Over the past six weeks, Brian Kelly has methodically filled out his coaching staff. He evaluated the assistants already at LSU, identified his own targets and waited for other teams to finish their seasons so he could bring in particular coaches.
The process took a long time. Kelly understood that it had to be. In some cases, he went after people in the NFL or college football playoff teams. That’s why the latest assistant, Cortez Hankton, Georgia’s wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, wasn’t officially announced until Monday, a week after the Bulldogs won the national championship.
With Hankton on board, Kelly had finally completed her staff. The diverse group brought together three Louisiana natives and another coach who has worked in the state for nearly a decade. It combines youth and experience. This reunited Kelly with a longtime colleague. And he solidified that will help Kelly at the start of his tenure.
Kelly can now devote his full attention to improving the roster, which has won nine transfers, ahead of National signing day next month. But with the new staff done, let’s review the hires.
Mike Denbrock, offensive coordinator and tight ends
Denbrock and Kelly have worked together several times. Kelly hired him in the 1990s at Grand Valley State. Then he brought Denbrock on his team at Notre Dame for seven years before Denbrock became the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati.
Although Denbrock has received its share of criticism, the Bearcats offense has transformed over the past five seasons. He’s gone from a run-and-ball control approach and, combined with the development of quarterback Desmond Ridder, has finished in the top 17 in scoring for the past two years.
Kelly hired Denbrock the day after Cincinnati lost 27-6 to Alabama in the college football playoff semifinals. Kelly, who has called her own parts until recently, can also add input to the schematic.
Matt House, defensive coordinator and linebackers
Currently the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker coach — he will remain with the franchise throughout its playoff run — House last called up as Kentucky’s defensive coordinator in 2018. This season, one of the best in school history, the Wildcats held opponents to 16.8 points per game, which ranked sixth in the nation.
As he progressed through the coaching ranks, House was previously the defensive coordinator for Pitt (2013-14) and Florida International (2015) prior to his three-year stint with Kentucky. He’s spent the past three seasons with the Chiefs, gaining NFL experience while winning a Super Bowl.
Frank Wilson, associate head coach and running backs
The day LSU hired Wilson last month marked a shift in public opinion about Kelly’s staff. Kelly was weeding out previous assistants, but he made Wilson one of his first additions, gaining a successful recruiter, New Orleans native and St. Augustine High School alumnus.
Wilson, who left McNeese State for the job, can help the most on the recruiting trail. He helped former LSU coach Les Miles sign four of the top 10 classes. He is also a proven running backs coach.
Brian Polian, Special Teams and Recruitment Coordinator
Another of Kelly’s top assistants, Polian has spent the past five years as the special teams coordinator at Notre Dame. The position allows him to work with the entire roster, giving him a deep understanding of the players and the pulse of the team. Polian, a former Nevada head coach, was also a major cog in Notre Dame’s recruiting operations.
Joe Sloan, quarterback
Sloan came to LSU after nine seasons at Louisiana Tech, the last two of which as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. With his time in Louisiana, Sloan has provided another aide who has a deeper understanding of the state. He helped Louisiana Tech sign Conference USA’s top class in 2020.
Cortez Hankton, wide receivers coach and passing games coordinator
The staff’s newest recruit, Hankton went to St. Augustine High School and played wide receiver for six years in the NFL. He coached at Dartmouth and Vanderbilt before joining the Georgia coaching staff in 2018. Hankton, who was also the passing game coordinator at Georgia, took over from Mickey Joseph.
Brad Davis, offensive line
Davis, a native of Baton Rouge, was the only retained aide from the previous regime. He came to LSU from Arkansas two months before the 2021 season, and LSU then named him acting Texas Bowl coach. Although LSU’s offensive line initially struggled to deal with injuries and adapt to Davis’ style, the group stabilized later in the season.
Jamar Cain, defensive line and running game coordinator
LSU swept Cain from USC, where he was to join the staff of Lincoln Riley after coaching outside linebackers and defensive ends for the past two years at Oklahoma. A career defensive line coach, Cain replaced defensive line coach Andre Carter, who spent one season at LSU.
Robert Steeples, cornerback
A promising player in the profession, Steeples was a successful high school coach before joining the Minnesota Vikings as a special teams assistant coach last season. Steeples, who played cornerback at Missouri and Memphis, rebounded in the NFL for three seasons.
Kerry Cooks, safeties
Cooks has followed Kelly from Notre Dame, where he returned two years ago as a defensive analyst. Cooks was the defensive co-coordinator when the Fighting Irish traveled to the BCS National Championship Game in 2012. He then coached defensive backs at Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
|Last name||Title||Average annual compensation|
|Mike Denbrock||Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends||$1.4 million|
|house mate||Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers||$1.9 million|
|Frank Wilson||Associate Head Coach / Running Backs||$950,000|
|Brian Polian||Special Teams and Recruitment Coordinator||$675,000|
|Cortez Hankton||Wide Receiver/Passing Coordinator||To be determined|
|Brad Davis||offensive line||$830,000|
|Jamar Cain||Defensive Line/Running Coordinator||$850,000|