Just before speaking with SEC Country on Monday night, Will Ignont was on the phone with newly appointed LSU recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig — the former receivers coach at Auburn. After his interview, he called back Craig to speak even more.
It’s likely been pretty busy for Craig & Co. since LSU announced the firing of Les Miles. In Ignont’s case — who is considering LSU, Auburn, UCLA and Ole Miss — Miles’ departure “hurt” but won’t completely eliminate LSU from the discussion.
“I think every LSU fan would be hurt. A true recruit who really had a relationship with those guys would be hurt,” Ignont told SEC Country. “At the same time, they understand. It’s college football. Coaches come and go. But, you know, LSU isn’t going anywhere. That’s my big thing.
So, the LSU coaching change hasn’t eliminated a rival option for Auburn, though Ignont admitted his decision to postpone his Sept. 1 decision had a lot to do with watching the coaching carousel and some of the early parts of the season unfold.
While LSU remains in Ignont’s top group, Auburn should feel comfortable with where it stands with the 4-star linebacker from Buckhorn (Ala.). Believed to be a major bout between SEC West foes, it might actually be the West Coast team that poses the biggest threat to Auburn landing Ignont.
Auburn and UCLA are putting in the most recruiting effort, Ignont said, but confirmed communication with all three schools in contention happens on a daily basis.
“Going into the season, I was definitely thinking more UCLA or Auburn. Now, it’s really all those four. I’m kind of leaning toward UCLA or Auburn right now just with everything going on,” Ignont said. “Just those four are sticking out to me right now. I’m not really worried about anybody else.”
While Ignont won’t distance himself from LSU, the phrase “with everything going on” certainly raises eyebrows about his concerns with the school’s coaching stability. Admittedly, that may be a reach and reading too far between the lines.
He still said he trusts the message he’s getting from head coach Ed Orgeron, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and Craig — to be patient and that the “Tigers still love me,” Ignont said.
It might be the home-state Tigers that have the advantage because of proximity and a more apparent promise of stability. Ignont speaks with Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams and running backs coach Tim Horton every day.
The intriguing addition to the list is Ole Miss. The Rebels have never appeared in any of Ignont’s top group announcements. His latest edition — a top 3 — left out Ole Miss. But that hasn’t stopped its chase of Ignont.
That has played a role in his Mississippi interest. Ignont spurned the Auburn-LSU matchup to attend the Ole Miss-Georgia game, but he was unable to make it to Oxford. He plans to make it there this weekend, and he’ll unofficially visit Mississippi State for the game the following weekend against Auburn.
Still, it’s the Auburn and LSU staffs making the most prominent impression for the time being.
“Really, all four of them are recruiting me hard,” Ignont said. “But, really, Auburn and UCLA are the two schools recruiting me the hardest right now.”
What are Auburn coaches telling Ignont?
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Williams and Horton are bringing the heat on Ignont. As mentioned above, it’s a day-to-day communication with Williams and Horton.
In that daily conversation, Ignont enjoys the message.
“Coach T-Will tells me all the time that I’m one of the best linebackers he’s recruiting. Coach T-Will has told me, no matter how many linebackers they take, they’re always going to have a spot for me,” Ignont said. “Even if they are taking four, and they’ve got four commits, they’d take me regardless. That’s been big.”
That leaves the door open for Auburn, believed to want four linebackers in this class, to land more than just half of KJ Britt, Monty Rice, Tyler Taylor, Ignont and any other linebackers the Tigers want to add to the class.
The relationship with Steele is a deep-rooted one.
Ignont built his coach-to-recruit friendship with the Auburn defensive coordinator when Steele was at Alabama. The connection remained when Steele ended up at LSU, and it’s come with him to Auburn. Ignont said that trajectory — matched with his Auburn fandom growing up — almost made it seem like fate.
“Just growing up an Auburn fan, really being around those guys, I was so close with coach Steele when he was at Alabama. When he was at LSU, I was close with him. It’s all kind of worked out for me to go to Auburn, but I’ve still got to weigh my options,” Ignont said. “That’s just a place I can call home. I love Auburn. So, that’s why they’ve been with me since the beginning of this whole process.”
What’s the decision timeline?
Ignont gives an ambiguous time frame for his choice.
Here are the three ways he described it Monday:
- “I’m real close to making a decision.”
- “I know I’ll take my official visit to UCLA after the season. I don’t know if I’ll wait until then or just go ahead and do it before then.”
- “Really, I didn’t commit before the season because the closer it got to the season starting, I wasn’t really focused on recruiting. I was focused on Buckhorn, making my team better, winning a state championship.”
Even after Ignont decides, his recruitment won’t be completely closed. He plans to take his official visits after his high school season to all four schools on his list, plus Florida.
In fact, it’s not the official trips that will have the biggest influence in the coming weeks, he said.
“These unofficial visits are going to be key,” Ignont said.
But the UCLA factor is an curious one, and the reason I believe the Bruins present the biggest threat to Auburn grabbing him. He said he doesn’t know whether he’ll decide before he visits UCLA, though he called the future visit to UCLA as the “icing on the cake” to his interest there.
But if his unofficial visits are paramount to his decision right now, that might contradict his UCLA statement and give Auburn the upper hand.