The new era of LSU Tigers football begins now. The disastrous two-year run following the national title run is now in the rearview mirror. A team that won 16-straight games from the 2018 Fiesta Bowl through the 2019 CFP national championship game, only managed 11 wins combined in 2020 and 2021.
Then head coach Ed Orgeron was given his separation papers following the win over Florida. The wheels were already in motion the week prior when LSU fell to Kentucky 42-21 in Lexington. Athletic director Scott Woodward had seen enough and it was time to make a change. The brass opted to go the route of Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The hire raised eyebrows but now it is time for Kelly to get the Tigers back on track. After being a middling team for two years, LSU is hungry for a competitive team again. We will soon see if the staff compiled by the new head coach will pay dividends.
According to Brandon Marcello of 247Sports, the staff under Brian Kelly at LSU gets a grade of A. They finished behind the Florida Gators in the SEC with a grade of A+. Their annual rivals hired Billy Napier right out of the Tigers’ backyard in Lafayette. These hires will be under the microscope to see which team made the better hire.
What Marcello Says…
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Kelly had the Irish in College Football Playoff contention once again in 2021 and it appeared his 2022 and 2023 units were the best equipped to finally win the program’s first title since 1989. He can probably push LSU into contention in 2023 with a couple of Top 5 signing classes and a half dozen instant-impact stars out of the transfer portal. He certainly built a tremendous staff to get those type of players on campus and develop them into superstars. Perhaps the biggest hire in assistant coaching circles was Frank Wilson, the McNeese State head coach who resigned from his post to become the Tigers’ running backs coach for a second time. Reviews among those in the industry are mixed with Cincinnati offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock as a game-day coach but, again, time will tell. This is a solid staff with SEC connections and a shared championship mentality.
Underrated hiring might be his addition of Matt House as the defensive coordinator coupled with Jamar Cain as the defensive line coach. Only time will tell as to whether Robert Steeples is the right choice as the secondary coach. His first time as a position coach. He comes from the Minnesota Vikings where he was a special teams assistant.
House spent time in the SEC as the defensive coordinator of the Kentucky Wildcats in 2017 and 2018. In his final season with UK, House’s defense finished as a top-six scoring defense with just 16.8 points per game allowed. That season Josh Allen punished quarterbacks with 88 total tackles, 21.5 TFLs, and 17 sacks. That might be how they view edge rusher BJ Ojulari, who led the team in quarterback pressures with 54 in 2021.
Cain is expected to elevate a pass rush that was lacking for the Tigers in 2021. The Oklahoma Sooners had Nik Bonitto, who finished with 52 quarterback pressures last year. He was the highest-graded pass rusher for the Sooners. They also had Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 34 pressures. It could be the future for Ojulari and returning senior Ali Gaye.
Mike Denbrock looks to bring an offensive identity back to LSU that was lacking in 2021. After losing Kayshon Boutte to an injury, the offense lacked an identity. They couldn’t run the ball in the manner they had in recent years. That is why Brad Davis needs to figure out who will be on his starting offensive line. They could have five new starters in 2022. Cam Wire is the only returning starter from last year’s team. However, the team added top transfers Miles Frazier and Tre’Mond Shorts as well as five-star signee Will Campbell.
Overall it feels like the grade of “A” is fitting with the No. 4 staff in 247Sports’ rankings of coaching staff hires.