The short answer is yes.
You'd think after the January 2 "doomsday" any hopes of LSU inking the Nation's top class, or even the best class in school history would be remote. Sure, plenty of big targets remained, but most were of the OOS variety, many of whom were considered to be heavily leaning elsewhere. But the staff didn't pack their bags and mail it in. In fact, they seemed to take the slight personally, and started canvassing the country for the nation's best remaining prospects. They traveled to Florida, Georgia, California, and Texas in hot pursuit. And while we won't know anything until February 5th, the staff has seemingly put themselves in position to reel in more than a few big time prospects.
247 Class Calculator
247 sports introduced a fun little feature for recruitniks like myself that allows you to tabulate your potential class with the addition and subtraction of potential commits. Every recruiting site uses their own proprietary formulas for tabulating their overall team rankings scores, and while Rivals has taken to explaining theirs on occasion, it's still often a befuddling mess. 247 doesn't disclose the formula, but the handy calculator allows you to plug in names and see what could happen.
So, using the class calculator and 247's team rankings, let's take a look at LSU's chances of closing the 2014 class as the Nation's best.
You can view the rankings, here. As it stands:
|No. of Commits
Just eyeballing the rankings, we can pretty much assume the race for the no. 1 class will come down to the top five classes on this list. Tennessee's class is pretty much maxed out with 34 commits. Auburn has some big targets remaining, but not enough to swing them 50 points up the ladder. I would even go so far as to suggest that Florida State is in that same boat.
That leaves Bama, Ohio State, A&M and LSU as the competitors. For Ohio State, I don't think there are enough big targets remaining on their board to close the 15-point gap between them and Bama, much less if Bama adds another player or two. Ohio State may lose one of their top commits, as well. Even if they were able to flip Malik McDowell, it wouldn't be enough.
So that leaves us with three SEC schools in the running. A&M is sitting with just 21 commitments and they are statistically close enough to catch Bama if they were to finish with a major bang on Signing Day. That said, they don't seem to be in on enough big guns to close out that way. To top Bama they'd need to close with some combination of multiple 5 and 4 stars, and unless a ton of surprise flips are coming, that's just not happening.
And then there were two. LSU and Bama. The two teams which have been the very nexus of college football for the past near decade.
Add 'Em Up
Bama is the clear presumptive favorite here. Not only do they currently hold a healthy points lead, and the possibility of adding another couple of players. There stands a chance they could lose a commit or two (Bo Scarborough is the main person to watch here), but even losing Bo would drop them a mere five points. If they were able to flip Chad Thomas and nab Rashaan Evans (while losing Bo), they'd finish with 319.41 points. If they keep Bo they would sit at 323.74. That's a total that could not be overcome.
So, what then, does LSU need to do to top Bama? They need to have a HUGE signing day. I'm talking historic. And they need Bama to lose Scarborough, and maybe another commit. And before you dismiss the possibility outright, yes, I'm telling you there's a chance.
LSU is currently sitting at 279.29. Here are the remaining targets to keep an eye on:
Malachi Dupre - 5-star WR
Adoree' Jackson - 5-star ATH
Lorenzo Carter - 5-star DE
Travonte Valentine - 4-star DT
Derrick Kelly Jr. - 4-star OT
Kenny Young - 4-star LB
Trey Lealaimatafao - 3-star DT
Emanuel Porter - 3-star WR
Let's start with the most probable names on the list: Dupre, Valentine, Kelly Jr. Landing those three alone would bump LSU up to 296.25 (which would currently rank 2nd amongst all classes). Throwing in Trey Lealaimtafao bumps the score up to 297.31. That's a pretty probable finish. But what about the others?
If the staff is able to convince Kenny Young to stay home, the class jumps to 299.58. But it would take the full haul, all eight of the above players to propel LSU to a score of 312.89. If Bama closes signing day somewhat quietly, there's a chance here that LSU could still wind up with the Nation's top class.
So that's fun and all, but how realistic is any of this? I'm not entirely sure. I will say, this isn't pure, maniacal what if fantasizing here. LSU is very much in the running with every prospect listed. I know the staff feel confident on more than a few of them.
The full court press for Adoree' Jackson is on, with many of the LSU coaches tripping out to L.A. to visit him, even bringing along a track coach. Jackson's kept his recruitment very close to the vest and while many believe he winds up at USC, it's worth noting that of his final four, LSU is the only school he officially visited. He's been adamant about running track in college, and if that's really key to him, then LSU and UF are a clear cut above the rest in terms of football + track success. We even "accidentally" had a coach on an outgoing flight to see him, doing some extracurricular crootin'.
Lorenzo Carter is another to keep an eye on. Let's not forget that our man Brick Haley has closed some signing day surprises many times before. He's the guy who net Sam Montgomery, Ego Ferguson, Kwon Alexander and Tashawn Bowers. All big-time OOS players with deep SEC offer lists. Could Brick work some magic again? It seems remote, but the defensive shakeups at UGA and FSU, and the downturn of UF may create just enough doubt to push Carter to Baton Rouge. Crystal Ball picks are almost all trending UGA, with the notable exception of AJC writer Michael Carvell, who has interviewed Carter many times. He picked UF. The lone LSU pick comes from Demetric Warren, a guy who knows SE prospects pretty well.
At this point, I feel confident that Valentine and Kelly Jr. will be Tigers. Kenny Young is tough to get a read on, but we should know more after his UCLA visit. Malachi Dupre is sure enjoying the hell out of himself throughout the process, but I still think we win out.
There's five days to go until signing day, and no doubt the rumors will be flying all weekend. Give me a follow on Twitter, and I'll do my best to keep you apprised of everything. This is one helluva recruiting class, and come signing day, it's only going to get better.