This is the year. It’s something that is reiterated again and again, whether it’s at LSU or one of the many other school across the nation. But when you look at Ed Orgeron’s situation, this is the year that he can turn that tide back in his favor. After a couple swings and misses in 2018 and a potentially loaded 2019 class, Orgeron desperately needs to find success not just on the field, but in recruiting as well. With that in mind, come with me as we take a glimpse at what the 2019 class could be, and the names you will hear on a consistent basis.
Here’s a chance to familiarize yourself with the big names in the class and the high drama that will surely follow them.
Kardell Thomas, Five-Star Guard: The true leader of this class already, the five-star mauler of an offensive guard already shut down his recruitment as he wants to be at the forefront of this class and help it live up to its potential.
Maurice Hampton, Four-Star Cornerback: A two-sport star in baseball and football, Hampton’s future may be brighter on the diamond, but that is no knock on his talent on the gridiron. Mississippi State has risen as a threat with his main baseball recruiter, Andy Cannizaro, now the coach of the Bulldogs, but I think the Tigers hold on with having more to offer in the combined sports. Question is, will he be drafted out of high school by Major League Baseball?
Tyrion Davis, Four-Star Running Back: In what will need to be a big class at this spot, LSU got a head start in reeling in Davis, a top-20 running back. Davis is the spitting image of Jeremy Hill, and plays with Thomas at Baton Rouge’s Southern Lab — a la Hill with La’El Collins at Redemptorist a few years back. With the Tigers taking at least two, likely three, it is paramount to get one in of his caliber this early.
Thomas Perry, Three-Star Offensive Lineman: It didn’t take Perry long after LSU offered following the offer from Texas A&M for Perry to jump on it. While only a three-star currently, Perry the size at 6-6, 330 pounds, and now has a coach at LSU with a successful pedigree in James Cregg. Thomas is the son of former Tiger lineman Adam Perry.
Joseph Evans, Three-Star Defensive Lineman: An unknown early commitment from a small program in North Louisiana — Haynesville — expect to see Evans’ rating rise once he garners more exposure. At 6-3, 305 pounds, Evans already has the size LSU wants on the defensive line.
Quentin Skinner, Three-Star Long Snapper: Skinner continues the pipeline of Buford High School (Georgia) long snappers coming to LSU, joining the Ferguson brothers, Reid and Blake. Expect Skinner to pick up where Blake leaves off as a redshirt sophomore and continue a trend of excellent long snapping, which is a lot larger than you think.
It starts and ends with Grant Gunnell, a former Texas A&M pledge who has been on campus a few times in recent weeks. When LSU missed out on dual-threat James Foster, it seemed as if it was going to be a troubling scenario, but a potential sliver lining was the Aggies landing him — Gunnell took that as a sign they’d be moving away from him. He de-committed on February 13. Gunnell built a good rapport with Matt Canada, but has since enjoyed the recruitment of the whole staff, primarily Ensminger and Orgeron.
Gunnell has said he wants to commit during the summer, but after his recent de-commitment, that timeline may change. Another potential factor is his older brother is a walk-on on the Aggie roster. Ohio State recently offered Gunnell, but the early word is that Arkansas and Oklahoma State are LSU’s main competition. New Arky head man Chad Morris has been recruiting Gunnell for some time now, and the family has ties to the Arkansas program.
If they missed on Gunnell, the only other major target they are currently after is Michael Johnson Jr. out on the west coast, however his father is the wide receivers coach at Oregon and he recently transferred to an Oregon high school. Jayden Daniels out of California is another that could see his interest increase if things went south with Gunnell.
LSU is likely to take two QBs in this class, so expect to see the second be an in-state name. Lance LeGendre, out of Warren Easton in New Orleans, or Chandler Fields out of Archbishop Rummel in Metairie are the most likely Louisiana candidates. Both are three-star prospects without offers. That could change later in the spring evaluation period, or at camps this summer.
Without a big name target that jumped out in 2018, running backs coach Tommie Robinson realizes the importance of this upcoming class. Luckily, there are some big-timers in-state, including present commit Davis and Destrehan’s John Emery Jr., a 6-foot, 194-pound top-50 prospect that LSU will battle the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Michigan for.
The other big name to know here is Noah Cain, a composite five-star and the No. 3 running back prospect in the country, currently at the IMG Academy in South Florida. Cain is, originally, a Baton Rouge native, who moved to Texas following Hurricane Katrina before heading to IMG. If you’re not a big fan of what recruiting has become lately, you might want to ignore this one, because the Cain recruitment has already set up to be a circus. Texas, Ohio State and now LSU have all taken turns as the rumored leader. The Tigers do have family in their corner, including Cain’s father, who still lives in Baton Rouge.
I don’t believe LSUwill go outside of these three, but the staff has covered their bases in offering top-five backs Quavaris Couch and Noah’s IMG teammate Trey Sanders, along with Wisconsin commit Julius Davis.
Receivers & Tight Ends
Mickey Joseph and LSU had a great haul in 2018, with headliners Terrace Marshall and JaMarr Chase, along with Kenan Jones and Jaray Jenkins, who might wind up at CB. They should have the luxury to be selective this year, but would like to be a three-wideout class. It would be a huge start to building up a stronghold in the Florida Parish area of Louisiana with Devonta Lee, the top receiver prospect in the state and one of top 10 nationally. The Tigers haven’t fared too well up in that area of the state lately, but this would be a good time to start, for other reasons we’ll cover here.
Trey Palmer, out of Kentwood, is another top-20 wide receiver and would give the class a solid, speedy guy out of the slot. His recruitment has been quiet so far, but he would be one that LSU would like to get in the class early on.
As if getting Grant Gunnell would be enough, whoever wins that sweepstakes would likely get Jalen Curry, a top-10 recruit in the state of Texas. Just seems likely that the No. 2 QB in the nation would want his top target with him.
I don’t see LSU going for more than three, but if they were to miss any of the previously mentioned, other options could include in-state Quinton Torbor from Destrehan and Theo Wease, Arjei Henderon and Jordan Whittington out of Texas plus former LSU commit Kenyon Jackson from Georgia.
At tight end, not much noise is there outside of Ray Parker from Ruston, who is ranked as an offensive tackle but wants to be recruited as a tight end, something LSU has reciprocated in interest.
New o-line coach James Cregg came into an-already great situation for the 2019 class with Thomas and Perry, but his biggest challenge will be bringing one back to the Tigers in five-star tackle Kenyon Green out of Houston.
When Jeff Grimes accepted the position of offensive coordinator at BYU, it was a little expected to see Green waver after his relationship with Grimes was one of the major reasons he committed. Cregg has been talked about as a great recruiter, and with a likely better pedigree, it would be expected to see LSU right back in it. Texas A&M has become a huge threat with a lot of ties between A&M and Green’s high school, along with the new coach momentum with Fisher at the helm. Other targets at tackle include Wanya Morris out of Loganville, Ga., Amari Kight from Alabama, Javonne Shepherd from Houston and another local boy in Jacques Wallace.
LSU has enough talent at guard in-house already along with Thomas, who could push for time in the lineup from day one. If the Tigers wanted more, they could target IMG teammates Deyavie Hammond and Evan Neal. The only center with an offer currently is Branson Bragg out of Texas, but with a redshirt year to Cole Smith, he may likely be the future at the position.
The name to know here is Ishmael Sophser, who was recently bumped up to the top player in the nation according to 247. He is from Amite, La. and is teammates with Devonta Lee, and will be Orgeron and Dennis Johnson’s central focus in this class. The 6-4, 280-pound defensive tackle is an explosive playmaker, and you can expect the rest of the SEC to make Sopsher a priority as well.
When Kardell Thomas is putting all his efforts on Sophser, it becomes quickly apparent how important he is to this class. The board on the d-line is still massive with names like Nathan Pickering and Jaren Handy from Mississippi and Marcus Stripling from Texas at defensive end.
Nothing out there on the nose tackle spot after reeling in Dominic Livingston and Chasen Hines moving to the d-line in 2018 to back up Tyler Shelvin and Ed Alexander
When Dave Aranda took over for John Chavis, the cupboard was completely bare. Aranda has done his part to fill it up and can be selective for 2019, although that may not be too hard.
At inside linebacker, it’s all on Donte Starks and Nakobe Dean. Starks, at John Ehret in New Orleans, is the No. 3 inside linebacker in the class. Many believe he’ll become a commitment sooner rather than later. Dean is the top player in the state of Mississippi and the top inside linebacker according to 247. However, he’ll almost certainly be a battle with the in-state schools and Alabama. Christian Harris, from U-High in Baton Rouge, is an athlete that will likely receive an offer eventually, and could be best suited to play at linebacker. Currently listed at 6-1 and 225, but playing receiver, his skillset could translate to a few different positions, and many believe he has some more growing to do.
Kayvon Thibodeaux is a California prospect with some distant Louisiana ties. He’s listed as a defensive end, but would likely reprise the Arden Key “bench” linebacker role under Aranda. While it seems like he may stay on the West Coast, with a last name like that, it should be a requirement he comes to LSU.
Other recruits of note that fill that outside linebacker/pass-rusher role include Eric Gregory from IMG and NaNa Osafo-Mensah from Dallas. Marcel Brooks out of my hometown of Flower Mound could be a target to fill the “F” linebacker spot that Aranda has used former safeties at.
Last year hurt, just absolutely hurt. What was supposed to be a solid NSD started off well with Kelvin Joseph signing, but it went south quickly when Patrick Surtain II, long thought to be an LSU lean signed with Alabama, and LSU botching the entire Mario Goodrich recruitment and watching him go to the other Tigers of Clemson. With only Joseph in for 2018, the defensive backs are likely going to have the largest number in this class.
It starts with five-star, former LSU commit Derek Stingley, the No. 2 corner in the nation. After wanting to re-open things to go through the whole process, Stingley has been back on campus a number of times, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was back in this class before LSU kicks off against Miami. Devin Bush, out of New Orleans, is another in-state target and a top-20 corner nationally, likely has a spot in this class as well. Four-star Marquez Beason out of Dallas recently came on a visit, and some have reported that LSU might have jumped into the lead. His teammate, safety Brian Williams is another five-star player and the No. 1 safety in the nation, although he is a Texas A&M commit. The Aggies have long been considered in the lead for Beason.
Te’Cory Couch, a current Tennessee commit, has seen his recruitment heat up, especially from the Tigers. Another name that could join this class is Tyrique Stevenson out of Florida. The long, athletic athlete is the type that Raymond has fallen in love with out of the Sunshine State.
Like at QB, it starts and ends with Will Reichard, who has visited Baton Rouge on several occasions since the 2018 class came to a close. Reichard has dominated all of the kicking camps he has competed at, and is one of the few that could be a kicker and punter at the next level. Incoming grad transfer Cole Tracy will be gone and punter Josh Growden will be a senior by the time Reichard gets on campus. giving him ample opportunity to showcase his skills. Georgia and Alabama will be significant competition.
This has the makings of LSU’s best class in a long time, if not of all time. Whether it comes to fruition remains to be seen, but the pieces are there and this staff has done a great job of getting an early start to it. Also realize that many more names will join the conversation and rise up the board in the coming months and the summer evaluation period, so stay tuned to ATVS to get the latest news on the recruiting front.