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 readers.
This week’s edition comes after a jam-packed start to the week that included the Tigers landing 5-star safety JaCoby Stevens and the injury bug at fall camp. There is less than a month until kickoff against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. So what’s next? Let’s take a look:
With the injury to Christian LaCouture, do you see Travonte Valentine playing the nose? What about Davon Godchaux? (@Johsc24)
LSU suffered a devastating blow to its defensive front on Monday, the first day of full-squad practices. Senior defensive lineman Christian LaCouture went down with a knee injury. An ACL injury would put his season in jeopardy.
LaCouture was expected to be LSU’s starting defensive end in the 3-4 front this season. Davon Godchaux was slated to be the nose tackle. Lewis Neal was expected to be the other starting end. LaCouture previously played at defensive tackle. He shifted outside in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s newly implemented scheme this spring. LaCouture thrived in his new spot, which let Godchaux move to the interior.
If LaCouture’s season is over, former 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is an ideal fit as a 3-4 nose. If Valentine can get accustomed to Aranda’s system, Godchaux can shift to defensive end. That would leave a three-man front of Neal, Valentine and Godchaux in the base 3-4 defense.
Valentine has spent the past year at two junior colleges. He was the top-rated defensive lineman in junior college. In 2014, Valentine was the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country. At 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds, he’s heavier than Godchaux.
If Valentine is unable to procure a starting job, Aranda may elect to keep Neal at end and Godchaux at the nose. Greg Gilmore or Frank Herron could earn the other starting spot.
Gilmore is a fit at the nose, and Herron is best suited for end. LSU could push either Gilmore or Herron into the middle and shift Godchaux outside to end. If Godchaux stays put, LSU can use a combination of the aforementioned linemen at end.
Valentine is a likely candidate to see added snaps. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron also might utilize freshmen Ed Alexander and Rashard Lawrence.
Who do you think will be the next out-of-state prospect to commit? (@datDamnLilreg)
With 19 known commitments in the 2017 class, we’re quickly down to fewer spots. Here is my Mock 3.0 I released earlier this summer, and here are my class size projections from last week’s mailbag. I’m projecting LSU to have a 27-man class in February.
With two quarterbacks, four offensive linemen, three wide receivers and two safeties in the class, here are the remaining targets at key positions:
- RB (1)
- TE (1)
- DL (2)
- LB (4)
- S (1)
That’s a blueprint, but LSU would love to add another downhill runner and a tight end. Much of the remaining targets will be on defense, including adding depth in the front seven.
Here are some of the targets at those spots:
- RB: Cam Akers, Bruce Jordan-Swilling
- TE: Camron Horry
- DL: Phidarian Mathis, Marvin Wilson, Isaiah Buggs
- LB: K’Lavon Chaisson, Christopher Allen, Will Ignont, Dylan Moses, Levi Jones
- S: Todd Harris
Out-of-state targets include Akers, Horry, Wilson, Buggs, Chaisson, Ignont, Moses and Jones. Buggs, the 4-star junior college defensive end from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, is expected to decide later this month or before the start of the season. That decision will come down to LSU or Auburn.
Ignont recently visited LSU for the elite prospect camp and the team barbecue. He told SEC Country the Tigers jumped in front in his recruitment. The 4-star Alabama linebacker is expected to decide in August or within the first two weeks in September.
How big of an impact do you think the freshman defensive backs will make? (Birdgang850)
LSU hauled in an elite collection of defensive backs in its 2016 class. Many will carve out some type of role this season.
Here’s the skinny: 5-star corner Kristian Fulton came to LSU with the expectation he would see the field. The same goes for 4-star corner Saivion Smith, one of the more impressive players on the defense during the spring.
LSU has a pressing need for depth at safety, so expect Eric Monroe and Cam Lewis to get time, too. Monroe was one of the nation’s best safeties in the 2016 class. Lewis was among the top athletes in Louisiana.
LSU likely will start Tre’Davious White (CB), Kevin Toliver II (CB), Jamal Adams (S) and Rickey Jefferson (S). In nickel packages, Donte Jackson will take White’s spot at corner as the senior shifts to play nickel.
Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond likes to utilize a secondary rotation. Fulton and Smith should be a part of the cornerback rotation and could be on the field at the same time in Aranda’s scheme.
There are opportunities for the safeties. Jefferson has spent time working with the outside linebackers during fall camp. He’s a safety, but Monroe or Lewis could spell him deep on passing downs. Also, they could compete for reserve spots in the corner rotation. Raymond brings in prospects as “defensive backs,” not as “corners” and “safeties.”
My best guess: Monroe, Fulton and Smith are regular contributors by the end of the season. That’s also assuming there are no injuries forcing the freshmen into the mix.
Is JaCoby Stevens the silent commit? (@adamsmr123)
Stevens was not LSU’s silent commit. However, based on the timing and the 5-star safety’s announcement, it fit the timeline for a silent pledge.
Jhamon Ausbon and Grant Delpit were silent LSU commits. Ausbon and Delpit committed in June before publicly announcing their commitments a month later. Stevens is a bit different, though. He didn’t make up his mind until mid-June, when LSU jumped in front of former leaders Georgia and Alabama. That process continued in the weeks leading up to his announcement.
LSU’s silent commit is a front-seven player, according to sources. That leaves a handful of defensive linemen or linebackers that the team is targeting. Front seven is a major emphasis during this final stretch of recruiting, so it makes sense that one of the seven targets could have provided good news to the coaching staff.
Defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs and inside linebacker Will Ignont are next to announce their commitments. Expect Marvin Wilson, Phidarian Mathis, K’Lavon Chaisson, Levi Jones and Christopher Allen to take their official visits before they follow suit. It may be a while before we know who the silent pledge is.
But if you want to play detective, we broke it down here.
Does LSU get another RB in this class and who? (@pferrer1865)
The LSU coaches would love to add one more running back to their 2017 class. The odds may be stacked against them, though.
LSU has two clear-cut running back targets whom the coaches would like to pair with current commit Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Priority No. 1 is 5-star Mississippi back Cam Akers, who is trimming his top schools. Akers is a fan of LSU but opted not to attend the team’s prospect camp or barbecue last month. Ole Miss long has been pegged as the most likely landing spot for the in-state star. Akers has friends across the state pulling in both directions, though. LSU commits Myles Brennan and Saahdiq Charles are pressing Akers to team up in Baton Rouge. Willie Gay, another close pal, is doing the same for Ole Miss.
If the Tigers don’t land Akers, they should focus on 4-star in-state athlete Bruce Jordan-Swilling. The New Orleans standout is being recruited as an outside linebacker, where he spent the first two years of his high school career. He transitioned to a full-time backfield workhorse as a junior. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound back rushed for 2,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns in 2015 as an All-State selection. He is toying with the notion of playing defense in college.
LSU running backs coach Jabbar Juluke loves Jordan-Swilling on offense, according to sources. Juluke is battling coach Les Miles, who thinks Jordan-Swilling is a better fit at linebacker. Based on numbers in the class, perhaps Miles will change his mind and allow Juluke to put the full-court press on Louisiana’s top downhill runner. That also would mean LSU could land another talented defensive back in Jordan-Swilling’s brother, Tre’ Swilling.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.