BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ed Orgeron’s recruiting strategy was initially meant to help whoever became LSU’s next head coach. It might wind up helping Orgeron complete this recruiting cycle with a bang.
After taking over as LSU’s interim coach in late September, Orgeron accepted only one official visitor during football season: early enrollee JaCoby Stevens, who planned to sign with LSU no matter who got the full-time head coaching gig. Orgeron hoped he would be the eventual winner in the school’s coaching search, but just in case, he figured it would be poor form to hamstring the next coach by using up official visits before athletic director Joe Alleva announced his hiring decision.
It was an unusual situation to be sure, but the backloaded collection of official visits has LSU poised to make some noise in the week leading up to Feb. 1, national signing day. Orgeron’s staff hosted a whopping 16 official visitors two weekends ago and 10 last weekend, plus a handful of unofficial visitors -- a total group that numbered around 30 -- and claimed two verbal commitments in that time.
No offense to three-star wide receiver Racey McMath and 2018 linebacker commit Damone Clark, but some of their fellow recent visitors will be the guys who determine the ultimate success of those big weekends. That includes players who have already made commitments, both to LSU (defensive linemen Tyler Shelvin and Neil Farrell) and elsewhere (Oklahoma commit Jacob Phillips and Alabama commit Chris Allen).
At this point, LSU counts 11 ESPN 300 honorees among its 20 commitments -- well short of last season’s record-tying total of 19 ESPN 300 signees. But if Orgeron’s staff closes with all or even most of the big fish still on its board, the Tigers can still approach last year’s total.
LSU is aiming for 27 signees in this class and among its top remaining targets, nearly all of them are ESPN 300 players who visited campus in one of the past two weekends:
Marvin Wilson (the No. 4 overall prospect on the ESPN 300 and No. 1 DT)
K’Lavon Chaisson (No. 34 overall, No. 4 DE)
Phidarian Mathis (No. 37 overall, No. 4 DT)
Travis Etienne (No. 114 overall, No. 13 RB)
Phillips (No. 141 overall, No. 3 ILB)
Allen (No. 162 overall, No. 9 OLB)
Willie Gay (No. 211 overall, No. 12 OLB)
Other ESPN 300 prospects -- namely Todd Harris (No. 83 overall, No. 8 safety) and Tyler Taylor (No. 203 overall, No. 7 ILB) -- remain on LSU’s board as well, but if Orgeron lands the previously mentioned seven players, count on the Tigers making a signing day leap from their current spot at No. 7.
Finishing strong would also help Orgeron come closer to accomplishing his stated goal of signing the top players from his home state.
Louisiana natives Dylan Moses (No. 5 overall, No. 1 ATH) and Isaiah Buggs (No. 5 overall on ESPN JC 50, No. 1 DT) both committed to Alabama, and Allen might still join them in Tuscaloosa. However, LSU commits Shelvin and quarterback Lowell Narcisse both rank among the state’s top five prospects in ESPN’s player rankings. Adding Mathis, Harris and Etienne would allow LSU to get all five, with No. 6 Allen potentially bringing the number to six.
That wouldn’t necessarily make up for losing a prospect of onetime LSU commit Moses’ caliber, but it would be one heck of a recovery. Especially for a coaching staff that was in limbo until late November when Alleva finally settled on Orgeron as his full-time coach.
As it turns out, holding on to all of those official visits looks to have worked out well for the Tigers’ new coach.