College Football Playoffs and Bowl Games

LSU coach Brian Kelly: ‘We’re not in the market of buying players’

LSU coach Brian Kelly: 'We're not in the market of buying players'

LSU coach Brian Kelly believes that some players in the transfer portal are picking their new schools based on how much endorsement money they can make. And he wants it known that LSU isn’t going to be in many bidding wars.

Kelly said in an interview published Tuesday that the team’s defensive line recruiting through the portal hasn’t been stellar because LSU is “not in the market of buying players.” The Tigers rank 70th in Rivals’ transfer rankings and have added just seven transfers so far this season.

That group of players includes just one defensive lineman — former Wisconsin player Gio Paez.

“I think I made it pretty clear in a number of the press conferences that I had that we were in the market in recruiting in the transfer portal, looking for defensive linemen,” Kelly said. “It hasn’t fared very well quite frankly because we’re selling something a little bit differently. And that is we want to recruit, we want to engage, build relationships. We want to develop, retain and have success. We’re not in the market of buying players. And unfortunately right now, that’s what some guys are looking for. They want to be bought.

“Look, I understand and I was part of this. And we have an incredible collective. We have very, very generous opportunities around the greater Baton Rouge area for NIL opportunities. So they are here. But we’re not going to go out and buy players. That’s not what this is about, it was never about that. We will develop you, we will get you ready for the next step as we did with [first-round picks] Jayden Daniels, as we did Malik Nabers, as we did with Brian Thomas. We developed three defensive linemen that all got drafted this year. And we’ll do that again. But if you’re just looking to get paid, you’re looking in the wrong place.”

Kelly’s comments about not buying players are certainly striking. But they also make sense in the full context too.

Players are well within their rights to make their own priorities when it comes to finding a school. And you can’t blame a player for wanting to capitalize on his NIL potential while he can.

You also can’t blame a school for being judicious with its NIL money. Thanks to NIL collectives, most schools have budgets roughly like the salary cap in the NFL. Pools of endorsement money for players aren’t unlimited, and teams are very aware of that. It’s hard to promise every recruit a large amount of NIL money upon signing.

LSU, however, is one of the more well-resourced schools when it comes to football boosters. So the Tigers aren’t totally outflanked either. Though LSU hasn’t recruited a lot of players out of the portal, the Tigers have signed 30 players in the class of 2024. It's a group that includes five-star defensive lineman Dominick McKinley and 18 four-star recruits.

The Tigers' class ranks 11th in Rivals' recruiting rankings and 14th in the comprehensive rankings that include transfers and high school recruits. There's still plenty of talent flocking to Baton Rouge after Daniels' Heisman-winning season. And likely still plenty of NIL money to go around.

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