Do you guys remember when Brian Kelley suddenly discovered a southern accent after spending the majority of life in the north? His fake accent is the reason he is part of today’s 99 Things. Kelly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons including one BCS national championship appearance and two College Football Playoff semifinal appearances. The move was a surprise as most fans thought he would finish his career at Notre Dame or move to the NFL. Kelly moving to the SEC was one of the most surprising hires of the coaching carousel this past offseason.
Brian Kelly left Notre Dame with the most wins in school history. He finished his tenure with a record of 92-39 (although the wins from 2011 and 2012 were later vacated). The Fighting Irish were in disarray before Kelly took over as the head coach. From 1995 to 2009 Notre Dame only won 10 games twice. In Kelly’s 12 seasons the Fighting Irish won 10 games in seven different seasons. The next job for Kelly will be restoring LSU to a national contender status. The talent pool increases playing in the SEC but so does the level of competition. Each of the last three LSU coaches have won a national championship and Kelly will be looking to extend that streak to four.
The first major question Kelly has to answer is who will be his starting quarterback. Myles Brennan was previously a starter for LSU but has not played since 2020 due to injuries. Brennan threw 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions in limited action two seasons ago. Another candidate to start is former Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels. Daniels is a former three year starter for the Sun Devils and chose to enter the transfer portal prior to spring practices. Daniels is a true duel threat quarterback but he saw his passing numbers drop over the course of his three seasons at Arizona State. Redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and true freshman Walker Howard are also vying for playing time. Nussmeier saw extended playing time in an overtime loss to Arkansas after former quarterback Max Johnson was injured.
Luckily for the quarterbacks they will have one of the best wide receivers in the country to utilize. Kayshon Boutte had 509 yards and nine touchdowns in only six games last season. His freshman season in 2020 included 735 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Boutte had to miss spring practice due to an injury but will be ready to go by fall camp. Boutte is an elusive receiver who in not afraid of the middle of the field. Every time he touches the ball he has the intention of finding the endzone. Boutte has the ability to make plays in space and also beat defenders over the top. When watching Boutte he is a quarterback’s dream because he makes everyone else’s job easier due to his talent.
The defense is being retooled after losses to the NFL and transfer portal. Kelly is choosing to go with a three man front. The secondary remains a huge question mark for the Tigers after cornerback Eli Ricks decided to transfer to Alabama. The Tigers went into the transfer portal for help and found Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. from Arkansas, Mekhi Garner from Louisiana and Jarrick Bernard-Converse from Oklahoma State. All four bringing starting experience and should be able to create a formidable defense for the Tigers. Bernard-Converse led the Cowboys in passes broken up on one of the best defenses in the country. Foucha totaled 231 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in his Arkansas career.
LSU opens the season with a home matchup against Florida State. This is a must win game for Kelly and LSU as Florida State has struggled the past few seasons. A win over the Seminoles would show the nation LSU is still a power program and not in a rebuild. The conference slate has Alabama, Tennessee and Ole Miss coming to Baton Rouge but trips to Florida, Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M. The first year for Brian Kelly will likely have a few hiccups but if he can manage nine wins with this schedule he is likely to inject energy back into the program. An SEC title is unlikely to come this year but a New Year’s Six bowl game is not out of the question.