In 2016, when Coach O took the head coaching role at LSU, he made a series of promises. He promised to build a championship program fast. Check. He promised to revolutionize the offense. Check. And he promised to make LSU an elite recruiting destination:
“State of Louisiana first. One star, two star, three star, four star, five star, any star, I don’t care. We going to get them. If we think they can be an LSU Tiger and they can perform like we want to, they can perform in the classroom, have a high character, have the skill sets to be a Tiger. We’re starting off with Louisiana first. Then we’re going to go outside our borders to get potential first-round draft picks.”
Every seasoned college football knows recruiting is the lifeblood of the program. What’s often not considered are the consequences in trying to build that recruiting model. Coach O prioritized the state of Louisiana heavily in his first three cycles, mending relationships in areas where breakdowns occurred in the Miles tenure. O primarily stuck to LSU’s typical Louisiana-Texas-SE footprint.
But much like the LSU offense in 2019 taking dramatic leaps forward, Coach O pushed the LSU brand national on the recruiting trail. As of today, LSU holds verbal commitments from California (2), Washington D.C. (1), Virginia (2), Maryland (2), Colorado (1) and that’s just the states outside their footprint: Coach O Coast to Coast. There’s consequences to the model, as LSU’s accepted verbal commitments from a handful of in-state prospects and ultimately backed off those same offers. Recruiting at the highest levels brings a certain set of baggage.
This lengthy lede is all to say, there’s never been a more interesting recruiting cycle in LSU history than the one that will close over the next few months. LSU is poised to reel in one of the nation’s top classes and yet, not even LSU’s top recruiting insiders fully know how things will finish. So here’s a prospect-by-prospect primer for the Early Signing Period, which kicks off on Wednesday.
Watch These Guys
Jordan Burch — Five-Star DE — Columbia, South Carolina
Mum’s the word with Burch, the ultra-talented defensive end living in the University of South Carolina’s backyard. He’s long been forecast to Clemson, though he never wound up taking an official visit there. Experts long believed Alabama as top contenders and Burch did take an official visit to Tuscaloosa in November. That seems to be the extent of that story. Down the home stretch, LSU and South Carolina emerged as prohibitive favorites. Insiders believed Burch favored the Tigers but the draw of family and playing at home may prove too much. Heading into this past weekend, he reportedly debated visits to both South Carolina and Clemson, then shockingly wound up taking an official visit to Georgia, after hosting an in-home visit from Coach O. That visit prompted a Crystal Ball pick to the Dawgs from a Clemson insider with a good track record. Yet others believe that visit may be symbolic of his strong interest in LSU and likelihood to leave his home state.
As of the publish of this, Burch truly kept the recruiting world in the dark. By signing day, the picture may clear, but as of now, any guess to his destination seems as likely as any other.
My Pick: Not LSU
There’s a tinfoil hat theory that could point to LSU here (more on that in a moment), but there’s few obvious signals that would give LSU confidence. Burch is an OOS player and used up his last weekend before signing on a visit to Georgia. My guess would be either South Carolina or Georgia at this point.
Zachary Evans — Five-Star RB — Houston, Texas
Like Burch, Evans remains pretty quiet when it comes to recruiting hoopla. He rarely does interviews and few seem to have great insight into his plans. Unlike Burch, Evans falsely drummed up interest throughout the cycle by announcing dates to commit or planned visits before ultimately backing off. He’s been rumored to lean Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Texas A&M and LSU at various points throughout the process. He’s said to be an early signee and also to possibly wait until February. When it comes to Zachary Evans, no one seems to truly know.
As of today, the plan of record appears to be for Evans to sign with his school of choice on Wednesday but keep the decision private until he can publicly announce at the Under Armour All-American Game in January. LSU holds the definitive advantage in the crystal ball, though A&M fans seem to gain confidence daily.
My Pick: LSU
LSU didn’t spend much time looking at in-state prospect Ashaad Clayton and instead turned their eyes to the nation’s top running back prospects, like Kendall Milton (Georgia) and Zachary Evans. Reportedly, they are kicking the tires on other top 50 players in the chance that Evans opts to sign elsewhere. As I type this, I’m halfway considering flipping my pick to A&M, because these types of zig-zagging recruiting stories often end up as “stay close to home” type stories, but LSU’s been after Evans for a long, long time. I think they will find a way to close it out.
Demouy Kennedy — Four-Star LB — Theodore, AL
At various points, Kennedy looked like an LSU commit in the making, though he maintained all along that his dream offer rested in Tuscaloosa. Once he took a summer visit to the Tide, Kennedy committed and seemingly shut things down. Until the end of November... when Coach O and the staff’s due diligence finally paid off and Kennedy showed up for an official visit.
Kennedy very seriously liked LSU, even to the point of being ready to commit before the Alabama opportunity presented itself. That said, while the staff put forward their best effort here, barring a tremendous surprise, he’s going to pick Alabama.
My Pick: Alabama
Phillip Webb — Four-Star OLB — Buford, GA
One of the nation’s absolute best pass rushers, forecasts previously saw Webb at Auburn or Clemson. He wound up visiting neither. Makes sense, as Webb is one of this cycle’s most intellectual prospects and reportedly he’s bonded with Dave Aranda over exactly that.
Webb and his family did their due diligence in recruiting, taking four different visits, to Oklahoma, LSU, Florida and Alabama. During the season it seemed his recruitment could go any which way, but down the homestretch every single expert is thinking LSU here and so am I.
My Pick: LSU
Marcus Dumervil — Four-Star OT — Fort Lauderdale, FL
The top 100 prospect fields offers from the nation’s best, including Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and more. Yet, his recruitment settled on three programs: Florida, the home town team, Louisville, where his uncle Elvis played, and LSU, who just did a bang up job of recruiting him.
While there’s not been a ton of activity around his recruitment, his intentions remained unclear. At various points all three of his finalists looked like favorites. Like Webb, down the home stretch, LSU solidified their position and sit in pole position for his signature come Wednesday.
My Pick: LSU
Jermaine Burton — Four-Star WR — Calabasas, CA
Burton is a kid from Georgia (remember that) that moved to California for his senior campaign. After tearing his ACL, he couldn’t compete. Throughout his recruitment he and his mother always re-emphasized the desire to get back to the South. He committed to LSU back in April and all signs pointed to him being completely locked in... until recently.
Burton randomly showed up in Athens over Thanksgiving, then apologized to the staff for his flirtations and re-affirmed his commitment to sign with LSU. All seemed well and good until Burton surprisingly showed up in Athens again on an official visit. Depending on which recruiting site you favorite the staff either were or weren’t aware of this visit prior to it occurring. Bad news, right? Probably.
But put on your tinfoil hat for a minute. Reportedly, Burton’s been a major recruiter for this class throughout, including pressing Arik Gilbert and B.J. Ojulari to join him in Baton Rouge. Remember Jordan Burch and his seemingly shocking Georgia visit, above? Burch took an in-home with Coach O just ahead of this trip to Athens. What if LSU orchestrated Burton getting to UGA to continue to recruit Burch to LSU, while on his OV to UGA, a la, Kary Vincent taking a surprise visit to Texas along with K’Lavon Chaisson?
My Pick: LSU
The pull of home cannot be denied, and while I typically subscribe to the where there’s smoke, there’s fire mentality, I think there’s too many chips in LSU’s favor for Burton to flip. LSU’s offense is miles ahead of the Georgia attack, and both may now be replacing their QBs, so the Dawgs can’t even play that chip. Look, we spent a decade on the other side of this coin, trying to convince top receivers to come play in our grind-it-out attack, and there’s an NFL path through Athens just as there was through Baton Rouge, no doubt. But at the end of the day, do you want to go run block 65 percent of your snaps and catch 40 passes for 500 yards and a few touchdowns or do you want to come to LSU and catch 80 balls for 1,200 yards and double-digit TDs and go to the playoff?
Who knows what Georgia is promising recruits. They sold Justin Fields a fraudulent bill of goods and he quickly marched out of Athens. LSU can use that to their advantage here. “Georgia is making promises while we are giving answers.”
Rakim Jarrett — 5-Star WR — Washington D.C.
Jarrett committed to LSU back in April in a bit of a stunner. The nationally recruited WR continues to survey the landscape, though routinely re-iterating his allegiance to LSU. At various points, experts believed he might flip to Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee and even Maryland. Yet, he’s remained verbally committed.
Rak maintains he wants to take five official visits and his HS holds a policy where signees aren’t announced until the traditional signing day in February. That means we won’t know for sure where Rak stands for a few more months. That said, he could very likely sign on Wednesday and request LSU hold the announcement until February.
My Pick: LSU
Worth monitoring but I’m not overly worried.
Demon Clowney, Lorando Johnson, Malcolm Greene, CamRon Jackson
Three four-stars and a three-star prospect, none of which are expected to sign with LSU on Wednesday. Clowney, Johnson, and Greene are all likely to wind up in other team’s classes. Jackson is a wait and see on grades player for LSU; he could sign in February. All four show as verbal commitments to date, but that should change in the coming days. Don’t be surprised when these four names don’t show up on Wednesday, despite being listed on recruiting sites today. The one catch could be Malcolm Greene who looked totally poised to flip to Clemson until this past weekend. If Clemson are slow playing him, LSU may get his signature. The staff still wants to sign another safety.
Worry About These Guys Later
McKinnley Jackson — 4-star DT — Lucedale, MS
Big-bodied nose tackle once committed to LSU but now holds a fully open slate. No one holds a great feel for his recruitment and favorites rotate seemingly monthly. LSU remains in the mix but he won’t make a decision until February.
Sedrick Van Pran — 4-star OC — New Orleans, LA
The state’s top offensive lineman seemed determined to get out of state, ultimately committing to Sam Pittman and Georgia. Pittman’s now at Arkansas and word is that Van Pran may now be opened back up because of that. The wonderfully talented interior prospect will likely delay his signing until February, which gives LSU time to make up lost ground and establish themselves as players in his recruitment. Keep an eye out whether he actually inks with Georgia Wednesday as originally planned.
Eric Reed — 4-star S — Shreveport, LA
Reed committed to Ole Miss back in June but recently opened things back up at the beginning of December. Georgia’s gained momentum but it should likely play out until the later period, which gives LSU a chance if they have numbers.
Don’t Worry (too much) About These Guys
Arik Gilbert — 5-star TE — Marietta, GA
Elias Ricks — 5-star DB — Bradenton, FL
Kayshon Boutte — 4-star WR - New Iberia, LA
Jaquelin Roy — 4-star DT — Baton Rouge, LA
Antoine Sampah — 4-star LB — Woodbridge, VA
Jordan Toles — 4-star S — Baltimore, MD
BJ Ojulari — 4-star EDGE — Marietta, GA
Josh White — 4-star LB — Houston, TX
Jacobian Guillory — 4-star DT — Alexandria, LA
Max Johnson — 4-star QB — Watkinsville, GA
Eric Taylor — 4-star DT — Trussville, AL
Koy Moore — 4-star WR — Metairie, LA
Kole Taylor — 3-star TE — Grand Junction, CO
Marlon Martinez —3-star OG — Fort Lauderdale, FL
Xavier Hill — 3-star OG — Olive Branch, MS
TJ Finley — 3-star QB — Ponchatoula, LA
Ali Gaye — 3-star DE — Garden City, KS
Seventeen of 23 current commits will officially sign on Wednesday. There’s various question marks above: Could Koy Moore delay signing? What if Kayshon Boutte shockingly picks Alabama? Could any OOS prospect get cold feet and flip? That said, a number of the verbals publicly tweeted their intentions to sign on Wednesday. Realistically, things should iron out smoothly here on Wednesday.
What to Expect When You Are Expecting?
Chaos. Wednesday might be wild. So buckle up. Any or all of the “Watch These Guys” column could wind up at LSU. Or elsewhere. The don’t worry column seems more intact, but the way this cycle’s played out, take the Stone Cold Steve Austin method and DTA (DON’T TRUST ANYBODDYYYYYYY
/smashes two beer cans together and showers in them)
This is shaping up to be one of the wildest, strangest rides in recent LSU signing day memory. LSU’s working every angle in this class. That puts them in position with a big slice of national recruits, but every choice holds consequences. What if the staff can’t fill the class? Did the staff cut bait with in-state prospects for nothing? Can Coach O keep a Louisiana-first mentality despite cutting ties with multiple in-state prospects?
Recruiting is the foundation and Wednesday is another day of pouring cement.