LSU Football: How Brian Kelly made a brilliant move to end 2021

Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

LSU Football head coach Brian Kelly made a smart decision to end 2021.

On Friday, it appeared that Kelly was on the verge of hiring Derrick LeBlanc to serve as the Tigers’ defensive line coach.

LeBlanc is a Louisiana native who worked as Sam Pittman’s defensive line coach at Arkansas in 2020. He was also a graduate assistant at LSU under Nick Saban in 2000 and an assistant strength and conditioning coordinator under Les Miles from 2008-2011.

Kelly, however, went a different direction with his defensive line coach hire. 247Sports reported later on Friday that Kelly is hiring former Oklahoma defensive line coach Jamar Cain instead of LeBlanc.

Hiring Jamar Cain is absolutely huge for LSU football

Cain, who is a Sacramento, CA native, was expected to join Lincoln Riley’s new staff at USC.

Riley wanted to bring Cain with him to SoCal due to his reputation as an elite recruiter, plus his extensive west coast connections

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman described Cain last month as one of the country’s top recruiters.

This is a much better hire than LeBlanc, who wasn’t retained by Pittman at Arkansas after the 2020 season.

The fact that Cain, who has also coached at Arizona State and Fresno State, elected to join Kelly’s staff at LSU instead of Riley’s staff at USC shows that coaches believe Kelly is going to do incredible things in Baton Rouge.

Cain doesn’t have an obvious connection to LSU, Kelly, or new Tigers defensive coordinator Matt House. But he obviously believes in Kelly’s vision for the program — more than he believes in Riley’s vision for USC.

Bringing Cain on staff will give LSU a strong west coast recruiter. That’s something that will be extremely important for Kelly and the Tigers. Most of LSU’s talent will come from Louisiana, but if the Tigers are going to win championships under Kelly, they’ll need to recruit nationwide. Cain will help them in that area.

Kelly isn’t hiring coaches just because they’re from Louisiana. He’s being smart with his hires.

(Kelly does have some Louisiana flavor on his staff in Frank Wilson — still probably his best hire — and offensive line coach Brad Davis. So LSU should be good in that area.)

Cain is a better hire than LeBlanc. The only thing LeBlanc had going for him was being from Louisiana. There’s a reason that Pittman didn’t bring him back to Arkansas in 2021.

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Cain is a rising star in college football. He’s on the path to becoming a defensive coordinator. Eventually, House will land a head coaching gig or a defensive coordinator job in the NFL. When that happens, Kelly will be able to promote Cain to defensive coordinator without the defense missing a beat.

This was a brilliant move all around by Kelly. Get ready Tigers fans, LSU is about to make some serious noise in the SEC.