Brian Kelly discusses his accent, recruiting Louisiana and beating Nick Saban at SEC Media Days
Day 1 of SEC Media Days is in the books, and there's no doubt that the headliner was new LSU coach Brian Kelly.
Kelly has made all sorts of headlines since arriving in Baton Rouge, and on Monday, he took the podium at his first ever SEC Media Days to answer questions about everything.
Among the topics Kelly was asked about, including his accent, the best food he's tasted since arriving in Louisiana, and whether an inability to beat Notre Dame caused him to come to LSU.
Here is a collection of his best answers from Monday
Brian Kelly: On why his 'fit' in the SEC and at LSU
“I think fit is about the ability to run a program at the highest level. I’ve done it for 32 years. I’ve had success at Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, wherever I’ve been. Then developing players, player development. Those are the most important things. And I don’t think that needs to be geographical, in a sense. I’ve gotten to love where I’m at in Baton Rouge. I love the people. They love football. They love family and they love food. And that fits me really well. I guess I should have been in the South all along.”
Brian Kelly: On the future of Notre Dame and conference realignment
“It’s probably not high on my list of things to think about,” Kelly said. “I’ve been trying to correct a (golf) slice for the last couple of weeks, and I haven’t had much success with that, so I’m going to go back to my day job. But I would say that certainly Notre Dame is still a coveted university in terms of what conference would want them. (Athletic director) Jack Swarbick knows what he’s doing. He’s got his ear to the ground. They’re going to land in a good position no matter what they do — if they stay independent or whether they go into one of the other conferences. Notre Dame can carry itself pretty good.”
Brian Kelly: On filling out his roster and how he feels heading into Week 1
“I think our numbers look pretty good. Our GPS numbers show a fitness that will have us prepared for Florida State. We trained outside all summer. We have two more days this week, then we’re off. We finish up our summer program with two more days of training this week, today counting. Yeah, we’re healthy. I think our kids would tell you they feel as good as they’ve ever felt. Our numbers look really good across the board.
“Then as it relates to the quarterbacks, it’s similar to what I have said to a number of people that asked about the quarterback situation. We’re really going to have to set the offensive structure and its installation to the skill set of the particular players. Number one, they got to take care of the football. Number two, they have to get the ball to play-makers. I have play-makers on offense that are already in place. They’ve got to get the ball to the play-makers. Number three, they’ve got to make plays, that quarterback. The ultimate decision-making on who that quarterback is, he’ll have to hit those three notes. I think all of these guys can do that. We’ll have to put them in that position so we can evaluate that.”
Brian Kelly: On facing Florida State in previous years, LSU's Week 1 opponent
I think probably more than anything else, the fight in that team. I thought they fought for four quarters against Notre Dame last year. That was a team that obviously played to overtime. They were down late, came back. That has a lot to do with buy-in. You could see them playing harder and harder. Maybe that wasn't as visible earlier on.
This is a team now that has Mike's stamp on it. It's going to play hard for four quarters. You can see the development of younger players coming along, special on the offensive line. Defensively there's a structure there that is sound and fundamental.
So I really just think you're just seeing the signs of a football program inside-out making the incremental progress that everybody wants to see more wins, but as a football coach my eyes see a program that's been getting better and better.
Brian Kelly: On his accent, and the best food he's eaten in Louisiana so far
Understand now, I have a Boston, Midwestern, Louisiana accent now. It's three dialects into one. It's no longer family, I got all kinds of stuff to throw at you. Just be ready (smiling).
The best? You know, it's probably the crawfish etouffee. I don't know how you top that. I would say also the grilled oysters. If you haven't had grilled oysters, try that. That will get your cholesterol level up high pretty quickly. That's pretty good, too.
Brian Kelly: On a late-season stretch that includes games at Auburn, at Florida and at Arkansas
Yeah, I think it's a great question.
I think it's how you train your team. Look, you have to be ready for a battle through December, right? Conference championship is in December. If you're training your team just to get to the first week, you're never going to make it to December.
I think you have to have the end in mind first. The end in mind first is December, and planning for those kinds of games in October and in November.
I think you have to be very intentional about how you train your team, how you practice. All of those things matter because you're going to be playing big games in October and November.
Look, you want them to be big games, too. Let's be clear, right? What you do in September matters because October is important or you don't matter in November.
Answering the question in the fashion of training your team the right way and getting them there is absolutely crucial.
Brian Kelly: On finding the balance between recruiting Louisiana and recruiting nationally
Yeah, I mean, I think first and foremost, making sure that you evaluate the entire state of Louisiana. I think that means make sure you extend yourself. It's not just New Orleans and the greater Baton Rouge area. You have to get up north, all the way up through Shreveport, up to Monroe, all into the state of Louisiana.
Now, that doesn't mean you just take a kid from Louisiana because he's from Louisiana. If he's not rated as high, can you go out of state? Sure. But you better know the players in the state of Louisiana. That means the entire state.
I think that's maybe where if I've gotten any feedback that maybe we needed to extend our recruiting efforts a little bit further north. I think we've done that.
Brian Kelly: On if 'lop-sided' losses to Alabama led him to want to coach in the SEC
That wasn't part of my decision-making.
Those were really good teams. They both won the national championship. I thought we played Alabama better than anybody in that last Playoff. Their talent was unbelievable on the offensive side of the ball that year. So that wasn't like, I'm taking the LSU job, Alabama is so much better than us. That was not part of the process for me.
It was timing. It was this place at LSU. It was the administration and the opportunity to bring this program back. It really had nothing to do with the Alabama game.
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