Welcome back to the weekly LSU football and recruiting mailbag.
Every week, LSU reporter Sam Spiegelman goes through his stack to answer some of the most pressing questions submitted by you, the readers.
ADD TO THE MAILBAG: If you want to submit a question, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to email@example.com.
Room is getting tight in the Tigers recruiting class with just a handful of scholarship spots remaining for what appears to be a wide range of blue-chip targets.
We’re past the midway point in the college football season and about to move into the fourth quarter of the recruiting cycle.
So, what’s next? Let’s take a look:
Is LaCouture definitely going pro? (@covwhodat)
Definitely? Nothing is definite, but let’s look at the facts here.
Christian LaCouture, LSU’s senior defensive lineman, will be honored during the team’s Senior Day festivities along with 18 of his teammates.
No, a junior like Leonard Fournette or Jamal Adams doesn’t get the type of recognition, though it’s almost a forgone conclusion that Nos. 7 and 33 will be playing their final home games on Saturday against Florida. In contrast, senior linebacker Corey Thompson is not included among the 19 seniors that will be honored. That’s because Thompson has successfully received a redshirt season for 2017 after suffering an injury in the summer.
LaCouture was eligible to follow the same script as Thompson, but the decision to proceed with the Senior Day ceremony confirms that the Nebraska native’s career in Baton Rouge has come to an end.
In 23 starts over three seasons on the Tigers’ defensive line, LaCouture recorded 86 tackles, including 8 for loss, to go along with 4.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble.
With junior Greg Gilmore set to return, freshman Ed Alexander emerging and Travonte Valentine still on the roster, LSU has an array of options to plug into the middle of its defensive front. Certainly, Alexander has been very impressive when he’s seen action on the field this season.
How soon should the head coaching decision be made … for the sense of recruiting? (@JonDale22)
Well, Jon, I can assure that the search is already well underway. With two games remaining on the schedule and more vacancies in the verge of popping up, it would be in LSU’s best interest to act swiftly.
Reports have indicated that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has already been in touch with a handful of candidates’ representatives. If you’ve been keeping up my previous mailbags, that’s the program’s attempt to land their guy for the job before the Texases, Oregons or Notre Dames of the world get into the mix.
It’s my opinion — and my understanding — that there could be a decision in place over the final weekend of the college football season and in the immediate days to follow. LSU will travel to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving before the rest of the country wraps up its regular-season schedule on Nov. 26. A decision could very well be handed down on Nov. 27 with a press conference to introduce a full-time coach on Monday, Nov. 28.
To me, this is becoming a two-person race between Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and interim coach Ed Orgeron.
Fisher boasts the offensive background that Alleva is seeking in order to spark this program moving forward. The benefit of adding Fisher is that he is already familiar with wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig, who spent time with him in Tallahassee, Fla., and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, who he has attempted to hire before. Those key assistants — along with defensive coordinator Dave Arand and the personnel staff headed by Austin Thomas — are essential to LSU holding together its 2017 recruiting class.
If LSU meets Fishers’ salary demands, I think it would be clear who the next head coach is. Fisher’s next task would be convincing Orgeron to remain on the staff as an assistant, which would also be critical to keeping the recruiting class in place.
The other half of this equation is if Orgeron wins out and finishes his interim tenure with a 6-1 record with only a 10-0 loss to top-ranked Alabama on his resume. He is the other best option. Coach O is beloved by his players and fellow coaches, has won over the state of Louisiana and would make for an easy transition in the coaching staff. It’s a high probably all of the assistants would be retained. The one exception would be a changing of responsibilities for Steve Ensminger.
Orgeron personally appointed Ensminger to call plays for LSU in place of Cam Cameron when he got the job. But because Alleva is so set on adding a proven offensive mind to the staff at head coach, the decision to promote Orgeron would likely entail that he brings a new offensive coordinator aboard. There are certainly plenty of candidates LSU could offer lucrative deals to — if Alleva promotes Orgeron. The first and obvious name is Lane Kiffin, whose contract at Alabama expires at the end of the year. Orgeron and Kiffin have coached with each other at Southern Cal and at Tennessee.
- A decision should be made on the final weekend of the regular season. LSU plays on Thanksgiving night, then would wait until the rest of the country plays on Saturday, Nov. 26. A decision could come down that Sunday or Monday.
- Fisher and Orgeron are the names to know. Alleva wants a coach with an offensive background, but would have to meet Fisher’s salary demands and pay his buyout at Florida State. Orgeron could be 6-1 at this juncture, and one part of him receiving the full-time job could be to add a proven offensive coordinator.
- For recruiting purposes, it’s best to act swiftly. LSU has informed all of its 2017 commits and targets to delay official visits until December and January. This way, either Fisher or Orgeron will have a chance to recruit them as the team’s full-time head coach and provide them with long-term visions.
If LSU goes outside of Coach O for the head coaching job, what are the chances we lost him to another team? (@pferrer1865)
Great question, Paul. I’m sure this is on a lot of peoples’ minds because it’s such an intricate question.
There are two major theories in play here:
- LSU was Orgeron’s dream job. Joining Les Miles’ staff in 2015 was a homecoming for Coach O, who immediately became one of the team’s top recruiters, position coaches and, eventually, replaced Frank Wilson as the recruiting coordinator.
- If Orgeron goes 5-2 or 6-1 as the interim coach and is again passed up for an outsider here, will his pride be too hurt to remain on the coaching staff as an assistant? He was targeted by several other universities to join their staff last winter, but opted to remain in Baton Rouge, accept a raise and eventually a promotion. After the past six weeks, would Orgeron be more inclined to accept this time around?
I’m personally torn here. Orgeron loves LSU and these players, which to me, would signal a role on this staff, as long as he and whoever is selected as the head coach could agree on a salary and position.
Orgeron is in a great position to return as LSU’s recruiting coordinator. He not only has relationships with the team’s four defensive line commits and several other priority targets, but in the past month has developed bonds with every other prospect as well as schools across the state.
If I were to put a percentage on it, I’d estimate there is a 60 percent chance Orgeron remains in Baton Rouge as the defensive line coach in 2017, if LSU were to make an outside head coaching hire. My only hesitation would be whether he feels as if he was looked over after doing an excellent job as the interim coach.
His decision would hinge on whether he wants to leave his players, leave his home state and leave his family, which resides in Mandeville, La., and his sons who play college football as McNeese State, to take an out-of-state job at a different program. He’s a family man. You can see that in his coaching style. I don’t suspect he would want to give that all up instead of returning to his post as the nation’s top defensive line coach.
Any update on Cam Akers or Marvin Wilson? (@M_George5)
There isn’t much to update on this front. Both 5-stars were expected to be in Baton Rouge earlier this month for the LSU-Alabama tilt. To our surprise, neither wound up making the trip.
Cam Akers’ top-ranked Clinton (Miss.) High School team is gunning for a Mississippi state championship, while a source told SEC Country that Marvin Wilson‘s best friend and teammate, 5-star offensive tackle Walker Little, was unable to make the drive which led to Wilson also canceling the visit.
Neither Akers or Wilson have been to LSU this fall — yet — but certainly Akers is at least expected to be on campus in December or January for an official visit.
Earlier today, Wilson told SEC Country he’ll be on the sidelines for the Florida game this weekend.
Akers, LSU’s primary offensive target remaining in the Class of 2017, is down to LSU, Ohio State, Florida State and Ole Miss, despite publicly maintaining that Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and others are all in the mix. LSU’s pending coaching change has little to do with Akers’ decision. He’s more focused on the wide-open opportunity available to him at LSU, where he could split carries with rising junior running back Derrius Guice as early as next season.
The Mississippi standout is an early enrollee, so the clock is rapidly ticking on his decision. That’s another reason why LSU needs to resolve its coaching situation sooner rather than later. Orgeron, for one, has prioritized adding the 5-star back to the Tigers’ 2017 haul and has amped up the team’s efforts since taking over as interim coach.
As for Wilson, the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle, is cautiously waiting to see who is named LSU’s next head coach.
Orgeron was Wilson’s primary recruiter when he was just LSU’s defensive line coach, and the team even held one of its satellite camps at his high school to give the tackle a chance to work out with him.
Wilson was also close with Miles, but not nearly to the degree he is with Orgeron, who took advantage of LSU’s off-week to head to Texas for Wilson’s Friday night game. Wilson is also being courted heavily by in-state power Texas and Florida State. Both of those programs could be in store for coaching changes, so naturally, Wilson is taking his time with his decision.
One important transgression is luring Wilson to campus this weekend. This is his first visit since the spring, and he’ll do so along with his family. Because of the timing, could still return for an official visit in December or January, which would certainly bolster LSU’s chances.
Here’s an up-to-date prediction on each of the 5-stars:
|Cam Akers, 5-star RB (Clinton, Miss.)||45 percent|
|Marvin Wilson, 5-star DT (Bellaire, Texas)||35 percent|
Could you give me your latest predictions on LSU’s chances with Marvin Wilson, Isaiah Wilson, Alex Leatherwood and Elliot Baker? (Byron Hart)
Of course, you see my thoughts and prediction on Wilson right above, but here’s a look at the Tigers’ chances with the other offensive linemen you mentioned.
Isaiah Wilson, 5-star OT (Brooklyn, N.Y.) | Wilson recently announced he’ll take his fifth official visit to LSU thanks in part to the late push by Orgeron. Wilson recently wrapped up his official to Florida State with trips to Michigan, Alabama and Georgia scheduled in the next couple of weeks. LSU has a need for true offensive tackles, which was glaring during the 10-0 loss to Alabama. The Tide holds commitments from five offensive tackles in 2017, whereas LSU has two (for now). LSU’s chances: 10 percent
Alex Leatherwood, 5-star OT (Pensacola, Fla.) | If you would have asked me about Leatherwood flipping from Alabama to LSU in the spring, I would have told you there was definitely a good chance. LSU’s momentum has slowed down quite a bit since then, even though he visited for the Alabama game. Florida and Michigan have emerged as candidates to flip the 5-star bruiser. Leatherwood is arguably the best tackle in the nation, but has also been solid with the Tide since committing. He’s recruited for ‘Bama, though recently admitted he’s a bit unsure of what he’ll do when he finalizes his decision in December before enrolling early. LSU’s chances: 15 percent
Elliot Baker, 4-star OT (San Francisco, Calif.) | Baker is one of the five offensive tackles embedded in Alabama’s current recruiting class and recently announced he’d be taking an official visit to Baton Rouge next month or so. He’s the top junior college tackle and added his offer from LSU last week. Perhaps offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is attempting to make a late push, but it’s likely too late. LSU’s chances: 15 percent
*One thing I will say, Byron. Keep your eyes on 4-star Louisiana offensive lineman Adrian Ealy. LSU remains in the hunt for the East Ascension (La.) product, who is on the verge of making a decision. He’s been to Tiger Stadium quite a bit since Orgeron took over as coach. There is no doubt LSU is a finalist for Ealy, who would certainly fill an important need for the team as a 6-foot-7, 300-pound true offensive tackle.
Does Aranda stay if we get Jimbo? (@serrient_Bell)
That’s certainly a question many people are curious about.
Aranda has been such an impactful hire over the past 11 months. That’s obvious by the 10 touchdowns that the Tigers have allowed in their nine games, which is the best mark in the country.
In my opinion, the biggest risk in making an outside hire is the possibility that the new head coach wants his own assistants on staff. That usually is a regularity, so it would be up to Fisher or whoever gets the job to decide which coordinators and positions coached he would like to either retain or replace.
In the case of Fisher, three assistants I’d expect to remain on staff are Aranda, Craig and Raymond.
Aranda has been one of the nation’s premier defensive coordinators during his time at Wisconsin and now at LSU. I’m not sure Fisher could bring aboard another coach that would be better than him.
Fisher and Craig worked together at Florida State. Then, Craig was the team’s quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator, working with first-round picks such as E.J. Manuel, Christian Ponder and Heisman winner Jameis Winston, while reeling in the Nos. 1 and 2 recruiting classes in 2011-12.
Raymond has effectively made his case to be the best defensive backs coach in the nation. Fisher has attempted to lure him to Tallahassee, Fla., on several occasions, so I’d be completely shocked if he wouldn’t want the opportunity to finally work alongside Raymond.
Lastly, if Fisher is made the head coach, I’d suspect that there would be several conversations about retaining Orgeron on staff. As I stated earlier, there is a matter of pride hanging in the balance. But as a position coach, there are few better at working with defensive linemen than Orgeron. For that matter, there are few better at recruiting, too.
However, it’s a very rare situation in which a new head coach is willing to take on four assistant coaches. That’s certainly something that will be raised to Fisher or other candidates during the interview process.
I read that Coach O wants to run a USC offense. Do you think he would try to get Lane Kiffin or Steve Sarkisian if those two coaches would leave ‘Bama for LSU to be offensive coordinator? (@BWhinsOld)
A lot of Orgeron’s tactics have been influenced by his days at Southern Cal under Pete Carroll. That includes his offensive style of play and his practice habits, among others.
If Orgeron gets the full-time head coaching gig, I’d expect part of the agreement between him and Alleva to involve adding a proven offensive coordinator. Keep in mind that Alleva wants a head coach with an offensive background, so if he goes in another direction, he’d still like that sort of addition to the staff.
Kiffin is the obvious name here because of his ties to Orgeron at USC and Tennessee. Kiffin’s contract expires at the end of the year, but the biggest obstacle will be other programs that may be interested in making him a head coach again.
If and when Kiffin departs from Alabama, Sarkisian is an obvious replacement candidate. I don’t think that LSU would have much luck trying to lure Sarkisian out of Tuscaloosa, Ala., after Nick Saban gave him a job and has basically groomed him for this situation.
If it isn’t Kiffin, then it becomes a whole new search for LSU’s next offensive coordinator.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
Follow Sam Spiegelman on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.