LSU football coach Brian Kelly on Notre Dame playoff chances, coaching staff, Garth Brooks
BATON ROUGE — When new LSU football coach Brian Kelly departed South Bend on Tuesday, his former team was on the cusp of the College Football Playoff.
While Kelly was getting settled in Baton Rouge that evening, Notre Dame learned it had fallen to sixth in the CFP standings. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, the CFP committee chairman, admitted Kelly leaving for LSU could keep the Fighting Irish out of the playoff.
Kelly, introduced as LSU’s coach on Wednesday, believes Notre Dame should be in the field.
“This team at Notre Dame is an outstanding football team and they deserve to be in the playoffs,” Kelly said. “You’re not going to be coaching them and it’s never easy to leave.”
Less than two weeks ago, Kelly said it would take a fairy godmother, a $250 million check and his wife Paqui’s approval to leave Notre Dame. LSU athletic director Scott Woodward did it with contract worth upwards of $100 million over 10 years.
Kelly has reached out to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, but he is expected to become the next head coach in South Bend per multiple reports.
Former LSU coach Ed Orgeron courted Freeman, then Cincinnati’s DC, in the offseason, but he opted to for the Fighting Irish. Freeman was a Broyles Award finalist in 2020.
Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees announced Wednesday evening he was staying with the Fighting Irish.
“Are there coaches there that I would like to join me here? Certainly, but that’s a process we’ll have to work through,” Kelly said. “There are teams to coach on both sides. This team is going to be preparing for a bowl game. Hopefully Notre Dame gets a chance to play in the playoffs.
“They have to be prepared, so this has to be done with great communication and understanding that he players are part of this as well.”
Offensive line coach Brad Davis will serve as interim coach for LSU’s bowl game. The Tigers upset Texas A&M to become bowl eligible in Orgeron’s final game.
Kelly denied reports that he already has decided to retain cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond and running backs coach Kevin Faulk.
“I haven’t had any individual conversations with any of them, so any narrative out there is not coming from any conversations I’ve had with them,” Kelly said. “They are well-respected and I will get an opportunity to vet out all of those coaches.”
Raymond has helped develop 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 in 2012, LSU has produced 14 defensive backs who were selected in the NFL Draft.
Faulk, LSU’s all-time leading rusher, has coached the running backs since 2020. Tyrion Davis-Price has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. Faulk was the LSU director of player development from 2018-19.
While Kelly assembles a staff, he plans on immersing himself in Louisiana lore. Kelly wants to adapt to the LSU’s culture, not the other way around. He threw up his first “L,” and alluded to a concert scheduled for April.
The artist is Garth Brooks, whose song “Callin’ Baton Rouge” is an LSU pregame anthem.
“You guys like Garth Brooks,” Kelly said. “He’s pretty good.”
Kelly will find out on his first Saturday night in Death Valley.
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.