It’s that time again. College football Christmas. Quite frankly, the first Wednesday in February is the building block for every successful program. People spill a ton of ink on the secret recipe for beating elite programs, when the real key is simply the ingredients. The best coaches have the best players and Nick Saban himself would tell you that without blinking.
This Wednesday marks the first time in 12 years that LSU will usher a new signing class without Les Miles. Recruiting, for the most part, was a strong suit of Miles. Yes, he routinely struggled with the quarterback position, but LSU sits at or near the top of NFL player count just about every single season. Miles recruited top tier athletes and often even found gems from players not ranked in the top 250, like Debo Jones, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. And LSU’s players aren’t just holding roster spots, they are big time contributors.
But beyond the QB position, LSU began to hemorrhage on the offensive and defensive lines. OL play oscillates and while most advanced metrics highly rated the 2016 unit, they were stone walled in three different games. On the DL, LSU has featured some great singular talents, but haven’t fielded the dominant units in years past. The movement to rectify these units began a couple years ago when Miles hired Jeff Grimes and then Ed Orgeron. Orgeron is looking to continue to build on that front.
LSU everyone continues to languish behind Alabama in recruiting, one promise in hiring Orgeron would be the ability to lock in top classes. So this is high Orgeron season. This is the stuff we expect him to be good at. The rest, we can’t really know yet. But National Signing Day should be Orgeron’s ball.
Wild Things Ahead
This will be my 7th National Signing Day with ATVS and I can confidently and easily state this will definitely be the wildest. While Les Miles didn’t quite do the full Mack Brown "lock up your class in September" play, he was much more conservative and interested in getting the hay in the barn than in making any type of signing day statement. Sure, a handful of recruits always waited until that day, but the pure volume for LSU is stunning. Just tonight, Phidarian Mathis picked Alabama. A few days ago, LSU flipped Jacob Phillips. And LSU is still sitting with 6 more slots to fill.
That’s a lot of balls in the air on the last day. Expect surprises. Expect disappointments. Expect somebody to do something nobody thought he would. Like it or not, it’s the Orgeron style. He wants a big finish. He wants the flash and the excitement. Hold on to your asses.
Who and When
Tyler Taylor - 4-star LB, Lanier, Georgia, 7:45AM CST
I will be committing at the College Football HOF Wednesday morning on Fox 5 with Good Day Atlanta @8:45 am— Tyler Taylor 8⃣ (@tylertaylor8) January 31, 2017
While a lot of attention turned to Willie Gay, LSU quietly made a tremendous pitch to top 250 LB Tyler Taylor and reports indicate he’s buying. LSU has had a lot of success going into Georgia in recent years and Taylor looks to be the latest addition. Expect good news here.
Harris has long been an LSU/Alabama battle, with many believing he’d ultimately wind up staying home. Though at times it looked like Harris may be leaning to Alabama, the expectation here is that he will stay home and sign with LSU. Amik Robertson, who recently visited, just committed to Louisiana Tech. He was likely the back-up option for Harris, which is a strong indication he will be in this class.
Neil Farrell - 3-star DT, Mobile, Alabama, 9:30AM CST
Farrell has made waves in recent weeks, taking visits to USC and FSU to bookend his trip to LSU. He grew up an FSU fan. He also stated he will have an announcement of his commitment on National Signing Day... despite remaining committed to LSU. Mathis picking Alabama makes Farrell more interesting. The staff can’t really afford to strike out on both. But I don’t think they will. He took visits to Florida and California. Sounds like a smart kid that wanted to get out and see the world before finishing his business.
Gay is, without question, one of my top 20 players in this signing class. Athletically, he’s on par with Dylan Moses and what I’ve seen on tape suggests he’s light years ahead. Gay garnered a lot of attention by openly saying "Willie Gay is on the way" after Monty Rice decommitted, and most seem to believe that if Gay had his say, he truly would be on the way. But momma is always a strong pull and while LSU made a good impression, it may not be good enough. A run of LSU love on the Crystal Ball was offset by some Mississippi State picks of late. Michigan, at one time, was a major factor here, but this kid is staying in the Southeast, and I’m guessing he’s going to wind up staying home.
Markaviest Bryant - 4-star LB, Cordele, Georgia, 10:00AM CST
The top 200 edge rusher is being pitched on filling the Arden Key role in Aranda’s defense. LSU made a strong impression on his OV and many felt they may have leapt to the lead at that juncture. Still, his crystal ball remains heavily tilted toward home state Georgia. Betting odds are UGA, but I’m gonna say this is one of the rabbits Orgeron pulls out of a hat and he winds up signing with LSU.
K’Lavon Chaisson - 4-star LB, Houston, TX, 10:30AM CST
Much like Bryant, LSU is feeding Chaisson the message that he can be the next Arden Key in Aranda’s defense. Chaisson has long held LSU in high regard but kept a quiet recruitment until January. He’s narrowed his choices to LSU and Texas. If you follow along with Kary Vincent on Twitter, he’s continually hinting at his recruiting efforts of Marvin Wilson and Chaisson. I do think Chaisson likes LSU, but I think all the playing is just that and he will wind up signing with Texas.
Nico Collins - 4-star WR, Pinson, AL, 1:30PM CST
Collins visited LSU officially and then made a surprise unofficial just a couple weeks later, shocking many. The word around the time of the visit was that LSU may be in better position than many imagine. Yet, any momentum seems to have died. Collins is widely expected to choose Michigan tomorrow.
Devonta Smith - 4-star WR, Amite, LA, 2:00PM CST
Yet another rugged battle with Alabama. He decided to forego a visit to Miami, a team at one time thought to be a serious contender to make yet another unofficial visit to Alabama last weekend. All the signs don’t look great. Nearly everyone believes Devonta will sign with Alabama.
Marvin Wilson, - 5-star DT, Bellaire, TX, 3:30PM CST, ESPNU
You all know the drill on Wilson. It’s largely believed to be a two-horse race between FSU and LSU, while some stray Ohio State picks have started to trickle in recently. Most all of the FSU picks come from FSU insiders. LSU has picks from many national writers, which gives me confidence he’s going to pick the good guys. There’s also talk he wants to have a "surprise," but that will literally be whatever school he chooses. I’m not oozing with confidence, but I think it’s LSU.
All the Rest
No one else is expected to be at risk of flipping, so I think all should be quiet on the Western Front here. If something does happen, please delete this section from your memory and blame another publication for lying.
Look, people are already freaking out, which is entirely premature if not wholly unnecessary. Let’s go with the Cormac McCarthy post apocalyptic finish and say LSU lands only Tyler Taylor. That would be only 22 signees and a failure on many fronts... with a top 10 signing class during a coaching change. Even your disaster scenario winds up with LSU getting one of the best classes in the country.
Tomorrow is a good day. Enjoy it. Drink some Abitas. Kiss your kids. Or your dog, Crackles. Be happy.
Besides, we get to listen to Orgeron do a press conference and butcher all these kids names.