Everything Brian Kelly said to open LSU’s 2023 spring practice
The 2023 LSU football team took the field for the first time on Thursday as the Tigers began their spring practice slate.
Following the day’s events, coach Brian Kelly took the podium to preview his second season in Baton Rouge. Coming off a 10-win season and a division title, expectations are naturally high for this year’s team.
Speaking to the media, Kelly addressed a wide range of topics including the team’s depth at several positions, future SEC scheduling, the spring game format, transfer losses and additions and more. Here’s a rundown of everything the Tigers coach had to say as this year’s squad begins its journey.
“Well, today was the first day of spring practice for us, and as I reminded our players, it’s really a progression of what we do every day. That progression of what we do every day is building on the things that go to being successful. There’s no scoreboard out in spring practice, there’s no winners, there’s no losers. What it’s really about is the total development of the individual and them understanding that you need more than just talent alone to win a national championship. Making sure that they clearly understand what this next five, six weeks is about. It’s not a ‘hey, I won that drill,’ or ‘hey, I won this one-on-one matchup.’ It’s really about your total preparation and how you continue to develop the traits necessary to be elite.
“I thought they did a really good job today. Now, everybody’s at a different level, but collectively as a team, we couldn’t talk in these terms last year. We were talking about how to practice, we were talking about not going on one knee during practice, taking your helmet off, throwing your helmet. We were talking much more about emotional control, guys trying to figure out where they were and what their place was.
“So you can imagine from my perspective and the coaches, it’s great when you can go out into a drill and just talk about competing and not about whether you won or lost the drill but whether you used really good technique as a DB at the top of the route and because you used really good technique and your attention to detail there, you’re gonna pick that off when we play XYZ.
“So, that was essentially what today was about, what tomorrow will be about, and then we start to get into where are the matchups, where do we need to develop somebody as a key backup, or where do we need to develop a little more depth, maybe where do we need to move a guy? But the next few days is really about that kind of mindset of what spring practice is about and what the objective is… you could ask me about who looked good or who did what and I’ll give you the best answers I can, but you can understand the mindset that we all have going into this is how do we get our guys really understanding total preparation… in the spring, and then how can they have better attention to detail, how can they be better focused, how can they have the right attitude, how can they be smart?
On the spring game format
“I don’t think you’re going to throw exotics in there and do those kind of things, but if you can play the game… you want to continue that competition. You still want to be able to put those kids in a position where they can work on all of those things. Last year was a little bit different, I tried to treat it as a game where we did the pregame meal and we did the walk and we did all of those things because they had never been involved, nor had I. So I wanted to take that anxiety out of the first game for us.
“As we go through the spring, we’ll have to evaluate what the numbers look like. So you could have a short spring game, but you could have some seven-on-seven, you could have some individual drills… where the fans are still involved in it, but we’ll have to see how that goes.”
On running back depth
“They’re working through the injuries that they suffered, they’re out there at practice, they’ve been great in terms of their rehab. Certainly, Josh (Williams) is the closest in terms of being able to come back… Armoni (Goodwin) will not be back until camp. Certainly, Trey Holly’s going to get a lot of work, he did today. Matter of fact, he grabbed me in the hallway and typically as a freshman, you can imagine there was some errors and he was looking for (running backs) coach (Frank) Wilson and wanted to apologize, I was like just keep showing up… He’s got a great motor, great attitude, all the things that you want.
On his feelings entering spring
“We always put the blinders on regardless of what’s going on and focus on what’s important… as we go back into the development of how do we become more consistent? It’s everything I just talked about. As important as all the things we had to do last year, this is equally important. It’s just what’s more important this year is a little different than last year. It’s just a different chapter that we’re moving through… I think we just kind of have tunnel vision and know that this is what’s really important and crucial for us now.”
On spring practice starting a week later
“It allows us to kick in to longer hours with the team once you go into spring ball. You’re able to elongate the hours and have more contact time… It allows you to elongate the schedule because you don’t have to count these days that we’re at break. We also have the Easter break where we don’t have to count days. So it just allows us the ability to spend more time… with our football team. So I guess that’s kind of the tactic.”
On Walker Howard's decision to transfer, importance of keeping Garrett Nussmeier
“You’re ready for everything. You want to do a great job of retention and sometimes it’s out of your hands. Garrett was out there today even after he’s had some corrective surgery… he’ll probably be another week before he’s full go and everything but I think he’s excited. (Rickie) Collins got a lot of work today, so we’ve got three quarterbacks that will get a lot of work in the spring. I think we’re in a pretty good place.”
On three future permanent SEC opponents
“We play all three of those teams so for me it just didn’t seem to be any different. I expected that it was probably going to be Ole Miss and Alabama, and whether it was A&M or Texas or someone else, it wasn’t really something I thought much about because I wanted to play SEC teams, that’s why I came here. So I think I just come from it from a different perspective… I think it’s important that we play certain teams… but I think nine is great because it’s going to prepare you and your football team for what will eventually be in 2024 an expanded playoff field, and I think that’s a good thing.”
On John Emery Jr.'s Status
“John is focused strictly right now on his academics. He’s got some marks that he’s got to hit from an academic standpoint before we talk about football with him. That was the deal with John in talking to his family that if his primary focus was academics and finishing his degree, then we would have a conversation about football. Right now, his focus is 100% on that.”
On expectations for Rickie Collins as an early enrollee
“Certainly as a quarterback you benefit greatly just coming in learning the system. There’s so much as a quarterback you can imagine from just looking to the sideline and picking up the signals, it’s foreign to many… Then I would say just being coached and hearing a different voice is equally as important as you transition into a new system… And then finally, trying to put it together in a faster environment. Everything’s quicker, everything’s faster… So from a quarterback standpoint, mid-year enrollment covers everything from the intellectual development to the physical development… dealing with the ups and downs of transitioning into college life as somebody that should still be in high school right now.”
On offensive line depth
“We’re really thin on the offensive line, so the charge will be after today really focusing on shoring up that group. We’ve got guys coming, we’ve got guys that are out and I’m not here to say we’ve got an issue with the second group, we’ve just got some young guys that are playing right now that it’s really a first time out there. When we shore that group up we’ve got some talented players out there.”
On outgoing transfers
“We want them to stay but as you know there’s another transfer portal (window) so we can’t worry about those things. We’re going to develop the guys that are on our roster, we’re gonna give them the opportunities that we believe is right for our program.”
On Marlon Martinez returning
“He’s done a really good job, he’s worked hard in the weight room, he’s reshaping his body, he’s doing the things necessary for him to compete. He’s getting first-team reps because Charles (Turner) is out with an injury. We won’t know until we finish spring ball what his status is, we hope he’s here to stay.”
On incoming transfers set to make an impact
“I think it’s oretty clear that some of the defensive players we brought in — Ovie Oghoufo, Omar Speights, (Jordan) Jefferson, to name a few — are going to be guys that are going to be impactful. I think the depth at the cornerback position, all of them are really talented players. Watching one-on-one today, it looked pretty good… I’m pretty confident that the transfers we brought in will make an impact, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
“Aaron Anderson is coming back from surgery so we haven’t seen him yet but we know about his story and how great a high schoo player he was here in the state, if you can carry that onto the field at LSU, we’re penciling him in somewhere. You don’t know until you get into camp and really get into the nitty-gritty of it but we feel like we’ve supported our football program with the right people because they have fit in so well over the past few months in our program itself and that really is the most important thing.”
On the need to improve defensive line depth after last season
“I think it was in its totality. I think it was corner, I think it was safety, I think it was defensive line… We had to address that with depth… The tail end of November it was becoming pretty clear that that needed to be addressed.”
On if the offense will evolve in Year 2
“When you talk about offensive philosophy, there’s a line to be drawn about how you look at each play and if you look at the NFL, there’s so much focus and effort placed on the singular play in the NFL. There’s the huddle and then there’s all kinds of motion, and then that play itself is just a full commitment to a singular play, and that’s why they run less plays than college. College is sometimes like, run as many plays as you can. My philosophy and our philosophy is we still want that play to have the quality elements of striking on a wide front where it can hit everywhere and it forces defenses to defend that play, and you have compliments off of it. So I think we look at the singular play more than anything else and evaluate it as such. They have to have compliments, there has to be a way to get the defense moving, you want the defense to be able to change their eyes with motion and make sure that they’re forced to communicate. So I really think it’s about the singular play philosophically that we’re looking at more than this comprehensive, let’s get another play in.”