LSU Recruiting: Little room in the Den for Tigers amid national fervor over offense

Glenn Guilbeau
The Daily Advertiser
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron gestures as he leads his team on the field prior to their NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. LSU won 36-13. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

BATON ROUGE — LSU is not only ranked higher than Alabama in one of the national polls at the moment, its class of 2020 also has remained ranked higher than the Crimson Tide's class, as the Tigers are at No. 1 to Alabama's No. 4 in the rankings.

No. 1 LSU (8-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) plays at No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) on Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

The Tigers have 24 commitments, including four of the top level, five-star prospects — No. 1 cornerback Elias Ricks of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, via Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California; No. 1 tight end Arik Gilbert of Marietta High in Marietta, Georgia; No. 3 inside linebacker Antoine Sampah of Woodbridge Senior High in Woodbridge, Virginia; and No. 3 receiver Rakim Jarrett of St. John's College High in Washington, D.C.

Alabama is at 23 commitments with just one five-star commitment so far in No. 2 outside linebacker Chris Braswell of St. Frances High in Baltimore. 

LSU has not finished higher than Alabama in the rankings since February 2007 — just weeks after Nick Saban arrived at Alabama as head coach from the Miami Dolphins — when LSU coach Les Miles' class finished No. 4 to the Tide's No. 10.

The early signing period is Dec. 18-20 with the later date on Feb. 5, 2020.

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The Tigers, who are ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll and No. 2 in the USA TODAY coaches' poll, are probably the hottest team in the country because of their new, pass-heavy offense.

LSU is No. 2 in the nation in scoring with 46.8 points a game, No. 3 in the nation in total yards with 535.9 a game, and quarterback Joe Burrow is No. 2 in the nation in passing yards a game with 350.6 behind new pass game coordinator Joe Brady. Before this season, LSU was frequently toward the bottom in the nation in such statistics.

When LSU nabbed a commitment from the Gilbert, the top-ranked tight end in the country from Marietta, Georgia, away from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Clemson, he mentioned Brady as one of the reasons.

"It has made a great impact on recruiting," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference about his offense. "Great players want to come. Great players are already on this recruiting class that we have, and we're getting more response because of the success of the offense."

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Orgeron saw this happen when he was an assistant coach at USC from 1998-2004 when the Trojans won national championships in 2003 and '04.

"It opened up the national recruiting for us, and that's what we're starting to see here," he said.

LSU is trying to win its first SEC championship since the 2011 season, which is the last year it reached the national championship game.

Unlike his predecessor at times, Orgeron is no longer dependent upon the type of year the state of Louisiana is having as far as ranked prospects to have a top recruiting class because he is going national.

In LSU's 2020 class, 17 of the 24 commitments are from out of state, including five from the Washington, D.C., area, two from California, and one from Colorado — all new territory for the Tigers.

One problem, though, may be the fact that LSU entered its breakthrough 2019 season with 21 of a possible 25 commitments before its first kickoff. LSU has only room for one more at the moment and is still recruiting four top targets, including the No. 1 tailback in the nation — Zachary Evans of North Shore High in Houston.

Other prospects on LSU's radar are No. 8 defensive tackle and No. 13 national prospect Jacobian Guillory of Alexandria Senior High, No. 14 offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil of St Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and No. 18 guard Xavier Hill of Olive Branch High in Olive Branch, Mississippi. Orgeron visited Hill on Monday.

Orgeron was asked if he wishes he had not gathered so many commitments so early, considering the season LSU is having.

"No," he said. "No. I think it all works out. It all works out at the end. Things happen like academics. Some guys decide to go other places. Some guys de-commit. I think we're right where we need to be. Obviously, we need to be very selective, but I think it's all going to shake out."

Should LSU get Evans out of Houston, for example, it would need to have room through an academic or another issue with a previous commitment or make room for Guillory of Alexandria. Sometimes a coach who may find himself overbooked will ask a player to walk on for a season to give up a scholarship.

Such a problem would be new for Orgeron, who lost the nation's No. 1 cornerback to Alabama in 2018 in the 11th hour when Patrick Surtain of Plantation, Florida, switched from LSU. And Orgeron had to scramble to fill out his class with a cornerback.

"Usually, the night before signing day, I'm always searching for one guy or two when something falls out," he said.

Not this year.

"I'm not really worried about it," he said.

Maybe next Feb. 4, someone will be calling Orgeron and begging to join the class instead of telling him he will be going elsewhere.

"I'm not worried about numbers," Orgeron said.

LSU's Class of 2020

  • Arik Gilbert, TE, Marietta, Georgia, Marietta High
  • Antoine Sampah, LB, Woodbridge, Virginia, Woodbridge Senior High
  • Rakim Jarrett, WR, Washington, D.C., St. John's College High
  • Elias Ricks, CB, Santa Ana, Calif., Mater Dei High, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
  • BJ Ojulari, DE, Marietta, Georgia, Marietta High
  • Malcolm Greene, S, Highland Springs, Virginia, Highland Springs High
  • Koy Moore, WR, Metairie, Rummel High
  • Jaquelin Roy, DT, Baton Rouge, University High
  • Kole Taylor, TE, Grand Junction, Colorado, Central High
  • Jalen Lee, DT, Watson, Live Oak High
  • Eric Taylor, DT, Trussville, Alabama, Trussville High
  • Jordan Toles, S, Baltimore, St. Frances Academy
  • Major Burns, CB, Baton Rouge, Madison Prep Academy
  • Jermaine Burton, WR, Calabasas, California, Calabasas High
  • Josh White, OLB, Houston, Cy Creek High
  • Lorando Johnson, CB, Lancaster, Texas, Lancaster High
  • Demon Clowney, DE, Baltimore, St. Frances Academy
  • Alec Bryant DE, Pearland, Texas, Shadow Creek High
  • CamRon Jackson, DT, Haynesville, Haynesville High
  • Max Johnson, QB, Watkinsville, Georgia, Oconee County High
  • Kayshon Boutte, WR, New Iberia, Westgate High
  • T.J. Finley, QB, Ponchatoula, Ponchatoula High
  • Ali Gaye, DE, Edmonds, Washington, Woodway High, Garden City (Kan.) Jr. College
  • Marlon Martinez, OT, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, St. Thomas Aquinas High