It's that time of year again. Universities across the country are getting their fax machines warmed up, while anxious fans sort through Twitter, message boards, and the like to find any remaining tea leaves that may suggest their favorite prospects are sure to sign with their favorite school.
In recent years, signing day has become an event unto itself. I can remember the first recruit I knew anything about: Lorenzo Booker. I had largely quit following football, college or pro, until my later high school years. Like any HS student, I was desperately grasping at anything that would bond me with my classmates and help forge an identity. If you've spent anytime in Oklahoma, you know it's a state gripped with college football fever, much like Louisiana. Gobs of Sooner fans will joyously educate you on the greatness of their football program. Mind you, this is the same timeframe when Stoops won his National Title and the Sooners were on a run of dominance that was pretty much unrivaled in that timespan.
So football became my gateway to making friends. It helped that a love of it was ripe within my family, coming from my great grandfather and my grandfather. My folks attended LSU in the days of Shaq, and my grandmother worked in the Athletic Department under Joe Dean. All the fibers were there but not yet conjoined.
But something about Lorenzo Booker set me on a path. Booker may well be the first recruit to do the major television announcement, something you now see from dozens of prospects a year. I remember being fascinated by the whole show of it all. I had followed LSU more closely that year and was proud of our Sugar Bowl destruction of Illinois, but I couldn't have told you much about the signing class, other than this kid Justin Vincent was coming soon, and I thought for sure he was going to be better than Lorenzo Booker.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. Period. We can talk till we're blue in the face about coaches and schemes and schedules and all that. But the facts bear it out: recruit big. win big. That's not correlation, it's causation. Just look at Alabama. This is to take nothing away from Nick Saban's abilities in the other aspects of a coach, but the one where he excels the most, recruiting, happens to be the most important.
There's been a lot of talk in recent years about LSU's "slide" to mediocrity. While I still wholly disagree with the nomenclature (YOU'RE OUT OF YOUR FUCKIN' ELEMENT, DONNY), let's not also pretend like the results haven't been disappointing. These results are what predicated Miles making whole sale staff changes. Jettisoned were underachieving recruiters in Studrawa, Haley. In were notable recruiters in Grimes and Orgeron. When Chavis left of his own accord Miles responded in turn not by hiring a coach known for great schemes or stability, but with a veteran of the industry who knows and recruits the region well. When Thomas McGaughey left to pursue NFL dreams, Miles responded by hiring an old friend and a guy who happens to be ranked as the nation's no. 2 recruiter. Of all the coaching hires in the past few years, only Tony Ball fits the profile as more of a "on field technician" than a recruiter.
When people say Miles is out of touch, I'm baffled. Complaints about the scheme likely won't subside anytime too soon, but Miles pretty accurately deduced that the problem wasn't schematics as it was those executing, or better said, not executing, the plans in place. So he set about trying to fix the talent problem.** Remember, recruit big, win big.
**And let's be real, LSU's talent problem is that they aren't as talented as Alabama while deploying a similar style. This is a shot at trying to make that right.
Great news this morning, as Composite 4-star Donavaughn Campbell re-affirmed his commitment to LSU. He recently visited Georgia Tech, where his older brother plays football. Some thought that may be enough to lure him away, but he stuck with his commitment.
Officially signing with LSU #GeauxTigers— underrated (@_donavaughn91) February 2, 2016
In not so great news, 3-star WR Da'Monte Coxie decommitted from LSU.
I'm trusting God , this is my best decision pic.twitter.com/M1GA32YYMx— Dee1⃣ (@1_gone_ball) February 2, 2016
Coxie was a grade risk, but the timing is interesting. Reportedly the staff had NOT sent Coxie a LOI to sign. This isn't a practice that's NOT customary, but LSU did let Brandon Martin sign an LOI last year, while knowing he wouldn't qualify. So it does get the gears turning as to whether the staff may be making a last minute play for another player...
UPDATE: D'Andre Christmas-Giles is now announcing at 10:00 p.m. CST tonight!
Really intriguing decision here. Smart money is on Texas, who have consistently stayed on him throughout the process. LSU came through with a late offer in December, and got him on campus in January. But it doesn't seem LSU wants him as badly as he may want them. That said, is this a dominoes falling type deal? If Fowler picks Texas, does the staff furiously see if they can get Christmas-Giles to come? It doesn't seem like he's a take at this point, with even LSU insiders conceding him. But bigger surprises have happened before.
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow!
Here's what you should be watching:
9 a.m. EST
Mullen is widely expected to announce for LSU tomorrow. The last four predictions on the Crystal Ball are all for LSU: one from an FSU writer, one from a UF writer, and two from Louisville writers. What makes the Louisville picks interesting is that Mullen just paid his own way to visit Louisville this past weekend. Corey Raymond continues to do work in the state of Florida. If he pulls another top 100 DB that was coveted by both FSU and UF, not to mention Clemson, who just played for the title... that's just further evidence he's one of the top recruiters in America.
9:30 a.m. EST
The Crystal Ball is entirely useless in this case, as there hasn't been a prediction since April of last year. The latest here is a bit of a mess. Fowler visited UT on the 15th and LSU on the 22nd. Word coming out of the LSU visit is that everything was solidified and the staff may have finally won his mama over. Then Strong came to visit last weekend and now Fowler is announcing his decision on Wednesday. Honestly not sure what to make on this one. I could very well see this going either way.
Losing Fowler would be a significant blow to this class. LSU badly needs LB depth and Fowler would be a candidate for early playing time. There's really no two ways about it, Fowler is probably the recruit LSU can least afford to lose and he's the one in most significant danger of flipping.
10:00 a.m. EST
Here's your longshot. Anderson is a guy the staff stayed on throughout the process. He visited LSU on the 22nd, but his last OV was down to Oxford, who many consider the favorite to land him. The only Crystal Ball for LSU came in April of last year and all of the recent picks have him heading to Ole Miss. My money's on the Rebel Bears, but hey, worth keeping half an eye on.
12:45 p.m. EST
The Rummel kid that nearly got away? There was a lot of buzz for Fulton to UF about a month ago, but that seems to have all but died a slow death after the Gators let their DB coach go. Fulton visited LSU, Arkansas and Florida, in that order. But the staff seems to have staved off any efforts from the Gators and are almost sure to keep the 5 star home. Which part of DBU do you not understand, Florida?
There's no readily available info for whether Sci Martin plans to make an announcement, but there does seem to be a growing sentiment he will flip to LSU tomorrow. Martin officially visited on January 22nd, but came out of his visit stating he was sticking to his commitment with TCU. In the last several days quite a few predictions have come in for Martin to flip to LSU, including from Shea Dixon. Orgeron has waned the End for a while now, so it's not entirely surprising, but a positive flip at the end of the process.
Shyheim seemed to make a late push back to LSU to try and reignite mutual interest, but it seems as if the staff moved on and felt content with finishing off another stellar DB class with Fulton and Mullen. It's absurd to think we're at a point where they can actively deny a composite 4-star, top 100 instate talent because they have enough DB talent already. Frankly, if the staff is gonna try to squeeze numbers somehow, I'd much rather them make it work for Christmas-Giles than Carter.
For What Else Shall I Root?
This one's tough: Against all things Alabama.
Bama is going to have a huge day tomorrow, but start hoping it's modestly huge and not monstrously huge. Guys like Ben Davis and Lyndell "Mack" Wilson are near locks to ink with the Tide. But winning local prospects shouldn't surprise too many. What we DON'T need to happen is for them to suddenly pull guys like Mique Juarez. I don't think it happens, but any chance LSU has of keeping the no. 1 spot is crushed if Bama lures elite out of region talents like these two.
The only other thing would be to root for guys like Nate Craig-Myers, considered a strong lean to Auburn, to pick UNC. Or Terrell Hall to pull a shocker and pick Maryland, not Alabama. Or Brandon Jones to pick Texas not Texas A&M. Basically, if you can get them out of the division, or even better, out of the conference, root for it.
Number 1 Stunna
Look, if LSU adds Fulton, Martin and Mullen, while keeping Fowler and everyone else, they will finish with a 298.77 according to the class calculator. That's one hell of an elite class. But don't get too married to the idea that LSU will finish with the Composite no. 1 class in America. Alabama is going to pull several horses tomorrow that will likely skyrocket them to their unprecedented 6th straight no. 1 class.
If Bama closes with JUST Ben Davis, Mack Wilson, Terrell Hall and Shyheim Carter, LSU will narrowly edge them out for the top spot. If Bama adds 3-star TE Irvin Smith out of New Orleans, that will throw up over LSU. That gives you a clue as to how close this race will be. I suspect Bama finishes ahead in the end.
But you know what? Fuck 'em. This is a great signing class, maybe the best in Miles entire era of signing elite classes. Assuming LSU doesn't miss on Fowler, they will have met every major need with truly acceptable (in most cases exceptional) prospects, depending on how you feel about Lindsey Scott.
If your takeaway from all of this is disappointment, then you probably should re-evaluate your priorities. LSU is getting better with this signing class, I guarantee you that much. This group of prospects will have the opportunity to play for national titles.
Merry Recruitmas. May all your stars be five and all your prospects be academically qualified.