LSU’s recruiting momentum from the weekend rolled right on in to Monday with 3-star LB Kendall McCallum’s commitment. The Oxford, AL native stands at a beefy 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. He projects as true inside thumper in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense.
We’ll forgive him for not yet knowing how to properly spell Geaux. But really, would you try this guy?
He looks pretty vintage on the interior. His HUDL lists a 4.7, and frankly, I’d be surprised by that. He’s not the most fleet of foot guy, but playing in that tackle box, he is an absolute menace. This is a guy that is going to let you know he’s present when he comes to hit you. There’s times when he forgoes clean form for a devastating shoulder blow, and that will need to be coached up, but he’s not exclusively swinging for the fences in that way. There’s plenty of clips of McCallum loading up, exploding through and wrapping up offenders.
Playing on the inside is a unique and undervalued skill. In today’s game, all LBs must be able to run. I think McCallum is adequate there, but he where he really excels is in dissecting the flow of the play and finding the football. That can be a challenge on the inside where there is such a mass of humanity. For a LB, he has vision. In high school, he’s able to athletically beat most and run around blocks. I think he’ll have to take the next step of engaging and discarding blockers, but that’s something that can be coached. He’s not a guy that fears contact. He also knows how to use his length, both in the passing game and to wrap up ball carriers.
So let’s just address this at the head. Aranda and Orgeron accepted the commitments of two 3-star LBs. McCallum’s offer list is solid, though not spectacular. Mizzou, Ole Miss and Louisville lead a list of other Group of Five schools. The other 3-star, Zach Edwards, features offers from both in-state schools in Mississippi, as well as Texas A&M, among some Group of Five offers. So recruiting rankings and offer lists don’t suggest either as elite prospects.
There’s been an upswing in what I’ll call “coach’s evaluation” offers during the Orgeron era. Much of last year’s class ranking and opinions on it relate to how much you value guys like Nelson Jenkins and Cameron Wire, who recruiting services did not value but coaches do. Jenkins held a legit Bama offer and Wire held offers all across the country, but both were lowly ranked three star prospects. So how far do you run in the staff eval vs. recruiting ranking battle?
I’m leery of trusting too much in the “our coaches know better” model. Frankly, most recruiting services today factor in what coaching staffs think into their evaluations, even if they don’t publicly acknowledge that. I don’t even mean that nefariously. It’s only natural for someone to say, “Well if Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, OU and LSU want this kid, he MUST be good.” Recruiting sites do their level best to get in-person evaluations on as many prospects as possible, but if a prospect never shows up to their camps, that can prove challenging.
There’s also something to be said for scheme fit. I think it’s fair to say a prospect is rated 3-stars because his skills limit him to a specific scheme. What if his skills mean he will absolutely flourish in that role? So you have a light, speedy pass rusher that would dominate if allowed to pin his ears back and fly off the edge. Should we penalize that player because if you tried to make him a 3-4 DE he would get dominated? As an evaluator, I might. But a prospect isn’t always the whole but rather the sum of his parts. If a player is so dominant flying off the edge so as not to be blocked, why should we punish him because he can’t stand up to a run block on 3rd and short? His impact of the game will still be significant, perhaps more significant than a guy that can stuff the run on the handful of short yardage situations in a game.
So yeah, I don’t have an answer to this one. If you hate that LSU is taking 3-star LBs and not STARRRSSSSSSS, well you are just gonna hate these two commits. If you trust Aranda knows what he’s looking for in a LB, you probably care less about the rankings. I lean toward that ethos. Aranda has a type he prefers on the interior and, to me, McCallum fits that paradigm pretty well. He’s a big, physical type of LB that he can plop into the middle of the defense. I’ll err toward trusting Big Dave for now. If these players start turning up bust, I’ll start turning up my criticism.