It's been a whirlwind 72 hours for Brian Kelly. Starting with being on the recruiting trail for Notre Dame, learning the deal with LSU had been finalized, hopping on a plane to South Bend to meet with his former team and hopping on another plane to Baton Rouge, there hasn't been much time to breathe.
But now that he's arrived and ready to take on this new challenge in Baton Rouge, there are numerous immediate steps Kelly hopes to accomplish over the next few weeks. Here's a breakdown of what Kelly had to say about filling out a coaching staff, the upcoming 2022 recruiting class and the getting to evaluate players on the current roster.
Kelly Has Yet to Make Any Decisions With Staff
Reports ran rampant of Kelly's pursuit to bring Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to Baton Rouge. The Athletic reported that the proposed deals would make Freeman the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football and Rees the highest paid offensive coordinator in the SEC.
However, both Freeman and Rees, as well as a number of position coaches Kelly was pursuing, have elected to stay in South Bend, with Freeman being hired as the next head coach of Notre Dame.
"As far as coaches, the coaches that are on staff at Notre Dame are still employed there. Are there coaches there that I'd like to join me here? Certainly but that's a process we'll have to work through," Kelly said. "There are teams to coach on both sides. This team is preparing for a bowl game and hopefully Notre Dame gets a chance to play in the playoffs. This has to be done with great communication and understanding."
Kelly will have to pivot now and while keeping the majority of the LSU staff seems unlikely, there are a few position coaches who make sense to keep around.
There have been a few reports that Kelly will be keeping cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond as well as running backs coach Kevin Faulk on staff but Kelly says he has yet to make any of those decisions. He first wants to meet with all of the current coaches, something that should take place in the next few days.
"I have not made any decisions based on who will stay and who may go. I haven't had any individual conversations with any of them. They are well respected and I will get an opportunity to vet all of those coaches, they've done a great job."
Additionally, receivers coach Mickey Joseph, offensive line coach Brad Davis and linebackers coach Blake Baker all make sense as each are among the higher paid position coaches in the country.
Kelly says Priority No. 1 in Recruiting is Focusing on Current LSU Commits
The Tigers new coach knows how important the next two weeks are to the future of the program before the Dec. 15 early signing period. Conversations with current commits and high profile recruits in Louisiana are already underway, with the primary focus being on the 14 current players pledged to the program.
"The most important thing in recruiting is to take care of your base first. So my focus will be on those who have made a decision to come to LSU. We'll be reaching out to those young men first," Kelly said. "We've gotta go re-recruit because this class is important."
General manager Austin Thomas and his role can't be overlooked in helping Kelly adjust to life in recruiting at an SEC powerhouse like LSU.
Kelly has a familiarity with recruiting in Louisiana from an outsiders perspective, having most recently recruited Rummel star running back Logan Diggs to Notre Dame. But he knows how difficult and rare it is to lure a high profile player out of Louisiana because of the history of so many of the state's best suiting up for the purple and gold.
Having that advantage in state when it comes to recruiting will only help Kelly and whoever joins his coaching staff put together the best roster possible. One high profile player who will be in the mix is defensive end Quency Wiggins, who will decide and sign on Dec. 15 with a program and is down to LSU, Florida and Alabama.
"The talent is outstanding, that's why I've been in this state before but I will say this. There's a commitment to academics as well and that's why I came down here," Kelly said. "You've got to fight for them because they are hard to get out of Louisiana, which is a great thing. You had to work really hard to get someone to leave Louisiana."
LSU has seen a few recruits come out and endorse the hiring of Kelly but the work is far from done as there's time to keep this class together and also improve over the next two weeks. Assistant coaches on the current staff including Raymond and receivers coach Mickey Joseph have spent this week recruiting.
"We have to work with a sense of urgency but we'll be able to put things together necessary for us to have a class that is gonna build this team. We're not gonna take a step back. There's work to be done, I know the pieces we need in place, we're working on them. The phone is working overtime to put those pieces together.
How Kelly Will Spend Time Getting to Know Current Roster
Of course the third part of the equation, all of which are equally important, is for Kelly to start getting familiar with the current roster. This is a unique position to be in as many of the younger players on the roster have decisions to make if LSU is a part of their future.
The program has already lost cornerback Elias Ricks, quarterback Myles Brennan, linebacker Navonteque Strong and receiver Koy Moore but haven't seen any players enter the transfer portal since Kelly's hire.
"I would be disingenuous to tell you I know this roster inside and out. I know the players, I know what the makeup is and some of the areas of concern we have to address," Kelly said. "We've got some work to do but we have time. We don't have forever, but we have to address those things in short order."
Kelly has met with the team once and plans to have more meetings with substance over the next several weeks as the Tigers prepare for a bowl game.
"There'll have to be much more meetings that are substantive because we got work to do. I've got to make decisions regarding the staff, preparing this football team for a bowl game, recruiting and all of those things," Kelly said. "Giving them kind of the lay of the land relative to expectations and what has already has been laid out. Now we've got a lot of work to do."