LSU's Final Recruiting Push: Heading into Rival Territory
Never a national recruiting powerhouse, LSU has maintained a limited regional appeal for most of its history. LSU football rises and falls with the high school classes in Louisiana, East Texas and South Mississippi.
Even during the reign of slick Nick Saban, LSU’s recruiting coups came from signing local talent and occasionally plucking a plum four or five-star recruit from South Florida or Alabama.
LSU has always had a scattering of national talent on its teams. However, that talent has either come from personal relationships with the staff or from areas LSU consistently recruits. Rarely has LSU been able to commit a recruit from an area where they do not have a continuing presence.
Despite the recruiting success over the past decade, LSU had not reached the point where they could simply send a letter and gain instant credibility. Cold-calling the top recruits in the nation had not yielded consistent success. While such recruits had flirted with LSU in the past, the courtship always seemed forced and insincere.
This year things are slightly different. While the majority of the talent that will eventually sign with LSU will be from Louisiana, LSU has made inroads in states without a strong historical presence. Venturing out into rival SEC country, LSU is successfully recruiting in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.
This year, those out-of-state players who formally held only nominal interest in LSU are starting to commit.
The reasons are twofold: First, coming off a national championship last year, LSU gained some momentum and national exposure.
Secondly, the state of Louisiana had a banner crop of recruits this year. While it may seem contradictory to pump-up out of state recruiting with in-state talent, it is not. Talent wants to go where it will win.
LSU received some early commitments from extraordinary players from Louisiana and East Texas. These early commitments gave way to a waterfall of press, hype and interest.
The top high school prospects know each other. They meet at camps, all-star games and banquets. Word spreads and the self-fulfilling prophecy that is college football recruiting continues.
Immediate Impact Commitments
The driving force behind this year’s signing class is Russell Shepard, a five-star all-everything QB from Houston. One of the best prospects in the nation, Shepard will see immediate action on the field next fall. Shepard will be used to spell Jordan Jefferson at QB, likely utilizing his quickness in a pistol formation. As a true freshman, the extent of Shepard’s impact on the field is unknown. Shepard’s impact on the recruiting trail however, has already paid dividends.
One of LSU’s earliest commitments of note, Shepard singlehandedly put LSU in the running for top recruiting class. While at the Under-Armour High School All-Star game last month, Shepard relentlessly pushed LSU to his fellow players. He made sure they had all seen LSU’s dismantling of Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl and understood there were more victories to come.
A more direct impact comes from Dominque Allen, an under the radar three star Fullback from Paris, Tennessee. LSU currently has only one fullback on the roster, Steven Ridley. Ridley measures out at 6’0”, 215 and has been converted from Running Back to Fullback.
The 6’0” 250 Allen will be used to spell Ridley at first, but then will gradually allow Ridley to return to his natural position of RB. LSU was in need of a big short yardage fullback and Allen fits the mold.
Recruiting Wish List
LSU needs defensive play-makers. New Defensive Coordinator John Chavis’ system demands speed and discipline, traits the Tigers did not display in any remarkable quantity last year. LSU has historically produced great speed rushing Defensive Ends.
Production from that position has dropped noticeably over the last few years, culminating with last year’s weak pass defense. LSU finished 74th in pass defense last season, two spots ahead of cross state rival University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Any one of the three defensive studs would be a welcome addition to the Tiger’s Box defense, putting needed pressure on the quarterback and freeing up the DB’s to make more plays. Jarvis Jones and Sam Montgomery both hail from rival SEC country, leaving LSU fans’ hoping the out-of-state trend continues.
Barkvivios Mingo—LB/DE, Monroe, Louisiana
Jarvis Jones—LB/DE, Columbus, Georgia
Sam Montgomery—DE, Greenwood, South Carolina
LSU’s offense was surprisingly decent last year. With the emergency of Jordan Jefferson at QB halfway through the season, the retention of Charles Scott and the return of Brandon Lafell from the NFL Draft, the Tigers have few pressing weaknesses. That being said, Rueben Randle—WR, Bastrop, La. is such an extraordinary playmaker that LSU fans all anxiously awaiting his decision.
The recruitment of Randle is drawing intense speculation for many reasons. First and foremost, he is one of the best high school players in the nation, ranked as the top overall player by many recruiting services.
Secondly, he is from the state of Louisiana. It’s understood that if LSU wants to become a true national recruiting force, it has to shore up its own state. But the fan bases’ interest in Randle goes far beyond that. First, LSU lost out on Louisiana native and No. 1 high school player Joe McKnight in 2007. That loss still burns the Tiger faithful, who hope that Randle will stay in-state.
More importantly, Randle is also considering Alabama. Besides being the home of Nick Saban, Alabama is a strong football team that will compete for the SEC West crown for years to come. Randle, besides being a point of pride, is an excellent football player. LSU fans don’t want to lose out on Randle, but they certainly don’t want to lose him to rival Alabama.
LSU fans are also keeping a skeptical eye on all-world RB Trent Richardson from Pensacola, FL. Richardson possesses elite size and speed, making him a threat to pound inside the tackles or cut outside and go the distance.
Committed to Alabama, Richardson has shown signs of infidelity, entertaining the company of both LSU and Florida. LSU fans are hesitant to invest too much in Richardson, as recruiting battles against the Tide and Gators don’t historically favor the Bayou Bangles.
His recruitment then, is somewhat of a litmus test of how far LSU has come. The fact that they are still in the conversation is a sign of progress, but fans that have seen the bad times are keeping a foot on the floor.
Tigers coach Les Miles has publicly stated that the 2009 recruiting class has the opportunity to compete for multiple national championships. While that statement must be taken with a grain of salt considering it was said in the heat of recruiting, perhaps the mad hatter knows something we don’t.
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