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.
This week’s mailbag comes after what can only be considered a triumphant weekend for the Tigers. LSU reeled in commitments by a pair of top-30 wide receivers in Texas natives Mannie Netherly and Jhamon Ausbon. LSU’s 2017 recruiting class now has reached 14 commits and is ascending in the national class rankings by the day.
Much of the attention, naturally, is on what’s next for the purple and gold. So without further ado, here we go:
Give me your prediction for the top-10 ranked classes on National Signing Day in 2017 (@LSUPETERadams)
Rankings are heavily founded upon the star ratings that sit beside each prospect. Naturally, if a team can land five 5-star prospects and another 12 4-star prospects, they’re a good bet to finish close to the top of the national team class rankings come Signing Day.
Trying to decipher which teams will finish in the top 10, however, is a bit of an unsolved puzzle as we approach July. There are 32 5-star prospects in the 247Sports composite rankings, 18 of which have not yet made a decision.
As you might suspect, the top-five teams in the 2017 class rankings are Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan and LSU, and only the Sooners lack a 5-star prospect. Ohio State, Alabama and Oklahoma each hold commitments from 10 4-star prospects, while Michigan and LSU lead the way with nine and seven 3-star commitments, respectively.
The question now is where will the remaining 18 5-star talents wind up, and how many of the 4-star prospects will follow?
In my most recent mock signing class, I project LSU to land a host of blue-chippers, including 5-star defenders Dylan Moses and Marvin Wilson, as well as 4-star safeties Todd Harris and Grant Delpit, 4-star linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson and 5-star prospects Devonta Smith and Cam Akers, all of whom are top-100 players. That doesn’t even include the team’s commitment from 4-star Jhamon Ausbon.
That would all but cement LSU’s chances of finishing with a top-10 class, putting the team on the same playing field as other elite classes that belong to Ohio State (No. 1) and Alabama (No. 2).
The other teams that will also be in the mix — Michigan, Georgia, Notre Dame and Florida State, among others — are also in contention for many of those same elite prospects.
So, I won’t make a prediction on where each college power will fall in terms of a ranking, but I can take an educated guess on which schools will comprise the top 10. The current top five of Alabama, Ohio Stae, LSU, Michigan and Oklahoma should be there. Florida State and Georgia have great chances of cracking or getting close to the top five, and Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Clemson will round out the top 10.
Will LSU get Travonte Valentine back? And if so, can he play this season? (@Derrick70292577)
This question is sure to be on a lot of LSU fans’ minds heading into fall camp. The one-time defensive tackle signee was a part of the Tigers’ 2014 signing class, but academic issues led to Valentine having to enroll at a junior college instead.
Valentine is currently on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College roster after spending 2015 at Arizona Western. Sources close to the situation indicate that there is a chance he could wind up eligible to return to Baton Rouge, La., as early as 2016.
LSU has looked into the possibility of Valentine re-joining the program, but has not yet received word from the league about it. That investigation will require a look at the defensive tackle’s academic progress since leaving LSU and what is left for him to do before fall camp.
A 3-star prospect and the No. 9 defensive tackle from the junior college ranks, Valentine would only be eligible to return to the field in 2016 for the team with which he originally signed his letter of intent — LSU. If he elected to go elsewhere, he would have to wait until the 2017 season.
The reason this topic is so relevant is because the Tigers have a desperate need for depth along the defensive line with the transition to a 3-4 scheme. Christian LaCouture has shifted to defensive end while Davon Godchaux moved inside to nose tackle. Behind Godchaux is Greg Gilmore and freshman enrollee Rashard Lawrence.
Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has been in contact with Valentine and visited the tackle in Mississippi earlier this spring. For now, Valentine’s return to LSU is up in the air until the guidelines are laid out and checked off. Consider it as good as a 50-50 proposition that he’s back in Baton Rouge, La., for 2016, though there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical.
When are the Swillings going to commit? And is it going to be LSU? (@Derrick70292577)
These are two unique and convoluted situations that are both intertwined — to a degree — and far from finished.
4-star athlete Bruce Jordan-Swilling and 3-star cornerback Tre’ Swilling are among the most courted athletes from Louisiana in this year’s class. LSU is in the thick of the race along with Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Southern California.
The Swillings are making sure each team is receiving consideration after a quiet spring and the start of a busy summer. The Swillings both visited Alabama and LSU at the start of the spring, and returned to both Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Baton Rouge, La., for camps earlier this month. They recently wrapped up a visit to Southern Cal where Tre’ added an offer from the Trojans.
There is an array of factors involved for each prospect. For Tre’, it’s important that the defensive back sees a path to the field. He isn’t shying away from competition, but doesn’t want to be one of multiple cornerback signees.
For Bruce, it remains unclear whether he’ll pursue running back or outside linebacker at the next level. Weeks ago, the New Orleans native felt that linebacker may the best move for his football career, but he has an uncanny ability in the backfield that makes it difficult to give up. Different schools are courting him at different positions, but LSU has been receptive for whichever role he wants.
There’s also the decision as to whether the brothers will attend the same university. Initially, that was the goal, though both have conceded they must do whatever is in their best interests. I tend to believe they wind up at the same college only because of their close bond, the possibilities that opens up for their parents and the way they can support one another moving forward.
With that on the table, LSU makes a strong case for both Swillings. Tre’ has a longstanding bond with defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, while both brothers have relationships with area recruiter Jabbar Juluke. Much of the Tigers’ staff is familiar with their father, former New Orleans Saints linebacker Patrick Swilling, which can’t go unnoticed.
Both prospects continue to make visits to LSU and were contemplating their future in purple and gold alongside a star-studded cast of recruits at the Bayou Picnic in May. The Tide and area recruiter Burton Burns may be making a strong push for the dynamic tandem, but LSU checks off so many boxes for both the brothers that it’s hard not to see the duo headed to Baton Rouge.
What has happened with K’Lavon Chaisson? It seems like Oklahoma is coming on heavy. Are Bradley Dale Peveto and Ed Orgeron going to miss? (@LSUPETERadams)
This was quite the head-scratcher when earlier this month Chaisson released his top 10 and dropped LSU down to the No. 3 slot.
The 4-star weak-side defensive end, who is projected to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the collegiate level, inserted Oklahoma as his top team along with in-town program Houston ahead of LSU.
Despite the list, there is still a certain level of confidence that Chaisson winds up in the purple and gold. He’s surfaced as one the top outside linebacker targets for first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, and the fact that the Tigers were the first to extend him offer continues to carry weight.
The Houston native has a strong desire to rush off the edge in a 3-4 scheme, so check that off the list in LSU’s favor. He conducted extensive research on Aranda’s system dating back to Aranda’s time at Wisconsin, and Chaisson came away wildly impressed. Then, factor in that LSU is located only a few hours away from his hometown and that he already has a former teammate on the team in safety Eric Monroe.
There are reasons to fear how much progress Oklahoma has made in recent weeks — Chaisson attended the camp and named the Sooners his leader — but Chaisson has made several visits to LSU this spring, most recently for the prospect camp and the satellite camp at his high school.
Chaisson will be back at LSU in July, where he will have a chance to compete against some of the team’s top targets within a loaded 2017 class. It may take an extraordinary visit to sway the 4-star edge-rusher back in the direction of the Tigers, but leave it to Aranda, Peveto and Orgeron to make the necessary push.
Are there any kids from the Baylor situation that are taking a closer look at LSU as a potential landing spot (@Derrick70292577)
We just spoke about one. Chaisson was originally considered a Baylor lean because his father played for the Bears. Since then, Chaisson excluded the in-state program from his top schools, which confirms what sources close to the prospect have told SEC Country — Baylor is out of the picture.
The scandal carried similar weight for other Texas prospects that were considering Baylor. 4-star safety Grant Delpit and 4-star cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. had forged strong relationships with former coach Art Briles, and his exile from the program had left both elite defensive back prospects to mull over their other options.
5-star Louisiana wide receiver Devonta Smith had intended on visiting Waco, Texas, before the incident took place. Smith included Baylor in his top 10 at the end of the spring, but was completely blindsided by the news coming out of the program.
For the most part, the Baylor scandal eliminated an in-state program that was in the mix for several of LSU’s top targets from the Lone Star State. That is not to say that the Bears were at the top of any of the aforementioned prospect’s wish lists, but represented a good landing spot should the prospects face a change of heart.
It helped solidfy LSU’s stance for a lot of those prospects, most notably Chaisson, Delpit and Vincent.
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.