It’s mid-December and we’re six weeks out from National Signing Day.
LSU holds 19 commitments for its 2017 class with anywhere from seven to nine more slots to fill, depending on who declares for the NFL draft leading up to the Jan. 16 deadline.
The Tigers have their sights set on some blue-chip targets, most notably at running back, wide receiver, defensive line and defensive back.
Recruiting, however, is a strange animal, and there is always a chance that LSU strikes out on some of its 5-star targets.
With that said, the coaching staff has kept tabs on some of Louisiana’s top underrated talents to possibly add to the 2017 haul before National Signing Day arrives. This includes those committed to smaller schools or stud prospects that have flown under the radar.
Who fits that bill? Here are some names to know.
Running back: Travis Etienne, 4-star (Jennings, La.)
Ed Orgeron and Jabbar Juluke are hoping to land 5-star Mississippi back Cam Akers in the next few weeks. However, Florida State has gained some momentum as new offensive coordinator Matt Canada attempts to lead the Tigers’ late push.
LSU holds a commitment from 3-star back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but needs a downhill runner to help fill the void left behind by Leonard Fournette.
That’s why the staff has kept in contact with Etienne, the 4-star Louisiana running back who holds nearly 30 offers and was — at one point — committed to Texas A&M.
Etienne accumulated 2,459 rushing yards from scrimmage and 34 total touchdowns his senior season. That includes 30 rushing scores, two receiving and another two as a returner.
The Aggies, Tennessee and Oregon are the frontrunners to land Etienne, but if LSU strikes out on Akers, it could extend an offer to Etienne and possibly lock up the in-state talent. He camped with the team in July, and Juluke has remained in touch, even thinking about offering him as a defensive back. If an offer were to come in January when he officially visits, it definitely would be as a running back.
Wide receiver: Justin Jefferson, 3-star (Destrehan, La.)
LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig has been enamored with Jefferson since the July prospect camp, when the prospect put on a show.
The Tigers are emphasizing wide receivers in their 2017 haul after losing five players to transfer since last offseason and Travin Dural set to head to the NFL. The same fate could be in store for juniors Malachi Dupre and/or D.J. Chark.
DeVonta Smith and Racey McMath are the names to know, but decisions for both won’t come until at least late January. In Smith’s case, his pick comes on National Signing Day.
Alabama and Miami are major threats to land Smith, and Miami, Florida, Texas A&M and Mississippi State remain in the mix for McMath. If LSU loses steam with either one, Jefferson is the receiver to keep an eye on.
Justin, the younger brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and safety Rickey Jefferson, helped Destrehan advance to the state semifinals as the leading receiver on an offense with Notre Dame commit Michael Young in the mix. He hauled in 30 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season.
Defensive line: Justin Harris, 3-star (Gonzales, La.); Bryan Jones, 3-star (Baton Rouge, La.)
LSU has its sights set on 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and 4-star defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis, but both recruits are far from a sure thing.
Wilson is being courted by LSU as well as Florida State, Ohio State and in-state powers Texas and Texas A&M. LSU should make Wilson’s top five, which will be released next week at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Mathis has sat atop LSU’s priority list for some time now, and the pressure to land the in-state defensive lineman increased exponentially once Alabama poached junior college standout Isaiah Buggs from the Tigers’ grasp earlier this month.
LSU has continued to communicate with Harris, a UCF commit, in the hopes of a late flip should Wilson or Mathis wind up elsewhere. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder registered 62 tackles, 28 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries this season for East Ascension (La.) High, breaking former LSU great Glenn Dorsey’s school record for sacks.
I’d peg Harris as LSU’s next top guy on the list, but don’t count out Jones, either.
The 3-star defensive end and one-time Ole Miss commit was all but penciled into LSU’s class in the spring. Things went awry, leading to his pledge to Ole Miss.
He reopened his recruitment this fall, with Texas A&M and Houston both in play for the third-ranked Louisiana lineman.
Jones led Madison Prep (La.) Academy with 86 tackles, including 48 for loss. He registered 18 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions and 1 defensive score.
At one point, Cam Cameron and Orgeron were both recruiting Jones. During the Bayou Picnic, Orgeron told Jones he was going to be a Tiger. With Orgeron now the head coach, Jones is a defensive end worth monitoring.
Defensive back: Amik Robertson, 3-star (Thibodaux, La.)
Perhaps no prospect in Louisiana has drawn more attention than Robertson since LSU’s July camp, and for good reason.
Robertson may be a 3-star cornerback, but he was a game-changer in all three phases of the game for Thibodaux (La.) High again this fall.
Orgeron and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond have kept tabs on Robertson and could wind up offering the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder depending on how the Tigers’ board shakes out this January.
Robertson committed to Louisiana Tech in September, but recently nabbed an offer from Houston. In other words, other marquee programs are beginning to take notice of the underrated talent in LSU’s backyard.
And for good reason, too.
Robertson did a little bit of everything for his team in 2016. He piled up 1,212 yards on 100 carries, including 14 touchdowns. He completed 8-of-17 passes for 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, and hauled in 14 passes for 450 yards and 6 more scores. Robertson also returned 12 punts for 296 yards (24.7 yards per return) and a touchdown.
LSU holds two cornerback commits in its 2017 class in Kary Vincent and Jontre Kirklin, and two safeties in JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit. The goal is to take one more defensive back, with 4-star safety Todd Harris the likely culprit.
However, if Arizona State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss or Alabama are successful in prying Harris, then Robertson is certainly next up. He could play safety or nickel for the Tigers, and proved as much at the elite prospect camp and all season long for Thibodaux.
No prospect plays with a bigger chip on his shoulder than Robertson. Whichever school lands him will be in good shape.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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