LSU football's Brian Kelly gushes about Micah Baskerville, reflects on first senior class
Micah Baskerville, despite starting for LSU football the last two seasons, did not have the most sterling reputation off the field heading into this season. But in the months since Kelly has arrived and entering the Tigers' senior night matchup against UAB (5-5) on Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN2), Kelly's perception of Baskerville has changed dramatically.
"When I got here, everybody was like, 'Well, ya know, he doesn't go to class. He doesn't do this. He doesn't do that,' " Kelly said Monday. "And he's been amazing. He's gotten his degree, he's been a great leader, he's been inspirational in everything he's done. I love that story."
Baskerville's story was the primary example Kelly used when asked about his thoughts on his first senior class at LSU. The Tigers (8-2) will honor 17 seniors prior to Saturday's game.
"Watching them become SEC West champions is so gratifying because they made that choice," Kelly said. "They could have been average. They could have been poor. They could have just been good. They've chosen to be champions by the way they've gone to work every day, both in the classroom and on the football field.
"That to me is this senior day. The choices that these guys made have been outstanding."
When the season began, Baskerville wasn't a starter.
Against Florida State in the season opener, Baskerville played just six defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He played more the next week against Southern (20 snaps) but didn't have a breakout game until the next game against Mississippi State. He had six tackles and was instrumental in coverage against Mississippi State's Air Raid attack.
Baskerville then only played 14 snaps the following week against New Mexico but hasn't featured in fewer than 56 snaps in a game since. And as his playing time increased, it wasn't a coincidence that his grades went up as well.
BRIAN KELLY WANTED CLAM CHOWDERBrian Kelly explains why LSU had chicken broth on sidelines, says he wanted clam chowder
LSU FOOTBALL SCHEDULE UPDATELSU football vs. Texas A&M: TV time and schedule update
LSU QUESTIONS AFTER ARKANSAS WINDoes LSU football have a chance vs No. 1 Georgia in SEC title game and other questions
"I think it was the standards of the program that obviously were set and he was going to meet and exceed the standards that were set," Kelly said. "And then along the way, he started to feel really good about his academics and getting his degree and it was important to him. And (he) knew he could be successful both in the classroom and on the football field."
The seniors Kelly inherited were no ordinary class. They had been to the mountain top, most of them having won a national championship as freshmen and redshirt freshmen, before crashing down to earth within the disarray of disappointing 2020 and 2021 campaigns and the firing of coach Ed Orgeron. Some of them even faced academic issues, like John Emery Jr.
When Kelly was hired, they didn't have to buy into his new philosophies and style. They could have entered the transfer portal or left early for the NFL Draft.
But the ones that remained have and now they'll be playing for an SEC Championship on Dec. 3 against Georgia.
"To watch (Baskerville) grow and do the right things in the classroom, to overcome all the things that were in his past, that to me is this senior class," Kelly said.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.