BATON ROUGE, La. — It was major news when Brian Kelly left Notre Dame to take the head job at LSU during the offseason. Kelly has had to work on building up a depleted roster after the Tigers went 6-7 this past year, just two years removed from their national title.
Locked On SEC host Chris Gordy caught up with Brian Kelly for an interview at SEC Media Days to discuss how Kelly is settling into Baton Rouge, how he's building relationships with his new players and how he feels about his team going into the year.
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Watch the full interview on YouTube above, or check out the Q&A between Gordy and Brian Kelly below!
Chris Gordy, Locked On SEC host: "So, Coach, I've got to come clean. I've always thought of you as a no nonsense guy, a guy who demands excellence. But I'm talking to your players today, like, oh, Coach Kelly is hilarious. Like, what is this?"
Brian Kelly: “Well, you got to have some fun along the way, too. I mean, you can't be serious all the time. And look, every time you guys see me, I'm in my office working right on the sideline. There is another side of me, too, right. But everything is about what you see on NBC and there's more sides to you. But, hey, I love the fact that, you know, when you get a chance to go to a new school like LSU, your players get a chance to see you for who you really are. And we've had a great time building that relationship.
Gordy: “What's been the most challenging part so far, the new job?
Kelly: “Well, I think early on, putting the staff together, you know, we had to put a lot of support staff together, getting our organizational people together. You know, a roster that was depleted, making sure that we were able to really put together a competitive SEC football team. Look, there's no you don't get a pass the first year. You got to go win some football games. So I think that was probably the most difficult time and we were having to deal with, you know, some, you know, some self-imposed sanctions as well. And all those things combined made it a challenge, not not not anything that we didn't expect coming in. But but you put all those things together and make for a challenge. I think we're coming out on the other end now where, you know, we really can focus on our football team, developing our team and, you know, getting a chance to play a little football.”
Gordy: “We saw you in Houston. You weren't coaching the team yet before the bowl game. But I mean, was that kind of like an eye opening? My God, like this roster and depleted for different reasons, but right, man, I got my work cut out for me.”
Kelly: “Yeah, I think at that point it became one where I this is daunting in a sense that, you know, we've got a wide receiver that's a walk on playing quarterback here. This is going to be some work. But you know, quite honestly, I think we knew as you pull back the layers that we had a number of players injured that were going to be coming back. We had some guys with academic issues that we thought we were going to fix. So I think all in all, I think that was kind of like, I hate to say this, but let's let's try to be competitive in this game and put our best foot forward and play hard. But better days are ahead.”
Gordy: “A lot of people have their problems with the transfer portal. There's some good there, some bad. But you took advantage of it and you helped address a lot of needs. What's that kind of done for you this offseason?”
Kelly: “Yeah, I think we used it the right way. I mean, look, the transfer portal could really hurt you if you take the wrong kids and it upsets what you're trying to do. But, you know, we were all kind of starting on this, you know, same kind of, you know, basic premise of, you know, bring kids in that are from Louisiana, if you can, that have a love and passion for LSU. And if not, then make sure it's good character kids that are the best players on their team. So I think we stayed with that. We were committed to it and it's helped our football team.”
Gordy: “It looks like you've kind of hit the ground running with recruiting. I know you can't talk about specific guys, but the Houston area is a very important area. LSU has always recruited them. Well, what advantages do you have coming in from Notre Dame?”
Kelly: “The contacts that we have, the ability to set up a personnel office that can stretch all the way across the country, I think has been helpful for me in terms of my vision, in terms of how we put together our personnel office, you know, we're going to split. 80% of it is obviously high school talent, a little bit, 20%. We'll keep an eye on the transfer portal, but I think that's helped quite a bit to allow us to do our recruiting in the state of Louisiana and then obviously stretching into some important areas that you mentioned, like Houston in the state of Texas.”
Gordy: “How excited are you to just be able to run out that tunnel for the first time in Death Valley?”
Kelly: “Yeah, I mean, it's a long time coming. We had the spring game, but that's nothing like that first time when we were going to play Southern at night and that stadium will be sold out. And just to get that atmosphere is, you know, one of the bucket list, right? You know, who wouldn't want to be able to have that, so excited about that opportunity.”
Gordy: “A short drive for fans, LSU fans all long the I-10 corridor will come see you guys opening the season with Florida State. I mean, look, sometimes you get an easier team, I guess. Sometimes you get a big dog like that. It's a big one.”
Kelly: “Yeah. No Florida State's no joke. I mean, this is going to be a good football team. They took me when I was at Notre Dame. They took us to overtime. And it's a team that's going to play physical, fast, well-coached. My thought is, look, he's a winner. Norvell won at Memphis and he's got a really good pedigree and he'll have that team ready to play.”