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 email 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.
Although we’re still in the first month of the college football season, we’re about to leap into the fourth quarter of the recruiting cycle.
So, what’s next? Let’s take a look:
Why doesn’t LSU get Fournette to the outside more? It’s tiresome watching him bang up the middle and off-tackle. (@ChipChipprice51)
Chip, there’s nothing I love more than a good X’s and O’s question. This one certainly fits the bill, but I’m not sure if I can accurately get inside the coaching staff’s mind to get its answer.
Let me try to answer you from what I saw from Fournette against Wisconsin. The play calls are pretty basic, but they give Fournette the option to follow his blockers or try to beat the defense to the edge. Most of the time, it’s on the running back to make the split-second decision. There are opportunities to run around the edge, but for the most part, Fournette trusts his patience and instincts to try and make plays where the holes are.
Check out the highlight below:
- Pitch left: Fournette is following his line and fullback J.D. Moore to the hole. It could’ve been bounced outside, but he tried to cut back.
- Option left: Here’s a designed option run to the outside. Brandon Harris pitched it to Fournette around the edge, where Wisconsin was waiting.
- Off-tackle: Here’s the off-tackle handoff you mentioned. Fournette took it and bounced it to the outside.
- Off-tackle: Same play, but to the right. This time, he kept it inside and converted a first down.
- Dive: This is what’s frustrating you, but it’s to attack the interior of the Badgers D. Just a basic handoff up the middle.
- Pitch right: Same deal as the first run of the game. Again, Fournette keeps it inside, but had the option to bounce it out.
- Dive: Same strategy as earlier. Attacking Wisconsin in the middle.
- Off-tackle: This is what will get you. Fournette took the off-tackle handoff and was about to race to the edge, but was tripped up before he got out of the backfield. This is the type of play he’d usually turn into a big gain.
- Pitch right: The pitch also can be taken outside, but Fournette is so good at following his blockers. He tried to follow Will Clapp through the right side of the line to see if a lane developed.
- Dive: This is on Fournette. Moore was heading toward the edge, but Fournette redirected back inside.
- Shotgun sweep: Fournette already is heading to the outside on this play, but again, as he races to the edge he’s brought down by a defender in the backfield.
- Shotgun dive: Run up the middle with a decent gain.
- Dive: Fournette carries up the gut for a good gain. Designed run that way.
- Dive: Same thing, except this time he bounces it to the outside. That decision resulted in a 33-yard pickup.
- Dive: Fournette stays between the tackles for another good gain.
- Off-tackle: Eh … Wisconsin was waiting on it.
- Dive: Again, another positive run.
- Off-tackle: Again, Fournette trusts his vision. Instead of racing to the sideline, he stays inside to get much-needed yards.
- Dive: This is the reason why Fournette opted to stay in those interior lanes all game. This time, he broke through and was able to get past a host of defenders for another major gain. It’s 29 yards because he followed all of his blockers and exhibited elite patience.
- Off-tackle: Small gain up the gut.
- Dive: Another big gain from running inside.
Is LSU recruiting LBs who can play inside and outside, or just outside in this cycle? (@IAMPRIVLEGEJ)
This is an excellent question, but the answer is going to be a bit convoluted.
LSU holds one linebacker commit in its 2017 class, Patrick Queen, who is destined to be a “rover” linebacker next fall. That means he’ll play a bit of a linebacker/safety hybrid role, which makes sense for Dave Aranda’s “field linebacker.” The F-linebacker is responsible for a lot of pass coverage and stopping the run and some blitzing.
Expect the Tigers to bring in three or four linebackers in this class. Here are some of the targets remaining on the board:
- 5-star Florida OLB Dylan Moses
- 4-star Louisiana OLB Christopher Allen
- 4-star Texas OLB/WDE K’Lavon Chaisson
- 4-star Texas OLB Levi Jones
- 4-star Alabama ILB Will Ignont
That’s who is left, and again, I’m confident at least three of these five wind up signing their letters of intent with LSU by Feb. 1.
The majority are listed as outside linebackers, but they likely are destined for hybrid roles with the team.
Moses and Allen are being courted to play inside on early downs, then shift to the outside for passing situations. Each has the skill set to be a dynamic fit in that spot — like a Kendell Beckwith on first and second downs, then Arden Key depending on down and distance.
Chaisson worked out with the defensive linemen during LSU’s July prospect camp, but he’s inclined to be a “Buck” linebacker like Key at LSU. The same goes for Jones, who’s a superior edge rusher capable of beating tackles with speed and quickness off the snap.
Ignont is the lone true inside linebacker remaining on the wish list. He would follow Beckwith or Duke Riley on the inside and could join Devin White as one of LSU’s interior presences. It’s not necessarily a “must-fill” position, though, because Moses, Allen and Queen all could see action at inside linebacker while assuming other responsibilities all over the defense.
What recruits will be at the game this weekend? (@JonDale22)
This is some serious information. The official visitors list is not yet finalized, but I’ll give you a preview of some marquee names that will be on hand and some that should make the trip.
LSU quarterback commit Myles Brennan told SEC Country he plans to attend every home game this fall. He took in the Tigers’ home opener last week against Jacksonville State, and barring an unforeseen change in plans I’d expect him to return for the Mississippi State game.
Mannie Netherly will make his official visit to LSU this weekend. The 4-star wide receiver is as solid a commit as there is in the Tigers 2017 class. The Texan most recently visited for the July prospect camp. He’ll return this weekend for the SEC opener along with his family.
LSU offensive line commit Saahdiq Charles is expected to attend as well. The 3-star Mississippi standout chose LSU over Mississippi State in May and recently took in the Bulldogs’ opening game. Considering his solid stance with the Tigers and prior interest in Mississippi State, it makes sense he’ll be on hand.
Fullback commit Tory Carter also is expected to be on the sideline. Carter has plans to watch LSU face Mississippi State and Alabama this fall but won’t take his official visit until after his senior season. Carter could be bringing a few of his Lee County (Ga.) High School teammates along — perhaps 2017 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, 2017 inside linebacker Akileis Leroy and 2018 safety Otis Reese.
Unconfirmed visitors who might be on hand include top wide receiver target Racey McMath, who is deciding between LSU and Mississippi State. The New Orleans standout might want to watch this game closely, and what’s closer than the sideline? I suspect 2018 targets Devonta Jason and Corione Harris might make the trip. The two former LSU commits remain interested in the Tigers as well as Mississippi State and have yet to make visits anywhere but Baton Rouge since reopening their recruitment.
What’s going on with Devin White? He was all the buzz in the spring. (@mikedatiger)
White generated a ton of buzz and headlines from spring practices and into the early portion of fall camp. When Beckwith went down with an injury, White was thrust into a starting role and flourished right away. He also was one of a handful of select true freshmen to get practice time with the veterans at the start of fall camp.
However, White has played sparingly since the season kicked off. Though he’s momentarily appeared in both games he has yet to record a tackle.
Coach Les Miles said he expected White to be a part of LSU’s linebacker shuffle, but that hasn’t occurred. Beckwith has been stellar thus far. He’s the team’s leading tackler (17), while fellow inside backer Riley is third on the team (12).
LSU’s opener against Wisconsin was close, which may not have allowed much wiggle room for White to work into the rotation. However, many of the second-stringers were on the field into the fourth quarter last Saturday against Jacksonville State, and junior Donnie Alexander and White took over in the middle. Alexander looked excellent, showing incredible burst at the position, and in a way stole the show.
Perhaps White was impressive in practice, but that has not translated onto the field. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. All the Tigers coaches praised the true freshman linebacker, which means his time is coming … eventually.
What’s up with Marvin Wilson? (@serrient_Bell)
This has become a regular question and for good reason.
Wilson is one of the top remaining LSU targets in this cycle, most particularly along the defensive line.
The 5-star Texan is beginning to make his official visits. Up this weekend is No. 14 Oklahoma’s tilt against No. 3 Ohio State. The Sooners are one of the major powers threatening to land Wilson, along with Florida State, Texas and LSU.
Oklahoma is a serious contender. Wilson camped there in June and has since shown a lot of interest in the program. He’s shied away from visiting LSU this summer, but the Tigers did come to him during the satellite camp at Episcopal High School.
Still, all signs remain the same regarding Wilson. He’s very likely to officially visit LSU at some point this fall, and it would not be surprising if it were for the Alabama game on Nov. 5. Wilson remains a huge fan of defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and has previously told SEC Country he expects LSU to be a factor until he makes his decision.
Aside from visits, Wilson has held everything close to the vest and kept our minds racing. But in conversations with SEC Country, Wilson always has held LSU in high regard because of Orgeron and Miles. He has a friendship with 4-star LSU defensive tackle commit Tyler Shelvin and plans to take an official visit to Baton Rouge in due time.
Shout out to the Carencro Meatheads and coach Joey. Are we losing ground with Wilson, and if so, what other DT we might get on? You the man. (@datDamnLilreg)
Well, first off, I appreciate the compliments and I, too, would like to give a shout out to the Meatheads of ‘Cro.
Aside from Wilson, there’s a limited number of defensive tackles for whom LSU would reserve a spot. Four-star Louisiana defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis would emerge as the most probable candidate since he could slide in at either tackle or end, depending on the need. The same goes for current LSU commit Neil Farrell.
Wilson is a priority defensive tackle target and, like Shelvin, is a true defensive tackle suited for the 3-4 front, which typically relies on bigger bodies at tackle who command double teams. LSU’s current class features a handful of tweeners that potentially could gain weight and play tackle or fill in as ends.
So if the Tigers swing and miss on Wilson, Farrell (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) may be inclined to put on weight and slide into a true 3-4 tackle role along with Shelvin. Mathis — 6-foot-4 and 287 pounds, with a frame capable of packing on more weight — could be the next top option.
In other words, it’s a short list after Wilson.
Assuming each of the following 2017 LSU prospects wanted to commit to LSU, who would LSU keep? Who would LSU turn away? In the final analysis, why on each prospect or category? (@cfmalloy)
- Dylan Moses: This is an easy one. LSU would take Moses without thinking twice. He’s the top linebacker target and would be an instant three-down contributor on the Tigers’ defense.
- Marvin Wilson: The same goes for Wilson. Even though LSU holds four defensive line commitments, Wilson is the top tackle in the nation. He would compete for a starting spot in the middle of the 3-4 defense as a true freshman. There’s stiff competition from Texas, Florida State and Oklahoma right now.
Cam Akers: LSU would love to add another running back in this class, but the odds aren’t in its favor. Akers basically is the lone target remaining on the wish list, but it will be a battle with Ole Miss, Florida State and Ohio State. An official visit would go a long way.
- Christopher Allen: LSU would take Allen right away. It’s similar to the Moses situation because the coaches view Allen as a versatile three-down player.
- K’Lavon Chaisson: The same goes for Chaisson. Notice the theme here? LSU needs front-seven players to pad its depth up front in the 3-4 scheme. Chaisson is viewed as a “Buck,” the same role that Arden Key is in. However, he also worked out with the defensive linemen at the July camp.
- Todd Harris: LSU wants to take three safeties. However, it might take time before they accept another defensive back commitment. Harris is the only uncommitted safety LSU wants to take, but it may be a matter of time before he secures a spot. Don’t count out Alabama or Ole Miss, though.
- Isaiah Wilson, Alex Leatherwood, Walker Little, Trey Smith, Jedrick Wills: With four offensive line commits, I don’t expect a fifth to come before National Signing Day. The name that stands out here is Leatherwood because he had earlier interest in LSU. That’s tapered off a bit, and Florida and Texas are pushing to flip the Alabama pledge. Wilson should officially visit LSU. Four-star Louisiana tackle Adrian Ealy might, too. If either Wilson or Ealy were to try and commit, the Tigers would have to sever ties with a current line commit.
- Devonta Smith, Jeremiah Holloman, Racey McMath: LSU would not turn away a fourth wide receiver. Smith is Dameyune Craig’s No. 1 priority, but Craig became infatuated with Holloman during the June camp and has been courting McMath much of the summer and fall. Smith may say LSU is a finalist, but this has been Alabama’s race to lose for some time. Holloman is an interesting case, but I can’t believe he’ll leave Georgia. If so, Tennessee and Miami have been on him harder than LSU. McMath is the one I’d expect to make their way into this LSU class. He’s underrated but has caught the attention of the staff.
- Will Ignont, Jacob Phillips, Levi Jones, Anthony Hines, Baron Browning, Justin Foster, Jordan Anthony, VanDarius Cowan, Drew Singleton: Of these linebackers, Ignont and Jones are the two to watch. Ignont will officially visit on Nov. 5 and commit soon after. Jones is seemingly down to Texas and LSU, and it should be a two-team race to signing day to land the outside backer. Cowan, who is very solid with the Tide, will officially visit LSU for kicks and giggles. I believe LSU would have taken commitments from Browning or Cowan, among others, but has since made other arrangements. At this stage, barring an unprecedented flip, I think LSU would resist taking pledges from Ignont or Jones unless it lost steam with top linebacker targets Moses, Allen or Chaisson. They are the first priority; this is the second tier.
- Isaiah Buggs: Easy. Take him. Buggs is the top defensive end target for the 3-4 defense. In fact, he’s one of — if not the — best fits for a 5-technique in the country. LSU has been on his tail since Day 1. I believe the Tigers are moving ahead with confidence that Buggs will be in their class.
- Phidarian Mathis: A little more tricky, but LSU may elect to hold off on taking Mathis’ commitment until a verdict is in on Buggs or Wilson, or if the team loses steam with one of its four current defensive line commits. Florida State is pushing Neil Farrell, and Alabama could do the same with Justin Thomas. Mathis might be a superior prospect, but six is probably the limit for defensive linemen in this class.
- Aubrey Solomon: No LSU offer yet, despite teammate and commit Tory Carter’s hopes. It’s a bit strange, but it may be too late in the process to extend an offer to the 4-star defensive lineman. It’s worth monitoring, though, if he visits with Carter.
- Jeffrey Okudah: This would be a twist, but Okudah opted not to attend LSU’s camp in July. LSU took Kary Vincent Jr.’s pledge as one of two cornerbacks in this class, along with 3-star athlete Jontre Kirklin. LSU does not want a haul of corners after taking three a year ago. Unless Okudah wanted to play safety, I can’t see this happening. If it did, I’d imagine some shifting around in this class and possibly dropping a current commit.
- Markaviest Bryant, Jarez Parks, Ryan Johnson, LaBryan Ray: The Big Cat, Bryant, was at LSU’s July prospect camp. Johnson has been mentioned in conjunction with LSU. I think the Tigers would accept Bryant’s commitment because of the team’s need up front, especially if it lost ground with some of its top targets or commits, but that would be it. LSU’s crop of defensive linemen and edge rushers will be superior once the class is filled out.
- Kenney Britt, Monty Rice, Thomas Johnston, Gary Johnson, Breon Dixon, Tyler Taylor, Akileis Leroy, Josh Clarke: None. LSU is content as is. There has been little traction between the team and Britt, Rice, Johnston, Johnson, Dixon or Taylor. It never extended an offer to Clarke after he failed to report to either prospect camp. Leroy visited in July, but not much transpired. LSU is in better shape at this stage with too many other linebacker prospects on its radar.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.