March 23, 2023

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LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly Talks Florida State, Names Starting Special Teams Return Specialists, & More on SEC Teleconference

Today, LSU head coach Brian Kelly was on the SEC weekly teleconference for ten minutes to answer any questions heading into the Florida State game on Sunday. Here are some of the notes and tidbits from his ten minutes of availability.

I got the chance to ask Coach Kelly two questions on today’s SEC teleconference. The first was about announcing Mike Jones Jr., BJ Ojulari, and Ali Gaye as well as deciding to announce a different offensive team captain for every game this season.

“Those three guys had our team vote. They were the highest vote getters in terms of ballots cast so it was pretty clear that those guys had the trust of their peers and I wanted that to be the case for this first year that the team got the opportunity to weigh in. It was scattered from an offensive perspective. There were probably 15 guys on offense getting votes so I felt the best way to do it is to get votes from somebody every week on the offensive side of the ball to continue to gain leadership on offense and get guys to represent the offensive side of the ball as well. That was the method behind what I put together there.”

The follow-up question I asked was to see if there was an answer on who would return kicks and punts for the Tigers. For Coach Kelly, the team has found their answer in one person for both.

“I think right now we feel pretty comfortable with Malik Nabers as our returner. He will return both punts and kickoffs right now. He’s been dynamic for us and I feel like that he has the ability to change the game. When you have a guy out there like Malik, you get a buy in from everybody in terms of your kickoff return team and your punt return team. Malik Nabors right now is the guy that we are going to go with.”

Announcing a starting return specialist was another big announcement this week from Coach Kelly as he also announced the starting offensive line and the starting kicker earlier on Monday.

Kicking off the teleconference, Coach Kelly talked about opening up the season against Florida State.

“Mike Norvell’s done a great job of bringing this program around the last three years. They’ve got an exciting offense with Jordan Travis, Ward, Benson the transfer from Oregon State, Toafili. They had 400 yards rushing this past weekend. They are extremely talented on defense. They have outstanding athletes. We are getting to that time of the year that we are getting close. You can see it in our practice. We are looking forward to going into New Orleans playing in front of what would be a home crowd for us and I know the guys are excited.”

After not announcing a starting quarterback on Monday, Coach Kelly reflected back on his decision and explained why that being this late in the process to name a starting quarterback on game week would not be beneficial for them.

“I don’t know that I changed my mind as much as looking at both quarterback competing on a high level. My focus was not on FSU as much as these two guys. We were so close to the game it didn’t make sense to tip that off.”

Coach Kelly was also asked about the difference in talent between what he had at Notre Dame and what he has now at LSU.

“Notre Dame is really talented. They return a lot of starters on defense so they are some similarities for the defensive personnel that are here at LSU. Certainly, the talent level at the wide receiver position is deeper here. They are ranked fifth in the country and we are not even ranked so if you look at it from that perspective, people may look and see that Notre Dame has really talented players. We are in a developmental process right now. We’ll keep building this program and keep working towards depth.

“One of those guys that has really developed for us is Major Burns. He’s done a really nice job, he’s got a football IQ that’s very high. He’s a guy at the safety position who tackles well, can play in coverage and we’re gonna count on.”

Major Burns was not the only player that Kelly was asked about as there were a couple of other players the new LSU coach raved about for what they were able to do in practice.

“From day one, Evan Francioni has done everything the right way. He is one of my favorites. My favorites are the ones that do it the right way and do it consistently. He’s a talented player. He’d be starting a lot of places. He will contribute for us.”

“Jared Small is a grinder. Every single day, he is in there. Again, he is another high character kid. There’s nothing that you wouldn’t like about him. Obviously, he did not get in a lot from the spring because of the knee injury. He slowly worked his way back. I think Coach House is gaining more and more confidence in him, and his ability to go out and compete for us. He’s going to play a role for us, and we are going to count on him. I think like Evan, he is a guy that can contribute to a lot of teams and becomes a valuable player for us on this team.”

“The medical staff did a great job of taking care of Kayshon Boutte. He’s got the explosive ability to catch the long ball. We are going to move him around as he is one of, if not, the top receivers in the country.”

From when Kelly first took the job to now, the team has come a long way in embracing the new culture of the program.

“What we’ve done really well is there’s been a buy in. Change is hard for everybody, but they’ve embraced it. They want to be the best version of themselves. Every day, they come in wanting to do the right things. Their “want to” to be champions is very high.”

Coach Brian Kelly will have one more chance to speak to the media tomorrow while the fans get to chime in with their questions on “The Brian Kelly Show”.

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