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Brunch with Brian: Mississippi State

Coach Kelly recaps his first win as LSU’s head coach and previews the SEC opener against State

NCAA Football: Southern at Louisiana State Scott Clause-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike his previous employer Notre Dame, Brian Kelly was victorious this past Saturday as his Tigers did what they were supposed to do and took care of Southern University quite easily 65-17.

“Certainly great to get back home in Tiger Stadium for me for the first time and for our team,” Kelly said. “Obviously getting off to a fast start was absolutely crucial given the way that we kind of were sluggish. I love the way our guys responded on the first play, getting the ball loose on special teams, and then continuing with one of the best, if not the best, first quarter outputs in Tiger Stadium.”

But LSU can’t rest on its laurels as conference play begins Saturday evening against Mississippi State (5:00 P.M., ESPN).

“So a good victory, but now we get into SEC competition and everything is heightened. All the things that I just mentioned still have to occur, but our preparation has to be even better, more detailed.”

Kelly confirmed that senior running back John Emery will be available to play for LSU now that his academic suspension has been lifted. Emery was ruled ineligible for all of the 2021 season and then surprisingly had the first two games of this season tacked on in August.

“He’s worked hard to get back into this position, and now he gets an opportunity,” Kelly said. “Let’s be careful now. He’s been off for a while. To put a lot of expectations on him in the first game, we certainly can’t do that. We’ve got other backs that have done really well, but he will be part of the mix.”

While the running back group welcomes in a familiar face, Kelly isn’t expecting any changes on the offensive line for Saturday’s game.

“We are pleased with that starting five. I think you can expect to see that moving forward. I think there are some guys that I think distinguish themselves.”

That said, Kelly did sing the praises of true freshman Emery Jones and that “you’ll see more of him in the rotation.”

Kelly and the coaching staff did make some slight adjustments to the secondary and they seemed to have paid immediate dividends. Greg Brooks and Jay Ward switched roles, Brooks is now playing safety while Ward is the nickel DB playing closer toward the line of scrimmage.

“You know, I thought our tackling got better. Greg Brooks playing back at the safety position has enhanced our communication to the level that we felt really good about it,” Kelly said. “Putting Ward down in a natural nickel position fits his game as well. I just think the pieces were moved in the right place after that evaluation of Florida State and where we felt like we needed to get better. So communication on the back end was much better.”

Kelly also said that Ohio State transfer Sevyn Banks is “close to being ready.” Kelly estimated Banks was about 90 percent but he’s planning on dressing Saturday.

“He’s at the cusp of playing, and we’ll see how he practices this week.”