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LSU Linebacker Board: Where We Go From Here

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With less than a month until NSD, LSU needs more linebackers

NCAA Football: Louisiana State Spring Game Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting is a fickle beast, even moreso when you focus on one position. Travel with me back to the summer and LSU is set at the linebacker position. Patrick Queen was already committed, Dylan Moses, despite de-committing, had LSU as his leader, it seems as if Chris Allen would follow the two and there was still time to add even more if necessary, like K’Lavon Chaisson and Levi Jones among others.

Fast forward from there to December and it’s a disaster. Moses and Allen are Bama bound, Monty Rice pulled a fast one on LSU and enrolled at Georgia weeks after committing to the Tigers, our target cupboard went from full to bare, leaving everyone scratching their heads with Queen seemingly as the only linebacker that realized LSU still has a defense.

Then, all of a sudden, a strange thing occurred. The quiet period in recruiting brought a rush of noise coming from all along the south and one from Tennessee. What was a bare linebacker board turned into one that might have become more full than back in the summer. With that quick history lesson, let’s get in a primer before the exam that is National Signing Day arrives on the first of February.

Chris Allen (6’4”, 235 lbs., Alabama Commit, OLB/ILB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Funny how alphabetical order works sometimes. It’s hard to get a read on Allen due to his quietness and his reluctance to open up to anyone on his recruiting process. Even his Southern Lab coach and LSU alum Marcus Randall hadn’t talked to him about it lately and admitted the same thing about getting a read on him. Obviously, LSU is behind Alabama due to his commitment to the Crimson Tide, but there’s still a lot of hope there. He’s gone to high school in Baton Rouge, it’s where his family is, and he has an LSU grad as his coach, who still supports the Tigers even though he played for Saban. If it’s playing time he is after, LSU has the huge advantage there with the losses of Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley. If Allen still wants to visit LSU after his trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend, there is a good chance at getting a flip.

Ellis Brooks (6’2”, 233 lbs., ILB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Of all the targets, Brooks is one of the more likely options currently. It was Brooks that initiated the contact with LSU, which quickly responded in an offer and would set up a visit. Brooks will make a mid-week visit on the 16th and 17th, so all hands will be on deck for his visit. The main competition will be from Notre Dame, who Brooks really likes and will come down to academics on if he will be able to qualify there, but it’s not that the Virginia product has an in-state relationship there.

Jacob Phillips (6’3.5”, 228 lbs., Oklahoma Commit, ILB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Phillips has become one of the weirder stories in the recent month with his friend Willie Gay and showing some love at the Army All-American Game. An Oklahoma commit, Phillips has stated that LSU is the only other school he is listening to besides the Sooners. The problem that LSU is going to have is that Phillips has used all five of his official visits, so if he does come down, it’s going to be on the family dime. The cavalry is in on Phillips, including Austin Thomas, who was integral in reeling in another Tennessee recruit in JaCoby Stevens. If Phillips makes an unofficial trip on January 20th with Willie Gay, this will get VERY interesting. He could still commit to LSU without Gay, but the percentage of that occurring decreases.

K’Lavon Chaisson (6’4”, 211 lbs. OLB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Chaisson is alone as the only pass-rushing linebacker LSU is after in this class. The Tigers aren’t necessarily hurting at this spot with players like Andre Anthony, but there is no experience at the spot outside of Arden Key. The LSU staff can basically show Chaisson the Key highlight tape as they have a very similar build and play style. It will be hard to nab the Houston product from the Longhorns, where his parents reportedly want him at, but LSU has some aces in the hole with Eric Monroe, who was at North Shore with Chaisson last year, and Marvin Wilson, who is good friends with Chaisson and an LSU lean currently.

Nick Smith (6’3”, 210 lbs., N.C. State Commit, OLB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

You just knew LSU couldn’t just go to Orlando and shut down Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville. Before they came back to Baton Rouge, the Orlando-area recruit Smith was handed an offer. The Tigers are in a very good spot here with Smith. While Smith may be lower on the LSU board, he doesn’t visit until January 27, after most of the other prospects at the position will have already visited and Aranda and the staff will have a better outlook at what’s left. I would imagine a strong push would sway Smith from N.C. State if the Tigers truly want him if there’s room.

Tyler Taylor (6’2”, 230 lbs., ILB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Tyler Taylor has become a fast-rising name for LSU in the recent weeks. While it’s going to be tough to take the Georgia product from the Bulldogs, but the same thing works in favor for LSU that is does with other recruits on this list. Georgia has brought in several linebacker commits in the recent weeks, while LSU has a lot of open playing time available. Taylor will be in Baton Rouge this weekend, which is going to a star-studded few days, so the red carpet will definitely be out there.

Will Ignont (6’2”, 230 lbs., Tennessee Commit, ILB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Will Ignont is a puzzling one. Transferred in high school over to the IMG Academy factory before he was kicked out for supposed drug issues. He came back to Alabama for his senior season, but in-state Alabama basically dropped his commitment and Auburn slow played him. Ignont committed to Tennessee, and despite recent attention from LSU, Ignont shut down his recruitment following the Army All-American Game, saying he is 110-percent committed to the Volunteers. Those of us who have followed recruiting long enough, know it’s not over until that fax comes in, so there’s always a chance.

Willie Gay (6’1.5”, 223 lbs., OLB)

Where Does LSU Stand?

Last but certainly not least, Willie Gay has become the most interesting person in LSU recruiting in the past month because of well...Willie himself. Willie might have been the most vocal recruit at the Army All-American game practices. Dropping lines that he was close to committing to LSU, and after hearing Monty Rice switched to Georgia, said something along the lines of don’t worry, Willie is coming (and yes, he did refer to himself in the third person). He also stuck around Jacob Phillips like glue during their time, saying they were going to be a package deal and could see them playing in Baton Rouge. The problem that comes with this is if he is truly genuine with his statements, as there is always the challenge of pulling Mississippi recruits out of state, especially a recruit that played his high school ball in Starksville. Gay will be visiting on January 20th, hopefully with Phillips as well, which will be a huge shot at reeling him in.

Aren’t There Others?

In every class, there are the guys that find themselves off the board unless drastic things happen or the mood of the coaches change over the year. Take Levi Jones for instance. Once a top recruit on the board and close to an LSU lean, an awful senior season from Jones caused him to basically fall off the board and will likely be Longhorn bound. Shanon Reid was a head scratcher in that he was under the impression he had an offer, visited to LSU and found out there was none or would be one later, and would commit to Tennessee. You have in-state names like Josh Clarke and Cameron Heil that are on a lower tier, and would maybe only get a scholarship on NSD if something opens up. While fans may get confused as to why not just offer guys like this, coaches just never want to settle unless they truly have to. Had they settled for a guy like Reid or Jones, there’s a chance we aren’t even in the conversation for guys like Willie Gay or Jacob Phillips.

So, Who Do We Get?

After reading all of that, you’re probably thinking, “Corey, just give us your prediction.” It is really tough because they truthfully have a solid shot at 7 of the 8 guys on the list (I’m going to assume Ignont is truly done). I’m going with:

Brooks, Chaisson, Gay and Phillips

I really want to put Allen in this class, but Alabama could possibly be coming off a national title and Allen is over there this weekend. Taylor just seems too late and will likely wind up at Georgia despite their LB logjam. I think Nick Smith is a backup plan, and if there’s a spot, they will try for the flip.

While I think Willie Gay is playing up his interest, I do think he has very sincere interest in LSU, and that will seal the deal. With Gay in tow, I think Phillips makes the swap. Brooks initiated contact with Aranda and I think a visit as the only recruit on campus will truly show him he would rather be there than a very struggling Notre Dame. While momma wins out most of the time, I think Chaisson will be a surprise on NSD and will join his buddy Marvin Wilson and former teammate Eric Monroe.

Yes, that might be an optimistic prediction, but after this season, I fully believe in Aranda, he has new footage of shutting down one of the more electrifying Heisman winners in Lamar Jackson and now LSU has a year under Aranda at the helm.