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 what impact the December signing period has in January, whether LSU will replace GM Austin Thomas and why Steve Ensminger was the pick for offensive coordinator.
How has recruiting & signing day been affected with this early signing period? With 3 spots left (& if it’s Chase, Surtain, & Goodrich) how does anyone else (e.g. Washington & Beal) find out there’s not another scholarship spot? Especially if it’s a signing-day decision.
— Andy McLean (@am_clean724) January 9, 2018
The early signing period allowed LSU to fill up more than 80 percent of the 2018 recruiting class before Christmas. The prospects verbally committed had the option to sign now or don’t sign at all. In other words, choosing not to sign a National Letter of Intent during the December signing period was a rather obvious way of indicating you’re not really committed.
That resulted in 21 players signing with the Tigers between Dec. 20 and 22. Heading into the early signing period, there were 20 verbal commitments and 19 wound up putting pen to paper. Then, LSU landed a transfer from kicker Cole Tracy and nabbed a commitment from 5-star wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.
Those 21 spots are signed, sealed and delivered. That leaves room for four more prospects between now and National Signing Day. There is no wiggle room.
LSU nabbed a commitment from 4-star Baton Rouge defensive back Kelvin Joseph during the U.S. Army All-American Game last Saturday, and assuming he sticks for another month, the Tigers have room for another three prospects.
Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff will obviously recruit more than three prospects to fill those spots. There is no guaranteeing that any of the four prospects, including Joseph, will ink their letters of intent on Feb. 7 until they actually do so. That means prospects such as Ar’Darius Washington, Glenn Beal, Lawrence Keys III, Joseph Foucha and Michael Williams, among others, will continue to remain in touch with the LSU staff.
However, the staff will confirm with priority targets such as Ja’Marr Chase, Mario Goodrich III and Patrick Surtain about their intentions during official visits (on Jan. 12) and through Signing Day. If any begin leaning toward other options, expect the LSU coaches to dial up the heat on some of those secondary options.
Given the fact that LSU is limited regarding spots available after the early signing period, do you see them changing their strategy moving forward and reserving more spots for the Feb signing period? There seem to be some guys that had LSU leans that they will miss out on.
— Michael Williams (@Williamsm1980) January 9, 2018
Think about it like this, Michael: LSU filled up 80 percent of its 2018 recruiting class before Christmas Eve. That allows the staff to shift its attention to less than 10 prospects in January before National Signing Day.
In other words, assistant coaches have less on their plate with the 2018 recruiting class and allows other coaches to begin shifting their attention toward the next recruiting class. Remember that Class of 2019 prospects are preparing their travel schedule for junior days beginning this month.
Orgeron did a tremendous job securing commitments from 20 prospects in December, then signing Tracy and Marshall to get it to 21 total signees by the time the early signing period came to a close. That may wind up being the model for LSU in years to come.
Sure, there are other prospects that were LSU leans. They, too, were given the opportunity to commit and sign with LSU. They elected to wait on their decisions and hold off until February to sign. Instead, LSU filled their spots with prospects willing to sign early.
In the end, 21 signed with the Tigers and four spots were left open … four spots for four priority targets. Those recruits always had spots reserved in LSU’s 2018 class. For 2019, the same will apply. LSU will try to sign as many players as they can early and only a handful of prospects will have their spots reserved in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day.
— DonBridges (@Don_Bridges) January 9, 2018
Sources within the LSU football program have informed SEC Country that the Tigers do not intend on naming a new GM, which was the role Austin Thomas occupied for a year after Orgeron was named the head coach.
It is unlikely that a reunion between Thomas and LSU will take place. While he was certainly a valuable resource to the football and recruiting program, there was some tension between Thomas and Orgeron after he elected to depart for Tennessee. Even though Thomas opted not to take the position in Knoxville, Tenn., LSU moved on and is prepared to move forward without a GM in place.
Anyhow, expect Thomas to find work, quickly, at another university.
Who do u think takes the last 3 spots in the 2018 class?
— LSU Recruiting News (@jacoblsufan) January 9, 2018
This has become a regular question in the LSU mailbag.
For a detailed response, check out this post from earlier this month on how SEC Country expects the 25-man class to look come National Signing Day.
For the short version, here’s my picks for the defensive back-laden finish to 2018:
- Patrick Surtain Jr., 5-star CB (Plantation, Fla.)
- Mario Goodrich III, 4-star CB (Lee’s Summit, Mo.)
- Kelvin Joseph, 4-star DB (Baton Rouge, La.) *
- Ja’Marr Chase, 4-star WR (New Orleans)
*Committed to LSU on Jan. 6
Is Steve’s promotion a way to pay less for an offensive coordinator and also give mgmt time to conduct a thorough search?
— My Info (@WGARNETTE3) January 9, 2018
Not at all.
In fact, the coaching model that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva put in place for Orgeron is to pay the head coach a modest $3.5 million annually in order to pay for the best coordinators in the country.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda just received a $10 million raise, thanks to his new four-year contract extension. Last year, the decision to hire Matt Canada as offensive coordinator came with a $1.5 million annual salary.
Promoting Steve Ensminger to offensive coordinator appears to be a decision based on what Orgeron is seeking from his offense and play caller. Remember that when he was the interim offensive coordinator in 2016, Ensminger was operating with Cam Cameron’s playbook. Still, the Tigers put up noticeably improved statistics, which led to LSU hiring Orgeron as the full-time coach.
Based on conversations inside the building, Ensminger’s offensive philosophy must have grabbed Orgeron’s attention and been on par with the dominant rushing attack and improved passing game. With Jerry Sullivan expected to come on board, too, that will be another member of the coaching staff to offer some expertise to the passing game.
It’s hard to imagine that Ensminger would be named offensive coordinator for a few weeks and then expect Orgeron to change his mind. The LSU coaches must go out and recruit beginning on Friday when they host a handful of official visitors. That will be a theme throughout January until Signing Day arrives on Feb. 7.
It appears Ensminger will have a chance to install his own offense and will have the assistance of Sullivan to do so. If it doesn’t work out, then it may not mean that Orgeron won’t have a third opportunity to hire an offensive coordinator.