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Brian Kelly on Former A&M CB Denver Harris’ Transfer to LSU

Former Texas A&M cornerback and five-star prospect Denver Harris entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this month after a tumultuous rookie campaign in College Station. Harris was suspended early in the 2022 season, the night before the Aggies’ matchup with Miami, and then indefinitely (which turned out to be the rest of the regular season) after the South Carolina game.

Harris eventually exited the portal to LSU, a program initially offered to him in high school that he took an official visit to before choosing the Aggies. On the surface, the fact that Harris wound up in Baton Rouge shouldn’t be a surprise. However, you might think differently based on previous comments of Tigers’ boss Brian Kelly about how he evaluates players that are available in the portal.

Coach Kelly’s team had clinched the SEC West title before facing the Aggies, and it was considered quite an accomplishment. This is because when Kelly took over the Tigers, they had only 39 scholarship players after the departure of Ed Orgeron. Kelly had to rebuild his roster on the fly and took 15 players out of the portal and 15 high school prospects. Those athletes out of the portal included Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels who played a significant role in LSU being fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings before their season-ending loss to A&M. He was asked during the week leading up to that game about how he looked at players in the portal.“I think it’s one of the areas that can get you in trouble or get you out of trouble. And I think it got us out of trouble because we took great character kids that could represent our program positively on and off the field,” Kelly said. “I think you mentioned that those guys immediately helped us build the right standards in the program and have been consistent performers for us.

“I think when you go into the transfer portal, you better know what you are getting.”

Interestingly, Kelly mentioned taking “great character kids” because, during the regular season, Kelly and the players he added were lauded for that attribute. However, Kelly has now taken a former five-star rated A&M player who missed half of the Aggies’ season not due to injury or performance issues which is at odds with how he said he previously operated.

“I think any time that you go in and take transfers that have been in other programs, you have to make sure they’re not carrying a lot of baggage, and you have to make sure that they understand the standards within your program, what your expectations are clearly,” Kelly said.

It will be interesting to see if Kelly’s choices from the portal continue to be different coming off of an SEC West title as opposed to when he was trying to rebuild his roster on the fly