In an odd way, it kind of feels like the Ed Orgeron Era at LSU can really begin now. With a coaching staff that was only partially formed, and a recruiting cycle that was as much about holding on to what was already in the fold as much as adding to it, now Coach O can truly move forward with the 2017 Tigers and begin the process of forging the type of program he wants here.
I can’t truly give this class an A grade without Marvin Wilson — as much as he was very much a gravy pickup for this class, he was a player Orgeron had been hard on the trail of for two seasons now. But that said, any top-10 class following a coaching change, that meets the two overwhelming needs of the roster (quarterback and linebacker) is a class you can be proud of.
There’s a lot to like here. Two quarterbacks, which builds important depth for 2018 and beyond when some of the current veterans on this team cycle out. The best group of safeties LSU has ever signed — Jacoby Stevens will be a first-round draft pick in three seasons, I am quite sure of that. And four very athletic linebackers, including a potential freshman starter in Jacob Phillips and K’Lavon Chaisson, who probably needs more development but athletically has all the gifts to step in for Arden Key and be a big-time pass-rusher in a year or two. And then there are guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Saahdiq Charles, that could have easily picked up a lot more accolades with more time on the camp circuit. There’s a LOT to like in this group for LSU.
So where do we go from here?
For starters, expect some staff changes. At a minimum, LSU still needs to hire a full-time special teams coach, and there’s at least a chance for some other moves as well (as there always are for multiple teams following Signing Day and the NFL postseason). There had been rumors of LSU trying to bring in former Tulane head coach and long-time Miami assistant Curtis Johnson, but that appears dead after the Saints hired him. That may not be a bad thing. Johnson has a great rep, but his major recruiting wins all came back in the 1990s.
Still, Dameyune Craig kicked the tires on a few jobs, and may still have some interest in moving on. Likewise, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pete Jenkins moved into a consulting/off-field role, although he’s still the nation’s best defensive line coach, no matter what bullshit some kid in Monroe is spewing at Alabama’s behalf.
Holding on to this class when Orgeron spent most of its assembly working within another coach’s framework, and then under the specter of transition, was impressive. Most will expect more now that he’s running the show himself from the jump. The in-state crop in Louisiana will be heavy on perimeter guys — wide receivers and defensive backs — which means that Orgeron will have to import his beef on the offensive and defensive lines, both of which will be priorities along with tailback.
LSU isn’t going to overtake the corporate machine in Tuscaloosa in one year. Hell, they may not even keep them out of the state completely, but that process has to begin. The junior day trail will begin it, but an exciting spring to build optimism, and then a strong 2017 season will keep that process moving forward. Competition is going to be the constant theme, along with a complete and renewed internal focus on the team, and on LSU. The “three-and-out/NFL” mentality is something that proved divisive for this program in recent years, and its Orgeron’s biggest hurdle to work with.
And now, the real race begins.