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 how LSU flipped one of the state’s top defensive linemen.
The unexpected call
PLAQUEMINE, La. — Nelson Jenkins was in the midst of spring football workouts on Feb. 16 when Plaquemine High School coach Paul Distefano asked that he come into the clubhouse.
Ed Orgeron was on the line and had been calling nonstop all morning.
Jenkins does not own a cellphone, so the 3-star defensive lineman, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, had no other option than to take the call in his coach’s office. It wasn’t expected but was well received. When Jenkins hung up, he faced an unusual turn early in his recruitment.
“Coach had told me that [Orgeron] had been calling me since the morning, so I came back here to talk to him,” Nelson recalled to SEC Country.
“I was … I was speechless. He coached me at an LSU camp, but that was the only time I talked to him. I didn’t think I’d get a call. I didn’t think they would offer me until my senior year, but it came.”
That offer resulted in a commitment a few hours later.
Jenkins had committed to Kansas 10 days earlier after speaking with area recruiter Tony Hull. He became the sixth Louisiana native to pledge to the Jayhawks after junior day and was sold on being a part of the program’s rebuilding efforts.
The offer from LSU carried weight, though. Jenkins aspires to play his college football down the road from his home in Maringouin, La., and he grew up wanting to be a Tiger.
“I was happy. That’s my dream school,” Jenkins said. “I think that’s everybody’s dream school that grew up in Louisiana — to play for LSU. … It’s close to home. They [LSU and Kansas] both have good programs, but being close to home — that really played a role.”
Wrestling with a decision
For those who deemed a flip from Kansas to LSU as an easy decision, think again.
Hull did an excellent job selling Jenkins on the Jayhawks early on, convincing the defensive lineman that he’d be a natural fit and part of the turnaround in Lawrence, Kan.
In this particular case, the phrase “There’s no place like home” applied to Louisiana, which Jenkins pinpointed as the pivotal reason for making the early flip.
“I thought it was,” he said, when asked if he thought Kansas would be his final destination. “It’s all about family up there, and I like the atmosphere.”
Jenkins spent hours talking with his coaches and family members about switching his pledge to LSU before finally deciding.
In no way was it easy. Jenkins wrestled with the decision for much of the day. In the end, it was hard to ignore the chance to finally be a Tiger.
“It was actually hard,” Jenkins said. “A lot of people throw shade on Kansas, but they’re really building up the program. LSU is going to be LSU. It was hard. I really had to think about it, but I wanted to stay close to home.”
Orgeron is notorious for throwing back Red Bulls throughout the day. His players rave about it and have no other explanation for why he’s always so fired up.
When Orgeron got wind of Jenkins’ commitment, it was suggested maybe LSU’s coach had gotten an early start on his customary day.
“That dude was fired up,” Jenkins said, laughing. “He was like, ‘Woohoo!’ He was jumping up and down, and he was real happy.”
A reassuring visit to LSU
Just 48 hours after committing, Jenkins returned to LSU, this time as a member of the 2018 recruiting class.
Jenkins attended Boys From The Boot last weekend and was one of several commits on hand. It was a unique feeling, to say the least, but the standout in-state defensive lineman may have spoiled some of the … surprise of the visit.
“It was all love,” Jenkins said. “They opened the door, and coach [Corey] Raymond was right there saying, ‘This is Pete Jenkins, and everyone had open arms. It was nice, but I spoiled it for myself because I watched LSU on YouTube a lot. When I went up there, I knew what to expect, so it wasn’t overwhelming. But it was nice, and I enjoyed it.”
Jenkins spent much of the afternoon in defensive meeting rooms led by Orgeron and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, along with future teammate and fellow defensive line commit Davin Cotton.
Cotton represents the Tigers’ future defensive tackle, while the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Jenkins is being groomed to play end much like another Plaquemine High alum, Davon Godchaux.
“The defensive coordinator was talking to me about putting me at end like Davon Godchaux in their defense,” said Jenkins, the No. 43-ranked tackle in the 2018 class. “I’d like to have a chance to play another position other than nose and defensive tackle. This summer, I’m going to focus on getting stronger, faster, bigger. I know college is going to do that for me, but I want to focus on dominating the line … period … anywhere.”
Throughout the visit to LSU, Orgeron continually walked past Cotton and Jenkins to pat the two future Tigers on the back.
Jenkins, who aspired to play his college ball close to home, felt at home after committing to LSU. Although there are 11 months until he officially can sign on the dotted line, the highly touted in-state defensive lineman believes his commitment is one that will stick. His first visit as a commit reinforced as much.
“I like the school. Actually, I love the school,” he said. “Growing up, I wanted to go to LSU. It’s somewhere I could see myself playing for the next four years. I’ll take my visit and see what fits me best, but as of right now, it’s LSU.”
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