The LSU Tigers helped kick off SEC Media Days in Nashville, Tennessee as Brian Kelly was the first SEC head coach to take the podium. After surprising the conference with a trip to the SEC Championship Game in year one, Kelly wants to build on that success while establishing themselves with the likes of Georgia and Alabama as among the top elite of the SEC. After what fellow LSU coaches Kim Mulkey and Jay Johnson did in leading their teams to championships in other sports, Kelly feels that the football program has made strides in taking those steps of becoming a championship team.
“I’ve got a big opportunity on my hands as well to continue the success of what was a very good first year. We have much to do. Progress needs to continue to be made in the best conference in all of college football. That will not be easy.”
“We’re excited about what we’ve done in a very short period of time. The foundation of success is built in consistency. Alabama and Georgia continue to hold that mantle of consistency in terms of playing for championships, and that’s what we’ll be looking to be at LSU, is playing for championships consistently, year in and year out.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on state of program heading into 2023
Playing for championships consistently is the name of the game for LSU and for Kelly, that starts with having a consistent championship mindset.
“You don’t do it by just being a one-and-done. You’ve got to be able to do that over a period of time, and that’s really the transition from year one or year two. Where in year one, I was learning the league. I was learning how to go on the road and play in the kind of environments. I was learning our roster and our strengths and weaknesses.”
“Going into year two, we have a lot of that knowledge and we understand a lot of those things necessary to be competitive and win games. Now, it’s how do you do it week in and week out. For us, that’s what our team now has been focused on. The little details of how they do their work, what they do in the classroom has so much to do with what they do on the football field, how they live their lives, what they put in their bodies, how they train. All of those things matter on a day-to-day basis when you’re talking about consistency with your process.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on what the program is focused on during the offseason
Kelly went on to address that although the team has made some great strides, there is still some work to get to in order regards to roster development. After having the number one class in the transfer portal, it certainly helps to get to championship level play quicker, but one of those areas that LSU needed to fill within the transfer portal was in the secondary.
“Again, I think when we talk about areas within your program that you’re coming, but you’re not there yet. When you have to dip into the transfer portal and this is just my perspective, but when you have to dip into the transfer portal and bring in that many guys on defense, that’s an area of concern because you really don’t know what you have until you play against Florida State.”
“There are going to be a number of new players back there. We do have some returning players that we’re excited about back there. Brooks and Burns in particular are two veteran players that are going to help us a lot back there.”
“Look, that was an area of concern. We’re a team that needs to get off the field on third down. We did not do a very good job of that last year. That’s going to have to change, and it’ll start in that particular area.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Secondary
A position on the Tigers team that has a lot of high expectations is the quarterback position. After both Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier made a lot of plays last year, the quarterback position is in good hands with both guys as this has the potential to be one of the best quarterback rooms in the country.
“Jayden is our starter. He’ll start, but he’ll have to continue to improve and progress because Garrett is getting better every single day as well. You want to talk about great competition? It’s about as good as a head coach could hope for at the quarterback position.”
“Jayden is the starter, but he’s got to have a great camp. He’s got to continue to progress. He’s got to continue to work. He’s got to continue to move forward because the guy right there, as well, he wants to take his job in the right way. They’ve got a great relationship, but he wants his job too.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on QB room
Daniels’ play at the second half of the season last year made him one of the hottest quarterbacks in the SEC and if that play carries over this season, then the Tigers’ dual threat quarterback could take the next step as one of the country’s best.
“They were all a part of our learning curve with him, quite frankly, because we knew Jayden as a person, but we really didn’t know him much as a football player and how would he respond in really a new system of offense where he had to make really a 180 in terms of what he was asked to do.”
“So what does development look like for him? I think it would be the natural progression from the last game in which he played where he was aggressive, but he was under control. He ran the ball when he needed to, but yet stepped up in the pocket and made the tight window throws.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Jayden Daniels’ 1st year as a starter
A quarterback’s best friend is the running game and Kelly firmly believes that with the offensive line returning and the pieces they have in a strong running back rotation, that it could be even better in 2023.
“So when we talk about a running game, what I’ve always wanted to do from an offensive structure is create physicality at the line of scrimmage. So we want it to be a physical team. We do not want to be a finesse running team. We want physicality at the point of attack.”
“When we’re talking about a running game, look, if you’re going to put eight guys on the line of scrimmage or nine guys on the line of scrimmage, you’re going to limit our opportunities. We’re going to have to throw the ball really well and in that particular game, we may not have a great running game. It doesn’t mean we can’t be physical at the point of attack and continue that physicality.”
“I think that was the progression. From what we saw in the first week where a step up in the pocket meant step up and run or not making those tight window throws. I think that’s what we saw during the year was his natural progression of understanding the offense and being more confident.”
“We want to see that in year two. We want to see that confidence that we saw at the end of the year continue to show itself right through the first game against Florida State.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Jayden Daniels’ progression
Last season, it took a while to get LSU’s downfield passing game going and this offseason, Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock have been working on that area.
“Well, I’m glad he wants more yards after the catch too. That’s a good start. I think everybody is looking for explosiveness within their offense. I think more than anything else, it starts with the ability to get the ball to your playmakers and give them the opportunity to make plays in space. It’s that simple.”
“I don’t know that we clearly could have done a better job at that last year, but we feel like this spring was an opportunity for us to really focus on those things, and we liked what we saw.”
“Without giving up state secrets here, we think that we really focused on giving our kids a chance to catch it and go because we think we have a number of receivers that can influence the game that way.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on more big plays in passing game
The Tigers have a couple of guys that can impact the game on the defensive side of the football as well, most notably linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. and defensive lineman Maason Smith, who is healthy after tearing his ACL in the season opener last year. If an offense shows more favoritism in blocking one, the other will have opportunities to make big defensive plays.
“Yeah, so getting a guy like that back changes a lot of things because last year was a double fan situation. You could slide the center guard tackle to one side and really be three on two on one side to him. You could add a back to the other side because we really didn’t have an inside guy that could win every single one-on-one matchup.”
“Maason will win those one-on-one matchups. If you’re going to do that and protect the edges on every play against what we feel are going to be some guys that can come off the edge. Harold Perkins in particular, you’re going to leave him singular inside, and we think he could have an incredible year if that’s the case.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Maason Smith
The LSU Tigers are among the favorites to win the SEC in year two of the Brian Kelly era and in order to get back to Atlanta and perhaps win the conference while contending for a College Football Playoff spot, the team must not only get ready physically, but mentally as well because of the team’ first three of four SEC games are on the road.
“Yeah, I mean, we’re going to have to deal with how we want to handle that. Certainly three out of four on the SEC on the road is a difficult stretch, but later in the season, we’re going to have five out of six at home. I think this is going to be much more about the right mindset earlier in the season as we get through the month of September. Getting your guys thinking in such a short period of time where we just work this one week at a time and keep them short focused. I think that’s what we’re going to have to do with the kind of tough schedule we have early on.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on SEC schedule
Heading into this second season at LSU, the Tigers will certainly not be sneaking up on anybody like they did last year. How the program adjusts to being the hunted and not the hunters will determine where the LSU football program is at this point under Brian Kelly.