Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting, with Sam Spiegelman. Today, we discuss LSU’s pursuit of its next quarterback. With options dwindling in the Class of 2018, coach Ed Orgeron is zeroing in on one of the nation’s best passers in next year’s class, Grant Gunnell.
Ed Orgeron zeroing in on 4-star QB Grant Gunnell
Odds are that LSU will not be taking a quarterback in the 2018 class.
James Foster, the top uncommitted quarterback left on the team’s board in this recruiting cycle, will make his way to Baton Rouge for the first time this week for an official visit. At one point in October, after recruiting coordinator Tommie Robinson extended an offer, LSU was the 4-star quarterback’s leader. Florida State and Texas A&M have since offered and Alabama dialed up the pressure after missing on Emory Jones, who signed with Florida during the early signing period.
The Tigers are not out of the race for Foster, but certainly have ground to make up beginning this weekend. With four spots remaining in 2018 — and one spot reserved for newly minted defensive back commitment Kelvin Joseph — the writing on the wall suggests Foster will commit somewhere other than LSU come National Signing Day.
Over the weekend, coach Ed Orgeron extended a preferred walk-on spot to Riverside Academy (La.) 3-star quarterback Jordan Loving. A solid pro-style prospect, Loving could add much-needed depth behind rising sophomore Myles Brennan and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse.
Still, failing to sign a quarterback to the 2018 class puts added pressure on this LSU coaching staff to make a splash in 2019. LSU is evaluating several in-state quarterbacks, but none have separated themselves from the pack to warrant an offer just yet. In fact, the one signal-caller that has garnered attention from Orgeron and, before that, former offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been 4-star Houston passer Grant Gunnell.
During the December contact period, Orgeron navigated through Texas and made his way to St. Pius X (Texas) High School in Houston to check on the nation’s top-ranked pro-style quarterback. Orgeron identified Gunnell, a Texas A&M verbal, as LSU’s top quarterback target for the Class of 2019.
“He said: ‘I don’t want to make any secrets. He’s [Gunnell] our No. 1 priority and I’ll do whatever it takes for him to know that that’s the case,’” Gunnell’s coach, Stephen Hill, told SEC Country. “‘If it takes me coming to the school as many times as the NCAA allows, I’ll be there that many days.’ Grant likes LSU. He’s committed to A&M, but obviously, with everything going on, he’s trying to take a step back from everything to focus on winning the state championship. At that point, he’ll go back and evaluate his situation.”
Orgeron has refused to slow down his approach since.
LSU’s head coach has remained in regular contact with both the 6-foot-6, 212-pound U.S. Army All-American and his parents. Orgeron checks in with Hill, too. And of course, he made an unforgettable promise to Gunnell about signing day, should he choose the Tigers.
“Coach O texts my parents like every morning,” Gunnell said at the Future 50 in Orlando, Fla. “I text with him every other day. … He’s a great guy. He said if I commit, he’d bring the tiger to my signing day.”
LSU continues to push for a flip of the 4-star passer, who is still contemplating his commitment to Texas A&M. After hiring Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies’ new coach met with Gunnell before offering several dual-threat quarterbacks, which created some confusion about what style of offense would be in place in College Station, Texas.
A de-commitment appears to be imminent and multiple sources have informed SEC Country that it’s a matter of “when,” not “if.”
“I got to figure everything out,” Gunnell said. “I’ve talked to him [Fisher] a few times and then he went an offered a bunch of dual-threats. So it messed with my head and I’m not really sure.”
LSU is among a handful of teams pursuing Gunnell along with Florida State, TCU, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Purdue, among others. Sources in the Lone Star State have told SEC Country that it is really boiling down to a two-team race between LSU and Arkansas.
New Hogs coach Chad Morris offered Gunnell immediately after taking the gig. Arkansas is his mother and father’s alma mater and his oldest brother, Nelson Gunnell, was on the team temporarily before transferring to Central Arkansas.
Gunnell is expected back on LSU’s campus this spring for junior day and a decision may follow shortly after. He expects to take upwards of three official visits prior to his senior season. There, the All-American quarterback will have a chance to familiarize himself with the Tigers’ offensive blueprint under Steve Ensminger, Orgeron’s pick to take over as coordinator. That may ultimately be the deciding factor between LSU and Arkansas.
“Obviously, it would all depend on who they hired as offensive coordinator. That’s what he liked about LSU,” Hill told SEC Country, in reference to Canada’s system, “so now it would all depend on the coordinator and how he fits into the scheme.”
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