BATON ROUGE, La. — The recruiting world is a weird world. But even by that standard, the recruitment of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire took some strange twists before he finally signed with LSU 2 years after committing to the Tigers.
Like everyone else in this year’s class, he had to see how things would play out after LSU fired Les Miles 4 games into the season.
Then, when Ed Orgeron did get the job on a permanent basis, Edwards-Helaire watched as the Tigers pursued 5-star running back Cam Akers.
During that process, Edwards-Helaire heard that Akers was being told the Baton Rouge Catholic standout probably would be going to Mississippi State. That rumor was so bothersome that Edwards-Helaire actually did back off his commitment to the Tigers in December — for an hour. Conversations with Orgeron, Jabbar Juluke and Matt Canada kept him in the fold. Akers ended up signing with Florida State anyway.
The drama didn’t stop on signing day. The following day, Juluke was demoted by Orgeron before departing for Texas Tech. But as it turned out, Edwards-Helaire handled that departure in stride mostly because of a previous piece of advice from Juluke himself.
The following is a Q&A with Clyde Edwards-Helaire from our LSU recruiting rewind series.
Q: What advice would you give to juniors about the recruiting process?
A: Take your time. I know a lot of people say that. But don’t let outside forces determine your decision. People will throw hints on where they want you to go because they think it’s the place you should be, not because it’s the place you love.
Take your visits. Feel out the place. Take more than one. You don’t get the real feel of the school on a game day. See what it’s like, if you really want to be in school here. Can I see myself sitting in this classroom? You’re not playing football all day. If you can’t see yourself walking around that campus in non-football season, I wouldn’t do it. A lot of schools have the same opportunity. It’s up to you to make that happen.
Q: Where else did you take your visits?
A: Mississippi State, Oklahoma. I wasn’t able to go to TCU, but it was scheduled before they canceled.
Q: What was it like dealing with the coaching change at LSU?
I remember Coach Juluke saying, ‘You don’t pick a school because you love the coach, you pick a school because you love the school. A coach could be gone any day.’ And you see how that happened.
Coach O would say ‘Just stop by my office.’ He’d sit back in his chair and we’d talk, just chilling.
It’s not just the coaching situation. I was close to coach [Les] Miles. But I couldn’t let that alter my decision. They were the first SEC school to offer me. That’s where I wanted to go all along. The second school overall other than Nicholls. They saw it early. It was a roller coaster, but I hit a point of blocking it all out, doing the pros and cons, and praying over it.
Q: The day after signing day, coach Juluke is gone. What was your reaction to that?
Well, you’re like ‘That’s messed up.’ But the only thing I could think about was a week and a half, two weeks before that, he was sitting in here saying ‘You don’t pick a school because of the coach. You pick a school because you love the school.’
It was like, ‘You recruited me, I feel for you. I hope you land a job.’
Q: In that hour where you were de-committed, what was going on?
Some people were getting told that, ‘We’re not worried about this recruit because this other school offered him’ and ‘Oh, he’s visited this school for the past 5 games,’ or something like that. You hear that and you’re like ‘I’ve been committed to this school for 2 years and now you’re saying I’m not coming?’ I’m taking my visits and now you’re saying I’m not coming?’
Well… I pulled it. I respected you for 2 years straight and now you’re saying ‘He’s not coming here, we’ll pick up somebody else, we’re not worried about him.’
Q: How did you hear all that?
It was gradual. Then you start reading stuff and it’s got direct quotes and confirmation. After I de-committed, Mississippi State was the 2-spot.
Q: What reeled you back in?
Got on the phone with Coach O. Got on the phone with coach Canada. I paced up and down the street for however long we talked. I guess 30 minutes. Coach tweeted ‘Hold That Tiger!’ and people thought someone else committed. He told me not to worry about the whole thing, it’s all good. It took that and him talking to my mom.
Q: We all know we’re talking about Cam Akers. Going into college, are you going to look at what you’ll do compared to this guy?
A: That’s what everyone gauged this class off of. ‘Let’s gauge it off Cam.’ Everyone knew he was the No. 1 recruit.
You don’t size yourself up, you say, ‘OK, what do I do better than him? Is it more or is it less?’ He’s taller than me. But overall, I’m easily the best back in this class. Catching, outside the tackles, I know I am.
Q: How excited were you once coach Canada came into the fold? That seems to fit your skill set.
A: (Baton Rouge Catholic) Coach (Gabe) Fertitta was excited, No. 1. He immediately sent me anything he could load into Hudl as far as Pitt’s offense. I watched full games. I wanted to see what the running backs were doing. As far as having backs in the passing game and running all over the place, that’s my forte.
Q: Who was the toughest coach to say no to?
A: Coach (Dan) Mullen, no doubt. Down-to-earth guy. Down-to-earth family. Coaching staff is down to earth. Calling him the night before, that was the one.
Q: Was there ever a funny moment in recruiting?
A: The TCU cancelation.
Q: What was that all about?
A: Aaron Moffitt and I, we were going to take an official. It might have been 10 o’clock (when they called), I was supposed to leave in the morning. And they were like ‘We’re not going to take a running back in this class.’
My mom and I were like ‘What? What kind of stuff is this? That’s not very professional to cancel a visit seven hours before a person is supposed to leave.’
It was funny afterwards. Because I was honestly thinking about going. If you’re taking a back and that person really wants to be there, it’s nothing to redshirt. So that was funny to me, you go through all that recruiting and now I guess you don’t want to spend money on the official? I never contacted them back.
They told my mom ‘Sorry for the inconvenience.’
Q: If you assessed recruiting, did you enjoy it or is it something you’re glad you don’t have to go through again?
A: The calls were very exciting at first. Every kid is excited to get recruited at first. But it gets to a point where it’s like ‘alright, let’s slow this down.’ If I could get calls, but not as excessive, I’d do it again. A lot of hours were spent on the phone. If I could weed those out, I’d do it again.