The world of recruiting never stops, instead it just blends closer and closer together—especially now in the transfer portal era—where classes overlap each other to dizzying results.
But for all intents and purposes the 2022 recruiting cycle has come to a close and it’s time to shift our attention to 2023 which will serve as Brian Kelly’s first real recruiting class Baton Rouge and probably double as a barometer for what to expect in the years to come.
Being so talent rich, LSU really doesn’t have to go outside of its own borders to find major D1 athletes who will surely be playing on Sundays in the next four to five years. So for this piece I’m just going to focus on the rising seniors from Louisiana and build from there.
The discussion surrounding the class of 2023 starts and stops with Arch Manning, the consensus No. 1 player in America. Manning might be the most sought after recruit ever especially with the way the recruiting game has evolved over the past few years, and yet things are awfully quiet on his side of things.
Anyone who is anyone in college football is going to be offering Manning. You can’t win it if you’re not in it as Dale Gribble once said in a King of the Hill episode. But I don’t believe for a second Manning’s coming to LSU. His grandfather didn’t, his uncles didn’t, and I don’t expect him to either. It feels like the real players in the Manning Sweepstakes are Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Ole Miss.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Louisiana actually has three players ranked in the top-15 nationally at the position: Manning, Eli Holstein from Zachary and Rickie Collins from Woodlawn. Holstein is currently committed to Texas A&M and Collins is a Purdue commit. It is my sincere hope LSU is able to flip one of Holstein or Collins (or, obviously land Manning). I’m of the opinion you take a quarterback every single class and it would be a tough pill to swallow if LSU has three quarterbacks capable of being starters at Power 5 schools in their backyard and can’t sign any of them.
While Manning probably won’t wear the purple and gold, the state of Louisiana has plenty of highly regarded prospects, two of whom are right there in Baton Rouge. Catholic’s Shelton Sampson and U-High’s Jaiden Ausberry are currently ranked second and third in Louisiana for this class.
Sampson might be as big a priority as possible as he’s a five-star receiver and No. 6 in the nation at his position. Remember by this time next year Kayshon Boutte will have likely declared for the 2023 NFL Draft and those underclassmen receiver we’re all so fond of—Bech, Hilton, Nabers, Thomas—will be entering their junior seasons. Normally you’d say LSU has never had problems getting receivers but we did just see Aaron Anderson and Shazz Preston—Louisiana’s top two receivers in this cycle— leave the state to go to Alabama. And I know the circumstances will be different, LSU won’t be going through a coaching change and will have likely gotten its act together NIL wise moving forward, but I’d do everything in my power to make sure Sampson stays in Baton Rouge.
Ausberry, on the other hand, plays linebacker right on LSU’s campus at University High. For whatever reason the U-High pipeline hasn’t been funneling kids to LSU. Ausberry’s older brother Austin spurned LSU for Auburn and Christian Harris and Dylan Moses both went to Bama. Ausberry is a top-40 player in the nation and the No. 3 linebacker in the class. Again I don’t know what’s gone wrong with the LSU/U-High relationship but Brian Kelly needs to mend that because history repeating itself for a fourth time would be a blow.
In 2022 LSU lost out on the top safety recruit from Louisiana in Jacoby Matthews. Here’s hoping in 2023 they can make things right and keep four-star, No. 50 player overall Derek Williams out of Westgate home. LSU more often than not gets kids from that part of the state but they did lose out on Danny Lewis just a few days ago to Alabama.
Up the road from Williams and just outside of Shreveport is a top-five linebacker in America by the name of Tackett Curtis from Many, Louisiana. Curtis is a freakish athlete, not only does he excel at linebacker, but he played safety, running back, and returned kicks as a sophomore. He’s already got the build to play in the SEC currently standing at 6’2” and 218. Get him in a college weight program and he ought to be ready to play from game one. Message board fodder suggests Curtis may want to go outside the state so Kelly and staff—perhaps Joe Sloan because of his familiarity with North Louisiana?—has their work cut out for them.
LSU can add a serious haul of talent to the secondary without having to go outside state lines. Corners Curley Reed (Lafayette Christian Academy) and Jordan Matthews (Woodlawn) and safety Kylin Jackson (Zachary) are all top-15 nationally at their positions and inside the top-150 overall. I have no insider knowledge whatsoever but I’d expect LSU to land at least two out of those three players. Reed especially seems like a sure thing because LCA has been kind to LSU the past two seasons (Sage Ryan, Jordan Allen, Fitzgerald West).
After missing out on both top-10 running backs this cycle—Le’Veon Moss and Trevonte’ Citizen—LSU gets another shot in 2023 with Kaleb Jackson (Liberty Magnet—formerly Lee High for those unaware) and Trey Holly from Union Parish. I’d expect LSU wants both players as the running back room could lose both John Emery and Noah Cain by this time next year (both players do have two years of eligibility remaining so they could be here in 2023). While I haven’t seen any film on either player, Holly specifically reminds me of Clyde Edwards-Helaire because of his 5’8” stature.
Along the line of scrimmage the class of 2023 doesn’t appear to have a Will Campbell or a Maason Smith—at least not in Louisiana. There is a pair of four-star defensive linemen in Zalance Heard from Neville and Jameian Buxton, Smith’s former teammate, at Houma. According to 247, LSU is also reportedly interested in Tyree Adams an offensive lineman currently attending St. Aug.
Next up we’ll look at prospects outside of Louisiana that Kelly and company should have their eyes on.