Kelly should build foundation of LSU teams from Louisiana talent
New LSU head coach Brian Kelly is looking for a few good men.
You know, the ones who are extremely talented, have great character, go to class diligently, take academics seriously, and for lagniappe, understand the significance of wearing purple and gold on a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Can all of the above boxes be checked? Of course.
The real question is, can you win big in the Southeastern Conference if a head coach and his staff narrow the criteria?
At Notre Dame, Kelly appeared to have quite a few of those guys. His rosters, while talented, were never able to deliver the school’s first national football championship since the late 1980’s.
If Kelly were to ask, I would tell him that the preponderance of his talent still should come from Louisiana.
Homegrown players formed the backbones of LSU national championship teams in 2003, 2007 and 2019.
In 2003, LSU’s leader rusher, Justin Vincent, and the team’s leading receiver, Michael Clayton, were both Louisiana guys. A great defensive line was led by in-state products Marquise Hill, Chad Lavalais, Marcus Spears and Kyle Williams. The secondary was led by two future outstanding pros, Laron Landry of Hahnville and Corey Webster out of St. James.
You can’t get any more Louisiana in football guys from Hahnville and St. James.
In 2007, the Tigers were led by a Texan, quarterback Matt Flynn, but even he identified with Louisiana. He hailed from nearby Tyler, Texas, a mere 90 minute drive west on Interstate 20 from Shreveport.
Running back Jacob Hester (Evangel), wide receiver Early Doucet (New Iberia), defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (East Ascension), defensive end Tyson Jackson (West St. John), and safety Craig Steltz (Rummel) were all stars on that team.
Twelve years later, Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow led the Tigers to a title.
The superstar quarterback was still handing and tossing the ball to Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Baton Rouge Catholic), Ja’Marr Chase (Rummel), and Justin Jefferson (Destrehan).
Defensive back Grant Delpit (born in New Orleans) linebacker Patrick Queen (Livonia) and Kristian Fulton (Rummel) were all key contributors for the LSU defense.
In the class of 2020, LSU signed three players who were ranked as five star recruits. Two out-of-state talents, ight end Arik Gilbert and cornerback Elias Ricks, are gone. The only one remaining is wide receiver Kayshon Boutte from Westgate in New Iberia.
LSU must still recruit nationally. The Southeastern Conference is a national brand. Finding the most talent requires a wide search. The image and the money are the big reasons why Oklahoma and Texas jumped ship from the Big 12 to the SEC.
Yet, Louisiana guys who get it what it means to be a Tiger must be the backbone of any great LSU team. They are less likely to be in the transfer portal and less likely to bail out at the first sign of adversity or trouble.
Hester is a prime example. In his first two seasons, he had 45 carries and two rushing touchdowns. In 2007, he carried 225 times with 12 rushing scores.
Hester is a Louisiana guy, LSU thru and thru.
If Brian Kelly wants to succeed, those types of players must anchor his roster. Fortunately, he does not have to go too far to find them.
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Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…