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 the absence of LSU’s top defender, the next to commit and breakout sophomores.
To submit a question for Spiegelman, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With all these 3-stars committing, are they just underrated or is LSU not being as selective since we can take so many? (@mister_smith005)
Of LSU’s 12 commits in the 2018 recruiting class, six are 3-star prospects in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Half of the Tigers’ commits are 3-stars, but why? Well, Mr. Smith, you hit it right on the head. Some of these prospects are not accurately ranked at this juncture in the recruiting calendar. Others are class-builders until blue-chip targets announce their decisions.
Let’s look at LSU’s most recent signing class. At this time a year ago, Grant Delpit, Jacob Phillips, Myles Brennan, Saahdiq Charles and Tyler Taylor were all ranked as 3-star recruits. It was pre-Nike regional camps, before the Under Armour camps existed and before some of these prospects exploded onto the scene in the summer and senior seasons.
All the aforementioned LSU signees wound up as 4-star recruits, and depending on the scouting service, some became 5-stars. Delpit and Charles were finalists at Nike’s “The Opening” in Oregon. Delpit and Brennan played in the Under Armour All-America Game, while Phillips was one of the top overall recruits at the U.S. Army All-American Game.
I’m fairly confident that several of LSU’s current 3-star commits will follow a similar trajectory. For one, Micah Baskerville is rated as a 3-star linebacker but put forth one of the most impressive camp outings in New Orleans over the weekend. He’s heading the Oregon for “The Opening” and should help his case for a fourth star and more national recognition.
Another commit I envision seeing his stock increase is 3-star Jena (La.) High School receiver Jaray Jenkins. The LSU coaching staff absolutely loves this prospect and doesn’t feel three stars do him justice. Part of the reason why is that most scouting services haven’t seen him run. Jenkins can take the top off defenses, and he now measures in at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. He’s very deserving of a fourth star, too.
The second half of this question is why there are so many 3-star commits in LSU’s class at the moment. While some may be 4-stars by the summertime, it’s also a part of how the coaching staff assembles a class that could reel in upward of 30 recruits.
Those already committed were aware they wanted to be Tigers and didn’t need any more time to make up their minds. That’s not the case for every recruit, especially blue-chip prospects with 30-plus offers who are in the process of trimming their top schools.
The 12 current commits secured their spots in LSU’s 2018 recruiting class, but others won’t be able to commit until the summer or before their senior seasons. Others want to take official visits first or hold off until National Signing Day. LSU could take up to 18 more recruits. Most of those will be higher-ranked prospects.
How do you see Harold Joiner fitting into this Tigers offense? (@DrewChamplin)
Drew, of course, is referencing one of the six running backs that LSU has offered since naming Tommie Robinson its running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
Robinson is in the midst of pursuing elite national talent in Florida, Alabama, Texas and even Ohio over the past month. He lured Joiner onto campus on March 10 before the 3-star running back left with an offer in hand.
When SEC Country caught up with the Alabama tailback, Joiner explained how Robinson envisioned using him in the LSU offense:
“The coaches said I could be starting my freshman year. I feel like I can replace Guice after he leaves.”
So, to answer your question, Drew, how would Joiner fit?
Joiner’s video shows he can play out of a shotgun offense, which is essential in Matt Canada‘s scheme. Joiner also can change direction with ease, catch passes out of the backfield and run over would-be defenders. The latter comes naturally with such dynamic size.
He would be an absolutely terrific fit in LSU’s new-look offense. His 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame doesn’t hinder his ability to do anything you’d expect out of a three-down back. In fact, if anything, I’m confident he could absorb blows better than most tailbacks the Tigers are recruiting, which is essential when you’re lining up against defenses such as Alabama and Florida.
Does Danny Etling have a chance to be a 3,000-yard passer in Canada’s offense? (@RyanMicklin61)
Before we dissect Etling’s physical limitations or history of passing at Purdue or last season for the Tigers, let’s take a closer look at what Canada’s quarterbacks accomplished over his past four coaching stints.
|QB||School||Year||Passing yards||TD||INT||%||QB rating|
|Anthony Maddie||Northern Illinois||2011||3,216||28||6||61.7||153.0|
|Pete Thomas||N.C. State||2013||1,667||4||9||60.3||115.1|
|Brandon Mitchell||N.C. State||2013||1,011||7||6||57.0||120.5|
|Jacoby Brissett||N.C. State||2014||2,606||23||5||59.7||136.7|
|Jacoby Brissett||N.C. State||2015||2,662||20||6||60.0||130.3|
Ryan, the track record of Canada’s quarterbacks putting up 3,000-yard passing campaigns isn’t all too likely. The last one to accomplish that feat was Anthony Maddie for Northern Illinois in 2011, in what was a different sort of offense than what Canada is implementing at LSU.
While Etling’s stats won’t be as eye-catching as some of the nation’s top passers, that doesn’t mean his effectiveness will.
Keep in mind that last season, Canada’s offense at Pitt was one of the most potent units in the country. The Panthers were the only Power 5 team to score at least 28 points in every single game, including 76 against Syracuse. The year prior, his N.C. State offense finished third in the ACC with 33.5 points per game.
In terms of quarterback development, you can likely look over the lulls at Wisconsin, given that Canada did not recruit those players. He recruited Jacoby Brissett and helped mold Nathan Peterman. Brissett was a third-round pick of the New England Patriots and was effective while filling in for Tom Brady early on in the 2016 NFL season. Peterman is also expected to be a mid-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
So, best-case scenario: Etling can put up 2,000-plus passing yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio as good as Maddie, Brissett or Peterman. With the weapons Etling has around him, including in the backfield, he should be able to operate the LSU offense effectively despite not throwing for more than 3,000 yards or 30 touchdowns on the season.
Who do you see being the offensive and defensive MVPs? (@iamnotjerome)
I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb here, but my pick for offensive MVP is going to be Derrius Guice.
Guice exploded onto the scene in place of an injured Leonard Fournette last fall, and this time around he knows that he’s the man heading into the season. Factor that with the tutelage of Robinson, who is going to push No. 5 to be the best that he can.
Also, consider Canada’s new offense. With more shifts and motion, and multiple receivers on the field, in theory we are going to see LSU force opposing defenses from putting eight in the box to prevent the run. If defenses were to zero in on slowing down Guice — which, for the most part, they were unable to do in 2016 — then Etling should be in position to beat them through the air. If and when opposing defenses begin to respect the pass, there will be wide-open running lanes for Guice.
On defense, there are a ton of good candidates.
- Donte Jackson
- Kevin Toliver II
- Devin White
- Arden Key
Assuming that Key is back with the team by camp this summer, as expected, I have to lean toward the All-American BUCK. The ability to rough up quarterbacks is paramount in Dave Aranda’s defense. LSU has a new-look front seven this year, with Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Christian LaCouture manning spots along the line. If they excel, so will Key, who can disrupt any offense’s rhythm on a given Saturday.
Let me make the case for White, though. We are assuming Key returns to the team and picks up right where we left, but that, of course, is what we anticipate. It’s not a given.
White is taking over for Kendell Beckwith as the heart of the LSU defense. He’s incredibly athletic — more so than Beckwith ever was — and should be equally as effective against the run and more dynamic dropping into pass coverage. Because of White’s speed, I envision Aranda sending him on blitzes and using him in a variety of creative ways to deceive offenses.
Sometimes middle linebacker isn’t the most entertaining position to watch, but I believe that changes with White in that role. He’s a thumper and a big play waiting to happen. White should be a total difference-maker in the middle of the defense.
Did LSU spread itself too thin on junior day with 80 or so recruits, thus allowing limited one-on-one time with the top recruits? (@mister_smith005)
Not at all.
They had about 60 recruits visiting from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. They secured a commitment from elite Texas interior lineman Chasen Hines in the aftermath of his visit and extended offers out to a handful of the visiting recruits, including Kentucky quarterback commit Jarren Williams, 2019 Georgia lineman Derrick McLendon and 2019 Alabama offensive tackle Pierce Quick a day removed from the stop.
There was a mix of both big names and under-the-radar recruits on hand for national junior day, prospects that the coaching staff has atop their big boards and others they will chase after if and when they miss.
Among those blue-chippers, there was Joshua Moore, Texas A&M defensive back pledge Jordan Moore, 5-star running back Noah Cain, Kelvin Joseph, Terrace Marshall Jr., Justin Rogers, Caden Sterns, BJ Foster, Miles Battle, Darrell Simpson, Jarell Cherry, Malik Heath, Tae Provens, Chris Curry, Alabama pledge Jordan Davis and James Miller.
That’s quite a list, to say the least.
In speaking to those recruits on the phone this week or at the New Orleans Nike regional this weekend, all had encouraging words to say about their visit, their time with the coaching staff and what they saw from both the offense and the defense during Saturday’s scrimmage, which was closed to the media.
For instance, this is what Moore said about the visit and why the Tigers are in a unique position. I even put a Crystal Ball pick in for the 4-star receiver after hearing how he gushed over his time in Baton Rouge.
Here’s what Curry, a top Florida running back, said about his first visit to LSU and his time with Robinson. Afterward, Curry told SEC Country that the Tigers are now in his early top three.
And on the quarterback front, Rogers spent his time watching Canada’s offense and envisioning how he might fit in. He elevated LSU from his top seven to top three as well, and Louisiana’s top quarterback and Elite 11 invitee warranted a Crystal Ball pick for LSU.
From 5-stars to under-the-radar 2019 recruits, everyone spent time with different members of the LSU staff. For some, conversations were about when they could land an offer. For others, it was about when they could commit. The visit helped either start or further relationships, which is something Ed Orgeron’s staff is excelling at already.
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