With 20 commitments already on board for LSU’s 2017 class, there are between five and eight spots up for grabs, depending on how many scholarship players return to the team next season.
The Mock version 4.0 takes into account all of the news and information gathered throughout the summer as the fall kicks into gear for what should be considered the fourth quarter of the recruiting cycle. Here’s the fall version of who SEC Country projects to be inking their letters of intent to LSU when Feb 1., 2017, rolls around.
The LSU coaches have emphasized a handful of positions in this class, most notably quarterbacks, to eventually succeed Brandon Harris and front-seven players to help pad the defensive depth chart in Dave Aranda’s newly implemented 3-4 scheme. Additionally, safety is a position of importance with Jamal Adams and Rickey Jefferson on their way out, as is wide receiver with similar futures ahead of Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre.
Expect much of the coaches’ attention to be on the defensive side of the ball this fall, with the exception being at running back and wide receiver, and maybe even a tight end, if one emerges on their radar.
Here’s LSU’s 2017 class broken down by position:
QB (2): Lowell Narcisse, Myles Brennan
RB (2): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tory Carter
WR (3): Stephen Guidry, Mannie Netherly, Jhamon Ausbon
OL (4): Austin Deculus, Edward Ingram, Saahdiq Charles, Seth Stewart
DL (4): Tyler Shelvin, Aaron Moffitt, Justin Thomas, Neil Farrell
LB (1): Patrick Queen
CB (2): Kary Vincent Jr., Jontre Kirklin
S (2): Grant Delpit, JaCoby Stevens
- Lowell Narcisse, 4-star DT (St. James, La.)
- Myles Brennan, 3-star PS (Bay Saint Louis, Miss.)
Expect LSU to reel in two-quarterback classes in both the 2017 and 2018 recruiting cycles as the team prepares for life after Brandon Harris. In Narcisse and Brennan, the Tigers are reaping two of the top quarterbacks in the class in the No. 6 dual-threat prospect and the No. 17 pro-style prospect. That should give LSU some flexibility as it hosts a competition behind center in the spring of 2018 and may or may not tinker with the notion of shifting toward a more spread-style offense or stick with the traditional scheme. Narcisse will enroll early at LSU, and if his torn ACL heals properly, should be able to begin practicing with the team in March.
Running back (2):
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 3-star RB (Baton Rouge, La.)
- Tory Carter, 3-star FB (Lee County, Ga.)
The LSU coaching staff will devote much of the fall to adding another running back to this class. The one and only target remaining on the board is 5-star Mississippi running back Cam Akers, who remains very interested in the Tigers after visiting for the spring game, the Bayou Picnic and again over the summer. Running backs coach Jabbar Juluke is going to spearhead the charge for Akers, but must somehow pry the Magnolia State product away from Ole Miss, which is considered the favorite, as well as Ohio State and Florida State, who have emerged as legitimate landing spots for the nation’s No. 2-ranked back. LSU offers Akers immediate playing time with Leonard Fournette set to head to the NFL after the season, but so do all of the other teams in contention. If and when the Tigers miss on Akers, expect them to head into National Signing Day with Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the only back in this class, but to stockpile a number of high-profile rushers such as Mississippi’s Fabian Franklin in 2018.
Wide receiver (4):
- Jhamon Ausbon, 4-star WR (Bradenton, Fla.)
- Mannie Netherly, 4-star WR (Crosby, Texas)
- Stephen Guidry, 3-star WR (Raymond, Miss.)
- Racey McMath, 3-star WR (New Orleans)
First-year LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig did some early work to nab commitments from three standout wide receivers before the end of the summer. Guidry, a Louisiana native, was the first to commit. Netherly and Ausbon, both of Texas, followed suit soon after to give LSU a dynamic one-two-three punch in the class. However, with Malachi Dupre set to test the NFL waters and Travin Dural likely to do the same, plus former 5-star recruit Tyron Johnson becoming the fourth wide receiver to transfer out of Baton Rouge, the team suddenly has a greater need to pad their depth out wide. Devonta Smith, Jeremiah Holloman and McMath are the three names to keep an eye on. Smith is down to LSU, Alabama and Miami, but won’t decide until National Signing Day. LSU will host Holloman on Nov. 5 for the Alabama game, but is favoring Georgia, Tennessee and Miami at the moment. McMath is down to LSU and Mississippi State, and could be the first of this trio to commit. If he does in fact land in LSU’s class as he’s expected to, it would all but certainly close the door on LSU’s wide receiver haul for 2017.
Offensive line (4):
- Austin Deculus, 5-star OT (Cy-Fair, Texas)
- Edward Ingram, 4-star OG (DeSoto, Texas)
- Saahdiq Charles, 3-star OG (Madison, Miss.)
- Seth Stewart, 3-star OT (Point Pleasant, W. Va.)
The addition of Stewart, a West Virginia 3-star offensive lineman, to the class following the July elite prospect camp all but sealed up LSU’s linemen haul for 2017. Deculus, Ingram and Charles are as solid with the Tigers as any of the commits in this class, and both Deculus and Charles have emerged as the team’s top recruiters in Texas and Mississippi, respectively. Alabama could make a push for Ingram since the Tide was so high on the offensive guard before he committed to LSU on the weekend of the spring game, but they already hold pledges from two other guards. LSU was always thought to be the favorite for in-state standout tackle Adrian Ealy, but the 4-star prospect is nearing a decision and is down to Oklahoma and Miami. I believe LSU has turned to its other options at this point.
Defensive line (6):
- Marvin Wilson, 5-star DT (Bellaire, Texas)
- Isaiah Buggs, 4-star DE (Perkinston, Miss.)
- Aaron Moffitt, 3-star DE (Baton Rouge, La.)
- Tyler Shelvin, 4-star DT (Crowley, La.)
- Justin Thomas, 3-star DL (Spanish Fort, Ala.)
- Neil Farrell, 3-star DL (Mobile, Ala.)
LSU is expected to reinforce its defensive front personnel to pad the depth on the newly implemented 3-4 scheme. The team already holds commitments from four big men, including in-state prospects such as Moffitt and Shelvin and Mobile, Ala., area products in Thomas and Farrell. That leaves three high-profile targets remaining on the board in Wilson, Phidarian Mathis and Buggs. Wilson, the 5-star talent from nearby Houston, won’t decide until National Signing Day, but all indications are that LSU has quietly remained the favorite, but expect both Texas and Florida State to make a run at him this fall as he makes his official visits. Buggs should decide at some point this fall after he makes a round of visits. He’s already named the Tigers as one of four finalists along with Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss, but really, it’s a two-team race between LSU and Auburn. LSU has prioritized adding Buggs to eventually succeed Davon Godchaux at defensive end for the 2017 season. That leaves Mathis out of the fold — for now — but there’s a twist. Expect Alabama to make a strong push for in-state standout Thomas, who committed to LSU in July. The ‘Bama coaches are very high on Thomas and could pry him away from LSU depending on how their board shakes out. Mathis, one of the top uncommitted linemen in Louisiana, is a prime target if that scenario plays out.
- Dylan Moses, 5-star OLB (Bradenton, Fla.)
- Patrick Queen, 4-star LB (Livonia, La.)
- Christopher Allen, 4-star OLB (Baton Rouge, La.)
- K’Lavon Chaisson, 4-star WDE/OLB (Houston)
Sources close to the situation believe that LSU could take upward of four — maybe even five — linebackers in this class. The best bet is on four, considering how many defensive linemen the team is targeting, and with that haul, the Tigers will suddenly boast a very young and talented linebacking unit to start the spring. Queen has been the stalwart in this class and should slip into the “Rover” role, where he’ll play inside in a hybrid linebacker/safety role. With Devin White on track to take one other inside linebacker job next spring, expect the emphasis to be on finding outside backers. Moses, Allen and Chaisson have been top priorities for this staff. Moses won’t officially visit LSU, but there’s a quiet confidence that he returns to Baton Rouge when he commits in December. That’s assuming that Les Miles is the team’s coach for 2017. The Tigers have made the most progress with Allen, who named LSU as a co-leader with Alabama after showing out at the July prospect camp. Chaisson is a bit of a mystery, though. He’s been to LSU more than any other school since the spring and there are members of his high school team pushing for LSU. Expect Oklahoma, Houston and even Texas to threaten the Tigers’ chances of landing the elite Houston edge-rusher this fall.
- Kary Vincent Jr., 4-star CB (Port Arthur, Texas)
- Jontre Kirklin, 3-star ATH (Lutcher, La.)
As expected, LSU’s cornerback board came to an end once the team landed Vincent, the elite Texas corner who can also help succeed Donte Jackson as a return specialist. Kirklin, one of the top athletes in Louisiana, worked out as a defensive back during LSU’s June prospect camp and impressed in the small sample size. He boasts deceptive speed and good length, which are traits that secondary coach Corey Raymond loves out of his cornerbacks. One potential addition to this unit could be 3-star Thibodaux (La.) corner Amik Robertson, who is squarely on the LSU coaches’ radar should they miss with one of their other targets. The staff was on the verge of offering Robertson after the elite prospect camp in June, but that offer might be saved until later in the cycle.
- JaCoby Stevens, 5-star S (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
- Grant Delpit, 4-star S (Bradenton, Fla.)
- Todd Harris, 4-star S (Plaquemine, La.)
While LSU’s cornerback collection will be small, the staff wants three safeties to help replenish the back end of the secondary after Rickey Jefferson graduates and Jamal Adams heads to the NFL. The team already holds pledges from two of the best in the land in Stevens and Delpit. Both are solid in their commitments and were made top priorities in this year’s class. The staff’s attention this fall will be on adding the third leg of that triangle in Harris. The in-state safety originally wanted to commit at the Under Armour All-American Game in January, then moved up his decision to before his senior season. All signs point to the 4-star Louisiana safety committing sometime this fall and deciding between LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss. The Tide are the biggest threat to pry Harris away from the Tigers because they don’t have a safety committed. However, I don’t believe Harris will shy away from going to LSU with two other safeties in his class. He’s best friends with Queen, has strong relationships with both Stevens and Delpit, and is a huge fan of both Aranda and Raymond after visiting so frequently since the spring. LSU has been the clear-cut favorite all along.
Final breakdown, national rank
Mock 4.0 puts LSU’s 2017 class size at 27 commits, which is by all reports is a fair estimate when taking into account the number of early enrollees and scholarships returning to the roster for next season.
LSU’s current class is worthy of a 263.61 rating, which is good for third in the country behind Ohio State (No. 1) and Alabama (No. 2). The additions of McMath, Wilson, Buggs, Harris and the linebacking crew of Moses, Chaisson and Allen amounts to a 301.67 score.
For comparison’s sake, LSU’s star-studded 2016 class earned a score of 300.29, which ranked third in the nation last February. In other words, this class would rate better than last year’s and include a strong presence of blue-chip prospects and plenty of underrated talent.
My colleague at Georgia, Jeff Sentell, included this new addition to his inaugural mock draft.
Shakiest commitment: DL Justin Thomas, Neil Farrell. Both are recently committed to LSU and have been courted by the coaching staff for some time, so I don’t think there’s a legitimate cause for concern. I led with them because of their ties to Alabama. The Tide will try to pry the in-state talent away from their SEC West rival. Farrell’s recruitment was picking up just before he landed at LSU. I think Florida State has a legitimate chance to get Farrell to re-think his recruitment, especially if they begin to lose steam with 5-star defensive lineman Marvin Wilson.
Biggest remaining question mark: WDE/OLB K’Lavon Chaisson. The Houston product has been one of LSU’s top priority targets since the staff decided to offer him during the June prospect camp in 2015. That offer came before Chaisson even played a down of varsity football. Fast forward a year and he’s the one of the highest-rated recruits in the country. Even though he’s devoted so much attention to LSU and the staff held a satellite camp at his high school, Oklahoma, Houston and Texas are all major players.
Most likely commitment that’s not in this projection: OLB Levi Jones/DL Phidarian Mathis. These two are tied for this slot because they’re both major targets at key positions. If LSU swings and misses on Chaisson, the staff could immediately increase its attention to another Texas linebacker, Jones. The 4-star Austin, Texas, native was on hand for the team barbecue in July, a positive sign for the Tigers’ chances of prying him out of the Lone Star State. If LSU loses out on Buggs or sees Thomas or Farrell flip later on this fall, it could make a push for Mathis, one of the top uncommitted linemen in Louisiana.
Position group with the biggest margin of error: While I’m very confident in my projections at each level, the linebacker group poses the most possibilities for a miss. Queen is as solid of a commit as LSU has. I remain sure of my pick of Moses back to LSU. Allen is a candidate to be LSU’s silent pledge, but the truth is he’ll decide between the Tide and the Tigers after the 2016 college football season is over. He wants to join a winning program. Chaisson is down to about four, and as I alluded to before, Oklahoma is one of the teams that poses a major threat. With that said, Levi Jones and 4-star Alabama inside backer Will Ignont are two other backers to keep tabs on. Ignont could be committing sometime this month and named LSU his leader. However, UCLA, Auburn and Michigan remain in the mix, and a source familiar with the situation believes he’s destined to go to Auburn. Jones’ recruitment has been kept under wraps, but he lives nearby in Texas. If the Longhorns miss on Moses, they could shift their attention to Jones. There’s a lot of moving pieces in this group.
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 Tiger Stadium.