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 some of the reaction from the team’s official visitors, what we expect out of the LSU offensive line in 2018 and who the Tigers will target if they whiff on their priority 2018 targets.
Does the fact that Keys and Foucha cancelled their official visits bode well for Lsu's chances of getting 3 of the 4 that did visit this weekend? Does this indicate the possibility of some silent commitments?
— Michael Williams (@Williamsm1980) January 16, 2018
First off, neither Lawrence Keys III nor Joseph Foucha canceled their official visits; they were never officially set to visit last weekend in the first place. In other words, the visit was penciled in but not confirmed. A scheduling error, if you will.
The four prospects who did make their way to Baton Rouge for official visits were 5-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., 4-star cornerback Mario Goodrich III, 4-star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and 4-star quarterback James Foster.
It has been a common theme with coach Ed Orgeron to limit the number of visitors to give various members of the coaching staff ample one-on-one time with their recruits. You will remember that in November, the staff only scheduled Terrace Marshall Jr. and Justin Watkins, in addition to Badara Traore and Damien Lewis, on campus together. That was two receivers for Mickey Joseph and two offensive linemen for Jeff Grimes, which allowed for a much more personal visit.
Chase was the lone wide receiver at LSU this weekend while defensive backs coach Corey Raymond had two priority cornerbacks. Chase is the team’s top remaining offensive target, and LSU wanted him and his family to get extra time with Joseph, new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and new senior offensive assistant Jerry Sullivan. The same goes for Surtain and Goodrich, who needed time with Raymond and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Moving forward, it is unlikely that LSU will be able to get either Keys or Foucha on campus for official visits. Keys is set to head to Notre Dame, Houston and SMU before National Signing Day on Feb. 7. Foucha will head to Auburn and Ole Miss, but he could elect to make a late visit to LSU before signing day. Mid-week official visits are options.
With their priority targets on hand for the same weekend, Orgeron & Co. had the opportunity to get a better gauge on where they stand with them. Based on the numbers coming in for the rest of the month, it’s fair to assume that LSU is in a strong position with each of those visitors.
Would LSU explore getting another qb transfer?
— Harold Woods⚜️ (@Hdillydilly) January 16, 2018
That’s certainly possible.
LSU has two young quarterbacks in sophomore Myles Brennan and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse. We had heard plenty of rumors about Justin McMillan potentially looking elsewhere, but those have been quelled since Ensminger was tabbed as the new offensive coordinator.
Additionally, Andre Sale took a walk-on spot and enrolled this month. LSU also offered a preferred walk-on spot to 3-star Riverside Academy (La.) quarterback Jordan Loving.
Let’s also not forget that the Tigers are very much in the mix with Foster, who won’t announce a decision until National Signing Day. If things go according to plan, they could potentially have the big three of Brennan, Narcisse and McMillan, plus Sale, Loving and Foster — a suddenly crowded depth chart and plenty of options for both the short and long term.
The converse of that, of course, is that McMillan transfers if Brennan or Narcisse nab the starting job; Loving opts not to accept the preferred walk-on spot; and Foster selects Texas A&M, Florida State or Alabama ahead of LSU on Feb. 7. Then, it’s suddenly a very shallow depth chart behind center heading into the 2018 season.
If the latter occurs, LSU will definitely do its homework to find some depth. Of course, if the Tigers miss on Foster in the 2018 class, the staff will look to add not one, but two, talented signal callers for 2019.
If ardarius Washington doesn’t sign with LSU, then does James Foster make it into this class?
— Deric T (@dathompson02) January 16, 2018
Ar’Darius Washington almost certainly will not ink his letter of intent with LSU. If he were going to, it would have been in December during the early signing period. TCU and Arkansas are both vying to land the talented 3-star safety from Evangel Academy (Shreveport, La.) who has been committed to LSU for 11 months.
In addition, his spot does not preclude the Tigers from signing Foster — or any other prospect for that matter. LSU has 21 early signees and room for four more signees in February. One of those spots belongs to 4-star safety Kelvin Joseph, who committed to LSU on Jan. 6.
Technically, Washington remains committed to LSU, but a divorce seems imminent. However, he may elect to wait until National Signing Day to make his college destination official.
If what was said is true about the upcoming offensive scheme, think our line will be able to give Brennan/Narcisse the time necessary to make good throws?
— Austin Greenway (@austin_greenway) January 16, 2018
The LSU offensive line should be very good this fall.
With junior Garrett Brumfield announcing his intent to return on Monday night, three of the starters from a season ago are going to be back for 2018. Brumfield should lock up the left guard spot with sophomore Ed Ingram on the right side and Saahdiq Charles manning one of the tackle spots. Remember that Charles started half the season at left tackle in place of an injured K.J. Malone. He began the year splitting time with Ingram at right guard.
Then, Orgeron and Grimes worked hard to bring in the nation’s top junior college offensive tackle. Traore should compete with the likes of Jakori Savage and Austin Deculus for the other tackle job. Given his experience, Traore is a likely option to grab hold of a starting job.
With Will Clapp off to the NFL, Lloyd Cushenberry III should be deemed the favorite to take over at center. Freshman Cole Smith is already enrolled and will be a part of spring workouts and practice, but the 6-foot-4, 275-pound 2018 signee appears to be a ways away from starting in the SEC.
Because two starting guards and a tackle are returning, and the nation’s best junior college tackle will be ready by the spring, LSU’s line should be in good shape for whichever scheme Ensminger elects to run and whoever is behind center calling the shots.
Hey Sam, what has been the feedback from the recruits on Lsu new OC Esminger and Sullivan?
— philip rose (@phil5060) January 16, 2018
Really positive, Philip.
Foster, LSU’s top remaining option at quarterback, raved about his time breaking down film with Ensminger. The 4-star quarterback mentioned terms such as RPOs, no-huddle and up-tempo quite often when discussing his conversations with LSU’s new offensive coordinator, and based on talks with the coaches and the current players, he believes change is coming in Baton Rouge. He was sold on Ensminger rather quickly.
Chase, who is obviously the top offensive target on LSU’s 2018 board, spoke very highly of both Ensminger and Sullivan. Why is that so significant? Chase always has been skeptical about morphing into a pass-heavy system given the team’s history of being a run-first program, but after his official visit, expressed a ton of confidence that Ensminger was preparing for change.
Ensminger mentioned a lot of the same when he was introduced as the Tigers’ play caller last week. Based on personnel alone, his argument holds up. LSU loses its top two rushers from a year ago in Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. In their place is a lot of inexperienced, unproven talent.
Meanwhile, LSU has a talented trio of junior wide receivers in Stephen Sullivan, Drake Davis and Dee Anderson to go along with 5-star freshman Terrace Marshall Jr. and Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles. If the team can secure a commitment from Chase in three weeks, that should make a pass-heavy system more attractive.
New offensive assistant coach Jerry Sullivan can only help with this group. His NFL résumé and history of working with Pro Bowl wide receivers is going to be attractive when recruiting functions take place. It already grabbed Chase’s attention, turning him into a believer rather quickly. LSU has a history of producing NFL talent, especially at wide receiver, despite its notorious rushing offenses. By adding NFL personnel to the coaching staff, it gives a strong hint that change is on the horizon and LSU can better develop and utilize wide receivers.
Do think LSU would be able to land Jamar chase and James Foster
— KJ Williams. (@WilliamsKjj) January 16, 2018
I’m more confident that LSU will land Chase than I am with Foster. The Tigers have emerged as the 4-star receiver’s leader and I’m more confident now than at any juncture in the last year that he’ll throw on a purple cap when he announces his decision in three weeks.
As for Foster, I believe LSU put itself squarely into the lead after this official visit. However, with three crucial visits ahead for the Alabama 4-star quarterback, I get the sense that he is still far away from finalizing a plan. The Crimson Tide offered a quarterback on Tuesday evening, and a crowded depth chart with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa can certainly dissuade a quarterback from jumping on board.
Then, there’s Florida State. Foster is a big fan of what Jimbo Fisher accomplished there for years, especially with black quarterbacks. Foster made that a point when SEC Country caught up with him in November, and the Seminoles’ new staff has continued to put their foot on the gas with Foster.
Speaking of Fisher, Texas A&M made an offer to Foster right after Fisher accepted the job. Fisher has made a good impression early on with Foster and has a chance to move ahead with Foster when the quarterback takes his official visit later this month.
For now, I have Crystal Ball picks in for LSU for both Chase and Foster. I’m more certain that Chase will select the Tigers at the moment, but my confidence in Foster following suit is rising at the moment.
Assuming Chase and Surtain get in but Foster and Goodrich go elsewhere, who would be the fallback for LSU?
— Ed Tarver (@et52) January 16, 2018
Great question, Ed.
With Chase, Surtain and Joseph likely to fall into LSU’s 2018 class, it becomes a question of whether the Tigers take the quarterback or the intriguing defensive back.
I know that Orgeron is a big fan of Foster and his playing style, and there’s a much more glaring need behind center than in the secondary. Ensminger made it clear already that Foster is his guy.
Raymond offered Goodrich late as LSU looks to squeeze a third defensive back into the group. Joseph is committed, and we expect Surtain to follow suit on National Signing Day. Goodrich would be the third in the group, an outside corner who can contribute on special teams.
Assuming Chase, Surtain and Joseph are LSU-bound, then I think Foster is the final piece of the puzzle. If the quarterback suffers a change of heart, then it will be Goodrich for that 25th spot in the class. If not, LSU will host 3-star tight end Glenn Beal right before signing day. It could also revisit things with 3-star athlete Michael Williams or Ar’Darius Washington, who, remember, remains verbally committed to the Tigers.