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.
This week’s edition comes on the final days of fall camp and 10 days before LSU kicks off a promising 2016 season against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Room is getting tight in the Tigers recruiting class, with a dwindling number of scholarships left to offer and lots of targets left to reel in.
In other words, we’re about to leap into the fourth quarter of the recruiting cycle.
So what’s next? Let’s take a look:
With picks shifting for the Swilling boys, if LSU can’t land Akers, who’s the next RB target? (@pferrerr1865)
In the past 72 hours, Bruce Jordan-Swilling and brother Tre’ Swilling pledged to Georgia Tech. Jordan-Swilling, who can line up at either running back or linebacker, a bigger blow to LSU’s recruiting boards considering they have a need at both positions. But Jordan-Swilling decided between his father’s alma mater and Southern Cal, and LSU was left on the outside.
It’s a bit of a surprise because the Tigers were open to taking the 4-star athlete’s commitment as either a running back or a linebacker. That appealed to Jordan-Swilling since he has tussled with that decision in the past few months. Even though Jordan-Swilling, a New Orleans native, has made several trips to LSU dating back to the spring — including Junior Day, the Bayou Picnic, both prospect camps and the team barbecue last month — two trips to Southern Cal have vaulted the Pac-12 power ahead.
I expected LSU running backs coach and area recruiter Jabbar Juluke would be following Jordan-Swilling around on Friday nights this fall. He piled up 2,000 yards and 30-plus scores a season ago, and considering LSU’s need in the backfield, the fit made perfect sense. The team needs to find another downhill-style runner to take over for Leonard Fournette after 2016 and to eventually be the No. 1 back when Derrius Guice follows in another year.
Five-star Mississippi running back Cam Akers is the top target on LSU’s running back wish list at this juncture. He, 4-star Amite (La.) wide receiver Devonta Smith and 3-star New Orleans wide receiver Racey McMath are the only offensive targets from whom LSU would accept a commitment right now. With Jordan-Swilling out of the fold, I don’t believe LSU will be able to nab another running back in the 2017 class.
The one name to keep in your back pocket is 3-star Jennings (La.) back Travis Etienne. He de-committed from Texas A&M earlier this summer and participated in LSU’s elite camp in July. However, Etienne did not warrant much attention from the LSU coaches, and his size does not meet the coaching staff’s desires. LSU holds a commitment from Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a smaller, shiftier back. If the Tigers add a second tailback, they’d want him to be a bigger, more punishing runner.
Keep in mind that LSU is keeping tabs on a handful of backs for its 2018 class and could load up at the position if it does not add another running back this fall. Some names to keep an eye on are Mississippi 4-star Fabian Franklin, Florida 4-star Zamir White and Hahnville (La.) 3-star all-purpose back Anthony Williams.
Your prediction for our record. Will we finally beat ‘Bama again? (@GeauxTigers415)
I did a quick run-through of LSU’s 2016 season, including some predictions and X-factors. The most significant variable is injuries. The Tigers suffered a slew of them at the start of fall camp, but their outstanding depth makes it manageable. That may not be the case if they suffer another set of setbacks at key positions.
Here we go:
vs. Wisconsin (@ Lambeau Field)
With so much veteran leadership back, expect LSU to amp its intensity all the way up for this out-of-conference opener. Former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on the LSU sideline is the difference here. Win.
vs. Jacksonville State
LSU’s home opener should go smoothly. Lightning forced the cancellation of last year’s home opener against McNeese State, and these games have value in giving coaches a chance to play their first- and second-team units. Win.
vs. Mississippi State
No Dak Prescott is a pretty significant deal. The Bulldogs quarterback always was a thorn in the Tigers’ side. Brandon Harris could prove how valuable an experienced signal caller is. Win.
Auburn will be better, and playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium should be a challenge. Again, veteran leadership goes a long way with SEC road tilts. Win.
Mizzou is in a rebuilding phase under new coach Barry Odom. LSU must be able to maintain its focus instead of looking ahead to the next week’s showdown with Florida. Win.
Last year, LSU ran away from Florida at home after the Gators made the switch to Treon Harris at quarterback. Yet again, Florida will have a new quarterback and a stingy defense. It won’t be as much of a rout in The Swamp. Win.
vs. Southern Miss
Southern Miss is quietly a very good team, so maybe this is close for a half or more. LSU needs to break away at some point to inflate its confidence for the next week’s all-important contest. Win.
vs. Ole Miss
Probably the team’s biggest test to date. Last year, Ole Miss got the best of the Tigers in Oxford. QB Chad Kelley is a Heisman contender, so this one could be big for both his and Fournette’s campaigns. Ole Miss lost Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil, etc., so this time, LSU is the more talented squad. Win.
This might as well be LSU’s Super Bowl. The Tigers looked like an inferior team in last year’s meeting. The difference this year: Fournette’s desire to exact revenge. Harris playing with a chip on his shoulder. LSU’s defense in Tiger Stadium. If not, a late-season loss could all but end the team’s playoff chances. The Tide have won five straight meetings and seven of the last nine under Nick Saban, but this one’s a coin flip. Win.
If LSU can skate by Alabama, it will have to regain its composure for the road trip to Arkansas. The Razorbacks have gotten the best of LSU two years in a row. There’s a lot of Louisiana flavor on the Arkansas roster wanting to get back at the Tigers. However, this team isn’t as dangerous as last year’s was. Win.
vs. South Alabama
Returning home 10-0 should be an uplifting feeling. This game should be over early, giving the starters ample rest before they close out the regular season the following week. Win.
@ Texas A&M
Last year’s game against A&M saved Les Miles’ job. Another win might earn him a contract extension. The Aggies have a new face behind center, but are a threat. Win.
So, yeah, based on the talent, the coaching and the experience of this year’s team, LSU could very well go unbeaten in the regular season. The biggest hurdles are the road game at Florida, at home against Ole Miss and the ultimate showdown against Alabama. The latter is the biggest coin flip of the regular season. It’s better to lose early than late, and because I’m confident the Tigers will get through the early part of their schedule, it’ll be a win-or-go-home sort of atmosphere on Nov. 5 at Tiger Stadium.
If NSD was today, which linebacker commits would be a part of this class? (@datDamnLilreg)
You can count on 4-star Livonia (La.) linebacker Patrick Queen to be there. He’s been one of the stalwarts in LSU’s 2017 class and will be an instant-impact player when he arrives on campus.
Queen committed in February, but we may not know until February 2017 who will join him in the linebacking corps.
I’m pretty confident 5-star outside linebacker Dylan Moses will be there. He’s a Baton Rouge native, and I think he has soured a bit on Alabama and Texas in the past few months. Meanwhile, he has continued to foster a relationship with Aranda, and we are well aware how close he is with numerous members of the LSU staff, including Miles and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond.
LSU quickly has gained steam with 4-star outside linebacker Christopher Allen. He’s down to Alabama and LSU, with Florida as a dark horse. He told SEC Country that his top two teams currently are tied, but will wait to see how each team fares in 2016 before making his decision. If one advances to the playoff and one doesn’t, that could be the difference. If both do, then I believe he’d stay at home and go to LSU.
Three other linebackers are in consideration for a fourth spot. Four-star Texas linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, 4-star Texas linebacker Levi Jones and 4-star Alabama linebacker Will Ignont all are in the mix. Chaisson has made a habit of visiting LSU, and for now I’d lean toward him. However, I expect Oklahoma to really make a push for him and for Texas to get involved. Jones visited for the team barbecue and could warrant even more attention if LSU feels it’s slipping on Chaisson. They’re destined to play the same role at the next level. Ignont will be the first of those three to commit. He told SEC Country that LSU was out in front following his July visit to campus and could solidify his spot by early September. Michigan, UCLA and Auburn — the presumptive front-runner about two months ago — pose the biggest threats.
Please comment on current LSU commits you think could possibly flip or de-commit. Also, the prospects committed to other universities who you believe could flip to LSU? (Mark Adams on Facebook)
I’m not in the business of suggesting that any prospects will de-commit. Each recruit must do what’s best for himself and his family because it’s their future at stake.
LSU holds 20 commits, and we’re well aware of what positions the team is targeting for the remaining spots. Based on which colleges are targeting LSU guys, here are a few things to keep an eye on:
- LSU will have a huge haul of defensive linemen in 2017. Already, the team holds pledges from 4-star tackle Tyler Shelvin, 4-star lineman Aaron Moffitt and 3-star ends Neil Farrell and Justin Thomas. If LSU is able to continue to make progress with 5-star tackle Marvin Wilson, 4-star lineman Phidarian Mathis and 4-star defensive end Isaiah Buggs — or at least a combination of those three — it may put a bad taste in one of those commits’ mouths. LSU is aiming to bring in five or six defensive linemen to compete for playing time next year. Whoever LSU brings in must have a competitive mindset.
- The Tigers remain in the hunt for another running back to pair with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I consider Edwards-Helaire a solid commit, but he’s also garnering a lot of attention from SEC West rival Mississippi State. Because he has regularly visited LSU’s campus and is teammates with fellow LSU commit Moffitt, I expect everything to stay as is. However, LSU is crossing its fingers it can land Akers. Ensuring that Edwards-Helaire remains in this class is paramount, but as far as other running backs to pair to pair up with the Catholic High star, to me, it’s Akers or bust.
- Like the defensive linemen, LSU could reel in three or four wide receivers in 2017. Devonta Smith and Racey McMath stand atop the staff’s wish list for that fourth spot. Smith won’t announce until National Signing Day, but if McMath commits before then, it could shake things up. LSU’s three receiver commits — Stephen Guidry, Mannie Netherly and Jhamon Ausbon — all are solid, and with so many receivers transferring or set to head to the NFL after the 2016 season, they know there will be competition for roles. It’s something to keep tabs on considering the team’s recent push for another wide receiver.
I don’t anticipate much flipping to the LSU cause. The staff will host Alabama 4-star outside linebacker VanDarius Cowan this fall, but he’s as solid as solid gets. LSU could be in the mix to host his future teammate, 5-star offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, as well. LSU hosted Leatherwood twice this spring, but since then it appears Southern Cal and Florida have gained ground on the Tigers. Leatherwood grew up an LSU fan, so it is worth monitoring. Lastly, 4-star Louisiana lineman Adrian Ealy has yet to commit, but will be choosing either Oklahoma or Miami in the next few weeks. LSU once was considered to be a heavy favorite for Ealy. A delay in Ealy’s decision or increased attention from the Tigers’ staff could go a long way with the 4-star prospect, who previously told SEC Country he preferred to play in the SEC.
What’s latest on Dylan Moses? (Jason Beck on Facebook)
Dylan Moses has quieted his recruitment for the past few weeks and is expected to continue down that path into the fall. The 5-star linebacker announced he’s taking official visits — to Alabama (Oct. 1), Florida State (Oct. 8), Texas (Oct. 15), Southern Cal (Nov. 19) and Ohio State (Nov. 26). Decision time is in December.
After releasing several top-schools lists and taking some unofficial visits the past few months, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect is narrowing his top schools. One thing that can’t go unnoticed is his consistent gravitation back home to Baton Rouge and the connections he has to the program.
I’d name LSU as his silent leader for several reasons:
- He’s from Baton Rouge. He grew up and played high school football on the foot of LSU’s campus at University Lab.
- He is close with several members of the Tigers’ staff, including Miles, Aranda and Raymond.
- There’s an obvious need for linebackers in 2017, and Moses is the top linebacker in the class. Moses can jump right into the mix, compete for a starting job during spring practices and fill a major need for LSU.
- Moses seeks to be the next No. 7 in LSU’s legacy. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Leonard Fournette all have donned the jersey. Moses would like to compete with 5-star LSU safety commit JaCoby Stevens to be the next to be given that honor.
- He’s made several visits to LSU since the spring. He spent a week in March taking in practices, sitting in on meetings and getting to bond with Aranda. He returned in June and fired off a tweet saying he hopes to see his hometown team win a national championship. It’s not far-fetched to think that he wants to follow the LeBron James blueprint and help it do so.
The red flag here is that Moses won’t be taking an official visit to LSU. In many cases prospects so familiar with a campus don’t need to officially visit a school they’ve seen so often. I’m still confident that one week Moses will make his way to Baton Rouge for an unofficial stop-in. That might be the finishing touch to LSU nabbing him in December.
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.