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LSU Football: 5 Priorities for New Coach Brian Kelly in 2022

Brian Kelly, LSU Tigers Football

Kelly has a lengthy to-do list to attend to as he seeks to orchestrate another turnaround in Baton Rouge

A new era at LSU officially begins in 2022 with Brian Kelly coming from Notre Dame to be the program’s head coach. Kelly has a track record of success at a high level throughout his career, which is good news for the Tigers' hopes of a turnaround after a disappointing 6-7 mark last year. However, the news isn’t all good for Kelly. LSU returns just six starters and faces a significant effort to reload on both sides of the ball.

Talent is never an issue in Baton Rouge. How quickly can Kelly put the pieces into place to get back into the top 25 and post a winning record?

For every new coach, the to-do list after the initial press conference is pretty standard. The head coach has to recruit, add through the transfer portal, implement scheme changes, build a staff of quality assistants and coordinators, discuss potential NFL draft impact with juniors and work on any facility or support staff requests. Needless to say, that’s a lot.

While every coach has those goals in mind, it’s never too early to look at some of the personnel concerns surrounding a program and a new coach for the upcoming year.

Here’s an early look at five personnel question marks for Kelly to address in 2022:

LSU Football: 5 Priorities for New Coach Brian Kelly in 2022

1. Quarterback Play
LSU’s anticipated quarterback battle prior to the 2021 season never panned out. Myles Brennan suffered a preseason injury and later entered the transfer portal in November. Brennan’s injury left Max Johnson as the No. 1, but after starting all 12 regular-season games, he decided to transfer to Texas A&M in December. After Johnson’s announcement, Kelly and the staff convinced Brennan to remove his name from the portal in December. Brennan is the early favorite to start, but freshmen Garrett Nussmeier (redshirt) and Walker Howard (true) are also in the mix.

Regardless of which quarterback starts, the playmakers outside will be a strength. Receiver Kayshon Boutte is back from injury and poised to rank among the top playmakers in the SEC. Also, Jaray Jenkins (34 catches), Jack Bech (43), Malik Nabers (28) and Brian Thomas (28) are slated to return. Kelly also added Louisiana transfer Kyren Lacy (22 catches) as an extra weapon.

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2. Fix the Offensive Line
LSU has allowed 63 sacks over the last two years. Also, the ground game has averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per carry in that span. For the offense to take off in Kelly’s first year, the offensive front has to take a step forward. Of course, doing so is complicated with four starters – guards Ed Ingram and Chasen Hines, center Liam Shanahan and right tackle Ed Deculus – departing Baton Rouge. Cam Wire, Marlon Martinez, Garrett Dellinger and Anthony Bradford are back to provide experience, and the staff has been active in the portal, reeling in Miles Frazier from FIU and Tre’Mond Shorts from Tennessee State. Five-star freshman Will Campbell is another name to watch this offseason.

How fast can Kelly, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and line coach Brad Davis find the right mix in the trenches?

3. Address the Rushing Attack
As mentioned above, LSU averaged just 3.3 yards per carry over the last two seasons. Also, the Tigers have only two runs of 40-plus yards over that span. Over eight SEC games, LSU ran for 964 yards. However, a good chunk of that production (468 yards) came over two games (Kentucky and Florida). Tyrion Davis-Price (1,003 yards) opted for the NFL, but the cupboard isn’t bare. Corey Kiner, Josh Williams and Tre Bradford are back, and John Emery (378 yards in 2020) is slated to return after missing all of ’21. Also, Kelly landed Penn State transfer Noah Cain to add to the depth. The Tigers have talent in the backfield but it needs to translate into more production.

4. Reload and Get Better Play from the Linebackers
The linebacker unit has been a source of concern over the last two years for LSU. Adding to the challenge of addressing this unit in 2022 for new defensive coordinator Matt House is the departure of Damone Clark (137 tackles). Micah Baskerville opted to return, and former Clemson transfer Mike Jones Jr. should see a larger role after recording 34 stops in ’21. Virginia transfer West Weeks (31 tackles in ’21) could push for snaps right away, and Greg Penn III is a name to watch after recording seven stops in the Texas Bowl.

5. Rebuild the Secondary
The list of departures in the secondary is significant. Derek Stingley Jr. opted for the NFL, and fellow corner Eli Ricks transferred to Alabama. Cordale Flott and Dwight McGlothern are also gone from the corner spot, while the safety position lost Cam Lewis to the NFL.

Help is coming in the form of transfers, as Greg Brooks and Joe Foucha are set to arrive from Arkansas and Mekhi Garner from Louisiana. Brooks and Garner are likely to help at corner, with Foucha penciled in at safety. Cornerback is a greater concern, while safety should be solid with Foucha, Jay Ward, Sage Ryan and Derrick Davis returning.

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