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May 22, 2024

LSU Makes Missouri’s Blake Baker Highest Paid Assistant With $2.5 Million Salary

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Jan 6, 2024

LSU has hired Missouri defensive coordinator Blake Baker as their new DC and highest paid assistant coach in a blockbuster $2.5 million per year deal. The move comes after LSU coach Brian Kelly fired four defensive coaches including previous coordinator Matt House.

LSU Fires Defensive Staff After Disappointing Season

LSU struggled defensively in 2023 under coordinator Matt House, prompting head coach Brian Kelly to clean house. On January 3rd, LSU announced the firing of House and three other defensive staff members – defensive line coach Jamar Cain, cornerbacks coach Robert Steeples and analyst Des Kirklin [1]. Kelly made the difficult decision after much evaluation, saying “the success we are striving for requires change to best position our program for championships” [2].

The Tigers defense slipped to 357 yards and 26.6 points allowed per game, not living up to the DBU moniker of past elite secondaries. They particularly struggled defending the pass, ranking 100th nationally [3]. With most of the defense expected to return, Kelly looked to bring in an established coordinator to fix the issues.

Blake Baker’s Track Record Makes Him Prime Candidate

Blake Baker has over a decade experience coaching Southeastern Conference defenses at LSU and other schools. He coordinated the Missouri defense in 2023 that finished 11th nationally in yards allowed per play. His units are known for aggression and turnovers, exactly what LSU sought [4].

Season School Total Defense NCAA Rank Scoring Defense NCAA Rank
2023 Missouri 11th 25th
2021 Miami 69th 66th
2019 LSU 29th 27th

Baker worked at LSU from 2018-2020 previously, even serving briefly as interim head coach during their national title run. He left to be the defensive coordinator at Miami before getting the job leading Missouri’s defense last season. With established recruiting connections in talent-rich Louisiana, his hire brought excitement.

Record Contract Makes Baker Highest Paid Assistant

LSU gave Baker a groundbreaking contract for an assistant, signing him to a 3-year $7.5 million deal worth $2.5 million annually [5]. The $2.5 million per year surpasses the $2.4 million average salary new NFL Jaguars head coach Jonathan Gannon was earning as Eagles defensive coordinator [6].

The SEC has seen astronomical salary growth, but this sets a new high mark even for those aggressive budgets [7]. Just two years ago, programs rarely paid assistants seven figures. Now Baker joins three other SEC coordinators making at least $2 million per year [8]. His salary should be more than double what predecessor Matt House was making according to salary information obtained by Sports Illustrated [9].

Baker’s pay will likely raise the salary floor for premier coordinators. Top coaching salaries the past few years:

|Season|School|Coordinator|Salary
|-|-|-|-
|2024|LSU|Blake Baker|$2.5 million
|2023|Georgia|Todd Monken|$2.0 million
|2022|Alabama|Bill O’Brien|$1.1 million
|2021|LSU|Scott Linehan|$950,000
|2020|LSU|Bo Pelini|$2.3 million

Bo Pelini’s short-lived 2020 LSU coordinator stint showed the expectations that come with such large paydays however.

Hire Signals Priority is Player Development

Baker is known for his ability to connect with players and develop talent, an important quality for Brian Kelly in his search [10]. Under Baker in 2023, Missouri lineman Isaiah McGuire went from a three-star recruit to consensus All-American and projected first round NFL Draft pick [11]. Multiple Missouri defenders also earned All-SEC honors last season.

LSU returns impact defenders like Harold Perkins Jr. and Maason Smith from an otherwise underwhelming unit [12]. Perkins made waves on social media after LSU’s defensive firings, tweeting for the university to back up the “DBU” claims with elite hires [13].

Baker’s hire meets the rising junior’s request, with 247Sports calling it a “grand slam home run” [14]. If Baker can maximize the talent on hand, LSU expects to quickly regain the defensive dominance fans expect from the Tigers.

What This Means for Missouri

Missouri now enters their own search to replace Baker after his rapid rise up the coaching ladder. His departure after just one highly successful season comes with mixed feelings for Tiger fans [15].

While Missouri is happy for Baker, they now must find another coordinator ahead of spring practices to keep roster momentum going. Baker brought dramatic defensive improvement in his debut 2023 season. Continuing that progress under a new leader will be critical in the competitive SEC landscape.

Defensive line coach Blake Toppmeyer will take over coordinator duties on an interim basis [16]. But Missouri also needs to hit another home run hire if they want to sustain 2023’s success. Speculation on Baker’s permanent replacement has already begun just days after his departure.

Outlook for LSU Defense Looks Bright

LSU hopes Baker can construct an elite defense ready to compete nationally in 2024. That starts with evaluating then developing the ample talent already on board.

Harold Perkins Jr. looks like a budding superstar, fresh off winning national freshman defender of the year. Prolific sack artist BJ Ojulari also returns, so there is playmaking ability up front [17]. The secondary lacks the first round draft talents of recent glory years but brings back key contributors.

With Baker focused specifically on that side of the ball rather than broader head coaching duties, LSU expects rapid improvement. If the defense progresses as hoped, the Tigers plan to contend quickly under third year coach Brian Kelly [18]. They want to replicate former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s elite units that keyed the school’s last national title run.

Bringing intensity, aggression and confidence back to the defense is Blake Baker’s primary mission. The highly paid new coordinator welcomes the pressure and expectations that come with this dream job. If he can maximize a defense loaded with blue chip talent, LSU will rejoin college football’s upper echelon sooner than later.

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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.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

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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