Welcome back to the weekly LSU football and recruiting mailbag.
LSU reporter Sam Spiegelman goes through his stack to answer some of the most pressing questions submitted by you, the readers.
This week’s mailbag comes shortly after the start of recruiting’s dead period and the start of one of the most-watched recruiting events in the country — Nike’s “The Opening.” Of course, LSU could add some more commitments in the 2017 class this weekend as well.
Without further ado, here we go:
Why are we continuing to lose our homegrown guys to Saban? (Paul Strickland via Facebook)
There are a number of high-profile prospects from Louisiana that have spurned the in-state SEC power to follow Nick Saban to Alabama. Eddie Lacy and Landon Collins out of Dutchtown High School (Geismar, La.) come to mind. As does Cam Robinson, Cam Sims and Hootie Jones from the Monroe area of the state.
You can add Kentwood (La.) High School product Shyheim Carter and Brother Martin High School’s (New Orleans) Irv Smith to that list now, too.
There’s a variety of reasons why Alabama has been so successful in The Boot over the years. The most obvious one is the fact that Saban was LSU’s coach from 2000 to 2004 when a lot of today’s prospects were children watching the Tigers on TV each and every Saturday. Of course, Saban won a national championship at the helm of LSU, which continues to resonate with today’s recruits from Louisiana.
While Saban is the face of Alabama football, area recruiter Burton Burns has been an instrumental part of the Tide’s success snatching Louisiana prospects and luring them to Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama has developed pipelines in and across the state, most notably in the northern part in Monroe, where Robinson hails. The defending national champs have also worked the southern section well in New Orleans and, more recently, in the Hammond area, where they landed Carter.
The most interesting part, though, is that they’ve had some success in Baton Rouge, La., where Lacy and Collins were brought up. Poaching prospects from a 20-mile radius of LSU’s campus was never a threat before Saban arrived at Alabama.
In the 2017 class, recruits such as Christopher Allen, Devonta Smith, Bruce Jordan-Swilling and Tre’ Swilling are among the names with whom Burns, Saban and Alabama have succeeded in developing relationships. Naturally, LSU is in the mix for all those prospects as well.
Saban’s tenure at LSU is still in the minds of these recruits, but so is the coach’s most recent success at Alabama. Since he arrived at ‘Bama in 2007, Saban has nabbed four more titles, including most recently last January, and so many of the prospects factor that into their decision.
Is Devonta Smith still on LSU’s radar after picking up two WR? Do you think he commits to LSU? (@Derrick70129577)
Devonta Smith is certainly on LSU’s radar. He was on top of the team’s wide receiver big board since the start of the 2017 recruiting cycle, though his plans have since changed.
Smith told SEC Country that he will be announcing his decision on Aug. 15. The 5-star talent will make visits to both Miami and Florida State before then, and that’s coming off stops at both Alabama’s and LSU’s prospect camps in June.
The Amite (La.) High School product named Mississippi State, Alabama, Nebraska and Miami as his four finalists, though I suspect that both LSU and Florida State will not relent so quietly. Expect Dameyune Craig and Ed Orgeron to do everything in their power to convince Smith to stay home, but at this point, the odds are worsening for the Tigers’ chances of nabbing a fourth wide receiver commitment.
LSU would have made an exception in its 2017 class by accepting Smith’s pledge as a fourth receiver, but without Smith, it appears the team will take Stephen Guidry, Jhamon Ausbon and Mannie Netherly. However, based on who might still be available, Racey McMath and Jeremiah Holloman are two other receivers that could take Smith’s spot.
However, LSU may look to add another defensive lineman, linebacker or defensive back, depending on who is still available. Each one of those positions are more important in this recruiting cycle ahead of wide receiver.
What are LSU’s chances with Will Ignont? (@Derrick70129577)
LSU, along with Auburn, Georgia, Michigan and UCLA, recently has emerged as a legitimate landing spot for the 4-star Alabama linebacker.
Ignont was silently committed to Alabama, but rescinded that pledge after the Tide added more linebackers to its 2017 class. It seems as if the 6-foot-2, 238-pound prospect would prefer not to be embedded in a class that’s so linebacker heavy.
The Buckhorn High School (New Market, Ala.) product since has been in touch with LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who is spearheading his recruitment. Aranda’s track record at Wisconsin and now at LSU has allowed the Tigers to re-emerge in his recruitment, particularly in what the coach does with his linebackers.
If LSU can get Ignont on campus for its prospect camp later this month, it will justify that there is more than just interest in the program, but a legitimate chance that he could wind up in the class.
The Tigers have only secured a commitment from one linebacker in the class — 4-star Livonia (La.) High School product Patrick Queen — and are in the hunt for at least two but upwards of three or four more. Dylan Moses, Christopher Allen, Bruce Jordan-Swilling, K’Lavon Chaisson and Nadarius Fagan are all names to monitor.
Most of those prospects, however, are outside backers. Ignont is an inside linebacker to keep an eye on. There’s a lot to be determined in the next few weeks.
The Opening is this week. Give us your predictions of which ’17 and ’18 participants will sign with LSU? (@LSUPeterAdams)
LSU has 14 commitments already in its 2017 recruiting class, and six will be in attendance at Nike’s “The Opening” finals this weekend.
Those six include quarterback Myles Brennan, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon, offensive linemen Austin Deculus and Saahdiq Charles, and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin.
In addition, there will be upwards of eight other targets that are very much on LSU’s radar.
Here’s the list:
- Marvin Wilson
- Dylan Moses
- Cam Akers
- Devonta Smith
- Grant Delpit
- Todd Harris
- K’Lavon Chaisson
- Patrick Surtain Jr. (2018)
Of those eight Class of 2017 targets, I could confidently say that six would be included in this year’s signing class.
In fact, I’d confidently stand by my prediction that Delpit will announce his commitment to LSU on July 10, giving the team its first defensive back pledge of 2017.
Like Delpit, Harris is a clear LSU lean. Ole Miss is in contention, and Alabama could take the Rebels’ spot as the most likely contender beside the in-state Tigers if and when he pulls in an offer later this month.
Chaisson named LSU as his No. 3 team after making yet another visit to Baton Rouge, La., last month. He’ll be back at LSU later this month as he continues to foster a relationship with the coaching staff. He may be waiting to see where other big targets wind up, but he could be another Texas native to wind up with the Tigers.
Speaking of Texans, Wilson will have LSU among his final suitors. The 5-star tackle is strongly considering LSU, as well as ‘Bama, Texas, Florida State and Ole Miss. His relationship with Orgeron is nothing to look over, and along with Shelvin, could form as dominant a one-two punch.
Akers recently began to strongly consider LSU thanks to the work of running backs coach Jabbar Juluke. The 5-star back plans to trim his list of top-10 schools down to four by the summer’s end. He made two visits to LSU this spring, in addition to Ole Miss — the odds-on favorite — Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. If LSU makes the next round of cuts, he could wind up being a major get as a great position of need in the 2017 class.
Moses did not include LSU on his official visits list, but that comes off another visit to campus where he has spent a lot of time this spring and early on this summer. The 5-star linebacker is a huge fan of Aranda and has great relationships with numerous current LSU players. There is a hometown factor that can’t be taken lightly, as he desires to be the next star to don the No. 7 after Leonard Fournette.
Surtain is the lone 2018 target to make “The Opening” finals roster. He sits atop LSU’s defensive back big board for next year’s class, even though the Tigers hold commitments from three defensive backs already. 5-star Kelvin Joseph and 4-stars Corione Harris and Nadab Joseph are embedded in the 2018 class, but the LSU coaches would hold a spot for the sought-after rising junior. Surtain is a New Orleans native who maintains a strong bond with Corey Raymond, who is a lifelong friend of his father.
A lot of hype and high expectations for this year’s team. What kind of effect do you think this will have on them? (@chris_baudean)
There’s a feel that this football team is on the verge of doing something special in the fall. Throughout the spring and following the spring game, many of the team’s veterans spoke about as much.
As national media outlets and awards watch lists continue to pour out this summer, the LSU players and coaches are becoming more aware that the spotlight will be shining heavily on them. That includes talk about preseason rankings, Heisman Trophy candidates, national championship predictions, players facing pressure and coaches that are sitting on the hot seat.
All of that goes hand-in-hand with entering a season where a division title, a conference championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff are not only on the table, but expected.
Coach Les Miles spoke about it candidly after LSU’s spring game, indicating that the reason why there’s so many expectations attached to the 2016 season is because of the talent and experience littered on the current roster. Potential NFL stars like Tre’Davious White, Christian LaCouture, Ethan Pocic and Kendell Beckwith returned for their senior seasons. Elite juniors like Jamal Adams, Malachi Dupre and Leonard Fournette are looking to continue to expand upon already-storied careers. And there’s a freshman class loaded with talent, which means many could find themselves playing integral roles to start off their LSU careers.
Being aware of that type of pressure is a positive thing for LSU. The Tigers know that they’re expected to win, but they are more focused on why. It’s understood that this collection of experience and talent isn’t something that can be counted on year in and year out. It’s rare that this many elite players are in the same locker room and have the ability to accomplish so much.
If for some reason LSU gets off to a rocky start, I think it could hurt the team and the program. If they stumble, it’s because certain players are not performing to their expected levels, which means talks of Les Miles’ job security will again take front and center.
However, a strong start would indicate that the lofty goals and expectations were justified, and that kind of opening to a season could pay dividends for players’ and coaches’ confidence down the road.
Expectations can be both good and bad, and the fact is that the LSU players and coaches are already conscious of it and are ready to exceed them. We’ll see how that actually turns out this fall.
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 Tigers Stadium.