In the last two days, we've given you an overview of our current commitments, but the class is not finished. There is much work to be done, and this weekend most of LSU's remaining targets will be on campus talking to coaches and getting a feel for the place. In addition, some 2010 recruits will also be there, and coaches will get an early shot at sizing them up. The roster for this camp is a Who's Who of 2009 recruiting, with literally dozens of the Rivals top 250 players in the country anticipated to be in attendance. Let's look at some little guys still on our radar:
Trent Richardson of Pensacola, Florida is a current Bama commitment. We are probably done at running back with the commitments of Mike Ford and Dexter Pratt, but Richardson is the one guy who is on the radar who we would take anyway. He is a high 4-star on Rivals, just a couple slots below 5-star status on the big board, and a really well-regarded player. Richardson has a brother currently playing at ULL, and we thought that gave us a leg up in recruiting Trent, but he committed to Alabama about a month ago. The coaches aren't giving up though. Richardson is speedy and shifty, sort of like Richard Murphy. He will not be at camp this weekend, but if there is going to be any movement towards taking a 3rd running back, it will be him.
This is where the action is. We don't have a wide receiver committed as yet, and there is much speculation on exactly who we're after. It is believed we're looking to sign at least two receivers and possibly a third. Current commits Drayton Calhoun and Russell Shepard could eventually become receivers, and their presence on the current commitment list has an unknown effect on the coaches' plans.
The big fish in the pond is Reuben Randle of Bastrop High School in Bastrop, Louisiana. He is the consensus #1 wide receiver in the country, and is the #8 overall player in the country according to Rivals. He's a big target at 6'3" and 195 pounds, figuring to play a little bulkier. He's also fast and he has great hands. He's a legit 5-star and we're lucky he's in Louisiana at a good LSU feeder school. Teammate Josh Downs is a current commitment to LSU. Former teammate Deangelo Benton has committed to LSU each of the last two years, but continues to struggle to get qualified. Randle's no lock for LSU, as he supposedly is giving Mississippi State, Alabama, and Miami strong looks. His commitment to whomever is not coming soon, as he figures to go down to or near National Signing Day in February. He's a Louisiana kid we would really regret losing if it happened that way. He is expected to be at camp.
Kenny Bell is a high school teammate of 2008 signee Chris Tolliver at Rayville, which also produced Richard Murphy. Bell is a 4-star and a member of the Rivals 250 for 2009. He's a smaller kid, at 6'1" 165#, but he is a speedster. There has been a lot of speculation that Bell's spot on the team may be endangered if he waits much longer to commit to us, but I think that's a lot of idle speculation. Bell's videos are poorly produced and don't show much, and I think people are likely under-rating him as a result of that. The smart word is that the coaches really like this kid and will allow him to take him time for now. Bell anticipates committing somewhere by the end of the summer, and LSU figures to lead. He is expected to be at camp.
Whenever it has been speculated that Kenny Bell may get beaten to the punch by another receiver trying to commit, I always try to point out that if anyone is going to take Bell's spot, it is probably going to be another small, quick receiver like Andre Debose of Seminole High School in Samford, Florida rather than a bigger receiver. Debose is a small receiver at 6'0" and 170#, but he is quick as lightning. If he's not returning punts early in his career, something is wrong. He is just outside the top 30 overall in the country regardless of position, and is a high 4-star. He figures to stay in-state and go to either Florida, Florida State, or Miami. He has shown a lot of interest in LSU, but it remains to be seen how serious he is. He will likely make his commitment after the season is over. He is expected to be at camp.
Kraig Appleton of East St. Louis, Illinois, is a very solid prospect, clearly one of the best wide receivers in the country. He reminds people of Dewayne Bowe with his body control and size (6'3" 190#). He consistently lists us as his favorite school. His academics appear to be in line right now, though he needs to get an ACT score. There's no indication of him being a bad kid or anything like that. This makes one wonder, why doesn't he have an offer to LSU? It's one of the intriguing questions of this recruiting season. You have a great athlete who appears to want to come to LSU, who has perfect size, great skills, and good hands. He's a high 4-star and a member of the Rivals100, and he's a prototype wide receiver. Conventional wisdom would suggest that LSU would be all over this guy. Why aren't we? I've wrestled with this question in recent days, and the best answer I can come up with is that they think they have a real shot at people they like a lot better. We know a spot is reserved for Randle. We think a spot is reserved for Bell. Is everyone else just an insurance policy in case those guys fall through? Or is there a 3rd guy they think is a legitimate possiblity, because unless there is, you would think Appleton would be an immediate take. He certainly looks like he will be a contributing receiver, perhaps even a great one, wherever he goes. Maybe they think their chances with Debose are better than I give us credit for? This is one of the things I really like about following recruiting. There's always a bit of a guessing game involved. No coach ever truly tips his hand and sometimes you have to make some logical leaps to figure out what's going on, or just leave things as a mystery. He is a late scratch from the camp.
Henry County High School product Jamal Patterson is a very smart kid. Very smart. Extremely smart. So smart, that I am forced to conclude he's probably going to go to Stanford. I'm not kidding. On Rivals, his GPA and his listed 40-time are identical. I'm not kidding. This is a kid who can win a scholarship to attend any school in the country. An academic scholarship. No kid I've looked at needs football less than does Jamal Patterson. He's got an interest in LSU, but I don't know how strong that interest is or how much LSU reciprocates it. We know he fully intends to leave the state of Georgia, but there are lots of really good schools in the 48 states that are neither Georgia nor Louisiana. Honestly, he looks like he's a cut below Appleton, who fits the same tall, rangy receiver mold that Patterson fits. I don't know what the coaches are thinking, but I just don't get an LSU vibe out of this guy no matter what he says the interest level is. I do not know if he will be at camp.
There are other wide receivers interested in us, but in my opinion our wide receiver class will in all probability come from among the above players. I'll be sure to let you know if there are any surprises.
This does not figure to be a year we take a large quantity of defensive backs, but there should be a lot of quality there. In addition to Janzen Jackson and Drayton Calhoun, the following are on the radar:
The best player out of Arkansas this year is Darius Winston, a 5-star cornerback. He recently decommitted from the University of Arkansas and has re-opened his recruiting. He's a great size for a corner at 6'0" 180#, has corner speed and great cover skills. He is expected to be at camp this weekend, but his interest in LSU is something of a mystery. Most seem to believe he's looking hard at Michigan and some other places, or that he may end up re-committing to Arkansas, but it has also been suggested by those claiming inside information that LSU is more of a player in his recruitment than many believe. Still, the smart money never bets on these shadowy conspiracy stories coming to fruition, so we turn our attention elsewhere...
...to another shadowy conspiracy story. OK, not really. This is Gabe Lynn, an Oklahoma kid who appears to be spurning Oklahoma. He's a high 4-star cornerback who just barely missed the 5-star cut. He has good height, speed, and athleticism. If there's a "shadowy conspiracy" here it is only that Gabe Lynn's brother was also a D-1 recruit and reportedly was spurned by Oklahoma, ultimately going to Nebraska. The younger brother is allegedly holding this against Oklahoma. There may be some truth to this, and there may not. Who knows? He has real interest in LSU, and some say LSU leads. Others say Nebraska. Time will tell. He is expected to be at camp.
One of the more exciting recruiting stories to watch has been that of Craig Loston, the 5-star safety out of Eisenhower High School in Aldine, Texas. If you follow LSU recruiting at all (and it's OK if you don't, I won't hold it against you), you know that Craig Loston is Russell Shepard's cousin, and that Shep is trying to get him to commit to LSU. You also know that Loston is committed to Clemson. He remains actively interested in LSU and has visited withthe coaches even after he had committed to Clemson. It is certainly not a given that he sticks with Clemson, and I would go so far as to say that chances are he ends up at LSU. Loston is a pure strong safety, a hard hitter strong against the run and a great athlete. He has to be the #1 safety on the board, here in a year when we may take only one safety. He is expected to be at camp.
If we don't get Loston, the best bet is probably Ray Ray Armstrong of Seminole High School in Samford, Florida. Ray Ray is a high school teammate of Andre Debose, who along with Dyron Dye (a defensive end) makes up what is called the "Seminole Trio". Of the three members of the Seminole Trio, the most likely future Tiger signee is probably Mr. Armstrong. He is a solid 4-star safety prospect and a member of the Rivals 100 with offers from everywhere. There has been some chatter that the Seminole Trio may all go to the same college, but those kinds of deals rarely work out. I've heard lots of talk about "package deals" and in the end kids almost always go their own way.
That, despite its length, was a brief overview of some of the more likely LSU prospects among skill position players. One or two others may sneak into the picture, but chances are the rest of the LSU skill-position players in this class will be from among this group. Anyone else would be at least a mild surprise to me.