One of my former bosses, and a personal mentor, the best person I've ever worked for, would often use the phrase, "set the expectation." We're all familiar with the oft-quoted customer service maxim of "Under promise and over deliver." If the expectation is something will be completed in seven days, but it's actually done in five, you leave a strong impression. I remember in college reading a study that was conducted with waiter staff employees. In it, a waiter/waitress would take an order, then offer a recommendation to the patron for a slightly cheaper entree. The study showed, overwhelmingly, this almost always resulted in a bigger tip for the waiter/waitress, because the patron felt he/she had done him/her a favor.
The principles here are all the same. What people come to expect, of anything really, will often define their impression of it. When expectations are low, modest successes can seem monumental. When they are high, modest success are spun as failures. This, fairly or not, is often the reason Les Miles is so harshly criticized. For many LSU fans, the barometer is National Championship or bust. Or, at worst, SEC Championship or bust. When this fails to happen, all other accomplishments are ignored, or at best, explained away. Whether or not that's good or fair is another discussion, but it is the reality of where we are.
Fast forward to Thursday, January 2nd, the day of the Under Armour All-American game. Entering that afternoon, expectations were sky high. For months we heard that LSU was an enormous favorite for a quintet of 5-star talents, all of which would be committing the day of the game. Before the game I wrote that there was a realistic shot for #LSU5for5, only pausing on Speedy Noil as a potential loss. LSU recruiting writers, from every source, predicted LSU to get all five prospects during the game. Even National media members were forecasting five commitments. So this wasn't some baseless homerism.
Thus, expectations were through the roof. When "only" two of the five picked LSU, disappointment ensued. We called it a disaster. Termed it a failure. Our expectations, not met. I think there two important, and equally valid points here.
1) LSU needs to re-evaluate a bit on the recruiting front
Of the three players who did not choose LSU, two were HS teammates in New Orleans. Frank Wilson was hired primarily on the strength of his recruiting, and also because of his deep connections to New Orleans. We've come to believe that he should be able to pluck any kid from New Orleans that he so chooses. To lose three of those kids (Landon Collins two years ago) in three years, is a failure. When you toss in the loss of heavily recruited kids from Northern Louisiana (Cameron Robinson and Hootie Jones), it's clear that our in-state recruiting isn't as strong as it needs to be.
The other loss was a Texas kid that many believed to be a heavy LSU lean for the entire process. LSU worked hard to get his sister, a track athlete, qualified. They proceeded with the notion that that was key to his recruitment, yet, he opted for Alabama. We can't be sure of his reasoning, but this one just feels like LSU let him slip away a bit.
I'm not sure if there needs to be changes to staff or strategy, likely both, but even with increased success nationally, LSU cannot allow their in-state base to erode. Could this crop of kids be the exception, not the rule? Possibly, but again, there are top flight players leaving the state that probably wouldn't have five years ago. Why that is happening is the question that needs to be answered.
2) It's Still Been a Good Few Days
During that same game, LSU managed to secure commitments from one of the best safeties in the class (Jamal Adams), as well as the no. 1 overall recruit, Leonard Fournette. Both are nationally ranked, 5-star talents. If that's failure, then I'll have some more of it, please. LSU picked up two 5-star commitments in the span of about three hours. Currently, the class boasts of three 5-stars (Fournette, Adams and Garrett). There are more five stars in this class than the previous two classes combined.
But the news didn't stop there. On Saturday, behemoth DT recruit Travonte Valentine de-committed from Miami. He promptly named LSU his leader. Valentine's been long rumored as a probable switch candidate to LSU., with the Crystal Ball tilting in our favor. Valentine dominated during All-American practices this week. For him to publicly de-commit is a tremendous sign that he could wind up in Baton Rouge. And while he may not be a direct trade for Gerald Willis, Valentine could be more important, at least in the short term, because he should provide immediate depth to the DT position. Valentine will officially visit on January 17th, along with 5-star Georgia DE Lorenzo Carter, and 4-star Florida OT Derrick Kelly. He could leave that weekend publicly committed to LSU.
LSU is simply not done yet on the recruiting trail. The staff will likely keep working to try and get Willis and Noil to stay home, but they'll also put the pressure on players like Adoree Jackson, Travonte Valentine, Lorenzo Carter, Malachi Dupre and so on, to come to Baton Rouge. So it's okay to be frustrated at the misses, but don't forget the hits here, either. Both opinions are valid; no need to sacrifice one to adhere to the other.
This class will likely finish somewhere in that 3-6 range nationally. Frankly, for LSU, that's the best kind of failure.