by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
No it's not an article from 2019.....or 2011....or 2007....or 2005....or....
This is from 2022, yes....Believe it...
Brian Kelly arrived at LSU under 12 months ago, with a roster holding just 38 scholarship athletes, starting a super senior backup receiver at quarterback during a bowl game, while losing roster stalwarts to the transfer portal and missing out on 5 star Louisiana recruits.....among the LSU program & fanbase, the sky appeared to be falling.....
....now, the Tigers have clinched the SEC West and a place in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta for the first time since 2019....but even more improbable, LSU's first year Head Coach will make his debut in the conference's headline game during his inaugural campaign down South.
The speed of Brian Kelly's LSU turnaround is of biblical proportions when taken in full scope and context:
This was a project many top insiders and analysts believed would take Kelly years to develop into a championship-contending program; hell, most felt the former Cincy, Grand Valley and Notre Dame Head Coach would need a few years just to adjust to the culture and demands of his new environment...
Instead, BK adapted quickly while simultaneously bending the roster, staff, athletic department and eventually, the fanbase to his will.
Learning about one another on the fly alongside his players and assistants, Kelly understood the mountain he'd need to climb in order to restore the Tigers back to their rightful place....but when Kelly instilled his wisdom, attention to detail, academic form of speaking, advanced approach to the mental side of the game and random, perfectly timed dry comedy, LSU's lifer ball coach unleashed a contender hiding in plain sight.
Then, once Kelly's 2022 Tigers beat Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State while Kelly became the first LSU Head Coach to win road games @ Florida and Auburn in the same season, before surviving Arkansas' perfect trap game scenario, a few truths became evident for Kelly to succeed at such a quick pace:
A. LSU already had better players than anyone respected or even understood, left over from the Orgeron era.
B. Brian Kelly's tireless staff recruited 16 high value transfers at key positions of need, moves which ultimately supplied 2022's best performing Tigers in each phase of play: QB Jayden Daniels, DL Mekhi Wingo and punter Jay Bramblett.
C. Most misunderstood the already-existing brotherhood within LSU's locker room, forged amid the fires of an undefeated season through a wild, scandal-laden pandemic year and 2021's losing season leading to Orgeron's firing.
D.Brian Kelly is and has always been a far better coach than anyone gave him credit for.
On an even deeper level, following his triumphant two point conversion takedown of Saban's Alabama, one couldn't help but sense a sea change was at play in college football.
There were tough moments along this wonder ride to the stratosphere:
While LSU were losing long-time beloved staff members and coaches, Kelly began weeding out the players who weren't hitting his standards....a bar which just led LSU to an SEC title game appearance in year one.
From the perspective of a good number of LSU faithful, Kelly was alienating the roster, cutting out strong members of a future staff and instilling his ways in an authoritarian "my way or the highway" manner just because he could...
There were moments in week 1, facing Florida State inside the Superdome, where the hyper-microscopic experience of it all may have stunned BK; times where he looked hesitant...nervous. In week 1, handed a perfect opportunity to win the game with a two point conversion, Kelly instead chose safety.....a move which ended up blowing up in a fiery Polian-helmed inferno.
Compared to his immediate two point conversion insistence, never wavering even after a timeout, by the time he was celebrating his magical win over Alabama, it became clear Kelly himself had evolved right alongside his players.
There was the 40-13 obliteration at the hands of Tennessee in front of 100,000 at Death Valley...a game which seemed to break all hope of a competitive, meaningful season.
Kelly endured constant criticism early in 2022 for continuing to believe in starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, taking "bullets" in press conferences for the struggling arm of his quarterback.
But at every step of the way, there was a plan:
Tommy Moffitt was the face of LSU strength and conditioning for over 20 years....but Kelly let him go within hours of his hire, trading Moffitt for his own trainer & nutritionist, Jake Flint and Matt Frakes.
Now, LSU are the best second half team in the country, physically transforming a squad that once admitted to being "tired, bloated, overweight and soft" last fall.
Letting DBU mastermind Corey Raymond leave for Florida made zero sense....until you witnessed the coaching genius of Robert Steeples. Already improving production within his secondary while utilizing transfers, walk-ons and an overall lack of depth, as well as proving to be a recruiting powerhouse, DBU's transition trade-off was masterful.
Hiring then-Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House back to the college ranks for the defensive coordinator job may be as masterful as Joe Brady's 2019 appointment. The Super Bowl winning assistant will be tough to keep in Baton Rouge after his unbelievable work in 2022.
Prioritizing a strong 5 & 4 star 2022 nucleus for his first National Signing Day, only 2 months on the job, Kelly made sure LSU signed Walker Howard, Will Campbell, Emery Jones, Mason Taylor and superstar linebacker Harold Perkins from the clutches of A&M's $500,000 NIL offer....establishing the pillars of his squad for the next 4 years. Possessing the guts to back those same capable, fearless freshmen in crunch time situations or at pivotal starting positions on roster, Kelly's trust in youth continues to pay massive dividends.
Never giving into sentimentalist nostalgia, Kelly may have asked for Myles Brennan's return only a few weeks after his hire, convincing the veteran quarterback to pull his name out of the transfer portal. However, regardless of Brennan's status within the program or receiving a good portion of support in the quarterback race, Brian Kelly refused to give Myles the starting job before fall camp, a decision which ultimately led to Brennan's retirement from the game altogether only days into August practices.
At the end of the day, Brian Kelly arrived at LSU and made it his mission to change the way this program, team, staff and community thought about themselves.
LSU is a championship program, so let's start playing like one.
LSU have a championship culture, so let's start acting like it...
Louisiana is a grade A community....let's embrace & include these areas instead of merely touting & living off the location on our birth certificates.
The local Louisiana high school football structure is a gold mine of talent....let's start investing in and securing that future.
In changing the way LSU's players, coaches and community view themselves or their program, Brian Kelly is building a juggernaut for the future, one which will live and learn from the mistakes, resiliency, attrition & accomplishments of 2022's debut squad.......a team that has now fully taken on the identity of their cerebral, scrappy, defiant Head Coach.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc