Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting, with Sam Spiegelman.
In this edition, we discuss why LSU remains in good position to hold onto 2018 linebacker commit Damone Clark despite a spring full of new offers. Plus, we touch on Kardell Thomas‘ unofficial visit to LSU, which helped push the dial back to 100 percent on his pledge.
BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU spring game marked the first game in which Damone Clark stood on the sidelines as a verbal commit.
That’s a feeling Clark still is having trouble getting over.
Clark is the No. 12 overall prospect in Louisiana and No. 13 inside linebacker in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He was one of the early commits in the Tigers’ recruiting class and has grown even more solid in that pledge in the aftermath of that weekend. The 4-star defender from Southern Lab (La.) was hoping to receive some love from the LSU coaching staff. He got that, and then some, in his most recent visit to Tiger Stadium.
“It was really enthusiastic. I just loved the energy of being in Tiger Stadium,” Clark told SEC Country. “I really felt more welcomed by the coaches and the players. I talked with Coach O [Ed Orgeron], Coach [Dave] Aranda, and they asked me how it felt to be a commit in Tiger Stadium. … Oh, I loved it. I really loved it.”
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound linebacker’s chance to connect with Aranda in person was a highlight. LSU’s defensive coordinator and prized commit have been in daily communication ever since Clark gave his verbal pledge on the field in Death Valley in January.
Like Aranda, Clark boasts a tremendous football IQ and goes about his business quietly. It should come as no surprise that when they were reunited, the conversations focused on life and football, which is exactly what Clark has sought in his recruitment.
“He’s serious. He’s quiet but serious,” Clark said, laughing. “I can really relate to Coach Aranda. We talk every day. He checks on me. He texts me every morning to make sure it’s a good one and to have a safe week. He just really wants me to come in and play, and that’s great communication there. I wanted the feeling of talking to the coaches rather than just committing and signing my letter of intent somewhere without knowing the coaches.”
Another topic of discussion between Aranda and Clark is exactly where the 4-star prospect will line up.
Clark plays the “CAT” position at Southern Lab. Last season, he starred at safety and outside linebacker for the state champion Kittens. He’ll also rush the passer and play some inside linebacker as a senior in 2017. The coaches also expect him to earn some snaps on offense.
At LSU, he could play inside. He could line up outside, too. The uncertainty about where, however, has become a selling point for Clark, who is enjoying the idea of being a jack of all trades.
“They’ve mentioned outside and inside, but I really don’t know where they’ll put me,” Clark said. “[LSU commit and teammate] Kardell [Thomas] says that’s a good thing that they don’t know where to play me, though, because I’m so versatile. I’m cool with that.”
Since giving his commitment to Aranda and Orgeron, Clark has seen his recruitment spike. Arizona State, Texas A&M and Ole Miss have extended offers this spring, adding to his double-digit offer sheet that also includes Mississippi State, Miami, Florida, Colorado, Kansas, Stanford and Iowa State.
Clark will make summer visits to Alabama and Arkansas, but he’s firm in his commitment to LSU. Other schools have come knocking — including both Florida and Michigan — but he has mustered up a useful response.
“Yeah, I’ve picked up a lot of big offers. They’re always telling me how I could fit their defense,” Clark said. “But I’m a Tiger, and I’m being patient.”
Kardell Thomas back to 100 percent with Tigers
Kardell Thomas‘ comments about the Texas Longhorns’ push earlier this month caught a lot of people’s attention. That included Orgeron.
Let’s circle back: LSU’s 5-star Class of 2019 offensive lineman commit told SEC Country that “LSU was getting shaken by Texas.” He admitted his stance with the Tigers had fluctuated after making the trip to Austin for the Longhorns’ spring game.
A lot can change in a short time, which Thomas proved.
After getting word of Texas’ push, Orgeron invited Thomas and his family to campus for a mid-week unofficial visit, in which LSU’s coach did his best impersonation of a lawyer. Orgeron made a convincing argument of why LSU needed the Southern Lab (La.) standout to stick, and truth be told, the Tigers walked away a winner.
“The unofficial visit was great,” Thomas told SEC Country. “We went there and it was just me, Coach O, Coach Derek (Ponamsky) and my parents. He showed us that he has a plan for me coming into LSU. It was great. He showed me the depth chart and a lot of things that a coach wouldn’t do if he was lying. A lot of coaches will lie to you and say that you can come in and play, but he showed factual evidence that I can, so I knew he wasn’t lying. I’m 100-percent LSU.”
Texas’ shake is now over.
The 6-foot-4, 330-pound guard saw firsthand his path to the starting lineup. Hint: it involved a lot of red.
Red stands for seniors set to graduate. A look at the Tigers’ current depth chart reveals that junior guards Maea Teuhema and Garrett Brumfield will graduate after the 2018 season. Behind them is sophomore Donavaughn Campbell, who seems ripe to succeed either Teuhema or Brumfield. Then, there are 2017 signees Saahdiq Charles and Edward Ingram, who are likely primed for reserve roles in their first seasons.
In other words, there is a clear path to the field when Thomas arrives in 2019. Nothing speaks volumes more than seeing red.
“It’s just how many seniors and juniors they have,” Thomas said. “When I come in, I’ll have to be ready to go. They’ll have a couple more offensive linemen to sign in the years to come, but there’s a lot of red. Red stands for seniors, so it was a lot of red.”
The depth chart made waves with Thomas, but so did a unique angle provided by Ponamsky, Orgeron’s special assistant.
Ponamsky, a former radio host at ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge, sold Thomas on his intended major: journalism. LSU stakes its claim as one of the best programs in the country, and the notion of staying home and pursuing both football and broadcasting caught the 5-star lineman’s attention.
“The first [thing] we talked about was my major,” Thomas recalled. “They knew I wanted to do journalism. Coach Derek worked at ESPN and he was showing me that LSU was one of the best. LSU can help me get internships, and since that’s what I want to do it can help me to get a job right off the bat. It was great.”
Speaking of future journalists, Kardell provided a headline to summarize his unofficial visit: “Kardell Thomas is about to take off at LSU.”
Thomas’ parents also enjoyed their time with Orgeron at LSU, which helped resell them on their son’s commitment.
After all, Thomas isn’t shy about reminding those that mom and dad are his closest confidants and the reason he is the state’s No. 2 prospect and the No. 1 guard in the 2019 class. Impressing them made an impression on Thomas.
“My father and my mother are the same person, and they told me that it’s real here,” he said. “They told me to come in ready and we’re getting ready, and this is where we’re coming.”
Take 2 –> Watch LSU commits Damone Clark and Kardell Thomas interview each other
Posted by LSU Insiders on Saturday, May 13, 2017
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