In the talented Houston area, the fight for the top prospects is fierce with Texas and Texas A&M always in an intense battle to keep the Lone Star State’s best at home.
But they’re fighting Oklahoma and LSU, the area’s biggest raiders. In the case of the Tigers, the 2017 class brought great returns from Houston and the surrounding areas.
LSU’s No. 7-ranked 2017 class included Austin Deculus, Kary Vincent, K’Lavon Chaisson, Mannie Netherly and Grant Delpit, who played at Lamar High in Houston prior to transferring to IMG Academy for his senior season. That was LSU’s best haul from the area in 15 years.
Ed Orgeron and staff signing four of the country’s top-50 prospects, all from the Houston area, has caught the eye of many top 2018 prospects.
“It’s something I have noticed,” said ESPN Junior 300 receiver Brennan Eagles. “I have looked into it, and it’s one of the reasons they are in my top 10.”
Fellow ESPN Jr. 300 receiver Jalen Preston, who has LSU in his top group of schools along with Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas, has even spread the word about the Tigers’ game day atmosphere to other prospects in the area.
“I actually did notice that top guys signed there,” Preston said. “I have actually put a word in for LSU with some kids because it’s a great school and the games are crazy. … It’s the number one school to go to a game. Houston kids love the atmosphere, the fashion and the play too.”
While the game day atmosphere is certainly a draw for top prospects, Eagles says the proximity to home and ties to the neighboring state to Texas by many are the prevailing reasons for the Tigers success.
“It’s because of ties for people from Louisiana,” the No. 180 junior prospect said. “A lot of people in Houston are from there, and that is part of why they have the connection. I’m actually from there. My grandma lives down there, and loves going to games at LSU.”
One more big check mark made is the 46 former LSU players on NFL rosters (Texas and Texas A&M have 54 combined), with that number sure to increase with safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Tre’Davious White projected first-round NFL draft picks.
That number is big factor in the eyes of the nation’s No. 3-ranked cornerback Anthony Cook, who has Texas and Clemson among others high on his list that includes LSU.
“I feel like for a lot of the dudes from Houston it’s not too far from home, and then it’s a great program,” Cook said. “They put you in the league, so it’s a win-win situation. At my position that is where the greats go. They put great DBs in the league, and a lot of players in the league and that’s why I think they will continue to have success in Houston.”
There is only one box left to check, and it might be most important – winning. The Class of 2018, and their families, have seen the SEC play for 10 of the last 11 national championships, with eight wins.
“It’s the SEC. They win and everyone thinks the SEC gets you NFL ready right away,” said ESPN Jr. 300 receiver Al’vonte Woodard.
In the case of LSU, the Tigers have won 74 games in the last seven years and finished in the top 20 of the final AP poll in six of the last seven years. The Tigers, however, haven’t beaten Alabama since 2011.
While it can certainly be argued that Texas A&M entering the SEC in 2012 has opened up the state for the SEC West powers to cherry-pick the state, it’s the lack of success by the Aggies and Texas Longhorns that has truly opened the flood gates for LSU.
Texas A&M and Texas have just one 10-win season combined since 2010 (Texas A&M in 2012), and not a Top 20 AP poll finish between the two old rivals in the last three years. Simply put, it’s up to Texas and Texas A&M to win more games and slow LSU’s momentum in the Lone Star State.