If you’re a true recruiting junkie, you’re probably aware that there’s a new site in town, with Tiger Details, the newest LSU affiliate site on the Rivals.com network. Sam Spiegelman, formerly of SEC Country, is working with longtime recruiting analyst James “Jimmy Details” Smith to add some more angles to the LSU recruiting scene.
Sam, who also gave us a few contributions last summer, was good enough to give us some time and answer some questions.
1. As somebody who covers this for a living, how do you feel about LSU’s 2019 recruiting efforts as we reach the closing stretch before the early signing period?
I think LSU has done a fantastic job of getting most of their priority targets on board and signed before Christmas. These aren’t just good players; they’re elite prospects from Louisiana, and they will be either on campus or signed in the first early signing periods. That’s Derek Stingley Jr., John Emery Jr. and Trey Palmer, among others, that are coveted by programs all over the country. LSU has made a strong enough push to sign them and convince them staying home is ultimately the right move.
Besides that, LSU is again on track to sign about 80 percent of its class before Dec. 21. In this class, LSU should nab its quarterback, two blue-chip running backs, some quality pieces to add up front and key defenders to plug into the secondary. Oh, of course, and a placekicker to possibly replace Cole Tracy’s rather large cleats. There are some really good players here — like Marcel Brooks, Maurice Hampton, Cordale Flott, Ray Parker, Kardell Thomas, Tyrion Davis, so on and so forth. These are difference-making players that fill major needs and supplement LSU’s depth in a lot of different areas, and also allow the staff to focus on a small collection of elite prospects into February.
2. Do you think LSU will sign all of their commitments in the signing period? If not, who might go until February?
It does not appear everyone will sign. Donte Starks and Maurice Hampton are two commitments to monitor. Starks wants to take all of his visits, which includes LSU next weekend, but he is resolute on letting his recruitment play out until the end. With Nakobe Dean still in play, it will be interesting to see how this thing shakes out over the next few weeks.
Hampton, too, wants to wait until February, but I expect that to change once he’s on campus soon as well. The biggest threat to Hampton’s course to LSU is a Major League Baseball contract.
Additionally, I see LSU and Dreshun Miller parting ways in the near future.
**Ed. Note: Miller has since announced his intentions to sign with West Virginia, after some speculation he could end up at Texas A&M.**
3. Who do you think LSU closes with this month in terms of signees? Any surprises?
Nakobe Dean, Raydarious Jones, Siaki Ika, Jay Ward and Marcus Stripling are the main uncommitted prospects still in play as Dec. 19 approaches. I don’t think it’s fair to call any of those prospects a “surprise” if they were to ink their paperwork with LSU, but certainly, Dean and Ika would be critical gets where it appears other teams are out in front.
For Dean, a 5-star linebacker on Rivals, Georgia and Alabama have jumped to the forefront. Alabama and Oregon are also heavily involved with Ika. LSU is sort of middling in that No. 2 or 3 spot with both defenders, but the staff has turned up the heat since the Contact Period, so it would not be too surprising to see them pull off one of those prospects on the 19th.
4. Defensive line is still a big need spot for this team -- how do you see LSU moving forward there?
There’s a lot of theories I could go with, but a lot involves a little bit of luck.
We know the story with Ishmael Sopsher, but there are a few other pieces in play, and it could get very convoluted once the early signing period comes and goes. There are a few Mississippi defensive linemen committed to other SEC teams that plan to officially visit LSU — Charles Moore, Jaren Handy, Nathan Pickering and Byron Young. If Ika picks the Crimson Tide on Dec. 19 or Sopsher chooses Alabama on National Signing Day in February, does that put LSU in position to snag Young away from them? Moore and Pickering are solid to State, but won’t sign their letters of intent this month, keeping the door open on LSU to make its move. LSU had Handy on board in the spring — for all of 11 days — and given the shaky state of Auburn there’s a belief an official visit back to Baton Rouge could be something to monitor.
5. Obviously, Ishmael Sopsher is the big remaining fish still out there. What do you think LSU’s chances are at landing him?
A lot of the public perception is that this is an LSU versus Alabama battle for the 5-star defensive tackle, but I truly think Sopsher remains wide open at this point. Texas A&M is in play. So is Oregon. Of course, I think this thing boils down to LSU and Alabama. The keys here are the official visits, winning over Mom and Dad, and which school joins LSU in making a move for his older brother, Rodney.
I’m probably in the minority, but I think LSU nabs Sopsher in the end. I don’t know if LSU can bring Pickering or Moore out of Mississippi or go into Utah and land Ika. The way Ed Orgeron has prioritized Sopsher and Amite, and the success he’s had with other prospects like Stingley, Emery and Palmer, I think this ends up a win for the Tigers in February.
6. Are there any under the radar prospects that may pick up an offer between now and National Signing Day in February? Kids that maybe had a big senior season?
There’s a few. Tay Gowan is a junior college defensive back that LSU could fall back on if it swings and misses late on Ward or Jones. He visited for the Rice game and has a lot of connections to this staff. Myron Warren isn’t a sleeper. He’s committed to Texas and does not hold an offer from LSU. If that changes, he could make an official visit to Baton Rouge, which might be a piece in this defensive line puzzle. Vic Viramontes is a junior college linebacker that Dave Aranda visited during December. If Starks left the class and LSU whiffed on Dean, he’s a name the staff could move onto as a linebacker in this 2019 class.