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Recruiting Roundtable: Inside the Numbers

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As LSU’s commitment numbers swell, our experts take a look at how it all may add up down the stretch.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

LSU’s sitting at 17 commitments for the 2020 class, with at least one more rumored to come at any time. With a hard cap of 25 signees and a handful of big names at need positions still available, what do you make of Ed Orgeron’s recruiting strategy in this cycle?

Dan

There’s no way in hell to logically complain about this class right now. It’s ranked third nationally, behind Clemson’s ungodly haul and a Bama class with three more commitments, with 13 total blue chippers. If you shut it down tomorrow, it would be a top-10ish type class in most seasons and LSU still has eight more spots to fill.

That said, I expect the class composition to change, if not dramatically, before signing day. CamRon Jackson and Jordan Berry are guys who I think could be likely attrition candidates. Additionally, Lorando Johnson reportedly may have some grade difficulties worth monitoring, and Antoine Sampah and Rakim Jarrett are top-flight out of state recruits that will be continuing their processes until the moment they sign. Wouldn’t shock to see some movement there.

The big piece here is for LSU to close strong on the lines. If LSU strikes out on the big-time in-state defensive line talents, notably Jacobian Guillory and Jaquelin Roy, then O is going to catch all types of hell, even if the class finishes strong otherwise. Especially if they wind up at Alabama. He simply can’t afford for the top in-state line talent to keep migrating to his top divisional foe. Win those guys, steal some top-flight offensive linemen, close on a running back and everything else is lagniappe.

Corey

Dan hit it on the head really. This start has been phenomenal, but it’s going to come down to how this class finishes up. You get the Christmas gift last year of Elias Ricks, who is just the gift that keeps on giving with helping bring Jermaine Burton and Jarrett in, along with putting us in that top group with Kendall Milton. Those three are guys we would normally never have a shot with from the east and west coasts.

The recent emphasis on cornerback recruiting makes me think there is truth to the reports on Johnson. Ricks isn’t going anywhere and Burns just committed, so that leaves only one guy at that spot in this class. Berry was an early take and I think that is one that will fall by the wayside.

It just comes down to the trenches. Losing Cortland Ford hurts, but he is obviously not at the level anymore that he once was due to those knee problems. If they are able to bring in Marcus Dumervil and Ty’kieast Crawford, allowing them to play the long game with Paris Johnson Jr. that’s solid on the o-line. On defense, it seems like not a matter of if but when for Jalen Lee and Peter Jenkins. Everyone knows that it comes down to the two big boys: Roy and Guillory. If you want to beat the likes of Alabama and compete for those titles, these two are the type of guys you just can’t miss on, and most fans share that mindset, which is going to cause people to look down on a likely top-five class.

Billy

It’s always tough to dig into recruiting strategy because so much is kept close to the vest, and there’s just a ton of variables. I mean hell, people have been surprised that LSU has such a national focus in this cycle, but it’s not like that was just some choice that was made this year — this class has been building for two years through staff relationships with players, parents and high school coaches.

Yes, there’s a lot of commitments, and the number may even hit 20 soon. And given the need for defensive linemen, offensive tackles and running backs, that would leave only five spots with players like Roy, Guillory, Lee, Dumervil, Crawford, Milton, Sedrick Van Pran, Kendall Milton, Keyvonne Lee and Ashaad Johnson still on the board. They may not get all of those guys, but they’d certainly take any one of them as a commitment right now. You also don’t turn away a kid like, say, Vernon Broughton if he wants in just because you want to hold a spot for someone else like Roy. You take him, try to get both guys and worry about the numbers later on.

That goes back to the things we don’t know behind the scenes. LSU was well aware that Cortland Ford planned on decommitting. They no longer felt comfortable bringing him in with his injuries, but knew he wanted to find somewhere else to play. Do they know that about other members of this class? I don’t know, but I imagine they have some ideas on which commitments are more stable than others. With long-distance kids like Rakim Jarrett, it’s a good idea to have other irons in the fire, like an EJ Williams. He isn’t a backup plan at all, its just a relationship that’s smart to maintain. And if he wants to commmit, you say yes and figure out the rest later on. It’s a lot easier to deal with having too many kids that want to play for you as opposed to not having enough of them.

We talk about the term “processing” commitments in a cold fashion, but there’s always more to it. In some cases, they may even be trying to help a kid find another spot already. Some kids may be coming to the elite camp in July knowing that they have to perform, or have a certain benchmark to hit (weight, or maybe a test score or classroom grade) to keep their spot. Good recruiters are always trying to work the situation.

In general, I’m a big fan of hedging when you know you have specific need areas that you want to load up on. Right now, LSU wants to land five or six defensive linemen in this class and they have two true defensive linemen committed in Berry and Ali Gaye (since Jackson projects as a possible offensive lineman). So that leaves a lot of room to pursue all of the players I’ve previously mentioned, plus someone like Patrick Jenkins. And as the picture continues to develop, you may have more spots open up that you don’t intend on, or have more players emerge during their senior years that you’re interested in. How they close this cycle out should be a lot of fun to watch, given that they’re in a damn good spot so far in advance.

Corey

I would love to know the last time we’ve had this much of an out-of-state influence. At 17 commits right now, THIRTEEN of them are outside of the Louisiana borders, and that number is only going to grow as we fill in these final eight. We’re obviously looking at a Lorando Johnson security blanket, but there are no in-state options there. If (and by god I hope it never comes to fruition) Jarrett looked elsewhere, it appears Williams is the man in waiting for that spot. Running back seems to be coming down to Milton and Lee with Johnson as the fallback right now.

It’s basically the four d-linemen and Van Pran that can sway this number back to the mean, and I absolutely love it. Look, I know a lot of fans say to keep the borders up (and for guys like Roy and Guillory that rings true), but why settle for an in-house option just because it’s the easier option? This staff has realized that if they want to take that next step in the national title picture, they need to go coast to coast for the best talent and they have done that ten fold. In previous years, I feel a couple of the uncommitted in-state kids this year not named Roy and Guillory would already be in this class, like Johnson, Eric Reed, Koy Moore and Brandon Williams. That’s not a shot at any of them because they’ll wind up at Power-5 schools, but this staff made a decision and it’s paying off right now.

Billy

It wouldn’t surprise me if they wound up with more than 25 commitments, if there was some flood of them. Because they won’t turn away someone like Johnson just because they also want Milton. Or someone like Tank Bigsby. Take the player that wants in, figure out the rest later. Work to convince the rest that they can be part of something special. And there is a risk to that, but that’s why they say recruiting is really about relationships.

Plus, still a good six months left to figure things out.