It’s competition Tuesday and while the players get a chance to stake their claim for more playing time on the practice field, we will use this space to explore other facets of competition. Last week, we talked about the what and why of depth. This week, fresh off a big victory over a hated rival, let’s talk about ‘crootin.
Justin Fields to UGA
If you follow recruiting at all, you surely heard the news. The nation’s no. 1 rated prospect, QB Justin Fields, who took an official visit to Baton Rouge during the Chattanooga game, made his verbal pledge to the in-state Bulldogs. In one sense, this comes at no surprise, since the home team have long been considered favorites for his services.
The flip side here is the UGA QB situation is... interesting. Remember the Dawgs were set to go this year in the 2nd year of 5-star Jacob Eason, who many thought could have a breakout campaign. Instead, Eason goes down with injury that is termed “week-to-week” but he’s yet to see action since then. He yielded the job to top-50 QB Jake Fromm, who has posted a cool line of:
57/95, 60%, 837 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT
Perhaps most importantly, since Fromm took over, following a narrow Week two victory over Notre Dame, Georgia is pounding opponents with regular three-plus-TD victories. It’s hard to get back a starting job from someone playing so successfully.
So, you have Fromm and the promise of Eason... where does Fields fit in? He’s the most physically gifted of all three, with true dual-threat skills. Fields emphasized that he wanted the opportunity to come in and compete for the starting QB job immediately, but there doesn’t appear to be any clear path to do so at Georgia.
Does Eason transfer? Do coaches stay on Fields to change his mind? The fallout here will be fascinating and have some major implications on the recruiting.
From an LSU perspective, this is not good news. The only current QB with an LSU offer that has yet to commit is four-star Gerry Bohanon, who is right now predicted 100 percent to Baylor. The good news, he recently re-opened his recruitment entirely:
After putting a lot of thought into this I’ve decided to re-open my recruiting process completely instead of only focusing on my top 6.— GB¹¹ (@gerry_bohanon) October 5, 2017
Previously, LSU hadn’t made his top 6. Do they make a strong push now that they are out on Justin Fields?
Some will say LSU is in okay shape after taking 2 QBs last season. The RS on Lowell Narcisse helps creates some distance, but LSU’s depth chart will only be down Brennan, Narcisse, senior Justin McMillan, who is no lock to stick around himself, and former walk-on Caleb Lewis, who became a scholarship player this Fall. Is that a grouping you feel comfortable with? Even if you have faith in Brennan being a star, you are an injury away from having to play a guy with no experience or choose between a pair of guys you didn’t really recruit to be starters.
It’s time for Matt Canada to hit the trail and start competing for a QB in this signing class. Even if it’s a project he takes a liking to, LSU’s depth chart needs the depth.
After some back and forth, the Baton Rouge Lab trio of LSU commitments 2019 5-star Kardell Thomas, 2018 four-star Damone Clark, and 2019 four-star Tyrion Davis elected to make the trip to Gainesville. While the trio appeared to have enjoyed themselves, they all remain committed to LSU. Good news, as they are the foundation for the stellar 2019 signing class Orgeron is assembling.
The Gators also hosted 2019 IMG RB Noah Cain, who remains one of the staff’s top targets for next season. Long way to go on this one, but LSU remains in the hunt.
Most interestingly, Metairie receiver JaMarr Chase, a UF commit, took in the Tigers road victory on an unofficial visit. LSU’s pursuit of Chase has not slowed, though they continue to be up against the neglect that occurred under Dameyune Craig’s watch. He kept things pretty close to the vest following the game, but did state he will take four official visits after his senior season: Florida, TCU, LSU and Georgia. Georgia is a new team entering the fray, but playing with the No. 1 QB in the nation is a draw. There’s work to do here, but Chase is a big part of this signing class, which needs to add some playmakers at the receiver position.
LSU’s recruiting class currently sits at no. 16 nationally, after the de-commitment of Kelvin Joseph. Worse, they have twice as many three-star commitments as four- and five-star commitments, so their ranking is largely boosted by volume, since they are currently sitting at 18 commitments. I do believe at least some of these commitments may eventually get a ratings bump. Chris Curry is a three-star running back with a healthy offer list that’s garnered some attention. Three-star linebacker Micah Baskerville has a collegiate-ready frame and impressed at the Opening. Jaray Jenkins is an explosive playmaker, with the ability to make head-turning plays. JUCO pass-rusher Travez Moore is the No. 1 JUCO defensive end. All four of these players are currently ranked as four-stars by 247, though remain three-stars in the composite.
Add to this that I do believe LSU will finish strong. Joseph remains firmly in play and guys like five-star Patrick Surtain and five-star Terrace Marshall are largely expected to fill out the class. All of this should help bolster the class.
Yet, I can’t help but look at this crop of Louisiana recruits and consider what a difficult position it places O in for his first full class. He’s promised to go out and lock down the best players in the state of Louisiana. In-state recruiting began to erode under Miles, notably in the northern part of the state which became almost automatic gets for Alabama. Bama even crept into Baton Rouge last year and swiped Chris Allen and, if you count him, Dylan Moses. Perhaps that changes if Miles sticks around, but no one would argue in-state recruiting was as strong as the early Miles seasons.
Now O is tasked with mending some of the wounded relationships and he’s left with a relatively uninspiring crop. There are only 11 four-star players in state and five of them are wideouts. While need exists at the receiver position, does O want 20 percent of his signing class to be pass-catchers? Especially with the express need for linemen? Of which, by the way, the options are slim. Davin Cotton and Dare Rosenthal are currently the only four-star lineman, on either side of the ball, in state and both are already committed.
With respect to many of the prospects in this signing class, I wonder how much is the staff looking to rebuild relationships that have suffered. We’ll never get a straight answer, but in a typical year like this, the staff would likely turn to Texas or southeast prospects to help fill the void. Instead, they are taking the in-state fringe prospects in what seems a bit of a good faith measure. It’s a long-term play, but how long can O afford to wait?