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LSU football recruiting: Another big weekend of visits

Paul takes a look at the official visitors for the January 24th recruiting weekend.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Another weekend, another slew of recruits descend upon Baton Rouge. As of yet, last weekend's brought on zero new commitments, but things seem to have gone swimmingly. For each uncommitted visitor from last weekend, visits still loom, thus it's not entirely surprising no news broke. But for this weekend, I think there's opportunity.


Travonte Valentine

Valentine is a mammoth man, listed at 6'3" 338 pounds and judging from Army Bowl reports, he's every bit of that. On Monday of practices, 247's JC Shurburtt labeled him the top performer on the entire East Team.

The Miami commitment (who also is looking at LSU) showed dominant streaks at times and was a handful to block. He measured in upon arrival at nearly 6-foot-3 and 338 pounds, but can flat-out move for a prospect his size. It appeared he showed up with something to prove for sure, but regardless of effort level, guys his size simply don’t move like this and don’t have the quickness he does if they aren’t elite prospects at defensive tackle. If the Canes hold on to him (he said Sunday he was firm, but there is definite smoke where the Tigers are concerned), he could be a starter very, very soon in Coral Gables.

Proving not to be a one day wonder, Valentine dominated Day 2 as well.

The only thing more active than Travonte Valentine on the field is Valentine’s mouth off the field. The Miami commit is always talking, always joking and always having fun. Why not when you show off the kind of talent that he has displayed this week? When asking offensive linemen to name the toughest defender to block, Valentine is usually the answer without hesitation. He has been a beast this week and his ranking should rise accordingly.

Here's some highlights:

For a big guy, I'm really taken by his first step. He's pretty explosive for a guy that checks in around 340 pounds. He plays a bit high, which will need to be corrected, but you can't teach the natural strength and quickness. LSU's thin depth chart at DT should be appealing to Valentine.

Last weekend, Miami coaches, who formerly held his pledge, visited Valentine. Though the coaches pushed him to re-commit, Valentine declined. He will trip to BR this weekend and then close out in Miami on the 31st. While you hate to see an out-of-state prospect give the home team one last late visit, LSU looks to be in outstanding shape for his commitment. The Crystal Ball is currently at 79%, with the last 16 predictions going to LSU.

I've seen a few murmurings regarding his academic standing that could drive him to LSU. Primarily that he still needs an extra foreign language credit required to for admission into Miami,  but not LSU. Some have noted that this is a small course that he could complete in the summer, so perhaps that's not a major issue. But it could play in LSU's favor if the kid doesn't want to take more time for school.

Valentine is a mammoth presence that could really help LSU absorb the loss of Gerald Willis to Florida. He told ESPN that whoever showed they needed him most would get his pledge. He began Army Bowl week declaring his pledge to Miami was solid, only to de-commit and name LSU the leader days later. There's clear opportunity for Valentine to crack the two-deep this fall.

Derrick Kelly Jr.

Back in June, Kelly pledged to Kentucky to little fanfare. Entering his Senior season, he wasn't a highly touted prospect, but he seems to have blossomed in his final prep year. Just two weeks ago, Shannon Terry, founder of Rivals and 247 tweeted this out:

Here's a link to his Senior higlights on Hudl. His length and athleticism stand out immediately. Really impressed with how he keeps his base in pass pro and uses his long arms to keep defenders at bay. But he's not just a long, pass pro only type of tackle. Kelly punishes defenders in the run game. He's got a vicious punch.

We jumped into the game with him late, as did FSU, who seems to be our main competition. The major difference here is that FSU still has at least one big OT prospect on board, while LSU is honing their sights on Kelly Jr. The Crystal Ball currently sits at 50/50 FSU/LSU, but the last eight picks have all gone to LSU, including one by a Noles recruiting writer. After this weekend, he'll trip to FSU on the 31st, but we appear to be in outstanding shape to land his services.

I think there's an outside shot Kelly could pledge to us this weekend, even with an FSU trip looming. It's not something I expect to happen, but it wouldn't shock me either. Cam Cameron and Corey Raymond are leading his recruitment, so the departure of Greg Studrawa won't affect his decision in any way. This weekend will be a great opportunity for new O-line coach Jeff Grimes to dig in and win the kid over.

Emanuel Porter

The 6'5", 190 pound WR from Texas decommitted from the Longhorns on January 16th and flipped to TCU. The commitment came as a little surprise, since he had recently opted to visit LSU. Porter originally pledged to TCU in early June, then flipped to the Horns just a few days later.

Here's his highlights:

At 6'5", he'd bring some much needed size to the LSU WR corps. SB Nation's own Wescott Eberts wrote up this good scouting report on Porter back in June.

A good track athlete who was a part of the Lincoln 4x100m and 4x200m relay teams that took home state titles back in May, Porter's longtime commitment to TCU may have slowed down his recruitment, but considering that he was a soft verbal for most of the time, it's hard to understand why he doesn't have more offers based purely on his measurables -- his 6'5 height, an impressive frame, 4.43 40 at a TCU camp at which he also had a 34-inch vertical..

Athletically, the tools are there. He's a run-fast, jump-high wide receiver, and I'm very impressed with his body control when the ball is in flight. What I can't get a good feel for are his hands. At times he extends well and plucks the ball, but on other occasions he allows the ball to get into his body, or juggles the simple catch before securing it. I'd like to see him be more aggressive in attacking the football in the air, so that he can maximize his length.

I think there's a good chance LSU can flip Porter considering the immense need for play makers at WR. If Dupre opts to go elsewhere, nabbing a player like Porter becomes all the more important. He's not a prospect I'm enamored with, but he's got those elite physical tools that you take a chance on.

Russell Gage

Gage is a prospect that LSU has flirted with throughout the process but never really pressed for. Hailing from Redemptorist, he's quietly sat in the backyard and awaited an LSU offer that's yet to be extended. A 6'1", 195 ATH, Gage is likely ticketed to the defensive backfield at the next level. He played QB for Redemptorist, and looks, not surprisingly, athletic, on tape. He is a bit slight and doesn't seem to have world beater speed, though plenty fast to play D1 ball. He's quicker than fast, though.

His recruitment's been fairly light, with 247 having zero listed visits until this weekend. The question is, why? I respect a kid with a dream to play at LSU, but his only other three offers are from Tulane, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss... none of which have listed visits,  official or unofficial. He has visited LSU on September 7th and October 12th. Tulane seems to be his second choice, but the information available on him is sparse.

There's only seven spots remaining in the 2014 class, and one of those very well could be Gage's. If his offer comes through this weekend, I'd expect him to pledge. He's endured an up and down couple of years at Redemptorist, which he talks about here. Getting that LSU offer would be a nice way to put a close to his prep years.

Committed Prospects

Like last week, LSU will host a large group of already committed prospects. The main difference is that this grouping features a couple of prospects we should be keeping an eye on as NSD nears. Here's the full list:

Davon Godchaux
D.J. Chark
John Battle
Jamal Adams
Tony Upchurch
Devin Voorhies
Deondre Clark

Chark, Battle, Upchurch and Voorhies are all solid. If you haven't yet, I suggest you read this excellent piece on Battle from Southern Pigskin. Let's hope he's in fellow Floridian Travonte Valentine's ear all weekend. He's been actively recruiting for LSU and is one of the more underrated players in the 2014 class.

Adams will be visiting unofficially, presumably to help recruit and just kick it with the guys.

Davon Godchaux

Godchaux pledged back in October. He suffered a torn ACL and LCL during the first game of his senior season. Upon committing, Godchaux routinely stated how much he appreciated Les Miles and staff staying on him despite his injury. Despite being unable to play, he still ventured to San Antonio for the Army All-American bowl and from all reports spent the week recruiting for LSU.

Then, in puzzling fashion, Godchaux came out and stated he was reopening his commitment and taking visits. Last week he tripped to Auburn, and came away impressed.

"It was pretty good. I love it," Godchaux said after his visit to Auburn. "I love everything about it, seriously. I love everything." Whether the next two weeks will be filled with tension for LSU remains to be seen. "Yes, it's going to be a hard decision," said Godchaux, who added he is "100 percent committed to LSU."

His decision and comments are somewhat troubling, if not all out maddening. For a player that's been so vocally pro-LSU, and one to specifically cite loyalty, to then turn and re-open things is frustrating as hell. But he's also doing so in such conflicting ways.



He also took the time to tweet out that he was heading to Auburn and "dreams do come true." While the morality of yanking a kid's scholarship will constantly be in question, it's something that hasn't stopped Les Miles before (see: Davis, Luther). Clearly that's not on the table here, mostly because of LSU's extreme need for D-linemen. Godchaux is visiting this weekend, and while I've seen him state it will be his final, I've also seen reports floating around that he could consider tripping to Gainesville as well.

All and all, it's soured me some on the kid. If you want to take visits, that's fine, but be open about it. None of this, "Oh I'm 100%" business as you laud praises and extol of dreams coming true. /rant

Anyhow, if all goes well, the staff will firm everything up on Godchaux, give him whatever love he thinks he hasn't been getting and this will all be much ado about nothing.

Deondre Clark

Clark's been a commit since June, but in the past couple of months there's been some buzzing about the potential for him to elect to stay home come signing day. The genesis for the buzz surrounds the health of Clark's mother. His mom has a super active Twitter handle, where she recently praised his visit to Oklahoma last weekend. However, just days before she called Coach Haley, "one of the most down to earth people she's ever met."

The rumblings of Clark flipping to OU have been floated for a while, and I believe the OU side is confident. The last six picks of the Crystal Ball have all been to OU, including one from Demetric Warren, who you can see interacting with Ms. Clark on Twitter.

But one last visit to Baton Rouge could go a long way to shoring things up. The staff will need to make mom comfortable with sending son OOS. However, if there's one thing Les rules when it comes to recruiting, it's winning over mom.

Overall, I don't know how to feel on this one. I'm not certain how ill mom is, but I could  hardly fault a kid for opting to play 30 minutes down the road as opposed to 9+ hours.

If LSU were to lose Clark and Godchaux, it would mean having a current signing class with zero DL, something that cannot be afforded. Expect the staff to bring a major push to not only keep their commitments secure, but to land the services of Travonte Valentine.

Give me a follow on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend.