We are just about 72 hours away from the all-important commitment announcement for Louisiana’s top wide receiver in the Class of 2017.
Devonta Smith, the 4-star standout from Amite (La.) High School, is scheduled to announce from either LSU, Alabama or Miami in front of a jam-packed crowd on Monday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. CT.
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) August 12, 2016
There’s an obvious pecking order here based on a year’s worth of information regarding Smith’s recruitment. LSU asserted itself into the mix for 6-foot-1, 165-pound receiver effectively this spring, took a step back, then made a late push for the in-state prospect with less than a month before he finalized his decision.
The obvious and major threat here is Alabama, and for several reasons. After rescinding his verbal pledge from Georgia last year, Smith grew very fond of Alabama, Ole Miss and Florida State. As the recruiting process continued on, only the Crimson Tide were able to maintain their position among Smith’s top schools.
Last February, the 4-star wide receiver stated he was a huge fan of coach Nick Saban’s winning tradition, which carries a ton fo weight with Smith, whose high school, Amite, consistently competes for state championships. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and the other offensive assistants on the ‘Bama staff have outlined ways in which Smith would be utilized in the offense to best cater to what he’s looking for: a pass-heavy approach.
Then there are the intangibles: Saban has been wildly effective recruiting this part of Louisiana. Tangipahoa Parish, in particular, has produced the likes of Shyheim Carter, a current freshman at Alabama and close friend of Smith. The Tide has also extended offers to Smith’s teammates, 2019 5-star tackle Ishmael Sopsher and could very well do the same with 2019 5-star receiver Devonta Lee (Smith’s teammate) and 2019 4-star receiver Trey Palmer (Kentwood, La.).
Factor in Smith’s visit Tuscaloosa, Ala., last weekend with Sopsher and 2018 LSU defensive back commit Kelvin Joseph as the cherry on top. Smith visited Miami in July, then made his way to LSU for the team barbecue that Saturday. It only made sense to make another trip to Titletown one last time, but the timing of it — less than two weeks away from his announcement — speaks for itself.
Miami was a real threat to Alabama because of former Georgia coach Mark Richt. Smith once committed to the Bulldogs because of Richt, and the longtime Georgia coach attempted to get the standout Louisiana wideout to do the same this summer. Smith was impressed with the progress Richt had made down there in Coral Gables, Fla., but there’s still a feeling that Miami is not there just yet.
Then, the LSU push.
Upon getting hired by LSU, wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig made Smith his top priority this spring and summer. Even after landing commitments from a trio of 4-star wide receivers, LSU would make room in its 2017 class for a talent like Smith. Craig and area recruiter Ed Orgeron made several visits out to Amite this spring, closely observing Smith work out and make their pitch during his spring game. Craig and Orgeron managed to lure Smith onto campus several times for practices, scrimmages and, most recently, the team barbecue where the entire staff made their message overwhelmingly clear: Stay home and be a Tiger.
Originally, Smith had concerns about LSU because of the offensive style and a desire to play football out of the state. The 4-star receiver backed off of those comments in an exclusive sit-down with SEC Country, where he indicated that he can excel as a No. 1 wide receiver in any offense and has no preference where he plays on Saturdays.
What it boils down to is these four categories:
- Coaching staff
- The offense
- His family’s take
You can essentially check off Alabama in three of the four categories; the question is whether his mother, who he’s very close with, feels the same. At this time, I’d consider Alabama a 70-percent favorite in the race to land Smith. Give LSU a puncher’s chance of making a late run for the in-state star, but Alabama has held a leader for some time and I can’t imagine too many things have changed since then to alter this decision.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.