LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly Excited by Garrett Nussmeier as Jayden Daniels’ Replacement

    Brian Kelly is left with the tall task of replacing a Heisman Trophy winner. He admits it won't be the same, but he's still excited for Garrett Nussmeier.

    Replacing a starting quarterback is rarely easy, especially when that quarterback just won the Heisman Trophy. LSU head coach Brian Kelly is attempting to do just that and is surprisingly optimistic about the situation with redshirt sophomore Garrett Nussmeier set to take the reins of the Tigers’ offense.

    It will be a new-look offense for the LSU Tigers in 2024, and Kelly is ready to embrace it after a few adjustments.

    LSU QB Garrett Nussmeier Takes Over

    Jayden Daniels was a national sensation last year, passing for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns to four picks while running for another 1,134 yards and 10 scores. After winning the game’s most coveted trophy in 2023, he declared for the NFL Draft.

    That left a vacancy under center for the Tigers, one that was filled relatively quickly by Garrett Nussmeier, an underclassman waiting in the wings on LSU’s roster the last three seasons. While he’s only made 18 appearances, Kelly has seen enough of Nussmeier to be excited about his development with extended playing time.

    “This is still a young man that is going to get better over time,” Kelly said in an interview with On3.

    “[Nussmeier is] going to get all the reps he hasn’t gotten. We saw glimpses of Garrett Nussmeier with very few reps, and I think all of us collectively really liked what we saw. I think what’s exciting for me is a guy that really is going to get a lot of the reps and is going to get better and better.”

    A Louisiana native from Lake Charles, Nussmeier has 1,720 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, and seven interceptions with the Tigers. His lone start was LSU’s last game, replacing Daniels in the ReliaQuest Bowl against Wisconsin. He was named MVP after leading the Tigers to a 35-31 victory, passing for 395 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick.

    “We got a glimpse of it against Wisconsin, and as the game unfolded, and he got more comfortable, he leads us on a 90-plus-yard drive at the end of the game. I think there’s more to come, and that’s the exciting part.”

    New Play-Caller for Nussmeier With Joe Sloan

    Mike Denbrook, LSU’s OC during Kelly’s first two seasons with the Tigers, left to take the same position at Notre Dame. In his stead, quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan and receivers coach Cortez Hankton were given co-OC designations, with Sloan taking over the primary play-calling duties.

    The Tigers had the top offense in the SEC last season, but even Kelly admits Sloan is facing an uphill battle compared to Denbrook with Daniels off to play on Sundays.

    “This is still player-driven,” Kelly said. “Joe Sloan is going to do a good job (calling plays), but he doesn’t have Jayden Daniels. That’s the big difference, right? The zone read with Garrett (Nussmeier) is not Jayden Daniels, so you’re going to see an adjustment there. We’re going to have to rely much more on a running game generated from the tailback position.”

    “I think you are going to see the tight ends much more involved in what we do. I think what we were really smart in doing is bringing in about 1,600 yards in reception yards with [Mississippi State WR] Zavion [Thomas] and [Liberty receiver] CJ [Daniels]. Both of those guys are going to help us in the receiving core, but we lost a lot of yards, so we’ve got to make it up in other areas.”

    “Other guys are going to have to step up the running game. Not having Jayden Daniels means we are going to have to find it in other areas, and I think it starts with a much more effective tailback-oriented running game.”

    While the LSU offense is bound to look different with a new signal-caller (Nussmeier) and a new play-caller (Sloan), Kelly is confident the Tigers’ can return to the same form that led the SEC last season. The main catalyst for his confidence isn’t just in his skill positions, but along the line of scrimmage.

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    “I think they are going to be okay on offense,” Kelly said. “I think they have enough weapons on offense. I think we’ve got an outstanding offensive line. When you’re trying to put together an offense, if you start with the offensive line, which we return a veteran group, I think we are going to be okay there.”

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