has tutored seven first-team All-Americans in the secondary — Eric Reid (2012), Jalen Mills (2015), Jamal Adams (2016), Tre’Davious White (2016), Greedy Williams (2018), Grant Delpit (2018, 2019) and Derek Stingley Jr. (2019, 2020).
Since Raymond joined the staff, LSU has produced 14 defensive backs that were selected in the NFL Draft.
Raymond has worked with five different defensive coordinators at LSU. He’ll transition just fine under Kelly, who needs a coach with Raymond’s ability to both develop and bond with players.
Hit the transfer portal for offensive linemen
Subpar play at the line of scrimmage held LSU back offensively all season. Injuries were a contributing factor. Chasen Hines and Anthony Bradford were lost for the year. Austin Deculus was never healthy. Freshman Garrett Dellinger and sophomore Marlon Martinez were pressed into the lineup over the past three weeks.
LSU’s roster included 14 freshmen and sophomore O-lineman in 2021. The learning curve is steep in the SEC, especially up front, and more experience is needed for improvement. Five-star offensive tackle Will Campbell will likely play next season. It will be better for him and LSU’s returnees.
In the past five NFL Drafts, Notre Dame had five offensive linemen taken in the first three ro
Recruit, recruit, recruit
LSU’s 2022 recruiting class ranks 15th nationally, per 247Sports. Since Orgeron’s departure was announced, the Tigers lost verbal commitments from four-star Edna Karr (New Orleans) wide receiver Aaron Anderson and four-star running back TreVonte’ Citizen of Lake Charles College Prep. Anderson has since committed to Alabama.
Kelly may not get Citizen back in the fold, but he needs to take a proactive approach with LSU’s current commitments. His best play is to call Will Campbell and Walker Howard, the two highest-ranked prospects in the class, and get them to spread the word.
Adam Hunsucker covers LSU for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @adam_hunsucker. Enjoy Adam’s work? Consider a digital subscription for unlimited access.