LSU is in an unusual recruiting position as it braces for fall camp to start. The team’s 2017 class could wind up with more than 20 commitments before the start of the 2016 season, putting the Tigers in a uniquely advantageous position with ample time before National Signing Day next February.
In the past week alone, LSU has gained ground on 5-star Amite (La.) wide receiver Devonta Smith and landed a surprise commitment from 3-star Alabama defensive tackle Neil Farrell, who for the most part was not on the radar. In other words, LSU could be potentially adding a fourth wide receiver and upwards of five — or dare I say six — defensive linemen in next year’s group.
And that may not even be the biggest news on the recruiting trail …
LSU making waves with nation’s top athlete
A month or two ago, it was almost a forgone conclusion that 5-star athlete JaCoby Stevens was going to be a Georgia Bulldog. Oh, how time changes all.
Stevens, the nation’s top athlete who is likely destined for a defensive back role at the college level, may have a tougher decision on his hands than he thought. The LSU coaches have made a late push for the Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Carencro, La., native.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound future safety has received an ample amount of attention from LSU Director of Player Personnel Austin Thomas, who has made several trips to the Volunteer State to recruit Stevens. Thomas’ departure from LSU to Southern Cal played a role in Stevens’ de-commitment from the Tigers last November, but his return to the Tigers has certainly caused a late stir in the process.
Remember that Stevens was slated to make his announcement on his 18th birthday last week on July 20. The delay is a result of the LSU coaching staff’s attempt to lure him back to Louisiana.
Stevens is now scheduled to announce on Aug. 8 and decide from LSU, Alabama and Georgia, with the latter having lost some steam leading up to the start of his senior season. There’s a growing level of optimism that LSU could land a second safety in its 2017 class. Because Stevens is so well-regarded by the LSU coaches, it could potentially lead to this class taking three safeties: 4-star commit Grant Delpit, Stevens and 4-star Louisiana product Todd Harris.
LSU in a 3-way battle for state’s top prospect
LSU was all but out of the race for 5-star wide receiver Devonta Smith before the elite talent decided to randomly reach out to receivers coach Dameyune Craig. After releasing his announcement date and naming his four finalists (Alabama, Miami, Mississippi State and Nebraska), Smith was compelled to text LSU’s wide receivers coach just to check in.
And then, LSU’s surge began.
Craig was quick to repair any communication issues between LSU and the top-rated Louisiana prospect, then lured Smith back to LSU for the inaugural barbecue last Saturday. The Amite (La.) product stayed for about three hours and met with every single coach on LSU’s staff, listening to each one make one thing exceedingly clear: LSU wants Devonta Smith.
That’s been the staff’s message to Smith all along, and it means a lot to him because he respects the Tigers’ football program and the fact that they’ve been so transparent in his recruitment.
After visiting with Smith earlier in the week, here are the four biggest components that will help him finalize his decision between LSU, Alabama and Miami:
- Coaching staff
Coaching staff: This one comes down to Miami and LSU. Smith once committed to Miami coach Mark Richt when he was at the helm of Georgia and could easily envision doing the same now that he’s elsewhere. He trusts Richt and likes the direction of the Hurricanes’ program.
Why LSU? Simply because of Craig and Ed Orgeron. No coaches have shown more attention to Smith since February than those two from LSU, who have made it overwhelmingly clear that he’s the No. 1 player on their big board.
Communication: Here comes ‘Bama. LSU suffered a bit of a hiccup earlier this summer when Craig lost contact with Smith as he released his announcement date and opted to exclude the in-state power from the list. The bright side here is that Craig was quick to repair that line of communication and Smith stated that it’s as good now as it was prior.
As far as the Tide goes, Smith maintains communication with the coaches on daily basis and it’s been that way since Day 1 of his recruitment. He believes consistent communication is a sign that a school really wants you, and this might ultimately favor Alabama.
Offense: This is probably the biggest nuance. Smith was down on LSU’s offense even after taking in a handful of spring practices and still seeing a run-heavy system. However, he has come to the realization that if he does, in fact, go to LSU, the coaches are going to design a scheme that gets their No. 1 receiver the ball consistently. That’s something LSU has been able to do over the years and something he’s confident Craig can accomplish.
“If you’re their No. 1 receiver, you’re still getting the ball. And if I go there, I’ll be their No. 1 wide receiver,” Smith said.
Consider that a toss-up between the Tide and Tigers.
Family: This is the final but essentially the most critical factor of the four. Smith wants to be comfortable in his decision, and also wants his family to feel the same way. It’s not so important where he goes to school, whether it’s in Louisiana, Florida or Alabama, but that his mother, in particular, is confident with the choice. That is going to be the major point of emphasis until Aug. 15.
Addition of Neil Farrell means a big haul of defensive linemen
Neil Farrell’s commitment on Tuesday evening came out of the blue, but it did signal another change in the landscape of LSU’s 2017 recruiting class.
LSU is addressing as many positions of need as it can this cycle, possibly taking two quarterbacks, upwards of three or four wide receivers, perhaps three safeties and five, maybe six defensive linemen.
Farrell, a 3-star Alabama defensive lineman, joins Tyler Shelvin and Aaron Moffitt as LSU commitments up front. Now factor in that 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, 4-star junior college defensive end Isaiah Buggs and 4-star defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis remain top targets to fill out some of the seven spots remaining.
The bright side of adding Farrell is that he’s versatile. At Murphy High School (Mobile, Ala.), he lines up mostly a 3-4 defensive end, which makes him a prime fit to play the same role that Christian LaCouture is transitioning to for the 2016 season. He also spends some time on the inside at defensive tackle in the 4-3 scheme, and at times, sees action at 4-3 end. The common theme is that wherever Farrell lines up at, he’s consistently giving quarterbacks headaches.
That’s a similar to the roles that Moffitt and Mathis play for their respective high schools. Potentially, LSU could have three defensive line prospects capable of lining up at any of the three roles in Dave Aranda’s system.
What’s left is Wilson, a versatile defensive tackle, and Buggs, who’s outstanding at rushing the passer as a true 3-4 defensive end. LSU could instantly bolster not only its depth but talent across the entire defensive line with a haul like that.
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.