Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting, with Sam Spiegelman. In this edition, we discuss 4-star defensive end Jaren Handy’s commitment to LSU. Furthermore, we break down what his “open recruitment” means and the Tigers’ chances of holding on to him. We also touch on defensive line coach Dennis Johnson’s #Sip2Boot19 campaign and which prospect could be next in line.
Jaren Handy breaks down decision to commit to LSU
Jaren Handy attended LSU’s junior day on Saturday with no intention of committing. In fact, he left Baton Rouge and cruised down I-10 down to New Orleans and no, commitment was not on his mind.
In fact, it wasn’t until his mother and cousin brought up the topic that Handy realized LSU offered everything he was looking for.
Handy, a top-100 prospect in the 2019 class and the No. 7-ranked strongside defensive end nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, made the phone call to defensive line coach Dennis Johnson and coach Ed Orgeron on Saturday evening, informing the staff of the good news.
“I didn’t go in thinking about it,” Handy told SEC Country, referring to his commitment. “I was talking to a friend of mine. We were up there talking and what really got my attention was the education. They went really in-depth on the education and I liked that. They talked about the requirements there, how you’re going to get there. I’ve always wanted to be an engineer and play football at the same time. They’ve got ways to help you through it and early before the season and before your senior season.”
Handy plans on majoring in engineering. Both he and his mother toured campus and saw what LSU offered in that department firsthand.
It was Handy’s mother’s first time tagging along for a junior day visit. The 4-star defensive end previously visited Ole Miss — without mom — but having her by his side made the decision to commit even easier.
“She liked it,” he laughed. “The education caught her attention the most. This being her first one [visit], that played a big part.”
“When my family and I talked about it, they told me that if I felt comfortable making that decision then to go ahead,” Handy added of his conversations in New Orleans that Saturday night. “Then, it just happened.”
Since committing on Saturday, in-state schools such as Ole Miss and Mississippi State have have been heavily messaging Handy’s cellphone.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Magnolia State product has remained open and honest throughout the process and isn’t turning away those coaches, who are trying to push staying in Mississippi to the state’s No. 6-ranked prospect. While Handy has Mississippi pride, he has no reservations about playing his college ball elsewhere.
“They were shocked, but at the same time, I picked a good school,” Handy explained. “It doesn’t matter where I am. I like being from Mississippi, but at the same time, wherever I feel comfortable is where I’m going to go. Whether that’s Notre Dame, Cal or Ole Miss …”
Why #Sip2Boot19 has legs
Handy and Zach Edwards connected for the first time on Feb. 24 during an Ole Miss junior day visit. Instantly, the two Mississippi prospects clicked.
Like Handy, Edwards is a top-15 prospect in the state and committed to LSU at the same time over the weekend. Playing together has been a topic of discussion between the two for weeks now, and both felt that Baton Rouge could be an ideal landing spot.
“The first time we met was at Ole Miss. We started talking to each other. We went to LSU and we were on the football field and we just clicked,” Handy said. “We said that we needed to go here [LSU] together. After talking to the coaches, walking around and seeing the facilities, then walking down onto the field, it felt good. I said: ‘I can really play here!'”
Handy and Edwards are two of the Tigers’ eight pieces in the 2019 recruiting class, which now ranks No. 3 in the country behind only Miami and Georgia. The number of Mississippi natives in that group very well could grow larger — and do so sooner rather than later.
Charles Moore, another top-100 prospect and the strongside end ranked just in front of Handy, has become a very realistic target to be LSU’s next addition. Moore, who hails from Louisville, Miss., is committed to Mississippi State, but Handy suggested there is some “classified” conversations taking place that could result in a flip.
“We’re close. We text every day and we are working on it. We tell him that we can turn LSU up, all three of us, together” Handy said of Moore possibly joining him in Baton Rouge. “At first, I was nervous [at LSU] because I had never been up there, but when I met up with Zach and Charles, all three of us clicked. We said we could be there and the three of us were just enjoying it. We could’ve stayed there.”
With two Magnolia State products on board and a third possibly in the works, credit Johnson for the newly trademarked #Sip2Boot19 campaign that surfaced on Twitter after Handy and Edwards committed.
Johnson, who is from Amory, Miss., and played collegiately at LSU, is spearheading the movement to bring top talent from Mississippi across the border.
Thus far, it’s a campaign with plenty of merit.
“That’s my guy right there. That’s my dog right there,” Handy said of Johnson. “He’s down to earth, he’s funny and he’s a player’s coach. He’s been to LSU, so he knows how it is, and he’s a great defensive line coach. He texted me every day [leading into Saturday] trying to get me up there to see everything.”
“I believe in it,” he added of the #Sip2Boot19 notion. “It’s possible. Actually, it’s highly possible. He [Johnson] is just real and he can back it up with facts, so that’s what I like about him.”
Jaren Handy keeping his recruitment open
Handy’s commitment came on March 3, nine months before the early signing period and 11 months shy of National Signing Day, which is scheduled for Feb. 6 of next year.
The 4-star defensive end labeled his recruitment as “open,” which means that although he’s pledged to the Tigers, he is not ruling out conversations with rival coaches or visits to other campuses.
“It means that as of right now, I’m going to LSU,” Handy explained. “But if something comes up, I’ll have my other options open.”
The dialogue remains open, but Handy is confident that he’ll stick with the Tigers. But with a commitment in early March, he didn’t feel it was necessary to shut his recruitment down.
“Everyone has come after me even harder … everybody,” Handy said. “I’m committed, but my recruitment is open. It’s really early in the process. Everyone has been texting me — Mississippi State, Ole Miss, fans. They thought I would stay in-state, but it doesn’t bother me, though. I’m committed to LSU.”
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