It was early January when LSU was down to less than 40 scholarship players and in need of a complete overhaul. Brian Kelly watched from a distance, allowing interim head coach Brad Davis, a ragtag team of GAs, analysts, and inconsistent input from the remaining coaches to do their best in this meaningless bowl game. After the bowl loss to Kansas State, it was Kelly’s time to renovate.
From top to bottom, the program plagued with drama, opt-outs, and uncertainty was stripped down to its studs as Kelly first found coaches capable of getting the job done. A change in strength and conditioning coach sparked the renaissance, as players had been allowed to become complacent in their diet and daily regiment. During the spring, Kelly introduced daily wellness surveys as LSU increased its use of technology and science.
The coaching staff included names from across the country with varying college experience, but they were all men Kelly trusted. Jamarr Cain, Kerry Cooks, Robert Steeples, Mike Denbrock, Matt House, Joe Sloan, Frank Wilson, and Cortez Hankton were added, and Brad Davis was retained, filling out the on-field positions.
At the same time, Kelly and the company were busy bringing in transfers. The Tigers ended with the third-best transfer portal haul of any team in the country, offering temporary fixes to keep the Tigers competitive in year one. In doing so, Kelly raised year-one expectations of a fanbase that never was interested in lowering them. Spring camp came and went without much significant news. The defensive line will be good, no quarterback will emerge as the one, and the wide receivers will go from good to great once Kayshon Boutte returns.
With practices open, we’ll get answers to which quarterback is getting the first team reps, who are starting on the offensive line, who’s healthy, and so on. It will only build excitement as Sept. 4 continues to approach.
Seven months after the bowl loss, Kelly and his LSU Tigers are now taking the practice field in pursuit of doing more than just establishing a “culture.” A winning program with a winning head coach and multiple players with high-level NFL potential should do more than fight in the bottom three of the SEC west, as the media says, but seasons are never linear.
The ups and downs of the 2022 season start tomorrow. LSU football is back.