BATON ROUGE – LSU does have a football coach.
On Wednesday afternoon, Brian Kelly held his first press conference since the day he was introduced as the Tigers’ new coach on Dec. 1.
Other than strange voice inflections while speaking to fans at the LSU-Ohio basketball game that same night and trying to dance with a prospect in an LSU recruiting video and a brief interview during LSU’s Texas Bowl loss to Kansas State on Jan. 4, little has been seen of the former Notre Dame coach who will be making nearly $10 million a year with the TIgers.
Until now, when he introduced his new defensive staff in the team’s meeting room next to Tiger Stadium.
“Putting a staff together is not about hiring them and then let’s immediately get in front of the media,” he said. “We needed to spend a little time together.”
Introduced were defensive coordinator Matt House, formerly a linebackers coach with the Kansas City Chiefs; special teams and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian, who worked under Kelly at Notre Dame; and safeties coach Kerry Cooks, who also coached under Kelly at Notre Dame.
“When we talk about defense, our theme is experience, winning and the ability to recruit, communicate, motivate and develop our players,” said Kelly, who will introduce his offensive coaches on Thursday.
House, 43, brings experience and winning as he was Kentucky’s defensive coordinator in 2017 and ’18 after coordinating defenses at Pittsburgh in 2013 and ’14 and at Florida International in 2016. He was part of a Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl runner-up with the Chiefs from 2019-21.
One of the first things House may do at LSU’s spring practice, beginning on March 24, is install some movement and multiple looks. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin told then-LSU coach Ed Orgeron, his old friend from staffs at USC and Tennessee, after their 2021 game that LSU’s defense under then-coordinator Daronte Jones barely changed alignment during a 31-17 loss to the Rebels, who gained 470 yards.
“Offensive-minded coaches would all tell you that if you line up one way, you’re going to have a long day,” Kelly said. “So, we’re going to defensively be able to give a lot of different looks. Try to keep the personnel as constant as possible. It may be difficult for opposing offenses to know what they’re going to get from down to down. And that’s really the game today, right? If you’re constantly moving personnel in and out using multiple packages makes it little more of a game for the offense.”
House can’t wait to get started.
“Right now, we’re trying to get our guys to buy into the focus and habits of doing the right thing day in and day out,” he said. “So when we do get on the grass, we can be consistent. We can be a gritty defense that has the traits to win play in and play out.”
House did not say what kind of alignment he will use – a 4-3 or 3-4 front. He operated at Kansas City under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who uses a blitz-heavy 4-3 attack.
“We’re still learning our guys, and until you can learn your guys, football 101 is accentuate the positive and try to keep them out of negative situations,” House said “We’ve got the experience and versatility to put them in good situations, but there’s a process of learning what your guys can do and can’t do before you can execute that.”
Asked specifically what tactics he may bring from Spagnuolo’s defense, House responded with a question.
“Is Alabama going to read what you write? No, I’m just teasing,” he said. “Coach Spags does a great job of speaking in concepts, so it can appear to the quarterback that you’re complicated while keeping it simple enough for guys to play fast on defense. And that’s kind of what we’ll do.”
House said, before he got the LSU job, he heard a lot about LSU at Kansas City from Chiefs’ running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who each played at LSU.
“Of any place I’ve been, this is the most passionate group of former players I’ve ever seen, OK,” he said. “Whether it was Clyde, whether it was Tyrann, those guys love this university, love this state and want to do anything they can to help it be successful. And that’s pretty neat to be a part of.”