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Thoughts On Coach Kelly Thus Far

Kelly’s best work can be found in the players he kept. He retained star wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, reclaimed veteran quarterback Myles Brennan out of the transfer portal, and brought talented running back John Emery into the fold. As is often the case, LSU is steeped in talent. Along with skilled playmakers, the Tigers boast a menacing defensive line and a reloaded secondary, beefed up with transfers. As is often the case, though, a key storyline looms above the Tigers: Do they have a quarterback? That’s one question Kelly can’t answer yet. Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels is a running threat – Kelly embraced dual threats while Notre Dame’s coach – but showed in the spring game he’s an unrefined passer. Brennan looked good in three starts in 2020 before injuries derailed his career. It’s unclear whether he can recapture that form. Gunslinging redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier must show he has the consistency and decision-making to match his arm. This, of course, is familiar terrain at LSU. An LSU quarterback has ranked in the top five of the SEC for passing efficiency just three times in the past ten seasons – this, despite LSU building a case for being Wide Receiver U. The Tigers hadn’t produced a standout NFL quarterback since Bert Jones, a member of the 1973 draft class, although Joe Burrow is changing that. Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, now an SEC Network analyst, once pondered what LSU might look like if only it had a marquee quarterback at the reins.

“I would love to see LSU with a quarterback in my lifetime,” McElroy said on a Birmingham radio station in 2018. “Outside of JaMarcus Russell, name a quarterback.” McElroy’s comment downplayed the success of Zach Mettenberger in 2013, but his larger point was fair. Then Burrow came along and showed in 2019 how good LSU could be when it combined a superstar quarterback with its usual riches of talent elsewhere on the field.  The Tigers haven’t found a steady quarterback since Burrow’s departure following that national championship season. Max Johnson flashed potential but not enough consistency, although, to be fair, he was hampered by an inadequate offensive line last season. Johnson’s transfer to Texas A&M is no devastating loss, but it’s unclear whether Kelly’s inaugural team touts a better option. Along with insufficient quarterback play, the Tigers were plagued by a lack of toughness these past two years. Kelly should address that. His Notre Dames were often marked by discipline and physicality.

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