LSU football: Brian Kelly explains his plan to fix the defensive secondary

In Brian Kelly's tenure, one of the biggest needs for LSU football is the emergence of a secondary worthy of the 'Defensive Back U' moniker. On Thursday, the Tigers head coach detailed his plan to accomplish such.
Sep 16, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Brian Kelly walks onto the field
Sep 16, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Brian Kelly walks onto the field / Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

In an appearance on Sirius XM's Off Campus with Jacob Hester and Chris Doehring, LSU football head coach Brian Kelly explained his plan to fix the secondary that plagued the 2023 Tigers defense (1:02:00 mark).

“[Correcting the secondary] starts with getting experience back there… What is going to be different is another year in the program," Kelly said.

“We have 19 scholarship players at the corner and safety positions…sooner or later, you have to have faith in your evaluation of [the players] you brought into the program and your ability to develop." The LSU football coach also stated, "The grass isn't always greener," when mentioning the potential to exercise the transfer portal for veteran defensive backs.

There's likely a contingent of fans unsatisfied with Kelly's plan. Moreover, there's an LSU football fan who posts on another fan site that is getting cooked for his criticism of the Tigers' lack of gaining transfer portal talent this offseason.

To each their own, but I understand and accept LSU's fix-it-plan.

I think the transfer portal, being the new craze in college football, has created unrealistic exceptions among impatient fans. Across state lines, Ole Miss has essentially rebuilt their roster via the transfer portal. However, as good as Lane Kiffin's roster looks on a preseason paper, there are no guarantees that the veteran gains in Oxford will pay off.

Moreover, LSU football fans must use history as a lesson in the attempt to rebuild 'DBU.'

Brian Kelly attacked the transfer portal during the 2023 offseason and added several veteran defensive backs to his roster. At cornerback, LSU added former five-star recruit Denver Harris from Texas A&M, former four-star recruit JK Johnson from Ohio State, veteran cornerback Duce Chestnut from Syracuse, and Zy Alexander from Southern.

Ironically, Alexander finished the season as the most productive defender of the bunch, having logged 44 tackles and two interceptions in eight games. Harris's change of scenery did not curb his disciplinary issues; Chestnut only appeared in one game last season, and injury sat Johnson for all of 2023.

Indeed, the grass is not always greener.

When LSU football fans think of the former players that created DBU, they reflect on the days of Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tre'Davious White, and Derek Stingley. And if there's a commonality among the group, it's that none of the DBU talents entered Baton Rouge from the transfer portal. Of course, each was a highly touted recruit, but none would have emerged as NFL superstars without the coaching, learning, and development gained in Death Valley.

The Tigers will return Alexander, Sage Ryan, Ashton Stamps, and Javien Toviano to the secondary in 2024. Each player is a year older and wiser and will be led by a more competent coaching staff. Blake Baker returned to Baton Rouge as defensive coordinator after turning Missouri's defense into a top-25 unit. LSU fan favorite Corey Raymond has also returned to Death Valley to lend his expertise to the Tigers' crop of young talent.

I think a better scheme and putting players in the right places to succeed will give LSU's defense an immediate bump in 2024. Fans must also expect Stamps and Toviano to improve on the field with more experience because such typically creates confidence. Lastly, we cannot forget that Johnson is expected to be healthy to begin spring practices.

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The LSU football defense is unlikely to recapture the DBU aura in 2024, but Kelly believes the talent he recruited out of high school has what it takes, and fans owe him the benefit of the doubt. From immediate ten-win seasons to top-ten recruiting classes and significant staff improvements, the head coach has delivered thus far.

Who are we to doubt the process?