LSU Short Story
2024 LSU Football Previews
Excerpts from Tiger Rag's May 2024 issue.
Brian Kelly's 3rd season at LSU football could be a very special one. Then again, it might not be.
Both Ed Orgeron and Les Miles, Kelly's immediate predecessors at the Ole War Skule, won National Championships in their third seasons at LSUO in 2019 and Les in 2007.
The biggest challenge to real success (10 win seasons) is building some semblance of a major college defense for 2024.
Everybody knows it's true. Even Nick Saban.
Saban built the foundation of the football program at LSU, winning his first National Championship in 2003, his fourth season at LSU. Saban has stepped away from the sidelines and into the booth.
You better believe Saban knows that the historically rotten defense Kelly threw on the field in 2023 is the only reason his Alabama team was able to win the SEC West, the SEC and make the CFP in his own swan song of a season.
The seven-time national title winner predicted on ESPN that LSU is just a few defensive tweaks away from contending for the national championship.
"You had a national championship offense. You get your defense fixed a little bit, and you guys are going to go for it."
LSU had a supercharged offense during the 2023 campaign. The 10-3 Tigers led the country in total yards per game (543.5) and points per game (45.5).
However, LSU had no defense. It allowed 408.8 total yards per game, placing it in the bottom 30 among NCAA Division I schools lastyear. In LSU's three losses last season, the defense allowed an average of 47.3 points.
LSU's offense will have to adjust to life without Jayden Daniels, who won the Heisman Trophy and carried LSU to all 10 of its arcade-style wins en route to climbing from a projected fourth-round NFL draft pick to the No. 2 overall pick of the Washington Commanders.
The good news for LSU is Garrett Nussmeier appears poised to keep the Tigers offense churning, albeit in a slightly diffferent manner than Daniels did. He won't be making defenses look like they're standing still as he glides effortlessly for more than 1000 yards himself on the ground the way Daniels did, but Nuss seemingly has what it takes to keep the LSU offense moving along in the upper echelon of the nation's offenses.
Success the way Kelly and LSU now define it in #BK3 hinges on the huge investment Kelly made in the defensive coaches in the offseason paying quick dividends. Kelly invested $12 million more in LSU's defensive coaching staff in 2024 than was invested in 2023.
You better believe Kelly's expecting quick dividends on that investment in #BK3.
New LSU defensive coordinator Blake Baker has a lot of issues to fix. Calling LSU's defense from last season simply "bad" might be an understatement.
Baker was LSU's linebackers coach in 2021, but Kelly did not retain him after being hired as the Tigers head coach as he looked to bring in his own staff. Baker joined Missouri as its defensive coordinator and helped rebuild a defense there that had struggled to be competitive.
Before he was hired, Mizzou allowed 33.8 points per game and ranked 113th in the country. In his first season, he helped lower Missouri's scoring defense to No. 56 in the country. When he left, Missouri had the No. 25 scoring defense in the country and held opponents to 20.8 points per game.
Part of what made Baker's defense work so well at Missouri was its ability to put pressure on opposing offenses. Missouri was a top-20 team in both sacks with 39 and tackles for loss with 88. LSU had 31 sacks and 73 tackles for loss last season.
Missouri had 19 different players record a sack last season and eight different players recorded 10 or more pressures.
Safety Major Burns was the only player in the secondary to register a sack for LSU last season. Burns will be playing the position for LSU called the STAR.
The STAR position is a defensive back that plays close to the line of scrimmage and has the responsibilities of an outside linebacker and a nickel corner. Baker's defenses utilize the Star to help cover slot receivers and play underneath zones.
Baker has emphasized that if the LSU defense can play with energy and get to the quarterback, it can do a complete 180 on its performances from last year.