How Ed Orgeron put heat on LSU football's Brian Kelly – as did many others | Toppmeyer

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Ed Orgeron set the clock in motion for successor Brian Kelly, both with his past production as LSU’s football coach and his words.

Few coaches have entered a job with such high expectations as Kelly.

Kelly’s contract helps set the bar. LSU isn’t paying Kelly $100 million over a 10-year deal – most of that money is guaranteed – to produce Citrus Bowl bids. His past performance heightens expectations, too. Kelly boasts a Division I career winning percentage of .728, and LSU positions him for greater success.

Each of Kelly’s three predecessors won a national championship. Orgeron’s 2019 Tigers went undefeated en route to a national championship in his third full season on the job.

That’s a standard Kelly must match. Win a national championship within three years, or his hire is a bust.

Orgeron knows it.

“It’s LSU. You should get the top players here,” Orgeron said recently on Jacksonville, Florida, radio station 92.5-FM. “We’ve got a great tradition, so you should be able to win the national championship. Now, you’re not going to win it every year, but you should be able to win it.

“In three years, you should be able to do it.”

Tick, tick, tick.

Orgeron won nearly 72% of his games at LSU’s coach, despite winning just half his games in the two seasons after the national championship. His performance is one of several litmus tests for Kelly.

The former Notre Dame boss also must outduel his Irish successor, Marcus Freeman. The Irish outperforming LSU would be a damaging narrative for Kelly to contend with.

Subscribe to SEC Football Unfiltered
iTunes | Google Play | Spotify

Additionally, Kelly’s Tigers must remain ahead of Billy Napier’s Florida Gators, and not just because they’re a rival. Napier emerged as one of the nation’s best Group of Five coaches, right in LSU’s backyard, throughout four seasons with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. After LSU turned up its nose at Napier, Kelly cannot afford to lag behind him, especially considering LSU went 4-2 against the Gators under Orgeron.

LSU FOOTBALL SPRING GAME: What I liked – and didn't like – from LSU football spring game | Toppmeyer

MORE FROM BLAKE TOPPMEYER: Let fired Florida football coach Dan Mullen be a lesson to Brian Kelly and Billy Napier

MORE: As Dabo Swinney, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart grumble, they don't admit this | Toppmeyer

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher offers another comparison point where Kelly must show an edge. LSU athletics director Scott Woodward hired Fisher while he was the Aggies’ AD, and Fisher emerged as a candidate to monitor throughout Woodward’s LSU coaching search. Fisher consistently and publicly rebuffed LSU. Why leave, Fisher asked rhetorically, after he’s built Texas A&M into a recruiting dynamo? Undeterred, Woodward reeled in one of the sport’s biggest names. Now, Kelly must reel in Fisher on the recruiting trail and on the field to prove Woodward’s latest splashy football hire is even better than his last.

That still leaves the most imposing measuring stick: Nick Saban.

When you receive one of the college football's richest contracts at a program with as many advantages as LSU enjoys, you cannot accept existing in Alabama’s shadow.

Saban showed LSU what its expectation should be, by winning three-quarters of his games across five seasons as the Tigers coach, including a national championship in his fourth season.

Les Miles, like Orgeron, one-upped Saban’s LSU benchmark by capturing a title in Year 3. Saban needed three years at Alabama to win the first of his six titles there.

Three years for a national title.

That's a lofty, but reasonable, expectation for Kelly.

After all, Kelly inherits a better situation at LSU than Saban, who took the reins from Gerry DiNardo in December 1999 on the heels of a 3-8 season.

Plus, Kelly enjoys an advantage none of his predecessors experienced: He stockpiled transfers who would have had to sit out a season before the NCAA’s 2021 rule change granting immediate eligibility for all first-time transfers.

That rule adaptation makes the task easier for new coaches, but it also shortens the honeymoon.

Few programs did as well at assembling transfer talent as LSU did this offseason.

Kelly brought a polished résumé – albeit one that lacks a national championship or a New Year’s Six bowl victory – to a program that’s among the nation’s best-positioned for success. LSU joins Arkansas and Missouri as the SEC’s only teams that rank as the lone Power Five school in their respective state, and Louisiana produces some of the nation’s best talent. Financial commitment is no issue, and LSU’s brand is an asset in this era when athletes may profit off their name, image and likeness.

LSU, 22 years ago, brought in Saban as the nation’s fourth million-dollar college football coach to awaken a snoozing giant. Kelly’s task is to revive the standard while meeting or surpassing the bar established by several others.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: How Ed Orgeron put the heat on Brian Kelly at LSU football