Updated: Jan 8
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
A new day is dawning as LSU's transition team waste no time in switching gears from finishing off a torrid, turbulent 2021 and continue their final preparation touches for 2022.
First of all: Head Coach Brian Kelly's new staff...or, can we really call these picks "new"?
Consisting of Kelly staff veterans such as Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock (15 years with Kelly), former Notre Dame Strength & Conditioning Coach Jake Flint and DBs Coach Kerry Cooks, it's hard to call this crew an "unfamiliar bunch".
Still, Kelly has surprised us all with some intriguing names:
Prizing Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl winner Matt House to be his next defensive coordinator, hiring a rising NFL & college coaching star in Brandon Steeples to assist Cooks with the DBs, and former OU and USC (for a few weeks) DL Coach Jamar Cain will join the staff for the same role, plus an added title of "run game coordinator", a position Cain pushed for during his negotiations with LSU.
On one hand Kelly's decision to get rid of the entire staff (except for Coach Brad Davis) may be considered "cutting Louisiana ties" by way of Kevin Faulk, Corey Raymond, Mickey Joseph and a slew of backroom staff walking out the door, replaced by national staffers.
Witnessing such prominent Tiger legends (as both players & coaches) leaving all at once became a rough time....all happening during a wide-ranging raid of everything that felt safe about LSU, from Corey Raymond's DBU institution to Mickey Joseph's longtime NFLSU association, and even Greg McMahon's special teams doctrine.....it was all wiped out so fast our asses hadn't even hit the chairs....
....As expected, LSU's entire football operation is under Kelly's complete control here...he is pushing all the buttons, including the ouster of much-beloved GM Austin Thomas, now ending his 2nd tenure with LSU.
Is this the "ripping off the Band-Aid" moment LSU's program and fan base have to suffer through in order to break on through to the other side?
It wasn't that long ago when one of LSU's most Shakespearean figures cracked the championship formula & led the Tigers to a G.O.AT title run.....before then, a pathetic alleged rapist won a title & took the Tigers to another championship game appearance.....it won't take long for Kelly to restore LSU back to glory, not if he understands how to utilize & maximize the bountiful talent and coaching nous surrounding him in 2022's bloodcrusted era of high stakes, play for keeps college football, the kind where you find your own eye slashed out on a barroom floor....that kind....
It is a desolate, charred and broken battlefield out there in the landscape of college football....a no man's land run by Saban, who may as well be Sauron at this point. Luckily the Tigers head coach is already engaging Saban & Jimbo in battle on the trail, walking and talking unafraid.
Kelly understands how important retaining Louisiana talent can be for the future of the program...and in doing so, he made sure to follow his instincts.
The all time wins leader in Notre Dame's coaching history pulled off a masterstroke when he sealed the return of recruiting guru and LSU testifier Frank Wilson, an absolute powerhouse on the trail who's revival at the top of the SEC food chain should prove incredibly successful for Brian Kelly's new era Tigers.
Elsewhere, Louisiana Tech's Joe Sloane has come on as QBs Coach and recruiting assistant, possessing intense pedigree and entrenched ties with many of the state's top high school coaches and players, no limit on the positions he will recruit.
“Joe is an outstanding coach with a proven record of developing players on the offensive side of the ball,” Kelly said to LSU's Media Impresario Michael Bonnette. “His ability to teach and develop quarterbacks was instrumental in the explosive offenses at Louisiana Tech for nearly a decade and I know he will do a great job of utilizing the skill players we have at LSU.”
“He’s also an outstanding recruiter and having spent nine years at Louisiana Tech, he knows the talent our state produces each year. He’s built great relationships with high school coaches around the state which will help us keep the best players in Louisiana at home.”
There's every indication Kelly will also sign UGA WRs Coach Cortez Hankton to a multi year deal, news broken by this very site as our sources continue to pound us saying "the deal is done, everyone's just waiting"; Kelly is also pursuing a new GM in the wake of Austin Thomas' departure, although we have no information currently on who that new general manager could be.................and then we look at the roster itself.
LSU still have plenty of talent across the squad, and at present, some major work is currently being undertaken to ensure the Tigers keep their best players moving forward, as well as adding plenty of new faces, specifically through the transfer portal.
First up, the Tigers' recruiting staff made sure to spend as much time, effort and financial pull to retain the country's best wide receiver, Kayshon Boutte; then, Kelly, Wilson, Polian, etc locked in freakishly talented defensive end B.J Ojulari, top RB John Emery Jr, continuously prioritized the trenches, corner & receiver as major positions to boost, and are now hoping to keep DE Ali Gaye & safety Jay Ward out of the upcoming NFL Draft.
The Tigers boast future NFL talents in many positions, including Jack Bech, Malik Nabers, Chris Hilton Jr, Dwight "Nudie" McGlothern Jr, Garrett Dellinger, Brian Thomas Jr, Corey Kiner, Mike Jones Jr, Saivion Jones, Sage Ryan, Maason Smith, Jaquelin Roy all joined by an influx of highly promising 2022 freshmen:
QB Walker Howard's arrival on campus is historic, not only becoming the first 5 star quarterback out of Louisiana since Ryan Perriloux, Howard follows in the footsteps of his parents, both LSU Tigers; Howard could most definitely start and lead the program as a freshman, I have no doubt in my mind, although holding a deep QB room provides Kelly with enough options to preserve Walker's development without needing to force his young 5 star into a perilous situation....
Thanks to senior elder-statesman Myles Brennan returning from his month-long transfer portal vacation, Howard could be set up for another "Caleb Holstein" situation at LSU, much like the back-up role he accepted for 2 seasons at St Thomas More. While frustrated, Howard learned and grew at a rapid rate under the wisdom of the wily vet Holstein......chances are Howard would soak up plenty from Brennan;
Still, having to play second fiddle to Myles for a single season may be exactly the path Kelly envisions for Walker's championship success...
Beefing up LSU's worst position group of 2020 and 2021, the offensive line, OL Coach Brad Davis brought in an entire army up front, all elite grade prospects stemming from Louisiana:
5 star elite talent Will Campbell (potentially the best OL to come out of Louisiana since Andrew Whitworth), Catholic High's state title-winning / should-be-5 star Emery Jones, versatile guard & Tiger Legacy Bo Bordelon (his father Ben captained LSU in the mid 90s), and Lafayette Christian Academy center Fitzgerald West.
West is especially interesting: a former grade A defensive tackle & LCA teammate of current Tigers Jordan Allen and Sage Ryan, Fitz wanted to play DT at the next level; However, West selflessly bought into Davis' NFL vision for him at center, a move which will help both his career & hopefully end the Tigers' never-ending quest for Lloyd Cushenberry's replacement.
In addition, LSU made sure to haul in a few wunderkinds on defense:
Should-be-5 star edge rusher Quency Wiggins ignored the advances of Alabama, Texas A&M & Florida among others, staying home to represent his hometown Tigers. Wiggins is possibly one of the most stunning edge-rushing athletes I've witnessed at the high school level, and I can only drool when imagining what he'll supply LSU in the near future.....like a cross between K'Lavon Chaisson with the tools of Jadeveon Clowney.
Laterrance Welch is an overtly ambitious corner, boasting the pedigree & physical skills to start as a freshman. LT is hungry for DBU salvation.....ready to make an impact immediately upon arrival. When sophomore CB Dwight McGlothern tweeted "we could've been superstars" to Eli Ricks (in the wake of Ricks' departure to Alabama), LT Welch tweeted back to McGlothern "Let's be superstars".......I don't have to explain anything more about what this young man is all about...
Orlando-area native DeMario Tolan, a high 4 star linebacker out of Dr. Phillips, is so amped up about being a Tiger, he was ready & willing to not only suit up for the Texas Bowl, Tolan appeared as if he'd already been playing for LSU.
Despite the 18th overall class rating, I am looking at quality over quantity when I think about 2022's class:
I see a championship nucleus for the future, from Mason Taylor's Hall Of Fame blood at tight end, the complete range of added depth among our trenches, or securing the program's next great quarterback, Brian Kelly's 2022 class hit a grand slam regarding necessity, commitment & local LSU love; though 2022 completely struck out at the plate when talking flash at the skill positions: the Tigers lost the top 3 receivers in the state at the hands of Saban's Alabama, Aaron Anderson, Kendrick Law and Shazz Preston...
A byproduct of LSU's high profile head coaching change & the instability of staff hirings, firings & in-flux moves, don't expect that to happen again under Kelly...
Kelly has already made his mark on the transfer portal, too, signing FIU's highly rated OL Miles Frazier, heavily pursued by many top teams including Ohio State. As it stands right now, there are no shortage of high quality options available in the transfer portal, and Kelly's Tigers stand in firm contention for every player on the board: from stud Arkansas CB Greg Brooks Jr, Oklahoma WR Mario Williams, Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph, Albany's edge rusher Jared Verse, alongside a few former Brian Kelly players leaving Notre Dame.
There's plenty of room for growth within 2022's burgeoning squad....don't expect the names to stop.
Keep your eyes peeled on LSUODYSSEY.COM over the next two months:
Many more Tigers will rise, the staff are beginning to settle in for the long championship haul, while every recruit, fan, or coach stand intrigued by what Brian Kelly's LSU will be able to accomplish over the next few years.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
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