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May 22, 2024

LSU Football Overhauls Defensive Staff, Hires Mizzou’s Blake Baker as New DC

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Jan 6, 2024

LSU has made major changes to its defensive coaching staff, headlined by the firing of defensive coordinator Matt House and hiring of Blake Baker from Missouri to replace him. The moves come after LSU struggled mightily on defense in 2022.

House, Three Other Defensive Assistants Fired

On January 3rd, LSU head coach Brian Kelly announced that defensive coordinator Matt House would not be retained for 2023. House had served in that role the previous two seasons under Kelly. In addition to House, defensive line coach Jamar Cain, linebackers coach Blake Baker, and defensive backs coach Robert Steeples were also relieved of their duties.

From WAFB:
LSU Football Head Coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday, Jan. 3 that defensive coordinator Matt House, defensive line coach Jamar Cain, linebackers coach Blake Baker and defensive backs coach Robert Steeples will not return to the coaching staff in 2023.

Kelly cited the need to make difficult decisions in order to build the program into a championship contender. LSU’s defense struggled mightily in 2022, finishing towards the bottom of the SEC in most major statistical categories. With many key players set to return in 2023, Kelly felt change was necessary to fix the defense.

From WBRZ:
The lone bright spot was true freshman Harold Perkins finishing the year with six forced fumbles, but much more was expected from such a storied program. […] Kelly said after the season that changes could come to the defensive side of the football.

Mizzou DC Baker Hired to Lead LSU Defense

On January 5th, LSU formally announced the hiring of Blake Baker as their new defensive coordinator. Baker had served in the same role at Missouri for the past two seasons. His defenses performed very well, helping Mizzou achieve an 11-2 record in 2022.

Baker was given a three-year contract worth $2.5 million per year, making him the highest paid assistant coach in college football. He and Kelly have history together, as Baker worked under Kelly at Notre Dame from 2017 to 2020.

From ESPN:

Baker has spent the past two seasons running the Missouri defense under coach Eli Drinkwitz. This past season, the Tigers ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. Missouri won 11 games and defeated Wake Forest in the Gasparilla Bowl.

Baker will be tasked with fixing an LSU defense that struggled mightily in 2022 after years of strong performance. His Missouri defenses played with aggression and maximized the talent on hand – traits LSU hopes Baker can instill in Baton Rouge.

Mizzou Players and Coaches Disappointed to Lose Baker

Missouri players and coaches expressed disappointment at losing Baker after the immense progress the defense made under his leadership. Baker was reportedly offered a contract extension to stay at Mizzou, but chose to take the LSU job and return to the SEC.

Linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper, a key player for Missouri’s defense, tweeted his appreciation of Baker after news broke:

{{< tweet 1743468730103837134 >}}

Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz also released a statement praising Baker’s work for the Tigers program (via Columbia Tribune):

“We are grateful for Blake’s contributions to our program over the last two seasons,” Drinkwitz said. “He has been an important part of our success. He has positioned himself to take the next step in his career, and we appreciate everything he gave Mizzou.”

What Change Means for LSU’s 2023 Outlook

Installing Baker as defensive coordinator is the first step for LSU in overhauling a defense that sorely underperformed expectations. With many key contributors like BJ Ojulari, Mekhi Garner, and Harold Perkins returning, Baker will have plenty of talent to work with.

Getting the defense back to an elite level is critical for LSU to compete in the brutal SEC West. Rival programs like Alabama and Texas A&M have high-powered offenses that exposed LSU’s defense last season.

On the recruiting trail, Baker’s ties to Louisiana should help LSU lock down more homegrown talent. The 2023 class has two remaining spots, while the Tigers will look to seal a top 5 class for 2024.

There is still work to be done filling out LSU’s defensive staff. Brian Kelly may look to bring aboard more coaches with Louisiana and SEC experience to further bolster recruiting and on-field performance. Reports indicate that Miami’s Lance Guidry is a top candidate for a position on the rebuilt defensive staff.

After winning the SEC in 2019 and going 11-2 in 2022, expectations are sky-high for LSU under Brian Kelly. Getting the defense back to an elite level with Blake Baker at the helm will be crucial in meeting those expectations and competing for SEC titles. The shakeup of the defensive staff kicks off what should be another pivotal offseason in Baton Rouge.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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