On a day where two key components of LSU’s coaching staff were axed, others were given new chances.
Les Miles and Cam Cameron out. Ed Orgeron the interim head coach. Dave Aranda added associate head coach to his title, and Austin Thomas — the team’s Director of Player Personnel and Assistant Athletic Director — was named general manager.
That’s not a typo. LSU gave the title to Thomas, the first college program to rock a general manager.
While it may be unprecedented, the Tigers made the right move.
As vital as Orgeron, Corey Raymond and Dameyune Craig are to LSU’s recruiting, Thomas is the key to the entire operation. With his promotion, he also is charged with personnel matters for the current roster.
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva realized as much, which is why Thomas was handed another marquee role in the midst of the chaos that ensued Sunday. It’s a first step to ensure that the team’s roster — now and moving forward — is well-stocked with the best talent in the country, as Thomas as assured was a theme regularly throughout his tenure in Baton Rouge, La.
It is still early, but LSU’s No. 4-ranked recruiting class remained as is in the aftermath of Miles and Cameron’s departure. There were no de-commitments — yet — and a majority of the recruits reassured their status with the Tigers despite a head coaching change, a new offensive coordinator in place and still a fair amount of uncertainty set to face the program in the months to come.
The reasons why:
- Orgeron remains on the staff. The noted defensive line guru has been granted his dream job, running the LSU football team. In his second year back in Baton Rouge, Orgeron — known affectionately across the country as Coach O — has a chance to relay his discipline and infectious energy to this underperforming roster. Many of the players on this roster such as Arden Key, Davon Godchaux and Travonte Valentine would credit Orgeron for their level of play.
- The assistants remain in place. This could be temporary, but likely is a surefire bet if Orgeron becomes the permanent head coach. Craig has provided a breath of fresh air in the recruiting department and has assumed the role of recruiting coordinator. Since February, Craig is LSU’s third recruiting coordinator.
- Of LSU’s 20 commits, the blue-chip defensive backs such as Grant Delpit, JaCoby Stevens and Kary Vincent Jr. all vowed to remain in the class because Raymond stayed. Anyone who is set to succeed Miles on a full-time basis would be wise to retain the best defensive backs coach in the country. Nonetheless, Raymond staying in place along with Craig and Aranda is vital for commits and notable targets to view LSU in the same light as they did last week.
- Austin Thomas
The last bullet point was purposely left short and sweet. Thomas has run point on LSU’s recruiting operation since 2013, helping to lure the premier talent on campus for camps, games and recruiting functions regularly. He has an uncanny eye for talent, which is why most of LSU’s top commits and remaining targets picked up offers from Southern Cal during Thomas’ short stint on the West Coast.
If anyone was deserving of more power, it’s Thomas. Like Raymond, there may not be a better personnel man in the country, and whether it’s Orgeron or another high-profile candidate, they would be lucky to inherit Thomas and the All-Star staff he has assembled in the LSU front office.
Alleva’s decision to promote Thomas is a much-needed guarantee during a time of flux. It assures that while a coaching search is conducted, LSU’s recruiting efforts — for the most part — will remain intact. It ensures continuity in the team’s current class, which includes 20 commits and some of the better prospects in the country. Those are recruits that — by the way — were lured to Baton Rouge largely because of Thomas.
Finally, the question is how Thomas’ added responsibilities impacts the current roster. That remains to be seen, but if his track record in the recruiting circuit is the example, then we can count on continued success.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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