LSU football’s Defensive Investment Strategy


Brian Kelly and STAR defensive player Major Burns. Will LSU be better on defense in 2024 - or will it take more tha n one season to improve enough to win? Photo by Michael Bacigalupi

It’s no secret LSU’s defense will need to be better next season.

LSU put together one of the worst defensive performances in school history and left many fans saying it squandered quarterback Jayden Daniels’ Heisman season. Brian Kelly made several changes to his defensive staff, and those changes will cost LSU millions over the next three years.

The biggest name and biggest paycheck belong to new defensive coordinator Blake Baker. Baker comes to LSU from Missouri and is the main man in charge of resurrecting the Tigers’ defense.

He’s tasked with fixing the No. 108 total defense in the country from last season and the No. 118 pass defense. It’s a tall task, and one that will pay Baker more than any other assistant coach in the country.

Baker signed a three-year deal at the beginning of the year that will pay him $2.5 million per year. That will propel him over the previous top earners Clemson offensive coordinator Garrett Riley and Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb. Both coaches made a little over $2 million last season.

Baker is receiving $1.1 million raise after he made $1.4 million at Missouri last year. He’ll also make more than former defensive coordinator Matt House who made $1.9 million last season at LSU and received a $25,000 relocation incentive.

Last season, LSU’s defense ranked 81st in scoring and was plagued with missed tackles. Baker will be hoping to lead a quick turnaround in Baton Rouge like he did for Missouri. After serving as LSU’s linebacker coach 2021, he moved to Missouri where he helped lead its defense to be the fourth best scoring defense in the SEC last season.

Before he arrived, Missouri’s defense finished as the 133rd scoring defense in the country and 106th in total defense. Baker was also the defensive coordinator for Miami prior to working at LSU.

Baker will be joined by former Texas assistant Bo Davis. Davis will be LSU’s defensive line coach and signed a three-year deal worth $4.05 million. He will be paid $1.25 million his first year at LSU before receiving a $100,000 raise each of the next two seasons. He made $1 million a year at Texas, which is one of the highest salaries in the country for a non-coordinator coach.

Davis replaces former LSU defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey. Lindsey made $700,000 last season and was owed a $720,000 buyout after being fired.

Kevin Peoples will also be coming to LSU to work as an edge rushers coach. Peoples is a 30-year coaching veteran who comes with Baker from Missouri. Peoples signed a three-year deal worth $2.1 million and will make $700,000 per year. He earned $400,000 a year during his final two seasons at Missouri.

All three new coaches had buyouts that together cost over $1.95 million. Baker’s buyout was the highest, costing LSU $950,000.

New secondary coach Corey Raymond signed a two-year contract with a third year built in as a team option. Raymond is a former LSU player who spent the first 13 years of his coaching career at LSU. He rejoins the Tigers after spending two seasons as the assistant head coach for Florida.

His first season he will make $200,000 before bumping up to $755,000 per year over the next two seasons. He’s the only coach added in the overhaul that has an option year built into his deal. 

Safeties coach Jake Olsen is another coach that came over with Baker from Missouri and signed a two-year deal. He’ll make $350,000 his first season and $400,000 his second season. Olsen has a defensive analyst for Missouri, and this will be his first time as an on-field coach.

Olsen replaces former LSU safeties coach Kerry Cooks. Cooks made $500,000 in the same role last season.

LSU’s assistant coaches can all make up to $125,000 in postseason bonuses. An SEC title would see each coach receive a $25,000 raise and a national title would send a $100,000 bonus their way. They can also receive a $15,000 bonus for winning the Broyles Award, an honor given to the top assistant coach in the country.

LSU also owes around $5.4 million in buyouts for the previous defensive coaches. House’s buyout is the largest of the group. He had two years left on his deal that made him the fifth-highest paid assistant in the country last season. LSU owed him $3.69 million. He would have made $4.1 million if he had stayed at LSU for the remainder of his contract.

In total, LSU will pay its new defensive coaches over $5 million next season and over $16.1 million over the next three seasons. LSU also paid over $7.3 million in buyouts bringing the total amount of money spent on the current staff to over $23.4 million over the next three season.

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Will Nickel

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