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A look at how LSU may finish out the Class of 2013. Who are the top targets left on the board?
With 25 verbal commitments in hand, LSU should be putting a bow on the Class of 2013. However, I still expect to see a decent amount of activity between now and National Signing Day.
LSU reportedly can sign up to 29 players, with the ability to count four guys in last year's class when only 21 enrolled. We'll likely see at least a couple of defections from the current commitment list, whether due to academics or de-commitments. It happens nearly every year. So LSU still has room to add a handful of players. Who are the top remaining targets?
Linebacker Kendell Beckwith of East Feliciana remains LSU's top target and is considered by many to be the top prospect in the state. Beckwith will ultimately choose between LSU and Alabama. He has been to multiple LSU games this fall while he has yet to visit Tuscaloosa for a game. He seems to be increasingly comfortable with John Chavis and the LSU staff. However, the rumor mill persists that he's leaning towards Alabama. Is this a case where you trust a prospect's actions and words which seem to favor LSU, or do you say "where there is smoke, there is fire" in regards to the Bama rumors? Beckwith could also grow into a defensive end at the college level.
The recruitment of defensive end Tim Williams of University High has been bizarre. Despite being a perfect fit physically for what LSU likes out of their defensive ends and despite LSU having a need for defensive ends to play right away, Williams has hesitated to show any favor towards the hometown Tigers. He has repeatedly named Miami as his favorite, despite the program turning in yet another mediocre season while facing some potentially stiff NCAA penalties. And recently, many sites reported that LSU has decided to essentially "move on" from Williams and focus their recruiting efforts elsewhere. There is still a chance he could sign with LSU but the likelihood of that happening seems to decrease as each day passes.
Junior College wide receiver Courtney Gardner's name came out of nowhere last week, and now it looks like a strong possibility that he'll sign with LSU. Gardner was academically ineligible out of high school and after two years of junior college ball, was still not eligible. He did not play football this fall in efforts to get his academics in order and if he succeeds, it looks like he'll join LSU's team over the summer. This would be significant because Gardner looks like a hoss. He could contribute immediately and along with Quantavious Leslie, could give LSU the big, physical presence at wide receiver that they currently lack.
Florida defensive tackle Maquedius Bain is a great looking prospect with a very high ceiling. The recruitment of the 6'3" 305 pounder is tough to get a read on. He'll seem to be leaning towards Miami and then a day later say that he definitely wants to leave the state. He is scheduled to take an official visit to LSU in December. Along with Miami and Florida State, Oklahoma looks like the biggest competition for LSU with Bain. Despite LSU recently landing Greg Gilmore, I believe they'll happily take Bain if he wants to be a Tiger. Bain also plays offensive line for his high school team and brings some extra value since he could give that a try if defense doesn't work out.
Super athlete Ricky Seals-Jones of Sealy, TX is down to Texas A&M and LSU. The jumbo receiver seems like a heavy lean to the Aggies, but the Tigers' coaching staff is still trying their hardest. Seals-Jones plans to take an official visit to LSU, so Les Miles will get another chance to present his best case. But the writing seems to be on the wall that Seals-Jones is heading to College Station.
Speedy cornerback Artie Burns is currently committed to Miami, but is looking around a bit. He visited LSU for the Ole Miss game and liked it enough that he plans to make a return trip with his mother. If that second visit takes place, then LSU should be considered a major player. When Burns announced his commitment for Miami back in July, he called LSU his dream school. Here's his quote from his commitment announcement:
"I really wanted to go to LSU, that was my dream school, but I'm going to give up my dream and I'm gonna attend the University of Miami."
Interesting to say the least. Was LSU not ready to accept his commitment at the time? Did his mother want him closer to home? I don't know, but Burns is definitely one to watch and if he makes that second visit with his mother, then watch out. I understand that LSU loves his size (6'1" 180) and speed combination and that Burns also likes what LSU's track and field program has to offer. If LSU pushes for him, they may just land him, especially if Miami gets hit with some sanctions from the NCAA.
Priest Willis, the outstanding defensive back from Arizona, continues to be on LSU's radar, but the Tigers' chances of actually landing him appears to be dwindling. Willis has yet to back up his verbal interest in LSU with a visit, instead actually cancelling several trips to Baton Rouge. He is scheduled for an official visit for the weekend of December 14-15. If that takes place, we'll have to see where things stand.
Patterson tight-end Deondre Skinner, a commitment to Arkansas, received an offer from LSU at camp over the summer. At one point, it seemed likely that Skinner would flip his verbal pledge to LSU but that talk seems to have died down. LSU already has a pair of tight ends in this class that they like, so Skinner is not considered a must-have. Short of LSU missing on others and making a big push, I suspect Skinner will sign with the Hogs. He actually made his way onto the CBS broadcast of LSU's game against Arkansas, decked out in Hogs' gear.
Chase Abbington is a big athlete (6'4" 210) from Missouri who is currently a commitment to Mizzou. Abbington mostly plays running back at high school, and he moves surprisingly well for someone his size. Despite that, most project him as a safety in college. I'd be interested to see if he can run routes, catch and block to see if he could grow into a threat as a receiving tight-end a la Deangelo Peterson. Abbington has shown some interest in LSU recently and was supposed to visit for the Ole Miss game but could not make it. If he finds his way to Baton Rouge, then you have to think his interest is legit.
Fehoko Fanaika is a junior college offensive lineman who signed with LSU last summer. However, he was academically ineligible and could not play for LSU in 2012. Things have been quiet regarding Fanaika, and it's still unclear whether he'll end up at LSU or not. Fanaika could provide some nice depth on the interior of LSU's line next year.
Many years, we see an in-state player emerge during his senior season and find their way into LSU's class. Morris Claiborne and Micah Eugene are just two examples. If that's going to happen this year, the name to watch could be Elijah McGuire. The 5'10" 180 pound running back from Vandebilt Catholic in Houma rushed for over 2,094 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, according to 247 Sports. LSU is not currently planning on taking a running back in this class, but if one or more current backs decide to leave early for the NFL, they could potentially re-think that. McGuire is smaller than your typical SEC running back, but he's effective and shows off some pretty good burst and acceleration.
Forced to predict a finish, I'll go with Beckwith, Bain, Burns and Gardner. Whether Gardner actually makes it to campus is another story though. With that finish, this class would finish strong and would represent perhaps the best out of state haul I've ever seen at LSU.