The LSU football season is rapidly approaching, but recruiting never stops.
The early signing period in December is less than five months away. Ed Orgeron & Co. still have plenty to do to help close out a top-10 recruiting class and address several key positions of need.
Every month, SEC Country will outline the three biggest items that the LSU coaching staff needs to accomplish on the recruiting trail in order to make that a reality. Here is the to-do list for August.
Add another piece to the front 7
Entering June, LSU’s 2018 recruiting class was largely filled with prospects on the defensive side of the ball. As of Aug. 1, that remains the case, but reinforcements are needed both in the secondary and along the front seven. Much of the team’s priority targets are top-shelf defensive backs who won’t be making a decision until the end of the fall or closer to National Signing Day.
LSU holds commitments from 12 defensive prospects, nine of whom are projected to play somewhere in the front seven. The two spots that the staff has been focused on have been defensive tackle and edge rushers, and with the losses of Adam Anderson and Jamarcus Chatman, both are now viable needs.
Two names that come to mind are St. Louis 4-star defensive tackle Michael Thompson and Alabama 3-star pass rusher Andres Fox. Thompson included the Tigers in his final five and has a tremendous connection with Orgeron. The same goes for Fox, who is down to LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Stanford, and could be close to making a decision ahead of his senior season.
Figuring out the future of Ja’Quon Griffin, the third leg of the Rome (Ga.) High School triangle, is critical in eventually bringing Thompson and Fox into the fold.
Zero in on a second offensive tackle
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has done early work assembling a dynamic trio of offensive line commitments for the 2018 class. Both Chasen Hines and Cole Smith could succeed Will Clapp and Lloyd Cushenberry III at center, and Hines has the ability to move to guard, if necessary. Cameron Wire, Louisiana’s top offensive tackle, is about two years from really competing to be a starting left tackle for the Tigers.
With K.J. Malone entering his final season in Baton Rouge and the depth chart rather slim behind him, LSU needs to add another tackle who is ready to compete for playing time. Two names to keep tabs on are Badara Traore and Rafiti Ghirmai.
Traore, a 4-star junior college tackle, has made one official visit — to Auburn — but is expected to land in Baton Rouge in due time. He is just diving into his recruitment, so a decision may not come right away. However, the 6-foot-8, 315-pound Traore could compete with Austin Deculus to be LSU’s starting left tackle next spring.
Ghirmai named LSU as his leading school after visiting for the Tigers’ spring game last April. He was wowed by the academic facilities in Baton Rouge and has a very deep connection to Grimes. Sources in Texas believe that the Longhorns eventually can win out for the Wakeland (Texas) High School standout. Florida, Michigan, Alabama and UCLA also are legitimate threats.
It is in LSU’s best interest to secure a fourth offensive linemen and second tackle in the 2018 class early. Both Traore and Ghirmai are viable candidates for that final spot.
Secure a priority wide receiver target
Wide receiver remains LSU’s biggest position of need at this stage in the recruiting cycle with up to three spots to fill.
Mickey Joseph did early work in landing in-state receivers Jaray Jenkins and Kenan Jones to lay a foundation, but there are four other targets in Louisiana and a host of wideouts outside The Boot who the Tigers need to bolster their receiving corps to suit Matt Canada’s offense.
Terrace Marshall Jr., Ja’Marr Chase (Florida commit), Devonta Jason (Kansas commit) and Lawrence Keys III are the four in-state names to know. Joshua Moore, Miles Battle and Jalen Preston are three Texans to monitor.
Marshall won’t make a decision until December. The same goes for Jason, who plans to enroll early. Chase made the surprising pledge to Florida in July during “Friday Night Lights,” but his recruitment is not over. Keys could pop before his senior season or not long after, and LSU is squarely in the mix for the New Orleans native.
Moore, a Nebraska commit, will officially visit Baton Rouge in the fall with his family. He’s certainly a flip target for LSU and will always have a spot available if he wants in. His cousin, Jonathan Giles, is playing a big role in his decision.
Battle’s stock is continuing to soar, and he recently included the Tigers in his final five. If LSU pushes, it can easily land the 4-star prospect from Houston. Preston has forged a strong relationship with Joseph, too, and if he doesn’t commit to Texas A&M, then LSU certainly poses a threat to poach the Texas prospect.