Welcome to the SEC Country 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.
This week’s mailbag comes after a tumultuous recruiting weekend in which LSU secured four commitments in as many days following a successful run at the Bayou Picnic.
Moving forward, many of the 2016 LSU signees are about to report to campus, and the Tigers’ coaches are set to hit the road for a slew of satellite camps through the state of Louisiana and Texas.
Without further ado, here we go:
In the Class of 2017, who are going to be the linebackers, particularly on the inside? (@lsupeteradams)
It’s a great question, considering that Kendell Beckwith is about to be a senior and plans to pursue an NFL career after the 2016 season and much of our attention has been fixated on pass rushers coming off the edge in the new outside linebacker spots.
LSU has already secured a commitment from four-star athlete Patrick Queen, who should transition to an inside linebacker role at the collegiate level. Remember, Devin White switched from running back to linebacker this spring and should eventually succeed Beckwith in that same position.
Additionally, LSU cracked the top five for Florida inside backer Nadarius Fagan, who was on hand for the LSU spring game last month. LSU has lost a bit of steam with the linebacker, but he was wildly intrigued by the notion of playing for Les Miles and Dave Aranda.
Christopher Allen is one of LSU’s prime linebacker targets. And although he’s an outside linebacker by trade, he told SEC Country that Aranda envisions him playing inside on early downs, then shifting to the outside in pass rushing situations.
Perhaps Aranda has similar ideas in mind for some of the outside linebacker targets that LSU is making its strongest push for, like Dylan Moses, Levi Jones and Bruce Jordan-Swilling. Of course, outside linebacker is a higher priority — for the Class of 2017 — with White already entrenched as a future star on the inside.
How many linebackers do you see LSU taking in the Class of 2018? (@_Janas10)
I’m not surprised to see the linebacker questions rolling in. After all, it’s one of the most intriguing positions under Aranda, and there is plenty of uncertainty as far as how it might all play out for LSU come signing day.
LSU has its eye on a lot of linebackers in the star-studded Class of 2017. With the likes of White, Michael Divinity, Sci Martin, Andre Anthony and Rahssan Thornton embedded in the 2016 signing class, much depends on how many of the targets the Tigers can land this recruiting cycle.
I expect LSU to haul in upwards of four linebackers in the 2017 class, but right now my gut says three. The team has already secured a pledge from Queen and is readily courting Moses, Jordan-Swilling and Allen. If two of those three wind up in the purple and gold, the Tigers would be quite pleased.
That number could extend to four, but with Alabama on the tail of each of those aforementioned linebackers, LSU would be happy to pull away with two.
As far as 2018 goes, let’s look at the numbers between the previous and current recruiting classes.
LSU secured five linebacker commits in the 2016 class. Combine that with four more in 2017, and you get the idea that trend should continue into 2018, with another three. Keep in mind that the team will have to find a replacement for Beckwith and begin to look ahead to future successors for Arden Key, Isaiah Washington and Tashawn Bower, all of whom are now playing the stand-up outside backer role.
In 2016 and 2017, linebacker was a major position of emphasis, because the team needed to find capable players for Aranda’s 3-4 scheme. Between the two cycles, the team will likely have created a deep foundation of talent to focus its efforts elsewhere in 2018 and beyond.
After the flurry of commitments in the past few days, who is next? Could LSU add anyone else before the end of the month?
LSU has secured five commitments in as many days, bolstering its recruiting class to 12 after Tuesday in the aftermath of the Bayou Picnic.
The most likely scenario now is that LSU continues to do its work with its top targets as we enter the summer period with satellite and prospect camps about to get underway. That means the coaches have time to gain ground with priority prospects and extend offers to many in-state recruits with the hope — or possibly, the expectation — they will commit on the spot.
Some of the high-profile prospects the Tigers are chasing after will most likely make their decision prior to the start of their senior seasons, during or immediately following it, or leading up to National Signing Day following their official visits.
However, there are a few candidates that could commit in June or July, depending on a number of unique factors.
Todd Harris is one name to keep an eye on. The nation’s No. 6 safety in the Class of 2017 is favoring the in-state Tigers, but will use the summertime to consider all of his options and attend camps of different schools across the country. Even though he is leaning toward LSU, he could wind up waiting until closer to his senior season to make the pledge.
Sticking with the theme of safety, Grant Delpit is another prospect to watch. Like Harris, Delpit is an LSU lean, but the influx of offers that have poured in this spring has delayed a decision. The nation’s No. 11 safety could also commit by the end of the summer once he makes visits to all of the new college football powers that have offered him in recent weeks.
One unique situation to keep an eye on is the camp offers with a prospect like Bryan Jones. The state’s top defensive end was always high on LSU until he unexpectedly committed to Ole Miss earlier this month. However, Cameron and Ed Orgeron reached out to the Baton Rouge, La., native immediately after Jones committed to the SEC West rival, and Jones has always been set on attending the LSU prospect camps this summer. If LSU does, in fact, follow through with an offer after working him out on campus, Jones is a candidate to flip his commitment.
Another name to keep an eye on is Joe Anderson. Like Jones, the junior college defensive end is on the LSU coaches’ radar as a fit along their defensive line. A Louisiana native, LSU recruited Anderson as a prospect at Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.), but ultimately, he signed with Ole Miss as part of the 2016 class. Anderson met with Orgeron during the Bayou Picnic this weekend and told SEC Country that he’s waiting on the LSU offer and would commit on the spot. Because it’s early in Anderson’s LSU recruitment, he will have to attend the prospect camp and impress the coaches. He’s certainly a candidate to wind up at LSU.
Why did one of the LSU quarterback commits have to “clear the air” over the weekend?
Three-star Mississippi quarterback Myles Brennan had himself a roller-coaster of a weekend.
On Friday night, the pro-style prospect reported an offer from in-state power Ole Miss, who had courted the passer over the past year and finally decided to make a play.
Brennan was in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday for the Bayou Picnic, hanging out with the LSU coaches, including his recruiting coach, Cam Cameron.
On Sunday, the LSU quarterback commit felt compelled to reaffirm his pledge to the Tigers based largely on speculation from outside sources. Because of Ole Miss’ reach in the Magnolia State and the fact that the Tigers recently procured a commitment from in-state quarterback Lowell Narcisse, there was reason to believe that Brennan could eventually consider his other options.
However, Brennan is strong in his commitment with LSU, and there is little reason to believe that the prominent passer will stray. In fact, his statement on Sunday backing his decision and subsequent messages on Monday morning that he will no longer entertain questions about rival schools says it all.
Neither Brennan nor Narcisse are afraid of heading to LSU with competition. Both quarterbacks have succeeded at their respective high schools and are looking forward to doing the same next year with the Tigers. Narcisse fits the dual-threat mold that the LSU coaches are looking to plug into their new spread system, but Brennan boasts elite passing skills that are comparable to those of incumbent Brandon Harris.
Brennan did not want to be the subject of rumors moving forward. Therefore, he cleared the air and should have Tigers fans resting easy about their two-quarterback class this recruiting cycle.
A couple of the new LSU commits don’t seem to have defined positions. Where do you expect they’ll fit in?
It’s quite interesting, and in a way, it follows what Miles said on National Signing Day in February.
Just as the staff did in the Class of 2016 to secure the nation’s No. 3 overall signing class, the goal is to obtain commitments from outstanding athletes that can fill multiple roles — and aren’t limited to one position by trade.
Most of the current LSU commits are going to stick at their current positions — the likes of Tyler Shelvin, Austin Deculus, Edward Ingram, Stephen Guidry, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Saahdiq Charles, Brennan and Narcisse. But there are others that could play on either side of the ball and at multiple spots depending on team needs.
Four-star athlete Patrick Queen has lined up at safety and running back at Livonia (La.) High School, but will transition to linebacker at college. He has already put on weight and been tested out at his new position during 7-on-7 and “The Opening” regionals this spring.
Another athlete is Jontre Kirklin, who nabbed a Louisiana Class 3A state championship as Lutcher (La.) High School’s quarterback. But he’s working out as both a cornerback and a wide receiver before he arrives at LSU.
Two of LSU’s newest commits are fullback Tory Carter and defensive lineman Aaron Moffitt.
Carter committed Saturday during the Bayou Picnic and will stick at fullback when he arrives in Baton Rouge, La. However, he plays fullback and defensive line for Lee County High School (Leesburg, Ga.), which he believes will eventually sharpen his skill-set moving forward.
The same goes for Moffitt, a three-star defensive end who could play multiple positions up front for LSU. However, the Louisiana native used to play tight end for Catholic High School (Baton Rouge, La.), and is keeping his mind open to playing wherever the LSU coaches need him.
This strategy of garnering versatile athletes that can play numerous positions gives LSU some leeway in their recruiting strategy and in how they fill out their depth charts moving forward. Four of the Tigers’ current commits can play on either side of the ball, which down the line could eventually help the team out in multiple ways.
Who is going to be a breakout player on offense and help keep teams from ganging up on Leonard Fournette?
LSU is preparing for a philosophical shift in its offensive scheme this season. We saw a preview of what’s to come during the Tigers’ Texas Bowl romping of Texas Tech, and again during the spring game last month.
Expect a more balanced offensive approach in 2016 with a greater emphasis on the short-passing game. That should force opposing defenses not to load up the box to try and slow down Fournette.
If LSU is going to do that, it will need both Harris and his receivers to make the metaphorical leap. I anticipate Malachi Dupre being the prime benefactor.
With Travin Dural sidelined during the LSU spring game, Dupre — the Tigers’ leading receiver last season — was the clear-cut No. 1 target. Dupre was the recipient of a lot of slants over the middle and screen passes, which are good ways to balance out the rushing attack and open up the deep passing game down the field.
Dupre, a rising junior, is already being touted as a potential first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Of course, he has impressed early on in his LSU career, but has not yet had a breakout campaign.
During his high school career at John Curtis Christian School (River Ridge, La.), he was the No. 1 receiver in a split-veer offense. He continued onto a run-heavy system at LSU, but for the first time in his playing career could be poised to be the top target in a more pass-friendly scheme.
Dupre certainly has the physical abilities. Combine that with the trust that his quarterback has in him, and the wide receiver could be one of the more popular names — besides Fournette — this coming football season.
Who might benefit most from playing under Dave Aranda?
There should be a lot of names that fit the bill here, too, but as mentioned earlier, it will likely be a linebacker.
Key is the smart call in this case. Aranda decided to move the stud pass-rusher from his role as a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker, which should allow the rising sophomore to get after opposing quarterbacks from the edge in an array of situations.
Aranda is notorious for running an aggressive, attacking defense. That should go hand-in-hand with a theme that LSU will be sending added rushers in a variety of situations, which means Key will be a factor rushing the passer on any given down.
Once he became a regular on LSU’s defensive front last season, Key showed how capable of a pass-rusher he was. Key started the final nine games of the year and responded with four sacks in that span. That includes 3.5 sacks over the final five contests.
Key has been hyped up and featured in the 3-4 front. He should not only benefit in passing situations, but is a candidate to wreak havoc in opposing backfields as a tackle-for-loss sort of player in the running game and as running quarterbacks look to race to the edge.
He has outstanding size, speed and the physical tools to have success in this type of defense, and should benefit from the presence of Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal at defensive end and Tashawn Bower on the opposite side.
Who is LSU’s best recruiter right now?
With Frank Wilson out of the picture, it left a glaring hole for the honor as LSU’s ace recruiter.
Wilson was the best in the business recruiting in the state out of Louisiana, and in particular, the talent-rich city of New Orleans.
His successor, Jabbar Juluke, has assumed the responsibility in the Crescent City, but the best is yet to come for Juluke.
Dameyune Craig and Cameron are the two early MVPs for LSU in the 2017 recruiting cycle, as the two have helped procure commitments from Brennan, Narcisse and Guidry, among others.
Additionally, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes deserves a lot of recognition for helping Deculus, Ingram and Charles all commit. As does Texas area recruiter Bradley Dale Peveto, who has been imperative to LSU’s early success with some of the aforementioned linemen, as well as recruiting the likes of Delpit, linebacker target K’Lavon Chaisson and elite cornerback Kary Vincent Jr., among others.
But as impressive of a 2017 recruiting class as LSU has already built up with the likes of Deculus, Narcisse, Queen, Guidry and Ingram, to name a few, the best has yet to come.
The Tigers remain very much in the thick of the race for some of the nation’s elite talents like Marvin Wilson, Isaiah Buggs and Moses, as well as ensuring that the team is holding onto Shelvin, thanks largely due to Orgeron.
If Wilson and Buggs select LSU over some of the other national powerhouses that are in the mix, that will be a credit to Orgeron, who also helped convince the fullback Carter to commit and made an important visit to Moses earlier in the month.
Craig and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond are also spearheading the recruitment of five-star wide receiver Devonta Smith and Tennessee cornerback commit Cheyenne Labruzza, but Orgeron is also lending a helping hand.
Orgeron played an instrumental role in assuming the recruiting coordinator role from Wilson. He has played a major role in LSU’s unrivaled work in the state of Louisiana, which was key to the 2016 class’ success, and is doing the same in the current recruiting cycle.
Many of the prospects Orgeron is responsible for have yet to make a decision. If and when they end up in the purple and gold, it will justify Miles’ decision to name Orgeron LSU’s recruiting coordinator, continuing the trend of the team’s in-state dominance as well as his ability to lure some elite names to Baton Rouge, La., come signing day.
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.