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Update on Brian Kelly's LSU staff: Coordinator positions coming into focus

Sources tell FootballScoop that Kelly is targeting a pair of playoff coaches -- one at the college level and one in the NFL for his top two assistant spots.

It’s been nearly three weeks since Brian Kelly stunned college football and bolted from his Notre Dame program – with the Fighting Irish still in outside contention for a College Football Playoff berth or subsequent New Year’s Six bowl bid – to take over at Southeastern Conference power LSU.

Kelly has somewhat gradually, slowly, pieced together his initial Tigers’ coaching staff, and he’s likewise made some key off-the-field moves as well.

Yet Kelly hasn’t publicly addressed his top two assistant coaching positions – defensive and offensive coordinator.

But multiple sources tell FootballScoop that Kelly’s search for those two crucial positions is sharpening into focus.

Offensively, numerous sources this week told FootballScoop that Kelly is expected to reunite with Mike Denbrock, Kelly’s former Notre Dame offensive coordinator and assistant head coach who spent seven seasons alongside Kelly in South Bend, Indiana.

Denbrock, who also previously worked with Kelly at NCAA Division II power Grand Valley State early in both coaches’ careers, has spent the past five seasons as the offensive play-caller for Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati program.

Denbrock’s Bearcats’ offense in 2020 was among the nation’s best in several categories and, behind veteran quarterback Desmond Ridder has Cincinnati undefeated, ranked No. 4 in the CFP and preparing for a semifinal showdown opposite top-ranked Alabama Dec. 31 in the Cotton Bowl – the first-ever Group of 5 program to punch a playoff ticket.

Per sources, and with the NCAA’s early signing period having just closed and recruiting not set to resume until the second week of January, Denbrock is expected to finish out the Bearcats’ playoff run before he would formally execute a contract-agreement with LSU and Kelly.

Multiple sources likewise told FootballScoop that Kelly had discussed the offensive coordinator position with Georgia play-caller Todd Monken, though sources said Monken has expressed a desire to remain with the Bulldogs. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Kelly has set his target – per sources -- on an up-and-coming NFL assistant coach Matt House, the Kansas City Chiefs’ linebackers coach who spent almost two decades coaching at the collegiate level before he exited the University of Kentucky three years ago for an opportunity with the Chiefs.

House, a Michigan native who graduated from Michigan State, has been heavily pursued in recent years for multiple college defensive coordinator positions – most notably this past winter, when the University of Tennessee and Josh Heupel made a hard push with a lucrative, multi-year contract proposal to get House away from the Chiefs and back to the collegiate game.

House has maintained a very close relationship with his former colleague at Kentucky, Wildcats’ defensive coordinator Brad White – who within the past week rejected Kelly’s overtures and elected to remain on Mark Stoops’s Big Blue staff. House served two seasons as the Wildcats' defensive coordinator in 2017-18, the latter year a break-through 10-win season for the Wildcats. 

Like Denbrock, House is tied up for several more weeks with the NFL season and would not formalize any agreement with LSU before the Chiefs’ season ended. The NFL’s regular season concludes Jan. 9, 2022, but the Chiefs are positioned for perhaps another deep playoff run.

They’re among the contenders for the AFC’s top overall seed, and they’re coming off a trio of seasons since House joined the franchise that have included an AFC title game appearance, Super Bowl victory and last season’s Super Bowl loss.

Though in recent years he has continued to hone a reputation as one of football’s top linebackers’ coaches, House also boasts a versatile coaching background with defensive work at all three levels – defensive line, linebackers and secondary.

The Chiefs already played their NFL game this week, winning Thursday night in overtime against the rival Chargers.