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 pursuit of quarterbacks in the 2018 class, which one of the team’s targets and current commits would be considered “underrated” and discuss all things Survivor in light of Wednesday night’s season finale.
To submit a question for Spiegelman, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you were to predict a QB commitment for LSU in 2018, who would it be and why? (@phil5060)
Phil, this is going to get messy.
We’re one week away from 4-star Louisiana quarterback Justin Rogers’ college announcement. It’s down to LSU, TCU and North Carolina, with the Horned Frogs as the favorite to land the Under Armour All-American.
If and when that comes to fruition, LSU would have missed out on several of its top quarterback targets in 2018. Take a look:
Justin Rogers, 4-star QB (Bossier City, La.)… Committed to TCU Jarren Williams, 3-star QB (Lawrenceville, Ga.)… Committed to Kentucky Artur Sitkowski, 4-star QB (Bradenton, Fla.)… Committed to Miami (Fla.)
LSU is making a concerted effort to gain ground with Rogers, so let’s not rule out the Tigers just yet. Rogers is weighing a new-look offense and an in-state push against the longstanding relationship with the TCU coaching staff, most notably offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who like LSU, visited Parkway (La.) High School a handful of times this spring.
If Rogers lands with the Horned Frogs, expect LSU to go down three paths:
- Continue its pursuit of 5-star Penn State QB commit Justin Fields
- Evaluate the quarterbacks that attend the LSU elite prospect camp in June
- Use the spot in the recruiting class on another position of need
Flipping Fields will not be an easy task, and at this time, it appears to be an uphill climb. LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada is making a strong push for Field, as are Georgia and Florida. Fields has maintained that he remains solid despite increased attention from a bevy of other programs. In fact, Fields insisted that there would have to be a drastic shakeup with the Penn State coaching or — in his words — something “crazy” to have him reconsider his pledge. Florida ascended into the No. 2 role for Fields, but even that does not seem all too likely.
It remains unclear which 2018 quarterbacks will camp at LSU in June, but Canada could evaluate those in attendance to determine whether they’re worthy of a scholarship offer. Last year, 3-star in-state quarterback Jordan Loving impressed former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron during the June camp. Loving is the No. 2 quarterback in the state behind Rogers, but it’s unclear if he’ll return to Baton Rouge to participate in camp in 2017.
If not Loving, then will another quarterback catch Canada’s eye? It doesn’t seem likely, but it does give the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate quarterback options in the 2018 class and beyond.
What is becoming a more probable scenario is that LSU doesn’t take a quarterback in 2018. Once Rogers lands elsewhere, the onus is on the Tigers staff to flip a quarterback. LSU has not had much luck doing that over the years. In fact, it’s been quite the contrary. Based on how this staff has recruited, it’s likely that LSU could take another prospect at a position of need, and then try to reel in two quarterbacks in 2019 as it did with Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan in 2017. By not taking a quarterback this cycle, the depth chart will be fine heading into next spring’s competition. It also makes it a more attractive situation for Grant Gunnell, the Tigers’ top target in 2019. If that’s the case, expect LSU to add a wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive lineman, linebacker or defensive back to its 2018 haul.
What’s the latest on James Cook? (@tankthompson02)
There isn’t much to report on the Cook front, Tank.
Earlier this spring, SEC Country detailed how Ed Orgeron and running backs coach Tommie Robinson were working hard to flip Cook, 4-star Florida State commit. Those efforts continue, but a visit remains a critical part of the equation.
Cook was supposed to attend the Tigers spring game last month but was unable to make the trek from Miami. However, Cook is expected to make his way to Baton Rouge for his inaugural visit this summer, which would bolster LSU’s chances of being the pick for Cook when he makes his final decision at the U.S. Army All-American Game.
LSU wants at least two running backs in its 2018 class to bolster the depth chart after Darrel Williams graduates and Derrius Guice declares for the NFL draft.
An interesting recruiting development on May 22 could be to LSU’s benefit. Florida State holds commitments from two tailbacks in the 2018 class: Cook and 3-star Charles Strong. The ‘Noles also added a commitment from 3-star all-purpose back Jashaun Corbin, who at one point was committed to Tennessee.
That pushes Florida State’s total number of running back pledges to three, but there is a caveat. Corbin was vocal that he is being taken as an “athlete” in the 2018 class, meaning that he might not become part of an already crowded backfield in Tallahassee, Fla.
It’s unclear exactly where Corbin will fit into Florida State’s plans, but if it is at running back, it could impact Cook’s plans. Remember, in addition to LSU, Alabama and Georgia are making strong pushes to flip Cook.
While Florida State holds commitments from three running backs, LSU took one tailback in 2017 — Clyde Edwards-Helaire — and currently does not hold a commitment from a back in 2018. Sandwich that with the impending departures of Guice and Williams, and LSU’s backfield is a seemingly very attractive selling point for prospective recruits.
If and when Cook visits LSU, it will bolster the Tigers’ chances of pulling off a flip. However, with no visits to this point, I’d caution that it remains premature to suggest LSU is in an advantageous position … at least yet.
Who would you say is the most underrated prospect that LSU is going after? (@chris_baudean)
Great question, Chris.
I’m battling whether to talk about one of LSU’s 16 current commits or the remaining targets on their board. So yeah, I delved into both.
Chris Curry, 3-star RB (Lehigh Acres, Fla.)
Curry visited LSU this spring for junior day and is sitting somewhere close to the top of the team’s running back board. Only a 3-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound tailback has a violent running style that is reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch. Like most of the running backs that Canada is recruiting, Curry plays out of the shotgun. That does not prevent him from gaining a full head of steam by the time he reaches the line of scrimmage. I don’t think he will necessarily outrun anybody on the field, but despite a big frame he has great speed to get around the edge, which is evident in his video.
Jaray Jenkins, 3-star WR (Jena, La.) *LSU commit
Jenkins was the first receiver embedded in LSU’s 2018 class and will likely go down as the most unheralded of the group. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Jenkins flew under the radar because he is from northern Louisiana and has not been at many camps. Jenkins is an absolute playmaker once the ball is in his hands. He scored double-digit touchdowns as a sophomore in 2016, and many of them came on short routes as he forced defenders to miss in order to stretch the field. He can run the ball, catch it downfield and return kicks. He has elite speed to easily create separation with defensive backs or make defenders miss in the open field.
Glenn Beal, 3-star TE (New Orleans)
Beal is a 3-star and a 4-star prospect depending on the ranking service, but the state’s top tight end has taken his game to new heights this spring. I had the opportunity to watch him practice earlier this month and he was dominant in the running and passing game for John Curtis High. Beal runs polished routes and uses his body to his advantage in routes over the middle. He has strong hands and rarely drops a pass. As a blocker, I think he could develop into a tackle, if that was a path he wanted to go down. At 6-foot-5 and 256 pounds, he is slimmer than he was as a junior. Beal sharpened a ton of dimensions to his game over the past year.
Jamarcus Chatman, 3-star DL (Rome, Ga.) *LSU commit
One of the three Rome High School recruits to fall to LSU at the spring game this year, Chatman is the most underrated of the bunch. He is listed as a defensive tackle, but his future is as a 5-technique in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 front. Chatman has great strength to bully offensive linemen. That helps in the pass rush, but also in run defense. Chatman has great burst off the snap and good strength, but also room to grow. He must continue to develop in the weight room to be a defensive end at LSU.
James Miller, 3-star LB (Seffner, Fla.)
Miller wrapped up his first season as an inside linebacker after transitioning from defensive end, and the move was seamless. Now 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Miller had 80-plus tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 4 sacks, which comes as no surprise if you watch the video. His hits are massive pops at the point of attack. He had great speed going sideline to sideline, and his quick first step helps Miller to get into the backfield rather easily. Miller is almost unblockable because of how hard he runs, and not surprisingly, he finds himself near the ball after every play.
Damone Clark, 3-star LB (Baton Rouge, La.) *LSU commit
Clark is the state’s top linebacker prospect in 2018, but that alone does not do the Southern Lab High product justice. Clark plays the “CAT” position in high school, meaning he sees time at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and strong safety, and can rush the passer off the edge. He also sees snaps at tight end. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Clark has elite speed and instincts as a defender. His versatility is uncanny and a result of his unique athleticism. He can be an asset in run defense, but he is tremendous in coverage, too. He’s an ideal fit as an F-linebacker for Aranda, much like Patrick Queen will be this fall.
What’s our chances for Marshall? (@lsuboi91)
If you haven’t read this yet, I implore you to.
Terrace Marshall Jr., the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver and Louisiana’s top overall prospect in 2018, is scheduled to release a final six on his birthday, June 9. You can rest easy; LSU is assured a spot.
The issue for Marshall and a bevy of other elite offensive prospects is that there is lingering doubt about what the Tigers offense will look like this fall under first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Marshall took in a handful of spring practices and scrimmages and even attended the LSU spring game last month, but what he saw in practice and the limited plays he saw during the spring game haven’t cut it … yet. In fact, Marshall said he’s paying close attention to a certain No. 7 — D.J. Chark — to see whether LSU’s No. 1 receiver has a productive senior season.
Why? If Chark can post big numbers in Canada’s system, that bodes well for Marshall’s chances of doing the same if and when he lands in Baton Rouge.
Other schools competing for Marshall’s top six include TCU, Texas A&M, Miami (Fla.), Texas and Oregon. That’s my educated guess. All those schools have potent passing attacks, and TCU is likely going to land a commitment from Marshall’s best friend and quarterback, Justin Rogers, at this time next week. That will make the Horned Frogs a program to watch.
If the rumblings about Canada’s offense are true and it lives up to the hype, I believe LSU will win out in the Terrace Marshall Sweepstakes. I believe Marshall wants to play for the Tigers but isn’t going to commit to another stagnant offense. If sparks can fly and he sees that 5-star receivers can have success in the system, it should be LSU’s race to lose.
Who wins ‘Survivor’ and what are your thoughts on the season as a whole? (@Kconnorriley)
This is the night, Connor, and with that, there is plenty to consider.
First and foremost, who wins? To me, there are two frontrunners here, and the producers have been anything but subtle when it comes to promoting their storylines in recent weeks.
There’s Sarah, who seemingly episode by episode is detailing her strategy in the most mundane way possible. However, she has been able to avoid elimination and preclude herself from the overarching theme of the season: creating a majority alliance and voting one of her own out. Ever since the Brad-Sierra majority alliance was formed, Sarah has been on the other side. That changed when she joined hands with Zeke and Cirie and Andrea, who I believe were capable of going to the winner’s circle this season. Sarah was a key cog in eliminating Ozzy, far and away the best threat in physical contests, and ousting Debby. She also stole the “steal the vote” advantage from right beneath Michaela and manipulated Sierra into willing her the legacy advantage. Sarah’s stolen vote wound up signaling the end of Michaela in last week’s episode, making for an interesting final six heading into tonight.
On the other hand, there’s Brad. As stated earlier, for the majority of the show Brad and Sierra comprised the majority alliance which dominated tribal council. He’s also the most physically threatening contestant left in the game. Brad played a significant role is ousting Caleb, another physical threat, despite Tai’s longstanding relationship with him. Throughout the show, he has been able to form strong, yet short-lived alliances with a host of other contestants such as Debbie and Zeke, while also keeping close with Troyzan and Tai throughout. Despite the majority alliance flipping against Brad’s favor, he finds himself in the final six with both Troyzan and Tai, and a previous good working relationship with Cirie.
To me, both Sarah or Brad are deserving of the nod, but I lean toward Brad because he’s the best physical threat left in the competition and his relationship with Tai — who still has a handful of idols — remains intact. Conversely, Sarah just stole Tai’s vote at tribal council and put herself in a precarious position with her closest confidant, Cirie. Brad is in a position to win immunity challenges and will his way to the final three rather easily, while a ton of question marks surround Sarah. Crazy how the majority alliance has shifted back and forth between both sides, yet Brad has persevered.
Onto my thoughts on the season …
I can understand why this season was unimpressive to a ton of viewers. A lot of the favorites including Tony, Caleb, Malcolm and Sandra were voted out early. I think we’re all very disappointed we didn’t see more of Tony after the hilarious start the show got off to. The same goes for Caleb and Malcolm, two fan favorites, as well as Sandra, who was manipulating all of the other contestants for most of the early part of the season.
With that being said, in a season entitled Game Changers, it’s not inconceivable to think that the underrated contestants would work together to eliminate the Hall of Famers. Sure, I wish Zeke or Ozzy or Tony were still around, but I’m also impressed that Brad has made it and that Sarah has been such a key cog throughout.
The overarching theme of the show this season has been forming a majority alliance, then picking off members on your side. It’s almost mind-boggling to think that after working to add contestants to your alliance, you’d move so quickly to vote them out. That’s why Brad has lasted this far and why players such as Zeke or Andrea came up short.
It’s been frustrating to see the favorites go down early or miss the final six, but I’ve still enjoyed the highlights. The Zeke-Varner fallout was a unique moment in show history. Brad, Malcolm, Caleb and Ozzy formed a really impressive group of physical contestants. Tony’s paranoia and hideout in the sand to listen to Sandra’s conversation with Troyzan was pure gold. While the season endured disappointment, it was still enjoyable, and best yet — I think there’s still some twists and turns left leading into tonight’s finale.
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