LSU coach Brian Kelly on National Signing Day: Tigers land Louisiana’s No. 1 player (with full Video)

Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly has added another player to his class of 2026.
LSU head football coach Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly and LSU secured the signing of the top player in the state of Louisiana, Dominick McKinley, and the No. 7 overall recruiting class on National Signing Day. LSU ended the 2024 cycle with 29 signees and six transfers.

Recruiting the state of Louisiana and the states that border Louisiana was a major focus for Kelly and his staff. Only three players in the recruiting class were from outside of Louisiana and its bordering states.

“I think that’s eight of the top 12, 12 of the top 15 players in the state of Louisiana that we were able to sign in this class,” Kelly said. “Certainly, adding Dominick to this class really tops it off for us. Really excited about his national letter of intent this morning.”

McKinley is a five-star defensive tackle that was formerly committed to Texas A&M before switching to the Tigers. Texas A&M firing Jimbo Fisher opened the door for LSU and Kelly to convince McKinley to join the Tigers.

“When we’re talking about the flip, certainly the coaching change [at Texas A&M] started it,” Kelly said. “It gave us an opportunity to talk about why this was the best fit for him. During that time, when there’s a transition, you’re able to build a stronger relationship and trust.”

He’s joined by five other signees on the defensive line for LSU that will join new defensive line coach Bo Davis. That includes four-star defensive ends Gabriel Reliford and CJ Jackson.

However, even with the signing of McKinley, defensive tackle remains an area of concern for LSU. Kelly hinted that it’s a position they might continue to add to.

“We still have some needs,” Kelly said. “The defensive tackle position is one that we’re still vetting. We have some needs that we’ll continue to look at moving forward going into the spring.

But again, excited about Dominick McKinley and his addition today. And then moving forward we’ve got a seven-day window here in the signing period. We could have some other movement here.”

On the offensive side of the ball, LSU added two transfer receivers in CJ Daniels and Zavion Thomas. Daniels had 1,067 receiving yards for Liberty last season on 19.4 yards per reception and 10 touchdowns. Thomas had 503 receiving yards for Mississippi State, including three receptions for 52 yards against LSU.

LSU also added former Vanderbilt quarterback AJ Swann. Swann threw for 1,457 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Commodores in six games last season.

Those transfers will join highly sought after recruits Trey’Dez Green, Caden Durham and Weston Davis on offense.

“If you take [Daniels, Thomas and Swann] together, combined they bring in 4,200 yards of offense total,” Kelly said. “CJ Daniels, 1,000 yards in receiving. Replacing some offense was very, very important strategically. And Zavion Thomas, 500 yards and 40 touches. Now you’ve got almost 100 touches with two wide receivers that have experience coming back into your offense.”

Overall, four of the six transfers that LSU added played high school football in Louisiana as Kelly and his staff continued to put emphasis on recruiting players from Louisiana and its border states, even in the portal.

“We had a huge need last year,” Kelly said. “There were issues relative to numbers within our program where we had to go into the transfer portal just to fill the roster from a defensive perspective. That’s not sustainable. What’s sustainable is player development and retention.  You do that through building relationships with your players that are here because they want to be at LSU because, again, one of the other important elements is they’re from the state of Louisiana. There’s that allegiance to the flagship school and the university. There’s many levels and layers to that, but for me, the business plan all along has been to pull our base here in the state of Louisiana. Develop the high school player. By doing so you develop a relationship, a trust, an allegiance to the young man that’s in your program.”

National signing day wasn’t all good news for Kelly though as LSU missed out on Terry Bussey, the No. 1 athlete in the country. Bussey was committed to Texas A&M but opened his recruitment back up after staff changes for the Aggies. Bussey ultimately decided to keep his commitment to Texas A&M.

Still, LSU secured a top 10 recruiting class and added players with SEC experience through the transfer portal in the 2024 recruiting cycle. Looking ahead to 2025, LSU has the No. 1 class in the country with commitments from the No. 1-ranked quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

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Will Nickel

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