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LSU National Signing Day 2017 Recap

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl - LSU v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

What a day.

The first ever signing day with Orgeron was certainly... eventful. Just as I said it would be last night. I went to bed last night pondering the possibility of a near total strikeout and woke up to the majority of folks believing we’d land K’Lavon Chaisson. And that we did.

In-State or In Need?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room here: LSU struck out in state this year. To take it a step further, Bama cleaned house in Louisiana. There’s simply no other way to term it.

How important is this?

Look, let’s talk about this. First of all, it wasn’t a banner year in state. LSU didn’t even pursue the 6th, 7th, and 9th players in the top 10. They barely pursued the 8th. They lost out on number 2, 4 and 5 to Alabama. Drop all of those numbers by one if you want to count Dylan Moses in this grouping. I won’t argue that’s a good showing. What I will argue is that they made counter measures to adapt.

If this had happened and instead LSU was taking 3 star in-state players to meet the needs, then THAT is abject failure. But when LSU struck out with Dylan Moses and Chris Allen, Orgeron and Aranda went hunting. First, they flipped Jacob Phillips. Then they lured Tyler Taylor. They almost lured Willie Gay. They filled the need as well as or better than had they landed Moses and Allen in the first place.

And really, that’s the most important thing. Get the best players. It would be downright foolish for LSU to quit making Louisiana a priority, but what’s important is that they pivot when it’s not breaking their way. And in 2017, they did.

But LSU recruiting in 2017 isn’t the same as LSU recruiting in 1996. There’s a stubborn insistence that LSU must “build a wall around the state” if they are to be successful, and I think it’s largely just one of those things people tell themselves. LSU routinely, every year, goes into Florida and Texas and pulls out 5 star talents. Every single year. That’s simply something that wasn’t happening even 10 years ago. The ability to do that lessens the significance of needing to pull all the best players in Louisiana.

LSU’s biggest needs in 2017 were as follows:

QB - landed 2 top 300 players
LB - landed 4 players, 3 in the top 300
S - landed 3 top 100 players
OL - landed 4 players, 3 in the top 300

That’s filling your needs with quality talent. And that’s way more important than the state they were born.

The Signing Day Misses

Marvin Wilson

Wilson was the cherry on top. He picked FSU. I’m not really sure why, honestly. The kid seems to fashion himself as a Warren Sapp type, and he’s got some explosive ability, but at 330, I’m just not sure that’s his lot in life. FSU pitched the 4-3 defense to him hard and Tim Brewster continues to be a Texas recruiting ace. Playing time is probably more readily available there. Would you rather be coached and developed by Dave Aranda and Pete Jenkins or Charles Kelly and Odell Haggins?

Some are terming this a “failure.” Definitely a let down. It’s a miss. O has been on Wilson hard for 2 years. Win some, lose some. But take solace in that LSU is absolutely loaded on the DL. O has done a good job stocking the position the last three years.

Devonta Smith

I’d write these exact words in a different column if he picked LSU. This kid a rail. Look at him:

He’s what, 150 pounds? He lists at 160, and that’s probably generous. I know everyone gushes about his route running and how smooth and natural he is. I think those are great tools, but I have genuine concerns about his ability to grow into a collegiate athlete. If you are going to be small, you better be Desean Jackson explosive. And he’s not. He’s quick and he’s crafty. He’s a good space player. There’s a role for him in Canada’s offense. Miles would have never found one. That said, what I’m describing is a role player.

If this had been, say, Joseph Lewis and he was from Amite and went to Bama, I’d feel differently. To me, that’s an elite difference maker at WR. I just don’t see it with Smith, and I never really got too invested in him coming or not coming here.

Markaviest Bryant

This was probably the big shocker of the day. LSU landed the “better” version in K’Lavon Chaisson, but premium pass rushers are a commodity. Having bookends of Bryant and Chaisson would be pretty lethal. LSU missed on Bryant in a bit of a shocker and he signed with Auburn. There’s probably more early opportunity for Bryant at Auburn, so that makes some sense. Really good player and good get for Auburn. Wonder if late tide to Chaisson bugged him off?

Willie Gay

Gay is my top LB in this signing class. He’s an athletic freak and has excellent instincts. The possibility of a Gay/Phillips duo seemed an improvement over Moses/Allen. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I had expected Gay to stay home, so I wasn’t devastated, but he would have been a tremendous addition to this class. Excellent player that could be a Freshman All-SEC for State if he makes the grades. He’s probably the best player on their team right now.

Nico Collins

Wasn’t any real shot here, so I had no real feelings.

Signing Day Wins

K’Lavon Chaisson

The big get of the day. Chaisson was thought to be all Texas throughout the process, despite regularly touting LSU. Chaisson is the heir apparent to Arden Key and having that year buffer before he takes the field will aid his development. He’s raw but exceptionally gifted.

Tyler Taylor

Taylor really started to draw late attention and LSU’s pitch clearly worked here. At 6’2”, 230, I love his frame for an ILB. LSU needed more big bodies in the middle and Taylor fits that bill. At worst, this is an exceptional depth add.

Todd Harris

Honestly, I’m not overly keen on Harris. He’s a fine player, but I wouldn’t have been devastated had he picked Bama. Primarily because Stevens and Delpit are better players AND already on campus. It’s good to have another quality player to add to the mix, though.

Neil Farrell

Thought it was a bit much ado about nothing. He said he was 50/50 FSU/LSU deep into the process. I think the kid just wanted to take some visits for free.

Big Picture

Consider this, LSU just inked, by 247 composite score standard, the 4th best class in school history:

If you are majorly disappointed, you need to gain some perspective. Bud Elliott made an astute point on the SB Nation Live recruiting show today, noting that this was a really top heavy year. What he meant was that, most of the top recruits went to the top 5-7 programs. The composite ranked out 32 5 stars in 2017. 22 of those signed with the teams that finished in the top 7. That’s a pretty remarkable disparity.

This is how LSU finishes 7th nationally despite pulling in one of the 5 best classes in school history.

Now, add to that that this was done in a year of coaching transition, when we hosted exactly 0 official visits on gameday. That’s a yeoman’s effort on the trail. No, LSU didn’t land every single prospect they hoped to. But they got a lot of them.

LSU signed 23 total players, which is lighter than the 26-27 they hoped. Orgeron opted to use those spots and backfill for next season rather than taking lesser rated kids in state. I’m okay with that plan.

There’s work to be done. And guess what? It starts now. Hell, it started months ago. LSU already has 5 commitments in the 2018 signing class. It didn’t end perfectly, but it ended well. This is a class worth celebrating. LSU got better today.