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 e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
What do you think of our chances of beating ‘Bama? I think we can. (@BwhinsOld)
At the beginning of the year, I was asked in this very mailbag what I thought LSU’s record would be this season. To show how wrong I can be at times, I thought they’d run the table in the regular season.
Of course, I was proved very wrong, as the Tigers sit 5-2 (3-1 in the SEC) with November approaching.
The reasoning behind my prediction was solely related to the amount of talent up and down LSU’s roster. From the offensive and defensive lines, backfield, wide receiving corps, linebackers and secondary, there’s a slew of NFL talent, most of whom are deserving of being drafted in the first two rounds.
Only Ohio State and Alabama can really stake claim to a similar wealth of talent on their rosters. Despite some coaching hiccups against Wisconsin and Auburn earlier this season, LSU has seemingly found a groove over the past three games under Ed Orgeron.
The offense has opened up, which has allowed the running game to prosper, and all season long Dave Aranda’s defense has been as stout as any unit in the country.
LSU is in for quite the test on Nov. 5 when the Crimson Tide rolls into Baton Rouge. Alabama’s freshman quarterback is a Heisman Trophy candidate. The team is always loaded with talent at the skill positions and, defensively, Alabama is just as loaded in the front seven as LSU.
So, between home-field advantage and a comparison of skill on each sideline, I’d give LSU a 50-50 shot at handing ‘Bama its first loss. It comes down to: 1) playing with confidence against the nation’s top team; 2) the coaching battle; and 3) which defense can force the opposing quarterback to make a mistake. Alabama won’t beat itself, but LSU’s defense could force Jalen Hurts into some errant throws or possibly a turnover. That could be the difference in a game that’s so evenly matched.
Where does LSU stand with Thomas Johnston, the LB from Mobile? Where is he on LSU’s board? (@t_ryandewey)
LSU is among the top schools for Johnston, the 3-star linebacker from Spanish Fort (Ala.) High School. However, it has been very quiet on the Johnston front largely because LSU is pursuing different options at the position for this year’s recruiting class.
Johnston is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, which is not the prototypical build for an outside linebacker at LSU. For example, LSU’s ace outside backer, Arden Key, measures 6-6 and 238 pounds. Priority outside linebacker target Christopher Allen is also tall at 6-4 and has some more meat to him at 234 pounds.
Aranda prefers his outside linebackers to be lengthier with a long wingspan to be better able to wrap up opposing quarterbacks and also disrupt their passing lanes. I’m not so sure that Johnston fits that bill.
The Alabama native picked up his offer from LSU last summer before Aranda arrived in Baton Rouge. Kevin Steele, Auburn’s defensive coordinator, held the same position with the Tigers then. Johnston is better equipped to play outside backer in Steele’s 4-3 front than he is in Aranda’s 3-4.
It’s also worth noting that Johnston has not visited LSU in some time, despite his teammate, 3-star defensive end Justin Thomas, being a commit. I’d expect Arkansas or Steele’s new team, Auburn, to land him.
Which recruits have LSU and Alabama at the top of their list? And how much does the outcome of this game impact their decision? (@JonDale22)
Naturally, there’s a slew of recruits that have either committed to LSU over ‘Bama or vice versa, and even more that are still considering both of these SEC West powerhouses.
Here’s a good picture of which remaining recruits have named LSU and Alabama their leading schools and are expected to decide between the Tide and Tigers between now and National Signing Day:
- Devonta Smith, 4-star WR (Amite, La.)
- Todd Harris, 4-star DB (Plaquemine, La.)
- Christopher Allen, 4-star LB (Baton Rouge, La.)
- Isaiah Buggs, 4-star DL (Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.)
- Phidarian Mathis, 4-star DL (Monroe, La.)
For fun, you can also throw 5-star linebacker Dylan Moses, an Alabama pledge,
into the mix.
Although LSU and Alabama are battling it out for this handful of blue-chip prospects, I would not put too much emphasis on the outcome of the Nov. 5 game in swaying them one way or another.
After all, it’s just one game. These recruits are weighing a future at a university, an education, a fit on the offensive or defensive side of the ball and their relationships with the coaching staff — not necessary if LSU beat Alabama or vice versa.
Shoutout to the Carencro Meatheads and big money Sean. What’s the word on Cam Akers? Sam, you da dude, bruh. (@datDamLilreg)
It’s always good to hear from my Meatheads! And as always, a great question for the mail stack.
Akers, the 5-star running back from Mississippi, has quietly balanced his senior season at Clinton (Miss.) High while making visits each and every weekend. He has yet to make his way back to LSU, but expect that to happen in due time.
Quietly, LSU has been building momentum with the nation’s top uncommitted back and I believe the team is putting itself in a very strong position to land him when he finally makes a decision. At least, I expect Akers to strongly consider LSU after it made a late push for him this spring.
Here are some of the key facts to know:
- Running backs coach Jabbar Juluke has spearheaded Akers’ recruitment, luring him to Baton Rouge for the Bayou Picnic and a subsequent visit this summer. He’s gotten Akers to bring his family for those visits, which is certainly a big deal.
- Juluke was in Mississippi earlier this month to watch Akers’ high school game. Of course, Akers made the visit worth the show, putting on a clinic as he makes his push for the Mississippi Player of the Year. Those types of visits go a long way with the 5-star back.
- Akers has publicly stated that LSU’s pending coaching vacancy is not a factor in his decision. Orgeron and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher are known candidates, and Akers would welcome either one as LSU’s leading man.
- Akers named LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Ohio State and Florida State as finalists, but Alabama and Georgia both have two running backs embedded in their classes. With Ole Miss struggling and potential violations on the horizon, consider LSU, Ohio State and Florida State as the true contenders.
- LSU’s recruiting pitch: come play right away. With Leonard Fournette set to enter the NFL draft, Akers could split the workload with Derrius Guice and eventually be LSU’s workhorse running back. That’s resonated with the 5-star recruit.
LSU is putting itself in a prime position at the most important time. First, Akers needs to make his way to Baton Rouge for a visit and possibly an official. That’s a key next step in assuring it remains a finalist and being in contention to land the back this winter.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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