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 you, the readers.
ADD TO THE MAILBAG: If you want to submit a question, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to email@example.com.
Room is getting tight in the Tigers recruiting class, with just a handful of scholarship spots remaining for what appears to be a wide range of blue-chip targets.
Although we’re still in the first month of the college football season, we’re about to leap into the fourth quarter of the recruiting cycle.
So, what’s next? Let’s take a look:
Is LSU losing ground on Marvin Wilson, Levi Jones and K’Lavon Chaisson to Texas? (BwhinsOld)
As of right now, all three of these Texans are keeping their hands close to the vest. That should come as no surprise for anyone that’s met Wilson, Jones or Chaisson, who are quiet, reserved and don’t openly dish out intricate details of their recruitment.
At different junctures, all three of these blue-chip defenders have been linked to LSU. I’ve included Wilson and Chaisson in my mock signing classes because of the obvious connections there. Earlier this week, though, NOLA.com’s Jimmy Smith reported the Tigers could be losing ground with all three Lone State Star products as the in-state Longhorns make their push.
This isn’t too much cause for concern — at least yet. In fact, in many ways, this was almost expected.
- He named LSU his No. 3 school in mid-summer behind Oklahoma and Houston.
- Last week, he made comments suggesting he didn’t want to attend college too far from home. LSU is a three-hour drive from Houston in contrast to Oklahoma, which is almost seven hours away from his family.
- Since the spring, Chaisson has been to no other school more than LSU. That includes a Junior Day in the spring, the spring football game, three-day stays at both prospect camps, plus the satellite camp LSU hosted on his high school campus.
- He desires to become a stand-up 3-4 linebacker in a scheme like Dave Aranda’s. Simply put, he thinks that’s the best-case scenario for him to have success at the college level.
- LSU was the first school to extend him an offer when he competed in the June prospect camp last summer. That’s always been a huge deal for him.
The skinny: Expect Texas, Oklahoma and Houston all to have a say in Chaisson’s decision. Both Houston and Texas hold advantages in regards to proximity from home and what they can offer him on defense, but no one school checks off all of the boxes more than LSU. While Chaisson is taking is time and carefully analyzing his decision, nothing has actually changed. He’s surveying his options, and LSU remains in a prime position overall.
- He hails from Austin, Texas.
- He visited LSU for Junior Day early in the spring, then returned for the team’s recruiting barbecue this past July.
- Like Chaisson, Jones is destined to be a stand-up 3-4 outside linebacker.
- He’s been linked to the Longhorns for the bulk of his recruitment.
The skinny: Jones to Texas has been written in sand for some time, but LSU has been the dark horse that’s refused to go away. The 4-star linebacker has made multiple trips to Baton Rouge, which bodes well for the Tigers’ chances of making a late run, but they’re certainly not the team to beat. If LSU were to swing and miss on Chaisson or another outside linebacker target such as Chris Allen or Dylan Moses, I’d expect the coaching staff to increase its efforts with Jones.
- The nation’s top defensive tackle told SEC Country last winter that he expected LSU and Alabama to be in his final three leading up to National Signing Day.
- LSU hosted a satellite camp at his high school campus in June, where he got to work out privately with defensive line coach and primary recruiter Ed Orgeron.
- Speaking of coach O, Wilson has a desire to play for him and follow in so many other defensive linemen’s footsteps of excelling in college before becoming first-round draft picks.
- Wilson is great friends with 4-star LSU defensive line pledge Tyler Shelvin, and often the two discuss the idea of playing alongside one another on the Tigers’ line.
- Les Miles’ job security certainly is a factor.
- Wilson visited plenty of times in 2015 and made an unofficial stop-in last spring. He ate dinner with Orgeron and Miles in Tiger Stadium as part of a three-trip weekend, which included time in Alabama and Florida State.
The skinny: Naturally, Texas is going to make a run for the top-rated prospect in the state. He already visited Texas A&M and officially stopped in Oklahoma for the Ohio State game last weekend. Expect LSU to get Wilson on campus a time or two in the next few weeks for an official visit, which could sway momentum back in the Tigers’ favor leading up to National Signing Day. If LSU is unable to do so, keep in mind the team holds commitments from four defensive linemen, including two tackles. Without Wilson, 4-star in-state lineman Phidarian Mathis would become a priority target to reel in late in the recruiting cycle.
Shout to the Carenco Meatheads and Dizzle! You think with the better passing, Devonta Smith will give us another look? Or is he all ‘Bama? (@datDamnLilreg)
LSU is certainly throwing the pigskin around a bit better in recent weeks after making the switch to Danny Etling at quarterback, but my condolences go out to the Carenco Meatheads — I don’t think that’ll be enough to move the meter for Smith.
Smith, one of the most consistent and polished wide receivers in the Class of 2017, has basically penciled in his letter of intent with Alabama. Ever since he de-committed from Mark Richt’s Bulldogs last year and reopened his recruitment, no team has really rivaled the Crimson Tide’s chances of landing the 4-star Louisiana wide receiver.
In fact, there is a feeling of defeat regarding Smith in Baton Rouge, according to multiple sources. The Tigers’ coaching staff already holds commitments from three of the nation’s best wide receivers — Jhamon Ausbon, Mannie Netherly and Stephen Guidry. The coaches are exceedingly confident in these recruits. They have also shifted a lot of their focus onto New Orleans 3-star Racey McMath, who I would bet a sandwich will wind up in LSU’s signing class.
That’s definitely not to say that LSU didn’t make a conceded effort to try and keep Smith in his home state. Wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig made the Amite (La.) High School star a top priority from the moment he was hired. I’d go as far to say that Craig gave LSU a puncher’s chance with Smith, getting him to name the Tigers a finalist as early as last month.
However, that interest has dwindled a bit since then. Smith has since been to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the home opener and has not been in contact with LSU, despite the coaching staff’s attempt to lure him on campus with his family.
Smith is one of those elite Louisiana prospects who’s going to wind up elsewhere in the SEC. LSU will have its work cut out trying to slow him down on Saturdays next fall because — barring a major, major, major turn of events — he’ll be wearing Crimson and White.
LSU seems to generate more pass rush from the 4-3. What’s your opinion on this? (@chris_baudean)
There’s really no denying that LSU had more success utilizing its former base 4-3 defense. The evidence: 6 sacks of State quarterbacks, the most by a LSU defense in the past two seasons.
Keep in mind that LSU is still transitioning to the 3-4 front. It’s three games in and at no point have we looked at the defense and really been disappointed. They’ve been stellar, from the opener against Wisconsin to preserving their second consecutive victory last Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Having said that, those 6 sacks and a dozen quarterback hurries came largely compliments of the 4-3 front that former defensive coordinator Kevin Steele utilized last season with the team. That’s what John Chavis used as well, which is why most of the team’s personnel is designed to thrive in that sort of system.
For instance, Arden Key, who was LSU’s super hero of sorts against State, has the body type to line up with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 end. That’s not to say that a defensive mastermind such as Aranda can’t find a way to make him thrive as a stand-up linebacker, but that takes some time.
The big men in the middle — the Travonte Valentines and Greg Gilmores of the world — are also transitioning from defensive tackle to nose tackle. The same goes for Lewis Neal and Davon Godchaux.
Ever wonder about those changes? Here’s some tips:
- The 3-4 nose tackle (0-technique) are usually bigger, bulkier linemen. They line up over the center and command double teams.
- The 4-3 tackle (1- or 3-technique) can be similar to the 0-technique but line up over a guard. They can be bigger tackles or bull rushers, because there are two in a four-man front.
- The 3-4 defensive end (5-technique) lines up directly over the tackle. Usually, they’re tall with impressive wingspans and size to compete with tackles.
- The 4-3 ends (7- or 9-technique) are different. A 7-technique is more of a powerful run-stuffer. At the same time, they’re responsible for generating a pass rush via their power, usually against right tackles. A 9-technique is the faster edge rusher. They can line up outside the tackle or at the end of the line of scrimmage, and because of their speed and quickness, are troubling to contain.
- The 3-4 outside linebackers assume the pass-rushing role in this sort of front. They stand up, set the edge and are charged with either containment or rushing the passer. Usually, they’re one of the most athletic front-seven players on the team with height, speed and wingspan.
Now, think about it: Key fits the profile for both a 4-3 end and a 3-4 outside linebacker. That’s been his former position and his new one, but he’s played on the line of scrimmage with his hand in the dirt since before his high school days. He’s been upright and played linebacker since March.
Like Key, many of LSU’s defensive personnel is accustomed to its roles in the 4-3. That’s where the players thrived and were recruited by LSU out of high school. In a season of transition, it’s a bit difficult to play so fluidly in a new role with different responsibilities and being situated in different spots.
If Les Miles was on “Survivor,” would he be on the Brains, Beauty of Brawn tribe? (@joecipollone)
Joe, your timing is impeccable. The mailbag is released on the “Survivor” Season premier 33. I don’t know how you knew I was a fan of the show.
Of course, you’re referring to last season’s theme, which I think would make for an interesting dilemma for LSU’s head coach. One of the most polarizing figures in all of college football, Miles’ ability to fall into the Brain tribe may be questioned by some Tigers fans. You know, clock management continues to be an issue that’s brought up to me time and time again.
What about Beauty? The problem we run into here is that at age 62 going on 63, the producers at “Survivor” might put up a bit of a fight trying to put Miles in that tribe.
By a process of elimination, Miles seems like a perfect fit for the Brawn tribe. Think about the contestants who comprised the Brawns last spring. There was Alecia Holden, a real estate agent; Cydney Gillon, a body builder who advanced to the final three; Darnell Hamilton, a postal worker; Jennifer Lanzetti, a contractor; Kyle Jason, the infamous bounty hunter; and Scot Pollard, the former NBA journeyman.
Based on these professions and Cydney, one of the favorites by the end of the season, I consider Miles a perfect fit here. A head football coach who played at Michigan and won national and SEC championships seems like he has that sports resume to make the cut. Then, if you factor in his affinity for eating grass, I think he might have an edge over some of the former contestants.
Is Tre’Davious White a legitimate Heisman contender? (@ldmingo11)
White returned for his senior season and, thus far, has made the most of it.
The cornerback has been a lockdown defender and dynamic playmaker in the secondary and on special teams. Through three games, White — who has started each of the past two games (both wins) at nickel — has one interception (a 21-yarder returned for a touchdown), a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery. Pair that with 9 tackles, including .5 for loss, a .5 sack and a pass breakup — not to mention he’s tied with Leonard Fournette for the team lead in points scored so far.
What’s more impressive is that White has held opposing quarterbacks to a 8.3 quarterback rating on passes thrown in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s the best mark for any cornerback playing in a Power 5 conference.
If he continues to excel on special teams, White could be in uncharted territory. He’s one punt return shy of tying the LSU record for punt return touchdowns, which is held by Skyler Green and has stood since 2005.
White could make an easy run for LSU’s most valuable player this season. The Heisman might be a taller task, though.
Charles Woodson was the last defensive player/special teams ace to nab the Heisman Trophy. That was back in 1997 when the former Michigan star hauled in 11 passes for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns, had a rushing score and a punt return touchdown. Additionally, Woodson recorded 7 interceptions and basically cemented his name in the Wolverines’ Hall of Fame.
Miles would have to create an offensive package for White and start chucking him the football in a hurry in order to try and catch up with Woodson’s historical ’97 campaign. The truth is that White is more than capable of posting better stats on defense and special teams, but he’ll lack the overall numbers that Woodson had back in the day.
With players such as Lamar Jackson leading Louisville to a rout over Florida State in front of a national audience, J.T. Barrett dominating for unbeaten Ohio State and White’s own teammate, Fournette, averaging 142.5 rushing yards per game, the odds are stacked against White.
Well, if the trend continues, he could always settle for a Jim Thorpe, Bronco Nagurski or the Chuck Bednarik Award … I guess.
Hey Sam. Long time, first time. If “Survivor” had a season where SEC coaches were on an island, who would win? And why? (@FakeJohnEllis)
Yes, another “Survivor” question … an excellent one at that.
Of course, Season 33 of the long-running reality series is Millennials vs. Gen. X, which should be one for the ages … no pun intended. But if we cast that theme to the side and just focus on the SEC head coaches and their ability to thrive on “Survivor,” here’s what we have:
There are 14 coaches in the SEC (seven from the East, seven from the West). Here’s a list, plus — in my opinion — their best attribute for competing on the show.
- Nick Saban, Alabama: Championship pedigree. Who has won more championships than Saban?
- Les Miles, LSU: As I referenced earlier, Miles eats blades of grass. He’s got “Survivor” written all over him, and I’m not even referencing his job security.
- Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: Freeze’s team has coughed up three-touchdown leads twice in the first three games. Isn’t “Survivor” about playing defense?
- Bret Bielema, Arkansas: The Hogs have ushered in a new chapter of football under the Bielema regime. Rough, tough and winning in the trenches.
- Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: He’s OK’d the use of the cowbells at home games, so I imagine he’d push a few buttons on the show.
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Resiliency. Say no more.
- Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: Sumlin has been the coach we’ve waited on to turn a corner. Is now the time?
- Kirby Smart, Georgia: The Saban disciple.
- Will Muschamp, South Carolina: Arguably the best recruiter in all the SEC.
- Barry Odom, Missouri: Defensive-minded coach. Impressing early on.
- Jim McElwain, Florida: Another branch of the Saban tree. This could get messy.
- Butch Jones, Tennessee: The pressure has been on for some time …
- Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Known for his defenses. Basically, the anti-Freeze.
- Mark Stoops, Kentucky: Brother is a national championship winner. Mark’s been living in that shadow for a bit.
The obvious contenders here are the ones with the hardware: Saban and Miles. I’ll even include Saban’s disciplines, Smart and McElwain. Freeze and Bielema should make things interesting, and I think Muschamp would be good for some trash talk. Would Jones be able to live up to the hype?
The issue here is that, as an avid “Survivor” fan, I’m sure you’re aware that it’s important to know who you’re bringing into the final three. If the presumptive favorite, Saban, makes it, would he bring Miles or Smart or McElwain? Wouldn’t he be trying to go forward with other contestants who wouldn’t warrant support at Tribal Council?
Saban might be able to do this in the SEC, but I’m not so sure about his abilities on the island.
Who commits next? (@Tyler_Capone)
I don’t mean to damper the mood, Tyler, but LSU fans waiting on the next domino fall are going to be in for a wait.
LSU managed to land 20 commitments before the start of the season and have about seven slots left to fill before National Signing Day. Before LSU takes any more commitments in the 2017 class, it first has to address the most glaring positional needs.
Of course, I’m referring to the front-seven players — in the linebacking corps and along the defensive line. The Tigers hold one linebacker pledge, 4-star Livonia (La.) athlete Patrick Queen, but want to add at least three and upward of four or five linebackers by Feb. 1, 2017. Additionally, LSU holds four defensive line commitments, but would like to push that total number to six, ideally adding another defensive tackle and a true 3-4 defensive end.
From that point on, LSU will attempt to fill in the rest of the dots with a fourth wide receiver, a third safety and possibly address the elephant in the room — a running back or a tight end.
Here is a list of LSU’s top remaining targets, for what it’s worth. Most are expected to commit after their senior season or in the weeks leading up to signing day.
- 3-star WR Racey McMath
- 4-star WR Devonta Smith
- 4-star WR Jeremiah Holloman
- 5-star RB Cam Akers
- 4-star DL Isaiah Buggs
- 4-star DL Phidarian Mathis
- 5-star DL Marvin Wilson
- 5-star LB Dylan Moses
- 4-star LB Christopher Allen
- 4-star LB Levi Jones
- 4-star LB K’Lavon Chaisson
- 4-star LB Will Ignont
- 4-star S Todd Harris
Are quarterbacks at LSU not being developed because of the coaching or because we’re recruiting the wrong kids from high school, like dual-threat quarterbacks? (pferrer1865)
Evaluating quarterback is no easy task, Paul.
I imagine this is a reference to Brandon Harris, who was one of the most sought-after quarterbacks coming out of Parkway High School (Bossier City, La.) his senior year. At the time, when signing Harris — the No. 3 dual-threat passer in the 2014 class — LSU looked to be in a good position for the future.
Remember, Harris made an immediate impact relieving Anthony Jennings as a true freshman. Before LSU’s season came to a screeching halt last November, Harris engineered the 7-0 start and didn’t throw an interception before the Alabama game. All offseason, from spring practice through fall camp, the entire coaching staff displayed confidence in Harris and the strides he made from Year 2 to Year 3. His inconsistency and poor decision-making to start this season really came a bit out of the blue.
I think Harris has all of the skills to be an effective SEC quarterback. He’s a bright kid, accepts coaching and has an uncanny competitiveness to him. However, to play quarterback for LSU is a position that goes hand in hand with a ton of pressure and expectations. Then, pair that with the fact that this 2016 team is expected to not only vie for a SEC championship but a College Football Playoff berth, too.
To me, the reasonable explanation is all that pressure got to Harris. Usually, he’s calm, cool and collected, but his play didn’t resemble that on the road against Wisconsin and early on against Jacksonville State.
I don’t think LSU is courting the wrong types of quarterbacks. Freshman Lindsey Scott Jr. also is a cerebral player who set all types of records last season at Zachary (La.) High School. He’s a different player than 3-star commit Myles Brennan, who is a different player than 4-star commit Lowell Narcisse.
If anything, LSU is bringing in a ton of uniquely skilled players to compete for the starting quarterback job next fall. Scott is a playmaker and already knows the playbook inside out. Brennan is a gunslinger who shows a lot of poise in the pocket. Narcisse is one of the toughest football players I’ve had the chance to watch up close and his previous injury setback helped him develop an even better pocket presence.
That’s the recipe to fix LSU’s quarterback dilemma moving forward. Cam Cameron is a quarterback guru and can coach them up. Dameyune Craig being on the staff is another added bonus, too. That level of coaching with this array of talent should yield positive results moving forward.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
Follow Sam Spiegelman on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.