Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly mailbag, a question-and-answer forum between the readers and LSU team and recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman.
In this edition, we touch on who has been standing out during spring practice, which quarterbacks will ultimately sign letters of intent with LSU and whether the program can expand their recruiting reach to the West Coast and Midwest.
To submit a question for Spiegelman, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who have been some unexpected standouts throughout spring practice? (@iamnotjerome)
It’s hard to quantify who is who isn’t an expected player that’s standing out, but if I catch your drift — and I think I do — I think you’re searching for the players not projected to be starters next September against BYU.
Offensively, two of LSU’s backup quarterbacks have shined. Justin McMillan and Lindsey Scott Jr. have taken advantage of lesser reps and are making the case for a very interesting battle for the No. 2 job.
Of course, Danny Etling is the likely starter and has seen the greatest amount of time behind center this spring as Matt Canada introduces his new offense. But with limited reps and a trimmed-down depth chart, McMillan is really taking to the new system. Sources have indicated to SEC Country that the sophomore quarterback has looked very good and is a formidable player in this competition.
McMillan is trying to stave off Scott, the redshirt freshman, who is also excelling in Canada’s offense. Scott is the only quarterback on the depth chart who’s thrown a touchdown in each of the team’s three spring scrimmages.
Sticking with the theme on offense, Drake Davis is another young receiver who has stepped up his game in recent weeks. The sophomore did not start the spring as LSU’s No. 2 receiver but has slowly taken control of that role as practice went on. Davis has also capitalized on the extra reps with D.J. Chark out with a twisted ankle.
It would not be a shock to see Davis as the Tigers’ No. 2 receiver on the outside opposite of Chark when the season begins.
Darrel Williams is not competing with Derrius Guice for the starting tailback job, but the senior is doing his best to secure a spot in the backfield rotation.
Williams has slimmed down and has looked as quick as he ever has during his time in Baton Rouge, and he is making a case to new running backs coach Tommie Robinson on why he should have a role in the offense. Being in great shape as he enters a significant season makes it very likely we see more of Williams than we have in years past.
Defensively, the absence of Arden Key has been softened by the emergence of Andre Anthony. Last season, the former All-American defensive end was forced to take an academic redshirt after there were issues recovering his test scores during his transfer from Miller-McCoy Academy to Edna Karr High School during the spring of his junior year.
That gave Anthony time to get in shape in the weight room, and that’s been noticeable during spring ball. Ed Orgeron has worked closely with Anthony, who should be the No. 2 BUCK linebacker behind Key, when he returns to the team. Depending on how quickly Key can return into shape, it could spell a larger role for Anthony, who has drawn rave reviews from Orgeron behind closed doors all offseason.
In the secondary, the two defensive backs that have received positive reviews this spring are Kevin Toliver and Saivion Smith. Toliver enjoyed a standout freshman season in 2015, but was up and down — to say the least — last fall. Toliver was battling a bevy of offseason issues last fall, but has since cleared his head and is on the verge of a major bounce-back year. He looks like he spent a good chunk of time in the weight room and has been lights out during drills this spring.
Smith has slimmed down a bit since his freshman season and is shaping up to be the first corner in the rotation behind Toliver and Donte Jackson. While he may not start, Smith is expected to carve out a significant role his sophomore season. He’s a bigger corner with elite coverage ability, and let’s not forget this is his second spring, so he’s well ahead of the curve compared to some of the other defensive backs on the roster.
Do you think LSU signs any top talent from the West Coast or the Midwest this year? (@JrBrunious)
This year — no. But that’s not to say that the current LSU coaching staff isn’t capable of doing so.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has numerous ties to the West Coast. He is originally from California and went to school at Cal Lutheran. He has coached at Utah State, Hawaii and Southern Utah, so he has recruited that area and is very, very familiar with it.
The 2018 recruiting class does not have many prospects that LSU is currently gunning after. Nine of the nation’s top-100 recruits hail from California. Much like recruits from Louisiana where LSU holds a unique edge, programs such as UCLA, Cal and Southern Cal are the presumptive favorites on the West Coast. For a California prospect to really get recruited hard by LSU, they need to show genuine interest, which will ultimately lead to the coaching staff making an effort.
That won’t be the case for 2018.
However, there are several West Coast prospects to know for 2019. That includes the No. 1 overall recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux, who lives in Los Angeles but made a visit to LSU this week. There’s also 4-star corner Max Williams, who visited Baton Rouge earlier this spring. They have shown interest in LSU and thus, will get more attention from the coaching staff.
As far as the Midwest goes, LSU made a splash there earlier this spring. Dunbar (Ohio) High School teammates Tavion Thomas (4-star RB) and Joseph Scates (4-star WR) added offers from the Tigers. The question is whether each will visit LSU this spring or summer.
Much like recruits who reside in the South, where LSU would have the upper hand, Midwest powers such as Ohio State have that same edge.
So in summary, I don’t expect any of LSU’s 2018 signees to hail from the West Coast or Midwest. That’s not to say the staff didn’t try, but it became a more arduous task when prospects are located beyond the 500-mile radius of the school. There are exceptions, though, and we may see more of them come 2019.
How many QBs will LSU sign this year and who might be an LSU lean at this time? (@phil5060)
At this time a year ago, sources within the building indicated the objective was to sign two quarterbacks in the 2017 recruiting cycle and two more in 2018.
There has been a change of plans, though, with Orgeron now in charge. We’ll get a better idea when LSU hosts its elite prospect camp in June.
LSU’s current depth chart at quarterback: Etling, McMillan, Scott and Narcisse. Myles Brennan will join the fray this June. With Brandon Harris set to transfer to North Carolina, the Tigers will only lose Etling after his senior season. You could make the argument that the team could use two more quarterbacks on the roster, but the tide seems be turning toward one.
So, who will it be?
LSU has surfaced as one of three front-runners for 4-star Louisiana quarterback Justin Rogers. The Parkway (La.) High standout added an offer from Les Miles and Cam Cameron during last July’s prospect camp, which went a long way with the in-state target. While he has trimmed his list down to six, it’s truly a three-team race between LSU, TCU and North Carolina, with the Tigers gaining steam thanks to Canada’s hand in Rogers’ recruitment and the evolving offensive attack.
Rogers is expected to announce his commitment in June, and I fully anticipate he remains in Louisiana and lands at LSU. That would also bode well for LSU’s chances with his 5-star teammate, Terrace Marshall Jr. I have Crystal Ball picks in for Rogers and Marshall to the Tigers.
Beyond Rogers, LSU also leads for Alabama dual-threat quarterback Maurice Robinson. The Murphy (Ala.) High School athlete is just that — an athlete — and LSU is the only school courting him to be a quarterback. Robinson holds an offer from Alabama, too, but that’s to play in the secondary. After visiting for junior day last month, Robinson named the Tigers his leader. He is likely the Plan B for LSU if it misses on Rogers.
Other options include Arkansas 4-star dual-threat Gerry Bohanon and Kentucky commit Jarren Williams. Bohanon seems intrigued by LSU, but has yet to schedule a visit. He did not attend junior day last month despite being invited. Williams did make the trip and left with an offer. It would be a difficult task for the Tigers to flip the Georgia dual-threat who seems solid in his pledge to Kentucky.
Other than Glenn Beal, who else is a possibility at the TE/FB spot? (@MatthewStrahan3)
For one, Matthew, I truly think Beal is destined to be a Tiger. I put my Crystal Ball pick in for the stud John Curtis (La.) Christian School tight end right before National Signing Day 2017, but he has opted to hold off on an announcement until he explores all of his options.
With that being said, Beal is also getting better acquainted with his new primary recruiter, Mickey Joseph. Beal was close with former New Orleans area recruiter Jabbar Juluke, so naturally, there’s a bit of a transition.
Because of the merge of tight ends and fullbacks into the H-back in Canada’s offense, I only expect LSU to take one tight end in this year’s class. The depth chart currently reads: Foster Moreau, Jacory Washington, Jamal Pettigrew and Caleb Roddy, and Tory Carter will join the fray in June. Moreau and Washington are the veterans, but they are only juniors. There’s no telling whether they would depart for the NFL after the 2017 season.
Nonetheless, LSU needs to add at least one tight end in its 2018 recruiting class. Beyond Beal, it’s a bit tricky.
The names to keep an eye on are 4-star Texas tight end Mustapha Muhammad. That’s based on proximity to campus and growing interest in the Tigers. Muhammad has been expected to visit Baton Rouge this spring. It could be the spring game, and the biggest question will be how much the H-back is utilized in Canada’s offense.
Another name is former Alabama commit Malcolm Epps. Like Muhammad, he hails from nearby Houston, but has yet to visit LSU’s campus. He did participate and secure an offer from LSU during satellite camps last summer, so there is some interest to dwell on.
If it’s not Beal, LSU could turn to some of the under-the-radar in-state talent at its disposal. Christian Harris, a 3-star from Sulphur (La.) High School, attended “Boys From The Boot” in February. He has seen his offer sheet spike a bit this spring with overtures from several in-state schools. East St. John (La.) High School athlete Javon Antonio also visited in February. A raw prospect, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder could be groomed for tight end or defensive end, and that flexibility could intrigue the LSU staff.
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