It's clear, by now, that one of the primary motivations in Les Miles' latest two staff hires is to bolster recruiting. Sure, one could argue LSU hasn't struggled much there, particularly coming off what is probably the best class of the Les Miles era last season. That said, LSU's current class sits around 15th nationally, and the classes previously ranked 6th, 14th, 8th. Respectable numbers, but also solidly behind teams like Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, who made up three quarters of this season's playoff bracket. Not to mention the burgeoning recruiting at Texas A&M, as well as continued powers in Auburn, Florida, and Georgia. College football is an arms race, and it's no secret that the teams with the best talent are winning the most.
A lot of buzz words were flying around when the hiring of Orgeron was announced. Many media types labeled it the best recruiting staff in America. A local media person asked Miles about the prospects of having a "recruiting dream team," which Miles replied with a coy, "Yeah, that sounds nice." But what do they bring to the table? Let's take a look both at their historical track records and what dividends they could pay as immediately as 2015.
Let's first take a look at Steele. 247 Sports credits Steele with 30 total commits since 2005 while with FSU*. That's roughly four commits a year, accounting for the season Steele served in a non-coaching position and couldn't actively recruit. That's nearly 1/5th of every signing class, which is quite a number. Again, this is also relying on the data 247 tabulates, which is likely not 100% accurate. There are probably more players he aided in recruiting, and helped pull to his various stops.
*Steele's 2015 commits were recently re-assigned due to his move to LSU.
Here's a list of some notable recruits (note, notable as recruits, not necessarily for their production as players): Tyler Love (5 star), Jerrell Harris (4 star), Kerry Murphy (4 star), Marcus Sims (4 star), Barrett Jones (4 star), Rod Woodson (4 star), Michael Williams (4 star), Shannon Boatman (4 star), Anthony Leon (4 star). He also recruited Christian Ponder and Patrick Robinson to FSU, as well as Marquis Maze to Alabama.
It's a pretty good track record. Not sure I would label him an ace, but he's certainly an upgrade over John Chavis, and he carries a good reputation.
Is there a better recruiter on the planet? Perhaps Nick Saban, but that doesn't really count. 247's data doesn't track far enough back to really capture the full success of Orgeron. He recruited and coached people like Cortez Kennedy and Warren Sapp in the 90s. He recruited and coached guys like Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson in the early 2000s.
Look at USC's current roster and he recruited Buck Allen (starting RB), Soma Vainuku (starting FB), Gerald Bowman (starting S), Max Tuerk (starting OC), J.R. Tavai (starting OLB), and stud, all-world DL Leonard Williams. Not to mention key backups like Claude Pelon on the DL, Chris Hawkins in the secondary and Max Browne, the heir apparent to Cody Kessler, and Kenny Bigelow, who was in line for key reps before tearing his ACL last summer.
He nearly pulled Joe McKnight to Ole Miss, and did pull Michael Oher. Even more impressive, he does it at any position, anywhere in the country.
History is nice and it gives us a reasonable expectation going forward. Steele and Orgeron should both be good and elite recruiters, respectively. That will pay major dividends in the future. But what about 2015? Is it too late to make a major impact? Steele has been in the game, recruiting for Alabama. And Orgeron, while spending the last year not working, hasn't exactly been twiddling his thumbs. From reports, he's kept alive his relationships with many recruits and coaches. So he won't be entering the fray in the dark.
Let's take a look at some of the targets here.
Steele was Lewis' primary recruiter for Alabama, and earned his commitment at one time, before he flipped to Ole Miss. Lewis already had an official visit to LSU planned, and many believe he was prime for a flip. Having Steele should put LSU in even greater position.
Steele didn't directly recruit him to Alabama, but he should have some familiarity. He's the secondary recruiter now, behind Corey Raymond. Raymond is the driving force on this one, but it can't hurt to have a coach Peters will be familiar with.
A player listed with an Alabama offer, but no specific recruiter. I'm sure he has a cursory knowledge of Steele, but it's unlikely he'll yield any major influence. That said, Steele is a South Carolina native, and perhaps has connections into the neighboring state.
Taking his official visit to LSU this weekend, Key remains majorly in play for LSU. He was being recruited by Brick Haley, so this weekend will go a long way to see how much Orgeron and Steele can make a dent.
Prince Tega Wanogho Jr.
The Alabama commit is a major target down the stretch. Here's a guy that LSU wasn't really a factor for, who will now be officially visiting this weekend. Coach O and Steele stopped in for a visit yesterday, and a great story surfaced about Wanogho's coach walking into the meeting late and Coach O was down on the ground in a three-point stance teaching Wanogho some new techniques. The coach said Coach O made a great impression already.
Sh'Mar Kilby Lane
He was set to visit in January but recently canceled all his visits and solidified his commitment to FSU. Not likely anything to change here.
When Malik Jefferson committed to Texas, Daylon Mack quickly decommitted from Texas A&M and promptly named TCU and LSU his leaders. When John Chavis took the A&M DC job, Mack quickly changed his top two to TCU and A&M. Now Auburn is in the mix. Coach O reportedly reached out to him, but Mack said he's good with his current top three. His loss.
The 6'6", 245 DE is a guy most believe will wind up at LSU, and now Coach O and Steele will be his primary recruiters. So long as he's not turned off by the staffing change, and LSU wants him, he's likely to wind up in Baton Rouge.
This is where it gets fun. Coach O is pretty legendary for swooping in and pulling off his signing day surprises. Could a new name emerge? Could LSU somehow get into the mix for a guy like Cece Jefferson, though his top three recruiters are now staffed at Auburn? Could Iman Marshall suddenly feel more comfortable since he presumably knows Coach O from growing up in the shadows of USC's campus? What about Josh Wariboko, the uncommitted OG from Oklahoma City, who is now an Orgeron target? Guys like D'Andre Walker and Rasool Clemens are also players he's targeting. And there's Porter Gustin, the freakishly athletic 6'5", 245 pound LB that's considered a heavy USC lean. There's no doubt he knows Coach O. Could he make headway there?
There's a lot to be excited about. I wouldn't count on this duo swooping in and flipping half a dozen prospects, but even a flip or surprise or two would be a significant win this late in the process. And then the grind for next year starts all over. LSU is already trending toward a more national recruiting base, and Orgeron helps extend those borders with his connections on the West Coast and all across the Southeast. LSU significantly upgraded from a good recruiting staff to a great one with the two hires. Expect bigger and bigger things to come.