Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly mailbag, a question-and-answer forum between readers and LSU team and recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman. In this edition, we touch on Ed Orgeron’s ability to keep Louisiana talent in the state, Mannie Netherly’s move to the secondary and what the Tigers’ offense will look like in 2018.
How is this state allowing so much talent to leave for other state institutions? There is so many great players slipping by our La. Colleges and doing big things.
— Big Buddy (@budluv26) February 20, 2018
Buddy, I understand your concern about LSU’s attempt to build a wall around the state. But in 2018, Orgeron did just that.
Ten of the top 16 prospects in Louisiana signed their national letters of intent with LSU. That includes three of the top four recruits, including 5-star wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., 4-star defensive back Kelvin Joseph and 4-star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
The biggest miss might have been 4-star quarterback Justin Rogers, who committed to TCU early on in the process. That wasn’t to say that he wasn’t considering the Tigers later in his recruitment, but the uncertainty at offensive coordinator didn’t sit well with the elite passer.
Others — like Devonta Jason, Pooka Williams, Lawrence Keys III — were turned away by the staff.
Of course, LSU did whiff on a handful of priority targets on National Signing Day in February. Five-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., a longtime LSU lean, picked Alabama. James Foster committed to Texas A&M and Mario Goodrich III selected Clemson. Those three were all out-of-state prospects, so it’s a much different sort of recruiting approach there.
Can we say that Mannie Netherly, whom we flipped from A&M, was a bust at receiver given his position change to db?
— Brian Rhodes (@CoachBrian34) February 20, 2018
I disagree, Brian.
It is way too early to deem Netherly a “bust.” Keep in mind that Netherly, a 4-star prospect back in the Class of 2017, was a high school quarterback at Crosby. He was recruited to play wide receiver largely because he possesses elite speed, making him a logical fit as a vertical threat on offense.
Netherly enrolled early at LSU and that began his transition to the wide receiver position, a role that he only spent time at during high school prospect camps. In the summer of 2016, Netherly worked out as a receiver during LSU’s camps. You saw the natural athleticism and speed, but overall, he was still a raw talent who needed fine-tuning.
After a year getting accustomed to a new position — and of course, after reeling in five new receivers from the 2018 recruiting class as well as Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles — Netherly had his work cut out for him to crack the two-deep even if LSU elects to use more three- and four-receiver sets. With elite speed, defensive backs coach Corey Raymond had an easy call on which offensive player he could squeeze into his secondary.
I would expect Netherly to use the 2018 offseason to play catch-up and undergo a similar transition that former 3-star athlete Jontre Kirklin went through a year ago after he played quarterback for Lutcher High School. Defensive back is no easy position to play, but under Raymond’s tutelage, Netherly may have an easier track to the field there than at his former position.
Do you think stingley will come to LSU
— HaydenMcCool™ (@HaydenLSU) February 20, 2018
I have held a Crystal Ball for Derek Stingley Jr. to LSU for some time now, and given all the information at my disposal, there is no reason for me to stray from that prediction.
A one-time LSU commitment, the 5-star cornerback reopened up his recruitment a year ago at this time as new offers continued to pour in and as he made visits to other schools. Stingley felt it wasn’t fair to LSU to visit other campuses while saying that he was committed to another university. Fair enough, right?
Stingley has been a regular on LSU’s campus ever since he committed. He has camped there, taken numerous unofficial visits, watched practices and workouts and is in regular communication with both Orgeron and Raymond, his lead recruiter. While the 5-star cornerback maintains that he doesn’t have a leader at the moment, it’s fair to say he has more familiarity with the LSU football program than any other school in the country.
Stingley and his family have plans to visit either Texas or Stanford — or maybe both — later in the spring. He has been to Austin a handful of times, so the Longhorns are certainly a threat in this race. It remains unseen whether any of his new offers from Notre Dame, Auburn or Clemson will emerge as major players down the road.
For now, the way that LSU has prioritized Stingley for years has certainly stood out to both the prospect and his family, not to mention that it’s the hometown school. I remain very comfortable in my Crystal Ball pick favoring the Tigers here.
There appears to be a shift in offensive coaching philosophy from run heavy to pass heavy. Will this have an effect on the offensive line play?
— yazboggs (@nottherealnickb) February 20, 2018
That’s a great question.
Because of the way the roster has developed in the past few weeks, LSU has lost its top two running backs in Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. After securing a transfer from Giles and signing blue-chip wide receivers such as Marshall, Chase and Kenan Jones to pair with the experienced talent on the team such as Stephen Sullivan, a more pass-heavy offense is seemingly on the horizon.
We’ve heard that before, of course. But now, wide receiver is truly the strength of this roster while running back talent and depth is truly suspect. In other words, all evidence again seems to be pointing in that direction of a more pass-dominated approach. We’ll see the verdict when the Tigers take the field on April 21 for the annual spring game.
Now, back to your question: Will this impact the offensive line?
LSU returns several key contributors from last year’s starting unit, including guards Garrett Brumfield and Ed Ingram, as well as tackle Saahdiq Charles. Several newcomers will also be in the mix for jobs, including top junior college tackle Badara Traore, as well as veteran members of the squad like Lloyd Cushenberry III at center, Donavaughn Campbell at guard and Adrian Magee at tackle.
Based on the experience, there shouldn’t be too much to be concerned with. Now, there will certainly be a new face at center and a new tackle opposite of Charles. But with the new system of offense that should feature more RPOs, it isn’t much of a concern.
RPOs, better known as run-pass options, are designed short-passing plays. So, on said play calls, LSU’s offensive linemen will be tasked with run-blocking whether the quarterback hands it off or passes it. On traditional drop-back passes, the line will drop back to create a pocket. So, perhaps the biggest challenge will be the ratio of RPO calls compared to traditional pass or run plays in Steve Ensminger’s offense.
Hi Sam, When will we know if Fulton is cleared to play this year. Will we know for Spring Practice?
— philip rose (@phil5060) February 20, 2018
Phil, to describe this situation as simple or predictable would be a lie. It is very complicated and it remains very unclear if and when there will be a resolution.
I can assure you that LSU is very hopeful that former 5-star cornerback Kristian Fulton will play this season. Behind the scenes, I’m told that he was arguably the most impressive player in practices and workouts. After signing only one defensive back to the Tigers’ 2018 class, the staff is holding out a lot of hope that Fulton will be given the green light to play opposite Greedy Williams this year.
However, if and when that comes to fruition remains unclear.