We're in the final push to National Signing Day and LSU still has seven open spots to fill in the 2014 recruiting class. Despite that, the class is still considered top five by every recruiting service, something that's frankly, remarkable. The next three weekends will play a monumental part in how LSU's class finishes on February 5th. On January 2nd, three different targets, all of which long considered to be LSU leans, opted for other schools in the SEC. While a minor setback to the class, a good number of top recruits remain in sight. Which of those that LSU closes with could potential turn a great class into a really great class.
Let me make this clear, according to the 247 Composite Team Rankings, LSU's class is currently 4th in the nation, which would rank behind only '09 and tied with '07. This is up there with one of the finest classes in the Les Miles era... and it's short seven players.
This weekend marks the first of the big recruiting weekends. As an added boost, Hunter Paniagua tweeted this yesterday evening:
Was told Jeff Grimes will begin recruiting tomorrow. Will be on-hand to start meeting recruits when they arrive for official visits— Hunter Paniagua (@HunterPaniagua) January 17, 2014
Grimes has yet to be officially announced by LSU, but it'd be a shocker if he weren't the hire at this point. I'm not sure how much of an affect that Grimes can have on the 2014 class, but he certainly can't hurt anything, especially not with OT recruit Derrick Kelly coming down next weekend.
Chi is arguably the biggest and most important player left to this class. When you start scanning the LSU depth chart at WR, you start to realize how big of a need there truly is. As of right now we're counting on a guy with seven catches in 2013 to be our No. 1 target, and a bunch of guys with even less playing time and production than that to be behind him. Not a pretty picture. Trey Quinn is a polished recruit that should be able to step in immediately and make plays.
But Chi has special athleticism and play making ability. Every single report you read believes LSU will land him. Even Odell Beckham Jr. said on the radio last evening that he thinks Dupre is coming to LSU. But I think I speak for everyone with the January 2 Blues in saying that I'll believe when he puts on the purple and gold hat on signing day.
Still, what's positive here is that he's coming to visit with a ton of committed players. Les and company, historically, love to play that angle of developing a bond with the teammates. Nabbing Chi and Quinn would give LSU two of what the receiving corps so desperately needs: play makers. Dural is capable of delivering the big play, but after that, sans Quantavius Leslie (assuming he can learn to catch), the guys in the hopper are more of steady, possession types.
LSU jumped on Speaks a little late in the game, but there's legitimate interest here. Typically, top 150 recruits that are previously committed aren't inclined to move much, but Speaks' father is from New Orleans and his hometown of Jackson, MS is roughly the same distance to Baton Rouge as it is to Oxford. When Speaks was offered on January 3rd, he called it a "dream come true."
I did a quick and dirty scouting report on Speaks last night on Twitter:
Watching Breeland Speaks highlights. Big boy can move. Great first step and can close. Thick build. Played DE in HS, but DT all the way @LSU— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
Reminds me of another bigger, active DE that slide inside: Bennie Logan. Should be an effective one-gap defender, with pass rushing ability— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
Wins a lot with quickness. Will need to learn to use hands to disengage blockers.— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
Comes off a bit upright, which is common for HS DL. Will need to improve leverage play to slide inside.— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
First step is so strong. A bit like Nevis, but better frame to max out.— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
He's a playmaker up front. Will make plays in the backfield. Perfect guy to pair with someone like Valentine, who is a mauler.— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
As @ATVS_ChefBilly just pointed out to, Speaks has a nice wingspan for a 6'3" guy. Uses his length to beat blockers as well as strip sack.— Happy Crewe Year (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) January 17, 2014
I like Speaks quite a bit. I'm not certain he can play DT right away at 270 pounds, but he is naturally thick and strong, so it's not out of the realm of possibility. I haven't seen any reports on his time table, and he's still an Ole Miss recruit that still tweets a ton of positives about Ole Miss. Can LSU flip him? I think so. Will we know this weekend? That's what I'm unclear about.
Previously it was rumored that his HS teammate, and the nation's top guard, Roderick Taylor would be tripping with him this weekend. That visit is reportedly no longer happening. There's a few different things to consider here. A) There's a good chance his visit was entirely a plan by Freeze to keep someone in Speaks' ear during his OV. So it may be a net positive that he's not coming. Or, B) to throw out the ultimate conspiracy, perhaps he will still be on campus and the coaching staff is trying to keep that mum. I'm skeptical of B), but we should know later on this evening if it's true. That idea starts and ends with me, by the way.
Carter is an elite pass rushing DE/OLB from Georgia. At this point, it's widely considered to be a UGA/UF battle with FSU/LSU on the outside looking in. Most believe he's a heavy UGA lean. I don't see much of a chance here, but getting him on campus certainly helps. Historically, we've seen Brick close extremely well on OOS DL. At 6'5", 240 pounds and a thin depth chart, Carter would likely see snaps next season for LSU. That's certainly something they can sell.
Still, I consider this to be a major long shot. Hopefully all the visiting commits can make an outstanding impression on him.
Lealaimatafao is also in town this weekend, though his visit is technically "unofficial." From what I've seen, I believe he has a sister that goes to Southern, so he'll be staying with her and visiting us. The former Texas commit opened up his process after the Horns hired Charlie Strong. He played in the Army All-American bowl and seems to have formed a bond with Ed Paris and Clifton Garrett.
You can read a little bit about him as a prospect down the page here. I've not taken an in-depth look at his tape, but at 23 seconds he straight up WWE back-body suplexes a dude into the turf. Lealaimatafao is a shorter, stocky DT with a quick first step and a powerful base. Judging by Twitter, he and Garrett have become friends, so I wouldn't at all be shocked if Lealaimatafao filled one of the final spots in this class.
Only thing a little bit puzzling is why the staff didn't make his trip this weekend an "Official" visit. He's set to visit Oregon next weekend, and the Ducks and Tigers seems to be his final two choices. If he does wind up committing this weekend, expect him to shut it down and never make the trip to Eugene.
Carter, Speaks and Dupre are the only three uncommitted prospects visiting this weekend after Travonte Valentine and Derrick Kelly Jr. both rescheduled. The other players on campus are, as follows:
I suspect guys like Brumfield, Clark, and maybe even Washington, Williams and Quinn may be around each of the weekends, just to lay a good impression on other targets. The OVs for these guys are just for the coaches to continue to bond with them, and give them a treat. But mostly, they can be additional recruiters.
So, stay tuned this weekend. Give me a follow on Twitter, and I'll do my best to disseminate information as it comes down.