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Jaren Handy Decommits - Should LSU Quit Recruiting Mississippi?

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LSU v Tennessee Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

12 days. That’s how long Jaren Handy’s verbal pledge to LSU lasted.

Recruiting is a fickle process. I know many who refuse to follow until the days leading up to signing day, because the excessive waves of silliness just don’t interest them. I can empathize. As I’ve aged, I’ve become less and less interested in the month-to-month grind of recruiting. Much of this drama is propagated by recruiting services, who thrive off a model of creating a need when one doesn’t exist. Look, I’ve paid money for recruiting services before, and there are some really solid guys in the industry that I respect, but a lot of them sit on information, feed their readers weeks worth of teasers and then drop the inside knowledge after the recruit announces. I’m not even sure what you are paying for at that point? It’s somewhat bizarre.

But my larger issue here is that it feeds recruits and creates this sort of sick cycle of attention grabbing that pollutes the process. Make no mistake, I don’t really care what recruits do. I don’t care if they commit to 14 different schools, then flip one week after signing day when announcing in a skydiving video they made with a publication. Good for them. In fact, have fun while you can. Because the NCAA will ruthlessly exploit you. By all means. Get your under the table cash. Get your auntie a job. Get your moment of shine. I don’t care about any of it and yes, your school is doing it too.

It also doesn’t mean I have to enjoy some of the byproducts of that model. Kids are taught to play the game and want to drive up interest. Recruits and recruiting writers live in a bit of tango where recruits are the primary source of info and can share it with whom they feel, whenever they feel and also hold that info for a bit of exposure. Writers then take that info and dangle that carrot for paying subscribers. It goes round and round.

Now, major networks devote days worth of television coverage to where teenagers choose to go to school. Recruiting is it’s own little million dollar cottage industry in the biggest industry built on unpaid labor in the U.S. today.

So, what does any of this have to do with Jaren Handy? Well, it doesn’t. He’s just another byproduct. But what piques my interest is that he’s from Mississippi. Recruiting Mississippi has been unkind to LSU in recent history. It’s not as if LSU is trying to go into Alabama and lure kid’s away from Alabama and Auburn regularly. Sure, they land one here and there. It’s typically a guy both schools have as more of a fringe rating on, like Tae Provens.

LSU does find some success in Mississippi, typically when the prospect lives near the border and is comparatively closer to LSU than either State school, much less any other institution. But it’s rare. More often than not, things turn up bust. Look at this list of names:

  • Cam Akers
  • Willie Gay
  • Jamal Peters
  • Leo Lewis
  • Rod Taylor
  • C.J. Hampton
  • Breeland Speaks

That’s 7 players since 2014 that spurned LSU despite having interest in them deep into the process. These are players taking official visits into January and naming LSU their leader. I’m not talking about a recruit that expresses interest in LSU. This is the type of drawn out, prolonged recruiting wars LSU gets into and loses. Regularly. 7 times in the last 4 years. In that same time frame, do you know how many top 5 players from Mississippi that LSU has landed?

2.

Devin Voorhies and Myles Brennan.

Voorhies is from Woodville, MS, which is just a one hour drive north of Baton Rouge. Brennan is from Bay St. Louis, MS, just 2 hours east of Baton Rouge.

I know the obvious opinion here is, “Well, LSU can’t NOT recruit their border states” But I guess I’m saying, why not? We don’t bother much with Arkansas. We don’t share a border with Oklahoma, but it’s right in our region and we almost never go there hunting. Yes, I understand Mississippi produces more talent than probably both of those states combined, but LSU does share a border with Texas, one of football’s true talent meccas. Where has recruiting dipped a bit in recent years? Texas.

Is Texas more competitive? I guess? Everyone recruits Texas. But everyone recruits Mississippi too. But Mississippi kids come with a host of issues you don’t typically find with Texas recruits. Not to be overly cynical, but their poor school system probably plays a major factor. Many of the recruits are economically disadvantaged. I think this is where we see higher levels of flakiness from recruits. They seem to be more impressionable and more keen to making a quick verbal pledge only to renege. Which, again, fine.

This staff invests a lot of recruiting capital on the state of Mississippi and frankly, the ROI is lacking. Maybe it’s time to pivot strategies and start dedicating resources elsewhere. It’s a bold strategy, but it might turn out better than putting all your effort into landing Cam Akers only to wind up not signing any running back at all.

LSU has to quit going for the cheese in the mouse trap.