Smells like... victory.
I love National Signing Day.
For many recruits, signing day is the promise of a better future. For some, it’s the entrance ramp out of the cycle of poverty and onto the highway of financial stability. Some recruits are following family legacies and some recruits are creating their own. Some will represent their home state and some will run way far away chasing something else entirely. Some will leverage the opportunity of a free education and some will dream of the National Football League.
But there’s tribulations too. Every time a recruit picks a school, there’s typically a handful forced to face the failure of not securing that signature. For some coaches it will cost their livelihood. Consider the countless number of hours spent traveling, calling, texting, emailing, and watching a high school student typically from the age of 13 or 14 all the way to fruition. All for this one day. Imagine investing all that time and then watching it evaporate in front of your very eyes when the kid puts on the hat of your hated rival. It’s a level of anguish I’m not sure I could endure, professionally. “Oh by the way, this thing you worked super hard on for the past four years... yeah that’s over. You lost.”
Signing day is a finely woven tapestry of tragedy and dreams, and the fulfillment of both.
After signing day wrapped in 2018, it was difficult to muster much but disappointment. LSU built its class around star cornerback Patrick Surtain and at the last minute, Surtain made the heartbreaking choice to head to rival Alabama. Sure, it made sense objectively, but damn that was supposed to be our happy feel-good moment. It’s a shame that it overshadowed the signing of guys like Terrace Marshall, Kelvin Joseph and Ja’Marr Chase, and while it wound up being a solid class, it’s not really one for the ages. That’s okay to happen now and again, but O faces the immense pressure of his reputation for being an elite recruiter. When LSU hired Orgeron, the thing most clung to were his recruiting plaudits. Sure, he might suck out loud on the field, but damn he will keep our roster loaded. So what happens when he can’t deliver there? I think he’s out run that monster under his bed now, but early 2018 had all of us a bit concerned.
It thus became imperative that O could not deliver a signing class of similar quality in 2019. O needed to deliver on his promise to lock down the state of Louisiana, tidy up some positions of need like adding DBs and additional bodies in the trenches and above all keep the blue-chip ratio in check. The 2018 inched closer to a 50/50 split and that’s simply not a talent gap LSU can afford. How did O do in filling those needs? Let’s check in.
In-state can become overrated when it’s treated like some tribal economic system, whereby being born in Louisiana somehow makes you inherently more valuable than an identical recruit just across an imaginary border. I place a premium on in-state recruits only in the sense that they are traditionally the easiest to acquire. Recruiting is a transactional game and any good recruiting staff should be working toward assembling the most talented group of recruits regardless from which state they hail.
So if the staff loses a four-star receiver from Louisiana but finds a commensurate four-star from Texas, it’s no real tragedy to me. But when the state produces a banner year of talent, I want our staff locking those guys up. 2019 is a banner year in Louisiana. How did LSU do?
According to the 247 Composite state rankings for Louisiana, O locked up the Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 9 players in state on early signing day. They remain in the hunt for second- and eigthth-ranked players as well. Landing potentially eight of the top 10 is something else, especially considering the two others were not officially offered. Consider now that four of those eight players are five-star talents. This is an epic Louisiana haul and O went out and got it done.
DBs & Trenches
Stingley is well known and much discussed. Heading into the morning, it looked like LSU may have struck out on Raydarious Jones and even lost Cordale Flott. Suddenly the magic of Corey Raymond, one of the nation’s elite DB recruiters, looked to be fading after the previous year’s loss of Surtain Jr. and now a crumbling class in 2019.
Instead, everything turned up roses for DBU. Stingley signed. Flott surprisingly shipped over his LOI and LSU’s late surge secured Raydarious Jones. Those three alone provide an immediate talent infusion into LSU’s secondary. I can imagine all three will be in the 2-deep in 2019 with only Kelvin Joseph, Kary Vincent and Kristian Fulton (maybe) returning.
In the muck, James Cregg went out and got himself an entire set of offensive linemen. Kardell Thomas is the headliner, but Anthony Bradford is a huge dude, while Thomas Perry and Charles Turner are a bit more development types. Ray Parker remains committed but will sign in February.
And perhaps the biggest haul of today, in more ways than one, Siaki Ika, the No. 1 player in the state of Utah, a massive nose tackle, also signed. I can’t recall the last LSU recruit from Utah. LSU rarely works their way west, and LSU’s new safeties coach Bill Busch did yeoman’s work sealing this one down the stretch. This is a massive get.
Last year LSU’s class average was 90.11. This year they are sitting at 91.39. They raised the average talent pool by over a point. Last year’s class featured 13 four- and five-star talents and nine three-star talents. This year, the class currently sits at 13 four/five-star talents and eight three-star talents. LSU’s remaining targets are predominantly of the four- and five-star variety, so all of those positive numbers could very well rise further. This is quite obviously a more talented group than the 2018 haul.
Nakobe Dean picked Georgia. It was more or less expected he wouldn’t come to LSU but we kept some hope alive. Hard to dispute his choice with their recent production of a guy like Roquan Smith and their impressive runs of success.
Keon Zipperer picked Florida. Everyone saw that coming.
Everything else went as planned!
Currently LSU is sitting at 19 signees with two additional verbal commitments from Ray Parker and Maurice Hampton. They need to sign both of those guys, but that leaves them four open spots.
LSU’s ideal finish probably features Ishmael Sopsher, which probably means his brother Rodney. We can tizzie about that later, but let’s just go along with the idea that we have to sign both to get Ish. Toss in Devonta Lee. My guess is that last spot may belong to another DB, or, if they can work some magic, a defensive lineman. Mississippi has some star prospects still unsigned in Byron Young, Nathan Pickering and Jaren Handy, all of whom should visit LSU next month.
When asked what’s left, Orgeron said Defensive Line like 19 times. Probably a message for Ish, but could also mean the staff is very serious about adding even more bodies there.
No matter, this class is already strong. I think they can finish just shy of 300 points, which will probably lock them into a top-3 class nationally. That’s outstanding work and only barely trailing the current heavyweight recruiting champs in Athens and Tuscaloosa.