BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU’s 2017 class is shaping up quicker than anticipated, with 18 verbal commitments and one silent commit. That number could grow on Monday.
5-star Tennessee athlete JaCoby Stevens is scheduled to pick LSU, Alabama, Auburn or Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET at Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). Though Stevens is down to four finalists, it’s become a two-team race.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound mega-talent is favoring LSU and Alabama, according to his father, Jeremy Stevens. That’s a bit of a twist considering the future SEC defensive back was a known Georgia lean since February. LSU and ‘Bama have amplified their efforts with Stevens this summer, though.
Stevens, a Crowley, La., native, spent part of the summer visiting family in Louisiana. He did not visit LSU’s campus, as far as we know, but communicated often with a handful of coaches. Stevens is comfortable with defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, whom he considers the architect of the “DBU” reputation. Stevens also is close with director of player personnel Austin Thomas. Thomas was integral in Stevens’ original commitment to LSU as a junior and has maintained the relationship after Stevens reopened his recruitment in November 2015.
Thomas has met regularly with Stevens in Tennessee. Raymond has tried to convince the No. 2 safety in the country why LSU is the perfect fit. Both factors have been prominent during the last month, which led Stevens to delay his announcement and vaulted the Tigers to the No. 1 spot.
LSU’s biggest competition is Alabama. The Crimson Tide coaches have increased their communication with Stevens and hosted him on his last visit this summer. Stevens was impressed with Alabama’s facilities, but he did not attend the team’s invite-only barbecue in late July.
He did not attend LSU’s barbecue, either, because of other obligations.
Stevens and his family already have made up their minds and took the remaining time to confirm the decision. According to sources, the LSU coaching staff heard positive news earlier this month regarding its chances of landing the prized safety.
Here’s why LSU holds the edge over Alabama, Georgia and Auburn:
- Stevens’ family is from Louisiana. The safety was born in Crowley, La., and has family ties to the area. That provides an easy way to have family on hand for home games in Tiger Stadium.
- Austin Thomas. Thomas has spearheaded Stevens’ recruitment. When Stevens rescinded his verbal pledge last fall amid concerns about Les Miles’ job security, Thomas encouraged him. When Stevens explored other options, Thomas remained in contact — even when Thomas fled LSU for Southern Cal. When Thomas returned to LSU, Stevens was his top target.
- Corey Raymond. Stevens originally was listed as the nation’s No. 1 athlete, but he wants to be a defensive back in the SEC. He credits Raymond for the school’s reputation as “DBU” and has been told he’ll be used similarly to Patrick Peterson, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
- Les Miles. Stevens reopened his recruitment in November after rumors about Miles’ job security. Miles remains the face of the Tigers, and when Stevens was reunited with the Mad Hatter this spring, he told SEC Country they have such a unique relationship he felt like committing again. He appreciates that family is important to Miles. Stevens and his family also paid close attention to the growth and maturity of Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre.
- His future role. Stevens is the nation’s No. 2 safety, but he wants to utilize all of his talents. At LSU, he would have a chance for the starting safety spot in the spring because Jamal Adams is expected to head to the NFL and Rickey Jefferson is slated to graduate. Stevens also could become a return specialist and was told there could be a 10-play package on offense for him.
It’s decision day for Stevens. There’s little reason to doubt the 5-star safety will throw an “L” up just past 3:30 p.m. ET on Monday in front of his high school teammates and coaches.
Stevens would be LSU’s 19th public commitment, the second safety (along with 4-star Florida prospect Grant Delpit) and the fourth defensive back (joining Kary Vincent Jr., Jontre Kirklin and Delpit).
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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.