LSU head coach Brian Kelly opened his first press conference of the spring by stating the goals of the spring practice, highlighting the focus on individual progression and preparation as the 2023-24 football season approaches.
He claimed that was of the utmost importance if this team, sporting championship potential, wants to contend for a playoff spot next season.
“There’s no scoreboard out in spring practice. There’s no winners, there’s no losers,” Kelly said. “It’s really about your total preparation and how you continue to develop the traits necessary to be elite.”
It’s about perfecting their technique and figuring out where their place is on the team. And while there’s less mystery surrounding this program than there was last year, there are still plenty of positions that need to be figured out, with a vast array of players from that team heading to the draft or graduating.
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There are plenty of new names on the recently updated roster, players who were here before who are looking to heighten their roles and teammates harboring injuries to start spring. Here are the biggest takeaways from the first practice and preceding presser.
One of the biggest things gathered from practice was how few running backs LSU had performing drills. Of the four main backs from last season, just one, Noah Cain was out on the field. Josh Williams, Armoni Goodwin and John Emery Jr. were all out.
Kelly gave an update on each player’s situation. Williams and Goodwin are out with injury and Emery is focusing exclusively on academics. Each player’s timetable is up in the air, but Williams is expected to be back the earliest and Goodwin will be out until fall camp.
With Emery, it’s strictly academics, an aspect of his life that has consistently plagued over the years. In this case, the senior is squarely focusing on academics at this point, with no clear timetable on his return.
“He’s got some marks that he has to hit from an academic standpoint before we talk about football with him,” Kelly said on the back. “That was the deal with John [Emery] and talking to his family. If his primary focus was academics and taking care of his degree, then we would have a conversation about football.”
Other than the running backs, quarterback Garrett Nussmeier is also returning to full strength after having corrective surgery. But in Nussmeier’s case, he’s already throwing the football and should be getting back to full speed in about a week or so, according to Kelly.
Kelly's thoughts on quarterback room and the nine-game SEC schedule
A lot has occurred since LSU’s 2022-23 season came to a close.
Just over two weeks after its victory over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl, former five-star quarterback Walker Howard announced he was entering the transfer portal, eventually deciding to go to Ole Miss. When asked about the situation, Kelly didn’t harp on it too much, believing it to be out of his control.
“You’re ready for everything,” Kelly said. “You want to do a great job of retention and sometimes it’s out of your hands.”
He then touched on his current quarterback room, liking what he’s seen from freshman Rickie Collins and being happy with what they’ve been able to retain.
“We’ve got three quarterbacks that will get a lot of work in the spring,” Kelly said. “I think we’re in a good place.”
When asked about the SEC’s switch to a nine-game schedule, which has the Tigers pitted against Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss as yearly opponents, Kelly expressed no concern. He added that he sees it as a great opportunity to better prepare for the College Football Playoff, with it expanding after next season.
The regular season is behind them. The SEC tournament is behind them. All eyes now lie on March Madness.
“It’s not something that I really thought much about because I wanted to play SEC teams, that’s why I came here,” Kelly said. “I think nine is great because it’s going to prepare you and your football team for what eventually will be in 2024, an expanded playoff field.”
High expectations and current standouts
Though Kelly didn’t go into detail when it came to who was standing out so far, with it still being so early in the offseason, he did list a few names when asked about them.
In terms of standouts, defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson, linebacker Omar Speights and JACK linebacker Ovie Oghoufo were all mentioned by Kelly. They came from West Virginia, Oregon State and Texas, respectively.
“It's day one, but I'm pretty confident that the transfers that we brought in will make an impact, in particular on the defensive side of the ball,” Kelly said.
Other than that, he touched on the depth of the quarterback room and expressed excitement for Alabama transfer Aaron Anderson, who’s still recovering from surgery.
“We haven’t seen him yet, but we know about his story and how great of a high-school player he was here in the state,” Kelly said. “I you can carry that onto the field here at LSU, you know we’re penciling him in.”
It should be an exciting offseason of LSU football, as more is figured out about this potential championship contender.