LSU has already reeled in 14 commitments in its 2017 recruiting class, leaving upwards of 11 spots to be filled between now and National Signing Day.
Of those 11 potential spots, some will be tougher to fill than others.
LSU finds itself in a bevy of close recruiting battles with some of the nation’s premier prospects. Many of those involve Louisiana natives who are also being pursued by college football’s other national powers. Others are simply the nation’s elite prospects considering LSU as one of their many top suitors.
SEC Country compiled a list of the top five recruiting battles LSU will face heading into the heat of the summer and the fall before signing day rolls around:
5-star running back Cam Akers (Clinton, Miss.)
There is no shortage of suitors for the nation’s No. 2 running back.
Akers’ top 10 includes several SEC powers — there’s LSU as well as Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Georgia and Tennessee. Ohio State, Michigan, Cal and Florida State also made the cut.
By the summer’s end, the 5-star is expected to trim that list down to four. LSU received two visits from Akers this spring — one for the Bayou Picnic and another for the Tigers’ spring game — which puts the team in a strong position to make the next round of cuts, too.
Ole Miss has long been considered one of the favorites for Akers, the top-ranked prospect from the Magnolia State. He has plans to visit Ann Arbor, Mich., and recently toured through the Southeast, making stops at Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State.
LSU made a late push for the 6-foot, 212-pound back this spring as Jabbar Juluke took over Akers’ recruitment in place of former running backs coach Frank Wilson. That led to Akers and his family making multiple trips to LSU’s campus, where Juluke and coach Les Miles made it overwhelmingly clear that they envision Akers being a backfield contributor as a true freshman in Leonard Fournette’s presumed absence.
The Tigers will have to stave off the in-state recruiting power that is Ole Miss, as well as Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State and Michigan, which have also surfaced as likely landing spots in recent weeks.
5-star wide receiver Devonta Smith (Amite, La.)
The top receiver from The Boot in the Class of 2017, Smith claims to be keeping all the schools pursuing him on an even playing field. However, it’s known that a few schools have maintained strong ties with the 5-star wide receiver as his recruitment carries on into the summer.
LSU has recently joined Alabama and Florida State as likely landing spots for the elite prospect. That comes in the aftermath of a spring in which LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig spent a bulk of time visiting with the in-state talent. The receiver in turn made multiple trips to Baton Rouge, La.
One of the biggest factors in Smith’s recruitment is the opportunity to play in a spread offense, which LSU has begun to incorporate elements of this spring. After visiting for a team scrimmage, Smith admitted he was impressed with what he saw.
Craig watched Smith’s spring game in May, where he made it apparent that the Amite (La.) High School product is LSU’s top priority in this recruiting cycle.
The 6-foot-1, 160-pound wideout was back on campus for Day 1 of LSU’s most recent prospect camp. He also attended Alabama’s camp earlier in the month.
It remains unclear how LSU’s three wide receiver pledges in the past month affect Smith’s view of the in-state power. LSU was only expected to sign three receivers in 2017, but the staff would most certainly assure Smith a spot in the class for him.
5-star outside linebacker Dylan Moses (Bradenton, Fla.)
LSU has a desperate need for linebackers in its 2017 class to fit first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme, and Moses is the nation’s No. 1 outside ‘backer.
The 5-star Baton Rouge native has LSU among his top schools, but he most recently placed his hometown team behind both Texas and Alabama during his spring tour of campuses.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound recruit has grown fond of Aranda since spending a week visiting campus during spring practice, and he met the LSU staff again last week. Afterwards, Moses posted a tweet that set off Purple and Gold nation.
The No. 2 overall prospect in the class has maintained a tight bond with the other LSU coaches since he picked up the offer as an eighth-grader. It’s hard to push that to the side when deciphering where Moses wind up in college.
All signs point to Moses choosing between LSU, Alabama and Texas. Among the most important factors in his decision will be his family — he hails from Louisiana and has family in Houston) –and playing time (all three schools have a need at linebacker).
One other storyline to follow is the tradition of LSU. With Fournette eventually out of the picture, Moses believes he can follow in the footsteps of such stars as Fournette, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson by donning the No. 7 jersey. That may seem like something of minor importance, but it can’t be swept under the rug.
4-star outside linebacker Christopher Allen (Baton Rouge, La.)
Perhaps one of the most competitive races LSU will find itself in involves Allen, a 4-star prospect situated right in the heart of Tiger Country.
The 6-foot-4, 234-pound outside linebacker is quietly favoring Alabama, but he recently participated in LSU’s prospect camp and showed out in pass coverage, one of the most questionable parts of his game.
The Southern University Lab School (Baton Rouge) product has reiterated that LSU will always be in the thick of his recruitment, evident by his multiple visits to campus since the spring, when he had a conversation with Aranda about his future with the program. The LSU coach believes Allen could succeed Kendell Beckwith as a three-down linebacker who lines up inside on early downs and then becomes an outside rusher in passing situations.
One of the reasons why the Tide leads in Allen’s recruitment is because he places a great emphasis on joining a winning program. LSU, Alabama, Texas, Florida and Georgia are among the top contenders for the Baton Rouge native, who believes any of those schools could jump to the forefront with a winning campaign in 2016.
Allen is perfectly comfortable with waiting out the process up until National Signing Day, which gives LSU ample opportunity to supplant Alabama in his recruitment. Of course, it could also backfire if the defending SEC champions prove to be the superior team yet again this season.
For now, it’s certainly Alabama’s race to lose. However, Aranda’s presence has kept LSU as a close second. The direction of Allen’s recruitment is subject to change quickly once the college football season gets underway.
4-star junior college defensive end Isaiah Buggs (Perkinston, Miss.)
We are about a month out from the nation’s top junior college defensive end making a decision. LSU is among the top contenders to land a commitment from the highly sought-after prospect, who included a bevy of SEC powers in his final list of top schools.
Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M are also very much in the discussion, but the hometown Tigers have largely represented for the Ruston, La., native.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end has long been a top target for the LSU staff. Buggs, who received attention from the coaches coming out of Ruston (La.) High School, is the ideal fit on the edge in Aranda’s new defense. That has led to the team overlooking some of the top in-state talent as it continues to lure Buggs back to The Boot.
Buggs has had a bit of a rocky relationship with LSU, though. The Tigers were of course the favorite early on, but the weak-side end excluded the team from one of his top-schools list amid poor communication early on in the spring. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was quick to make ammends, making stops at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College early and often, which led to Buggs attending the LSU spring game.
Buggs returned for the Bayou Picnic and again took in LSU’s recent prospect camp. His stop in Baton Rouge came after Auburn’s Big Cat weekend. He is also expected to make visits to both Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Miami before finalizing his decision.
The top junior college defensive end has downplayed his ties to LSU but remains high on the Tigers because of the coaching staff and the chance to shine on the grand SEC stage. However, LSU will have to stave off both Alabama and Auburn, as well as Miami, over the next few weeks.
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.