Can Ed Orgeron regain the recruiting momentum lost during offensive coordinator search?
The business of football can be brutally tough, and not just when 250-pound men with bad intentions are tackling you.
Take LSU. New head coach Ed Orgeron was taking his time vetting offensive coordinator candidates and, in the meantime, LSU recruiting targets started dropping off the board, many citing the coaching transition.
Elite linebacker Dylan Moses, who spent three of his four high school years on LSU’s campus at University Lab before transferring to football factory IMG, opted for Alabama. As did Christopher Allen, a linebacker from Baton Rouge. And Isaiah Buggs, the nation’s top junior college defensive lineman who played his high school ball in Louisiana.
All of a sudden, Alabama had three of Louisiana’s top prospects.
While Orgeron was trying to put together a coaching staff, he was taking a beating on the recruiting trail.
But with Matt Canada now officially the Tigers’ offensive coordinator, does Orgeron have a chance to still win signing day for the Tigers?
He has his work cut out for him.
The three Louisiana steals Alabama pulled off gives the Tide separation from just about everybody but Ohio State. Bama has six 5-star commits and 16 4-star players in a class rated No. 1 nationally.
How high can LSU climb? Not that high, not this year.
But the Tigers can still finish strong, especially if they can land the two 5-star targets they are in the running for while securing their top in-state targets.
It starts with Marvin Wilson, the nation’s top-rated defensive tackle out of Houston’s Episcopal High. It continues with running back Cam Akers, a 5-star running back from Mississippi, and goes through Devonta Smith, Louisiana’s No. 2-ranked player.
Wilson is a 330-pound behemoth who, if the Tigers can land him, could combine with current Tigers commit Tyler Shelvin (Louisiana’s top prospect) to give defensive coordinator Dave Aranda the dominant up-front size he needs to make his three-man front work.
This year, the Tigers have had to improvise to piece together a 3-4 front in the first year in the system. With freshmen Edwin Alexander and Rashard Lawrence showing promise as big, prototypical two-gap 3-4 linemen, the look of the Tigers’ front can be transformed for the next few years if Wilson and Shelvin both join the fold.
Next is Akers, the talented back who at one time seemed to be leaning toward LSU but now, based on the consensus among recruiting analysts, is favoring Florida State.
He would be a critical get for the Tigers because LSU is probably only a year away from losing its star power in the backfield, with Derrius Guice likely headed to the NFL after his junior year in 2017. There’s a chance Nick Brossette, a highly-regarded recruit in the same 2015 signing class at Guice, could emerge next year and be in position for a big 2018.
But if Brossette, who has a history of knee injuries, isn’t able to carry that load, LSU could be without star power at running back for the first time in about a decade unless some less-heralded backs like Leonard Fournette’s younger brother, Lanard (a redshirt freshman this year) or 3-star commit Clyde Edwards-Helaire (who has also battled injuries) overachieve.
That brings us to Smith, the top remaining uncommitted player in Louisiana. He’s a speedy 4-star who, if Orgeron can land him, will represent two things.
First, LSU surely will be without this year’s three leading receivers by the time Smith’s class in in its second year. Travin Dural is a senior and whether Malachi Dupre and D.J. Chark leave for the NFL after this season or come back for their senior years, they won’t be around in 2018.
So LSU really needs to stockpile the position.
The other thing it would do is re-establish LSU’s domination of its own state. With the Alabama trio already off the board, LSU can ill afford to continue to let local players it wants escape to other programs. Landing Smith (after landing junior college receiver Stephen Guidry, another Louisiana product) would reverse that trend.
Even if LSU lands those three, there will be holes in the class. The Tigers needed both numbers and immediate help at inside linebacker, so losing out on Moses hurts. And the Tigers haven’t landed, and may not find, a rush end/outside linebacker type to fill Arden Key’s role when his career is done.
Otherwise this is shaping up to be a pretty good class for filling needs. LSU has quality and depth in the offensive line class, it got a first-rate quarterback in Myles Brennan (and would still like another in Lowell Narcisse) and met some immediate needs at safety with two of the nation’s top 10 prospects (JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit).
A strong finish would have LSU feeling very good about this class, even if it can’t catch Alabama in the recruiting rankings.