Expecting immediate results from a first-year coach is always a bit unfair, even when that coach comes with a pedigree like Brian Kelly’s.
The third-winningest active FBS head coach, Kelly will almost certainly have a shorter honeymoon period than most. Point blank, he’s expected to win and do so early.
This team may not have the talent to compete for an SEC title in 2022, but it could be good enough to surprise some people. And looking beyond this fall and at the long-term trajectory of the program, things look even brighter.
ESPN recently released its future power rankings for the top 25 teams in college football. On this list, LSU ranks No. 10.
2022 Future QB ranking: 16:
2022 Future offense ranking: 16:
2022 Future defense ranking: 9:
2021 Future team ranking: 10:
Scouting the Tigers: The correlation between talent and performance doesn’t always sync up at LSU, which is 11-12 since its 15-0 national championship season of 2019. Still, keeping LSU in the top-10 makes sense, given its sizable talent base and an excellent coach (Brian Kelly) determined to add a national title to his profile. Kelly might not be the most natural fit in Baton Rouge, but he knows how to produce a steady winner, and he’s at a program that largely recruits itself. Kelly is also the first LSU boss in recent memory with a direct background in coaching quarterbacks, a position of intrigue and frequent frustration on the Bayou. LSU’s quarterback room will be fascinating as Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels, a three-year starter, joined veteran Myles Brennan, emerging redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and incoming freshman Walker Howard, ESPN’s No. 41 overall player in the 2022 class. The group will surely get smaller, but LSU should have options through 2024. The Tigers bring back an elite receiver in Kayshon Boutte for one more year, and also regain sophomore Jack Bech (team-high 43 receptions in 2021). But Kelly and his staff must build long-term depth at both receiver and tight end. The offensive line returns key non-seniors such as Garrett Dellinger and Anthony Bradford, and will supplement from the portal as well as a recruiting class headlined by Will Campbell, ESPN’s No. 14 overall prospect for 2022. LSU will lean on a running back group featuring senior John Emery Jr., Penn State transfer Noah Cain and others. Tight end also projects well with some depth.
LSU’s defense has been through plenty of changes since 2019, and more transition is coming with new coordinator Matt House and a transfer group that includes lineman Mekhi Wingo (Missouri), linebacker West Weeks (Virginia), and defensive backs Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State), Mekhi Garner (Louisiana) and Greg Brooks Jr. (Arkansas), who have combined for 97 career starts. The 2022 forecast up front looks very good as sacks leader BJ Ojulari returns alongside solid seniors Ali Gaye and Soni Fonua, and promising sophomore Maason Smith. Other notable returnees include senior linebacker Micah Baskerville (83 tackles, nine for loss in 2021) and sophomore linebacker Greg Penn III. LSU’s long-term optimism on defense stems from recruiting. The team signed linebacker Harold Perkins, ESPN’s No. 4 overall player in the 2022 class, and top-100 national prospect Laterrance Welch at cornerback.
The Tigers are expecting to rely pretty heavily on young players this fall, and while that may limit this passage ceiling a bit, it could prove to be very beneficial down the line.
Though a couple of this controversy top players – including Boutte, Ojulari and likely the winner of the quarterback competition – could be moving on following the season, the future is bright in Baton Rouge as Kelly looks to become the fourth consecutive LSU coach to win a national title.
Trio of LSU players crack CBS Sports 2023 draft board:
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