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 LSU’s chances in the aftermath of Ja’Marr Chase‘s postponed decision, which commits are expected to sign during the early signing period and how the Tigers’ duo of running back commitments stack up to uncommitted prospects such as Harold Joiner and James Cook.
To submit a question for the LSU mailbag, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What prompted you to change ur mind about Chase’s decision, and if he does select TCU does this affect LSU’s chances with Terrace Marshall? (@RyanMicklin61)
As Ja’Marr Chase’s decision neared, I checked in with as many sources close to the 4-star wide receiver as possible. This included sources across the New Orleans, on the LSU side and the TCU side. From what I gathered in the hours leading to his decision was that TCU was the pick and had a bigger lead than what Chase had let on.
LSU was lagging in Chase’s recruitment for a good deal of time. Former coach Les Miles envisioned Chase as a defensive back and LSU recruited Chase at that position until Ed Orgeron took over as head coach and [receivers coach] Mickey Joseph joined the staff. From there, Joseph courted Chase as a wide receiver and helped LSU move into a strong position as his decision neared.
After visiting LSU for the elite high school camp in late June, Chase named LSU and TCU as his two finalists. The Horned Frogs held a lead because they offered earlier and always recruited Chase at his desired position. While the Tigers were among his final group of his teams, TCU was secretly the team to beat all along.
Chase is now deciding when he’ll commit after the NFL Network snafu. If he decides to announce in the next week or so, as expected, then TCU is likely the choice. With that said, expect LSU to continue to court Chase and try to continue its progress with the priority target. LSU still has ground to make up, but even if he commits elsewhere, the team will not give up on one of the state’s top prospects.
Overall, there is a quiet sense of optimism on the LSU side that even if Chase commits to TCU, the Tigers can put themselves in a strong position before signing day. That remains to be seen, of course.
Chase’s choice and Justin Rogers’ decision have no bearing on what Terrace Marshall Jr. will do when he gives a commitment on Dec. 22. The 5-star wide receiver and No. 1 prospect in Louisiana will make a decision that best suits him and his family, not what his friends and 7-on-7 teammates do.
That’s for sure, and that is what Marshall has stated all along in his recruitment. He and Rogers are not a package deal, and he and Chase have never been deemed as one.
Marshall is quietly an LSU lean, but he needs to be sure of his decision. That’s why he’s going to monitor the Tigers’ new-look offense this fall and how D.J. Chark — LSU’s No. 1 wide receiver — looks in [offensive coordinator] Matt Canada’s system. From there, he’ll continue to make his visits and take his officials before finalizing his plans in December.
While Chase and Rogers are potentially teaming up in Fort Worth, selecting Texas is certainly an intriguing thought to Marshall, but he won’t let that cloud his judgment.
How many of LSU commitments do you think will sign in December? (@phil5060)
Interesting question, Phil.
A lot will ride on who LSU could add to their class between now and then. Another factor will be who is eligible at their respective high schools.
Of LSU’s 22 commitments, I’d estimate that six enroll early at LSU. Then, I still project Marshall to wind up in the Tigers’ class. The wide receiver is going to commit on Dec. 22 so that he can enroll early, and if it’s LSU, then I project seven will ultimately be on campus in January.
So, who should you be on the lookout for?
- WR Terrace Marshall Jr. (if he commits to LSU, then he will sign early, enroll early)
- CB Ar’Darius Washington
- DT Davin Cotton
- LB Micah Baskerville
- LB Damone Clark
- CB Nadab Joseph
Is LSU jumping the gun by not waiting on Harold Joiner or James Cook? (@Klutch6ene13)
It might be a few years before we can really get an answer to this question, Harold. LSU is no longer in a position to land Joiner or Cook. That’s what we found out at The Opening this past week.
That comes as a consequence of taking three running backs at the end of June and likely putting an exclamation point on that specific position in LSU’s 2018 class. LSU holds commitments from 3-star back Chris Curry and 3-star athlete Tae Provens, who’ll likely serve as a running back that can also take snaps out of the slot at receiver.
Curry is a downhill bruiser. He’s 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, but some coaches believe he, too, will be an instant impact contributor in the Tigers’ backfield. He clocked a 4.6 40 at LSU’s camp before committing on the spot. He is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball and is a violent-style runner.
Provens is the X-factor in the backfield. At 6-0, 180, the Alabama standout is the most explosive runner of the three commitments. LSU leapfrogged Auburn and Tennessee to land Provens ahead of an Aug. 8 scheduled decision. A top-50 athlete in the class, he’s the type of prospect that Canada can get ultra-creative with when he arrives on campus.
The question is how Joiner and Cook stack up to Curry and Provens, and if LSU can add a third running back to class by signing day.
At 6-3, 218, I’m not sure if Joiner winds up playing running back at college. He looks the part of a receiver or tight end, and that might be why LSU took Curry and AJ Carter (who flipped back to UCLA) when they did. While Joiner also fits the mold of a Type A downhill style runner, the questions about his height and his fear of competition did not sit well with LSU. he Tigers needed to take multiple backs in 2018 to help fill the voids that will be there once Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams head to the NFL. Joiner has made comments about not wanting to compete, which is something that Orgeron is all about. LSU was always going to take at least two backs in 2018. Clearly, Joiner had other plans.
Cook, a one-time 5-star running back and now a de-commitment from Florida State, reopened his recruitment on Monday, though he’s still favoring Georgia and the Seminoles, with a decision not coming until the Army All-American Game on Jan. 7. LSU dialed down the communication with the Miami back when it landed its three running backs in the 2018 class. At The Opening, Cook looked more of the part of the all-purpose back. He’s more like Provens than he is a Curry, in my opinion. I believe Cook’s decision not to visit LSU this summer raised a red flag that he did not have a genuine interest in the program. LSU wants recruits that want to play in Baton Rouge and Cook didn’t fit that bill.
What does the tackle board look like? (Dat_True_Gemini)
I know the question doesn’t specify offensive or defensive tackle, so I have no choice but to take a look at both position groups.
First, let’s make it clear that LSU holds a commitment from one tackle — Cameron Wire — but would like to reel in multiple prospects at the position. With 21 commitments on board, room is definitely tight. However, that’s assuming that all the current commitments stick, an unlikely scenario.
LSU is continuing to pursue a second tackle. To me, it’s down to these two recruits:
- Rafiti Ghirmai
- Badara Traore
Ghirmai, a 4-star right tackle prospect from just outside of Dallas, named LSU his leader. He has maintained that the Tigers have been out in front after making an unofficial visit for the spring, but those in Texas believe he’ll eventually wind up with the Longhorns. That is certainly a possibility, but in checking in with Ghirmai he has not wavered on LSU. He is planning a return visit to LSU this fall and will certainly make an official visit there. LSU is in a strong position because of what the school offers from an academic standpoint ahead of anything else. Texas, Florida, Alabama and UCLA are all still in play for the tackle, but the Tigers are still clinging to an edge.
Traore is preparing to make his first visit to LSU. The Tigers are certainly making a push for the junior college standout, who is intriguing because he’s more polished than some of the other tackles they’re recruiting. The 6-8, 315-pound tackle makes sense, but it’s no given he winds up in Baton Rouge. LSU will lose K.J. Malone and possibly Toby Weathersby after the 2017 season. Austin Deculus and Jakori Savage are the next men up, and I view Wire as about two years away from being ready to compete for a starting job. Traore is a candidate to help bridge that gap, but LSU needs to get him on campus first before we read too closely into the situation.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, the addition of 4-star DT Dare Rosenthal to an already deep group of defensive line commitments makes this a wait-and-see situation. At 21 commitments, a handful of things needs to happen before another tackle winds up in the class; a de-commitment or a flip would create more room.
LSU holds commitments from defensive linemen Rosenthal, Cotton, Nelson Jenkins and Ja’Quon Griffin. Of that quartet, only Jenkins and Rosenthal are fitted at tackle. Jenkins needs to add some weight to eventually fill that role and I’m not so sure that Rosenthal will stay on the defensive side of the ball. With that said, that’s where he aims to play and at 6-7, 330, is the most physically suited for the position.
LSU remains in contact with very few other defensive tackles. If there’s room, only one name really comes to mind:
- Michael Thompson
In catching up with the 4-star Missouri tackle in Oregon, LSU will wind up making Thompson’s top 10 or 11 whenever he releases that top schools list later in July. He told SEC Country that LSU was among the top schools after visiting with his mother earlier this spring. Outside LB coach Dennis Johnson is leading those efforts for LSU and Orgeron has made a strong impression on Thompson’s mother, who is a critical figure in his recruitment.
The question will be whether LSU can get Thompson back on campus this summer or fall for another visit, as well as an official. That’s part of the obstacle with an out-of-state target. Thompson remains high on the Tigers, and if more spots open up, I expect LSU to dial up the communication with the top-50 prospect. Because of Thompson’s mother and her high opinion of both LSU and Orgeron, I believe the Tigers are in a really strong position. Until those spots open up, however, it remains a long way before the Missouri tackle makes a decision closer to National Signing Day.
Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s weekly LSU mailbag right here.