LSU's recruiting efforts have been fairly quiet over the last month. The Tigers added one unexpected commitment after the June camp in Alexandria athlete DJ Chark, and that addition seemed to raise more questions than answers. LSU's momentum on the recruiting trail seemed to be slipping away, especially among the elite in-state prospects.
Offensive tackle Cameron Robinson seems to be leaning pretty heavily to Alabama right now. He hasn't come right out and said that, but reading between the lines, it seems pretty clear. Once considered locks for early commitments to LSU, receivers Speedy Noil and Trey Quinn are both more open than originally thought. Neville safety Hootie Jones seemed ready to commit to LSU a couple of months ago, but now Alabama has re-entered the picture in a big way. And LSU has been unable to convince guys like Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre or Gerald Willis to pull the trigger early to help get the ball rolling. All three guys seem content to wait until after their high school season before making a decision.
LSU's recruiting at the quarterback position also got a bit more dicey. Once thought to be the leader for three prospects, LSU is now left recruiting just one. LSU decided to focus their efforts on Ohio's Deshone Kizer and Bossier City's Brandon Harris. That led Mason Rudolph to commit elsewhere, choosing Oklahoma State. But when LSU seemed poised to land Kizer, a late offer from Notre Dame convinced the Ohio native to play closer to home for the Irish.
That means that LSU now has all their guns focused on Harris. The good news on that front is that many of the other schools high on Harris's list have recently added quarterbacks to their class including Texas A&M (Kyle Allen), Alabama (David Cornwell) and Ohio State (Stephen Collier). Harris maintains that he's still strongly considering Ohio State but combined with the distance from home, I don't see them as a serious contender anymore. That essentially leaves LSU and Auburn as the two schools he'll choose from, and he's set to announce a decision on July 18.
Should LSU miss out on Harris, look for them to possibly turn up the heat on California prospect Brandon Dawkins. Dawkins camped at LSU in June and worked out for LSU's coaches. He was thought to be a lean to Notre Dame, but with the Irish adding the aforementioned Kizer, perhaps LSU could snatch Dawkins. LSU could also make another run at Mason Rudolph.
Lastly in the "things haven't been going well" category, one of the state's top prospects for the Class of 2015, Evangel offensive tackle Jerry Tillery, committed to Notre Dame. The Irish were apparently a long-time favorite of Tillery and his family, and he wasted no time committing after receiving an offer. This seems like one of those situations that LSU couldn't do much about, but it's still unfortunate to lose a Top-100 caliber offensive tackle from within the state's borders.
I am committed to the University of Notre Dame. #GoIrish— Jerry Tillery (@JerryTillery) June 22, 2013
Having said all of that, it sure seems that LSU is about to flip that momentum and make some real progress on this class. The next 30 to 45 days could be very good for Les Miles, Frank Wilson and the staff. And the first bit of good news dropped on Monday night when Oklahoma defensive end Deondre Clark committed to the Tigers.
Last week, LSU issued two new offers out to in-state defensive linemen. Plaquemine's Davond Godchaux and Covington's Garrald McDowell both received offers. Godchaux sounds like he could commit at any time, and I'd be pretty surprised if he's not on LSU's commitment list by the time LSU's camp in July comes to a close. In fact, Godchaux took an official visit to LSU on Monday and was able to spend a lot of one on one time with Les Miles and the staff. Godchaux is nationally ranked by all four recruiting services (247, Rivals, Scout, ESPN). While listed as a defensive end, he could potentially end up inside as a tackle as he continues to grow into his 6'4" 270 pound frame.
McDowell may wait things out a little longer, but I feel pretty confident in where LSU stands with him. The big question with McDowell is his size. He's currently in the 6'1" 260 range. Will he be able to get up to 290 or so in order to play defensive tackle at the SEC level? LSU's coaches got a good look at McDowell at the camp in June, so they seem to be satisfied with how he projects. There is no question that McDowell is incredibly quick and disruptive. ESPN ranks McDowell as the #108 overall prospect in the nation.
Could Clark's commitment have been a reaction to the new offers issued out to other defensive linemen?
A few other commitments may drop soon, mostly from out of state.
New Jersey receiver Saeed Blacknall is also expected to visit LSU for the July camp. Like Clark, I'd be pretty surprised if he didn't commit to LSU during his visit.
Florida safety Michael Johnson is another that could be on commitment watch in July. Currently a Louisville commitment, Johnson has made it clear that he really covets an offer from LSU. He'll come to camp and work out for LSU's coaches. If the offer is extended, it seems likely that Johnson would flip from Louisville to LSU. Corey Raymond reportedly loves Johnson and will be pushing for the rest of the staff to sign off on an offer.
Johnson's teammate, defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, will also be attending LSU's camp. Despite some academic issues, LSU could be willing to accept a commitment from Valentine as well. Valentine is an excellent prospect, but some teams are being wary right now due to his grades. It will be interesting to see what approach LSU takes.
LSU continues to be in an excellent spot with star Texas cornerback Tony Brown. It wouldn't be a total shock if Brown pulled the trigger for LSU at their camp in July, but the odds are that he waits a bit longer.
Illinois linebacker Clifton Garrett continues to name LSU as his top school. He states that he wants to visit LSU again this summer, but doesn't have anything scheduled at this time. He may not be able to visit again until he uses his official visit sometime this fall. For now, he's not slated to announce a decision until after his senior season, but it's nice to see that LSU has been able to maintain their status as Garrett's top school.
LSU linebacker commitment Sharieff Rhaheed continues to say he's solid to LSU when he talks to reporters from LSU websites, but he otherwise acts like a prospect who is totally open. In interviews, he talks about lining up visits to other schools and what he likes and doesn't like about each. He also recently announced on Twitter that he has narrowed things down to a Top 6:
Down to my top 6 schools— Sharieff Rhaheed1⃣5⃣ (@reef_15) June 11, 2013
Commitments aren't supposed to have a Top 6. They're supposed to have decided on a single school that they're committed to. Obviously, things don't always work that way, but it's tough to consider Rhaheed a part of this class right now. At this point, I'd put the chances that Rhaheed actually sign with LSU at under 50%. If I'm right about that, that would make it easier for LSU to sign John Curtis prospect Kenny Young, who is more of a pure linebacker and a better prospect, in my opinion.
LSU would also love to lock up Karr tight-end Anthony Jones, but Jones seems pretty content to let things play out for now.
At some point, LSU is going to have to offer a running back in this class other than Leonard Fournette, and most seem to think that performances at the July camp will dictate who gets that offer. The top contenders are John Ehret's Darrel Williams and East Ascension's Sione Palelei. Most believe Williams is the favorite, but I feel that Palelei is going to really impress with his skill set and earn the offer. More of an all purpose back, Palelei has gained good weight and is up to nearly 200 pounds. He also ran in the 4.4 range at a recent camp at Oklahoma State. His change of direction skills, burst and versatility would make a perfect compliment to the more traditional workhorse backs such as Fournette and Nic Brossette (Class of 2015). Texas prospect Kevin Shorter could also be in the mix, if he shows to camp.
As for most of the big name in-state guys that we hear so much about, I'm afraid LSU fans are just going to have to be patient. Other than Godchaux, McDowell, Brandon Harris and possibly Trey Quinn, it seems that most of the Louisiana players who have LSU offers could wait until after their season before making a decision. But between those four and the out of state guys mentioned above, LSU could be sitting at 16 to 18 commitments by the end of the summer. LSU would then be poised to potentially close with guys like Fournette, Jones, Willis, Noil, Dupre, etc. in what could be a really exciting January for Tiger fans.