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WATCH: LSU Coach Brian Kelly previews Tigers' season-opener at the Superdome

1 year 10 months 1 week ago Monday, August 29 2022 Aug 29, 2022 August 29, 2022 12:01 PM August 29, 2022 in Sports
By: WBRZ Staff

LSU Coach Brian Kelly holds his first press conference of the 2022 regular season, just days before the Tigers kick off against Florida State at the Superdome. 

Stream the news conference below.

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August 29, 2022

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Weekday Press Conference

BRIAN KELLY: An exciting time. First game, 32nd year for me in doing this, but first here year at LSU. Really for me taking an LSU football team into its first week of preparation for a game against a really good Florida State team is one that I think there's -- around the office there's a heightened sense of excitement.

Everybody is anticipating a great week. Our preparation has been one where certainly you want to see the culmination of your team coming together and play outstanding football.

So this week will be -- certainly with a Sunday game will be a little bit different in terms of the days, but it will be the same in terms of our process.

Today is really kind of a day off for our guys. We treat this kind of like a Sunday. Tomorrow will be our mental Monday day where it's a lot of game planning, scouting reports, things of that nature. We'll team-meet. We'll go over essentially how we should be thinking this week about our opponents, the awareness we need to have about how we play the game.

There's a lot of things. Going on the road for the first time. Even though it is in New Orleans, we are taking our team away from campus. How we handle ourselves in the Dome, how not to be distracted in a first game, the importance of all of the traits that we talk about in an opener.

Florida State has already had an opener. They've already gone through that kind of routine. We'll spend a lot of time talking about that tomorrow.

Then we get into our first day, which is Wednesday, but it's an attitude Tuesday for us. Coming with the right attitude, getting after it in a practice situation. It's probably our most physical day when we talk about our first padded practice day, Tuesday.

Our Wednesday, or, again, moving forward in the week itself, to Thursday, is about being gritty. You know, you've got to really focus and refocus through that practice because it is the longer of the practices. You want to make sure you get all of your preparation work in.

Thursday, which would be Friday during the week, is about being perfect. Red Zone situations, situational substitution, third and long, two-minute. All of those things take place on our Thursday, which, again, we go into a helmet and shoulder pad situation.

Practice is shorter. It's about an hour, hour and five minutes. Which leads us into our Friday, which is about focus. Focus Friday is a walk-through situation for us. We'll do situational substitution again.

But, again, usually the first 20 plays of our scripted plays we're going through defensively, making sure we've got all the right personnel moving from Nickel maybe to goal line, making sure that all of those things are done right on Friday, which is obviously, Saturday.

Then we get into Sunday, and I like to work our team out on game day when it's a night game. We'll go to the Dome. We'll work the guys out. We'll move them around. We'll work up a sweat in the morning.

Again, I don't like to keep the guys locked up in the hotel room all day when we have a night game. Again, we'll go to the Dome, get the sense of the surroundings so, again, we're not distracted and seeing the insides of the Dome for the first time.

Again, getting them moving so we break the day up a little bit. Get back. We'll have lunch. They'll have some time off, pregame meal, and then ready to kick it off. That's kind of an insight into the week.

Then it's, from there, successful Saturday. And then we'll assess everything on Monday and get right back to work because, as we know, it's a short week.

Playing a team that I'm quite familiar with. Opened up against Florida State last year. I know Mike very well. Mike Norvell has done an outstanding job in developing this football team.

They're a disciplined group now. It wasn't the same group that we saw a couple of years ago. Last year they took us to overtime, the team that I coached last year. It's a team that has some talented players.

Defensively, physicality at the defensive line position, athletes at the second level, and in the back field. Then from an offensive standpoint, you know, it starts at the quarterback position. Jordan Travis, I think he is, from my perspective, a great competitor, can make things happen. You know, people use dual-threat quarterback. He can throw the football, and he runs. He keeps plays alive for them. He didn't have to do a lot of that on Saturday, but he is led by a deep and talented receiving corps.

Then what we saw on Saturday was rushing for 406 yards. That certainly gets your attention. Any team that runs for 400 yards regardless of who the competition. Duquesne had some nice wins last year. They beat a really good MAC team in Ohio last year. This is a team that has a good program.

It will be a great opener for us and one that we're excited about. With that, I'll open it up to questions.

Q. Since you were here in this room December 1st meeting with us for the first time to now, how much have you gotten done that you wanted to get done? How ready are you? Do you always want more time before the opener?

BRIAN KELLY: There's a couple of things that stand out. One, I think our guys fully understand and have been actively engaged in our process, and I know you hear that all the time and you look at it as maybe coach-speak. Our process has really begun to take hold with our players.

It's not for them. We're just throwing something against the wall and see what sticks. They know it's extremely intentional. Everything that we do from checking their sleep patterns to what they put in their body to how we practice, and so that kind of total preparation, they understand that now.

I feel really good about the fact that our team has understood and has really bought into the process of preparing themselves for this opener. There will be other challenges along the way. You know, we're going to have to stay in our zone. There's going to be some challenges and some ups and downs that we're going to have to handle, but I feel good about it based upon where we've come from since December.

Q. Last Tuesday you said the competition between Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier was really close. You'll possibly come to the decision by the end of the week and maybe Monday. Do you have an update on the quarterback battle?

BRIAN KELLY: Yes, we have. We've made a decision, but I'm not going to announce it publicly. And, again, this is for the -- certainly everybody here wants to know who the quarterback is. I get that. I think it's a tactical advantage for us not to announce it, so I'm going to hold that announcement because I think it gives us a tactical advantage for not playing.

Look, Florida State played a game. That's an advantage for them, having the opportunity to play. The advantage for us is that we haven't played. So it doesn't help us to give up any of our cards in that sense.

We're going to hold on to that card until game day.

Q. The status of John Emery at this point, is he going to miss the first two games? Is there any change in that?

BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, so I've spoken on this before in that John has done everything that would allow him to be in good standing in the football program, but I have things that are out of my control as it relates to who I can play, and that's not something I can comment on.

Q. What do you think the key is going to be to stop Jordan Travis's run game?

BRIAN KELLY: The key will be, obviously, playing great defense at all three levels. Right? We just talked about their ability to run the football. If you can run the football that effectively, Jordan Travis can have a field day out there.

We've got to be able to stop the run, first of all, and be effectively stopping the run. I think that that is going to limit Jordan Travis. If we can force him to be predictable throwing the football, that's going to help us a lot.

As it relates to him in particular, he is a guy that you, obviously, want to box the edges with. You want to keep him inside the pocket. Once he gets outside the edge of your defense, he is extremely elusive, and he can create havoc.

I think from a defensive game plan it's pretty clear that we've got to do a really good job against the run, which makes him predictable within the offensive structure. Then individually, himself, we've got to keep him inside the pocket.

Q. On Saturday we saw Malik Nabers was dressed out but not doing any drills. What is his status?

BRIAN KELLY: He should be good. I think today is another recovery day. I would believe that probably tomorrow he will begin drill work. We'll be in a light drill work. When we get into our normal routine of practice, he'll be cleared to practice. He had an ankle sprain.

Q. You said something about last week about not deciding on the quarterback, unsettling the offensive line, but both quarterbacks are similar, I would assume, in their preparation and your play calling.


Q. Is that an advantage in that we're not really splitting much up?

BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, there's some great similarities between the two of them in terms of what they're able to do. They both run extremely well. They both can make plays outside the pocket. Certainly we don't have to change the play calling. There's not a dramatic difference between the two when it comes to play calling.

So you can imagine that when we're talking about both quarterbacks, this is a 1A and 1B. This is not a 1 and a 2. Both of them are, obviously, going to contribute this year.

Q. Are you comfortable naming Damian Ramos as your starting kicker or handling field goals, and then who will be handling kickoffs?

BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think Damian Ramos is going to start at the field goal position and extra point, and I think we're still in the process of making a decision on kickoffs. It's extremely competitive there.

We feel like that decision is probably going to be made here in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Q. You've handled quite a few of these quarterback situations before. I guess what is your best strategy, I guess, for managing, say, whoever doesn't get the job, how to keep them in the loop and engaged throughout the season?

BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think in this instance they're going to be so engaged because they know how close they are to playing every snap. It's not going to be put your helmet underneath the bench. You need your helmet on because I think that they'll be that engaged in the game itself.

This is a little bit different where there might have been a clear difference in terms of how -- and I think answering the question earlier is that we're going to be natural in the ability to kind of flip to the next play with the next quarterback. This isn't that you have to turn over your play sheet and go to Jayden Daniels' play calls or Nussmeier game plan. It's one and the same.

I think that that in itself keeps you so engaged in what's going on.

Q. How does opening with Florida State a year ago help or assist in your game planning this week?

BRIAN KELLY: There's a new offensive and defensive coordinator for me. It's a whole new team. I don't know that it really helps as much as I can give and lend a little bit more to our coordinators. I meet with our coordinators daily so I can give them a little bit of insight in terms of what they're about and how they play the game and what they're looking to do on offense and defense, but that's about it.

Other than that, this is a whole new operation for us relative to coordinators and the football team in itself.

Q. How long have you known who the starting quarterback will be?

BRIAN KELLY: How long have I known? Probably 48 hours. It's been that close, yeah.

Q. And does it annoy you at all that Florida State got that tune-up game in?

BRIAN KELLY: No, not necessarily. I think there's some pluses and minuses there. Like I said, I think we've got the advantage that they don't have any film on us. Got a new head coach. You've got new coordinators. That in itself, there's the uncertainty of them knowing what to expect.

So there is a bit of a tradeoff there.

Q. Continuity on the offensive line, obviously, important every game, but for this first game avoiding negative plays, whether it's penalties or missed assignments, puts you second and third and long.

BRIAN KELLY: All part of playing winning football, right? Those are -- that's what -- people ask me about how do you feel about Saturdays, and I enjoy Saturdays because my Mondays through Fridays are anxious because I worry about all the things that you just mentioned, right?

When I worry about those things, those are the things that we talk about every day in practice and we stop practice if we see those things crop up. Then you just have got to go play, and you hope that your preparation -- not hope, but know that everything that you do from December on has addressed that and that goes to winning.

So, yeah, all of those things are on my mind, but once you get to Saturday, you've got to go play and know that what you just mentioned, all those little things, they go to winning, and if you are doing that, you're in for a long day.

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you said you're going to get the team to the Dome Sunday before kickoff?

BRIAN KELLY: No, we're going to get there Saturday. We'll get there Saturday evening. We're going to stop for dinner on the way.

Q. Just a normal walk-through then?

BRIAN KELLY: Yes. We'll stay there Saturday evening, and then Sunday we get up, we'll have breakfast, and then head over to the Dome.

Q. Then you don't bring them back?

BRIAN KELLY: No, they am come back to the hotel.

Q. That's the first I've ever heard of that. Most teams do it in the ballrooms or hotels. You're going to have a lot of night games. Is that something --

BRIAN KELLY: Yes, we'll work out. That's why I brought it up so you knew what our routine was. We will leave the hotel. We'll come to the stadium. Let's say it's an evening game here. We'll leave the hotel. We'll come in. We'll work out in the stadium, and we'll go back to the hotel.

Q. Are you a fan of these neutral site games, and will you encourage the university to have them as part of the menu moving forward?

BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think each one of them needs to be looked at as a stand-alone. I think it's important to look at New Orleans as a site because of our fan base. I think we need to look at areas where we have strong fan bases and consider those as neutral site games. I did them quite regularly where I was last year, and certainly the fan bases rallied around those.

If we feel like those can sell out those venues and make it feel like a home game, you have to decide to give up a Tiger Stadium game. That's a hard thing to do, right? Because of what this stadium does for a home field advantage.

That's a calculated decision, but going to New Orleans certainly makes sense to me.

Q. When we first started practice, I remember you talked about how there wasn't a lot pencilled in relative to last ten years in coaching. I'm wondering now if beyond quarterback, are there certain key starting roles, whether it be the offensive line or the secondary, that you would be comfortable discussing today and the rationale behind some of those decisions?

BRIAN KELLY: Sure. I think that the offensive line has been one that the linchpin to the decision at the offensive line started and ended with the center position. You know, once we felt comfortable with Garrett Dellinger at the center position, everything else was able to fall into place.

When I say comfortable at the center position, the ability to call out fronts, the ability to feel comfortable snapping the ball, and then executing his technique. There's a lot going on there.

Here's a guy who hadn't played the position, so that's a big ask. A guy coming off of surgery, not active in the spring. He did an incredible job. To place all of that on him and be demanding. Some of you were at the practice. I was pretty demanding on him. Certainly required a lot of follow-up with him, spending time with him, making sure that he stayed confident in that. And he did that.

Now, since that day, we were able to decide what was the best rotation in that regard, and we think Bradford at guard and Frazier at guard and Wire and Campbell at the tackle position gives us the best chance with those five guys.

Tre'Mond Short will be in the mix. He will get a chance to play. We're probably not in a position right now where 72 plays for the inside guys and the outside guys is feasible at this point. We're going to have to probably play seven or eight guys, but that's kind of one of those position groups that was pencilled in that is now much more solidified.

Q. You guys have been mixing receivers really in and out all fall. Just how many of those guys do you expect to really significantly contribute against Florida State on Sunday?

BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, we're going to go deep into that rotation. Having Jack Bech back and being able to up his work volume and getting him running to the level that he is capable of without pain has really given us the kind of flexibility that we needed at that position. Now we can move around guys to get suitable match-ups.

We can move Kayshon. We can move Malik. Lacy now can go to the field or play into the boundary. You know, BT, Brian Thomas gets to get into a position where we can move him around a little bit as well. Jaray Jenkins, as I mentioned, has probably been as consistent as anybody that we've had.

It gives us really a nice rotation and keeps guys fresh. As I just mentioned, I think that's seven guys right there, seven, eight guys is what you are going to see playing for us at the receiver position.

Q. When you look at Florida State's defensive line, Cooper, Verse, McLendon, what have you seen from that unit? Obviously, only one game.

BRIAN KELLY: Yeah. I think first and foremost, watching them during the season, inside size at the defensive tackle position. They're not a group that's getting moved off the football, and they rotate them in. They can go two deep inside-out. They've got some new players playing off the edge. They lost some talented edge players, but there's still athleticism on the edge.

I would say that it starts inside-out with their defensive line, which allows the linebackers to run. Again, what you can expect from this defense is lateral quickness, guys that can run to the football, and from a defensive standpoint, a team that is going to play some man coverage.

They do play a lot of quarters, but in their quarters it becomes match-up-man. A team that has the athletes to match you up and the size to match up against what will be for us one of the big offensive lines inside-out with our center and two guards that we've had here.

Q. Coaches yelling and screaming on the sideline, that's nothing new. Fans enjoy that. It's part of the entertainment to a lot of them. I'm curious in your career did you say maybe I need to dial some of this back, my temperament, or so forth, in terms of being an effective leader as a coach?

BRIAN KELLY: I think we all grow. I don't think if you don't look at yourself and find out what's the best way to lead and develop your players, then you're not going to be in this business very long.

I mean, I have my moments, like everybody else. My office happens to be on national TV, so I have to be aware of that, but you have to be able to communicate effectively with the men under your charge, and you have to be demanding, but you can't be demeaning at any time.

There has to be growth. You have to learn from your mistakes, and you have to build off of that during your career.

Q. You've been at some premier programs, and we all recall the "alignment" word that you threw around so much, but football-wise, what luxury does the school, this team afford you that you're looking forward to exploiting, maybe a new one?

BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think the resources in terms of having the personnel. I can tell you this, the three things that stand out to me are nutrition, strength and conditioning, and our medical personnel and how that affects and has affected our team in their development.

Those three groups working together in unison, and having the physical plant -- and when I say "the physical plant," the nutrition center, the weight room, and then the facilities necessary in nutrition to bring all of those three groups together to service and serve our student-athletes.

This is about the student-athlete and providing those things necessary for our student-athletes to be the best they can be. That's the exciting part for me.

And what ends up happening is the players begin trusting so much more because they see that you care about them when it comes to their nutrition. They see that you care about them when it comes to injuries and their conditioning level.

Ali Gaye, for example, is a guy that did not make it through any training camp in his previous years here. He did not miss a practice. That's not just luck. That's training. That's nutrition. That's an incredible medical staff. That's all three of those groups.

We had two soft tissue injuries, and I'm here not to trumpet the LSU way as much as to answer the question on how those three groups in particular and having the resources necessary provide for the student-athlete.

Q. If I could ask a quick follow-up to that one. Is this as healthy a team as you've had coming out of camp, number one, and does the lack of experience at place kicker maybe alter strategy on Saturday?

BRIAN KELLY: We've got a week left (Laughing). Coming up to this point Corren Norman, obviously, we lost him to an ACL, so I never want to exclude somebody when they've had an injury because it hits back on you later. Coach, you know, what about me, right?

But it is from an injury standpoint, this has been a great camp. It's got to be graded out from that perspective, and it has a lot to do with the way Coach Flint and Dr. Frakes and Bo have developed this team. And then our players, their commitment has been outstanding. So, yes to that.

You know what, when we make a decision on the kicker, we're all in. We're all in on we're not going to change the way we operate the game and protect anybody. We're going to -- look, I like to use analytics in a game. We'll have somebody with an analytic book, just so everybody knows. So when we second guess the head coach later, you guys can -- that's your opportunity and your right to do that, but I use the book, and sometimes I use my gut.

Answering the question is that you can't do that and then go away from it when you have a kicker out there and you're afraid of them. You got to let them kick.

Q. Coach, you've emphasized the importance of being multiple on defense. Florida State had two running backs on every play. Three of them kind of carried the bulk of the ball. How much does that impact your defensive plan, or do you think that was largely because of the conditions and the rain?

BRIAN KELLY: No, they've been a split-back team. Mike has always liked to, even when he was at Memphis and even at Arizona State when he was the offensive coordinator, he likes to run split-back. Look, the three backs are outstanding. You have to get your best players on the field.

In that situation, three-wides, he actually used one of the tight ends and split them out, but that's his offensive structure. That was not a surprise to us that he had two backs on the field.

It's a really good offense for them, and it's been effective. We were quite aware of it coming into the game.

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