10 immediate fixes LSU coach Brian Kelly must make
Brian Kelly is taking over a program that won a national championship fewer than 24 months ago.
He’s also taking over a program that has been average for the 2 seasons since then.
Now that he’s the new LSU coach, he can use that first fact to help him make sure the second one doesn’t continue.
Kelly will be officially introduced as the Tigers coach Wednesday afternoon and then it will be full speed ahead to get the program back on track as he succeeds Ed Orgeron.
Here are 10 immediate fixes Brian Kelly must make:
1. Re-recruit the remaining Tigers
Some Tigers are going to depart and leave remaining eligibility on the table.
Some will head for the NFL, others will hit the transfer portal.
But at least a few presumably can be persuaded to stay. Kelly needs to find them – and persuade them to stay.
The attrition in the LSU program during the past 2 years hasn’t just damaged the past 2 teams, it has hamstrung Kelly.
Orgeron’s departure surely will make some players uneasy. When they chose LSU, they chose to play for Orgeron.
Kelly needs to convince them that they can still accomplish what they want to accomplish as Tigers.
2. Save this recruiting class
The early signing date is 2 weeks away and LSU started losing commitments as soon as Orgeron was bought out in October.
Maybe Kelly can win back those who dropped their commitments. Maybe not.
But he has to get with Orgeron’s staff and see how many of Orgeron’s commitments can stay committed or be brought back.
They also have to zero in on the prime targets to fill out the class and identify recruits that might warrant more attention as potential replacements for decommitments.
3. Put together an SEC-ready staff
Orgeron had a mixed record at best in building a staff.
Kelly needs to do better. He apparently is trying to bring with him his coordinators at Notre Dame (Marcus Freeman, defense; Tommy Rees, offense). He needs to identify those on Orgeron’s staff worth keeping. He could start by convincing WRs coach Mickey Joseph to tell Nebraska thanks, but no thanks.
Then Kelly can look beyond the Irish and Tigers’ staffs to fill out his team.
The bottom line is he needs to supplement his skills with assistants who know to recruit Louisiana and the South and know to coach against SEC competition.
4. Put the transfer portal to good use
The aforementioned attrition cannot be adequately mitigated with player retention and one freshman class.
Kelly needs to find SEC-caliber, experienced players in the transfer portal who can plug key holes and accelerate the rebuilding of the roster.
As we’ve seen, big-time players are entering the portal every offseason and making an immediate impact with their new team.
5. Become an honorary Louisianian
He doesn’t need to end every interview with “Geaux Tigers.” In fact, he’d be better off avoiding that altogether.
He’s not Orgeron, he’s not Cajun, he’s not from Louisiana.
Neither was Les Miles and he quickly ingratiated himself to locals by being genuine – and winning.
Orgeron was one of them and that helped. Some might be leery of a Yankee replacing O.
Go out of your way to show them they shouldn’t be.
6. Meet high school coaches
Orgeron had a head-start with Louisiana high school coaches. He knew most of them and essentially was one of them.
Kelly isn’t one of them, but he doesn’t have to be.
High school coaches have 2 primary goals – to find the best college opportunity for their players and to feed Louisiana schools as long as it’s consistent with accomplishing the first goal.
7. Set the tone for the program
LSU has had some black eyes in recent years, including a recruiting investigation and an inadequate response to accusations of sexual abuse. These problems happened both on Miles’ watch and Orgeron’s.
Kelly needs to go out of his way to show that a priority of his will be improving the image of the football program and that it will start with him.
8. Strengthen the trenches
The best LSU teams – like the best football teams everywhere – have had really good offensive and defensive lines.
That hasn’t been the case the past 2 seasons. Some of that is because of injury, some of it is because of early departures, some is because highly touted recruits didn’t live up to expectations.
Kelly’s teams generally have been strong in the trenches and he and his staff’s recruiting and coaching have to fix that.
9. Bring back DBU
This is a lot like No. 8.
The Tigers are well known for producing NFL-caliber defensive backs, but that hasn’t been the case as much recently – for mostly the same reasons as the lines.
Focus on DBs in recruiting and coach them up.
10. Keep the family together
As soon as Orgeron was named interim head coach, he promoted tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, a former LSU quarterback, to offensive coordinator and lured legendary Tigers defensive line coach Pete Jenkins out of retirement.
Kelly knows the value of tradition and family from his time at Notre Dame.
Not everyone in the LSU family wanted Orgeron ousted, not everyone wanted Kelly to replace him.
But they all want someone who appreciates LSU’s history and tradition and will embrace the alumni who represent that.