Nike’s The Opening finals in Oregon brought an array of both good and bad news for LSU’s recruiting efforts.
Of course, the Tigers picked up a commitment from the nation’s No. 9 safety Grant Delpit, who made his pick at the summer camp that features more than 160 of the top football prospects in the nation. However, LSU’s success on the recruiting trail hit a bump on the offensive side of the ball, as SEC rival Georgia nabbed a commitment from 4-star Texas running back Toneil Carter.
At one point, the New Orleans native sat atop LSU’s big board. But after Frank Wilson departed for UTSA and Jabbar Juluke filled his spot on the coaching staff, Carter’s relationship with the Tigers began to dwindle.
LSU holds a commitment from 3-star running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and 3-star fullback Tory Carter. The team would like to add another tailback to its signing class, though at this stage, there are only a few elite options left within their reach.
Here’s a quick glance at the other backs LSU will set its sights on over the next few weeks now that Carter has been crossed off their wish list:
Cam Akers, 5-star RB (Clinton, Miss.)
Akers had surpassed Carter on the LSU staff’s big board months ago, as Juluke began to prioritize the Magnolia State product first and foremost. Juluke’s efforts paid off, too, as the 5-star prospect made two visits to Baton Rouge, La., for the team’s spring game and the annual Bayou Picnic.
LSU cracked Akers’ top 10, along with a bevy of SEC rivals and even more college football powers. Georgia made the cut, but after procuring a pledge from Carter, it’s safe to say Akers has eliminated the Bulldogs as a potential landing spot.
Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan are LSU’s biggest threats to be embedded in Akers’ top four, which is scheduled to be released after the summer. The nation’s No. 2 back has or is planning to make stops at each one of those schools at some point beforehand.
For the same reason Georgia and Alabama have fallen out of the mix for Akers is the same reason why the Tigers are sitting in a good position. Georgia and Alabama have other highly rated running back commitments, but LSU has offered Akers a chance to take over for Leonard Fournette after he declares for the NFL. Akers understands he could be an instant contributor as a true freshman and take over as the lead back by his sophomore season. That’s an opportunity he can’t overlook.
Bruce Jordan-Swilling, 4-star ATH (New Orleans)
Jordan-Swilling continues to hover at the top of LSU’s wish list, regardless of which position he winds up playing in college.
The 4-star athlete from Brother Martin High School (New Orleans) is an all-state running back. His junior season in 2015 was his first as a full-time offensive player after splitting time at both running back and linebacker his first two varsity seasons. Jordan-Swilling made the move to running back count, too, amassing 1,884 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on the year.
Jordan-Swilling has recently contemplated if he wants to continue to follow his passion at running back at the collegiate level or return back to the defensive side of the ball to ensure a longer football career. The elite athlete is torn about it, and despite declaring that he wants to be recruited as an outside backer, he has not finalized any decisions just yet.
The New Orleans product has received interest from almost every team in the country, though not every school recruiting him is doing so on the condition that he can play either position. Schools such as UCLA and Oklahoma are courting him as a linebacker, while Alabama offered Jordan-Swilling as a running back.
LSU has not provided any sort of limitations in that regard and is willing to accept Jordan-Swilling’s pledge at either position. That has resonated in a big way for the elite talent and also takes some stress out of the decision he eventually will need to make.
The Tigers need help at both linebacker and running back in their 2017 class, and could sell Jordan-Swilling on either position at this stage. However, he may be a better fit on offense based on what has transpired lately on the recruiting trail.
Travis Etienne, 3-star RB (Jennings, La.)
Etienne released a top 10 in May that included a slew of SEC teams, but he added one caveat: that list was subject to change based on new offers rolling in.
The 3-star prospect eventually committed to SEC West rival Texas A&M a month later, but an offer from LSU certainly could shake things up quite a bit.
The Jennings (La.) High School product received some attention from Juluke this spring when the LSU running backs coach made a visit to his spring practices and spoke about his future. Juluke asked Etienne about a potential switch to defensive back, but given LSU’s need at running back, talks between the top in-state prospect and Juluke could be re-engaged.
At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, Etienne is a big, physical runner that displayed outstanding speed at Nike’s The Opening regional camp in New Orleans earlier this year. As he alluded to when he released his top-10 schools, new offers could alter the direction of his recruitment, and one from the in-state Tigers may force Etienne to reconsider his pledge to Texas A&M.
Roster move from within
If LSU is unable to lure a commitment out of one of the aforementioned targets and does not uncover a hidden gem over the final months of the recruiting season, there is a less desirable Plan B.
The coaching staff could decide to make some roster moves from within, likely reverting Devin White from inside linebacker back to running back. White, a 4-star athlete in the 2016 class, switched to defense due to a lack of depth at linebacker and, therefore, a better opportunity for early playing time.
White has impressed in that role this spring, too, filling in for an injured Kendell Beckwith.
But if LSU is dissatisfied with only one true running back in Edwards-Helaire in its 2017 class, White could return to the offensive side of the ball and the coaches can add new bodies to its linebacking unit.
If that’s the case or not, expect LSU’s Class of 2018 to include multiple running back prospects. The coaches already have spotted a number of elite targets and could be close to offering them as early as this month’s prospect camp.
Keep in mind that Fournette likely will be in the NFL after the 2016 season and his successor, Derrius Guice, will take over as the lead back his junior season. He, too, could follow Fournette into the professional ranks after 2017 if he opts not to stay around for his senior campaign.
LSU needs to pad its backfield depth, which is why it is trying to take two capable running backs this recruiting cycle.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.