Apparently, the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle Maason Smith of Terrebonne High has a pretty stout driver to go with his mean streak on the field.
That was among the observations LSU quarterback commitment Garrett Nussmeier of Flower Mound, Texas came away with after an outing at Topgolf in Baton Rouge where a group of LSU’s committed players and top prospects gathered for an unofficial visit weekend of fellowship and bonding.
“It was absolutely an amazing experience,” Nussmeier said during an appearance on a recent appearance on Baton Rouge-ESPN Radio’s ‘Off the Bench’ show. “I think the most important thing about the weekend was that we didn’t talk too much about recruiting. It was more about getting to know each other, building bonds and building relationships. At the end of the day, that’s really the selling point I continued to talk about.”
With the NCAA shuttering face-to-face recruiting since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, college coaches have gone to a more virtual approach selling their programs to prospective recruits and their parents.
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and his staff have picked up of 14 of their 18 Class of 2021 commitments since the NCAA’s instituted dead period which appears will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
“Hopefully they’ll let them come to our games,” said Orgeron, whose No. 5 team will host Mississippi State on Sept. 26. “We don’t know that yet. We haven’t been told that yet.”
Instead of waiting for the dead period to be lifted, thus opening the door for unofficial and official visits, Oklahoma and Georgia were the first schools believed to have player-driven unofficial recruiting visits where prospects aren’t permitted to have any contact with coaches or access to the athletic facilities.
LSU became the latest to do so.
Nussmeier was regarded as the ringleader of the event, expanding his typical group chat with other Class of 2021 commitments to include prospects from across the country with similar interest in LSU.
While Nussmeier respected the rights of each prospect to make their own decisions, he’s trying to help LSU stockpile as much talent as possible to remain one of the nation’s elite programs that regularly contends for national championships.
“Originally it was going to me and a few guys from the Dallas area going to hang out on campus,” Nussmeier said. “I didn’t want to travel during the (high school) season at the risk of getting sick and not being able to play. I didn’t think that was fair to my teammates.
“I decided to go before the season. I had the idea that instead of us just going, let’s make this something special. I’ll try and get some of our top targets, guys that are really interested, to see Baton Rouge. Kind of get to see the faces of most of the guys that are committed.”
Nussmeier represented the group of seven committed players that also included four-star outside linebacker Raesjon Davis of Santa Ana, Calif., defensive end Naquan Brown of Virginia Beach, Va., Keanu Koht of Vero Beach, Fla., wide receiver JoJo Earle of Aledo, Texas and defensive end Landon Jackson of Texarkana, Texas and wide receiver Chris Hilton of Zachary.
The list of LSU targets was extremely impressive with Smith and defensive end Korey Foreman of Corona, Calif. – the nation’s top-rated player by 247 Sports – on hand to rekindle their longtime friendship.
Savion Byrd of Duncanville, Texas – the nation’s sixth-ranked offensive tackle – rode with Nussmeier’s family. The nation’s No. 5 tight end Michael Trigg of Tampa, Fla., the nation’s No. 4 offensive tackle Tristan Leigh of Fairfax, Va. and Sage Ryan of Lafayette Christian Academy – the nation’s top-rated safety were also on hand.
Thanks in part to the ingenuity and organizational skills of Nussmeier, along with his mother, Baton Rouge was the destination for reportedly 21 players. They handled their own expenses from states such as California, Virginia, Florida and Texas to stage a weekend sharing stories, eating and having a good time.
“Most of these kids have seen each other at different visits, different schools throughout their recruiting process,” Laura Rigney, mother of Tristan Leigh, said on ESPN-104.5s ‘After Further Review’. “They’re all kind of familiar. Even though it seems like a large group, it’s actually a tight community of kids.”
Orgeron is happy Nussmeier organized the weekend.
“We already have some great leaders that are already committed to us,” he said. “We have some outstanding players that are thinking about coming here. I guess they got tired of waiting and they wanted to come to Baton Rouge.”
Without the ability to spend time talking with LSU’s coaching staff, visit the program’s state-of-the art facilities or take guided tours of the campus, the group of commitments and prospects adjusted like many have done during the COVID-19 scare.
They were able to enjoy one another’s company, sharing the accounts of their own recruiting process, and getting to know one other on a more personal level.
“I think we put a really good impression on all of the uncommitted guys that were there,” Nussmeier said. “They know they’ve got to do what’s best for them. I told them we had to do whatever we could to get them in purple and gold.”
Nussmeier’s mother led the contingent on their own tour of LSU’s campus and dormitories. There was a trip to view LSU’s Football Operations Building and Tiger Stadium from the outside and quite possibly the highlight of the day – a visit to Mike the Tiger’s on-campus habitat.
They also dined at Ruffino’s and had an enjoyable round at Topgolf where the sight of the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Smith teeing off caught Nussmeier’s eye later in the evening.
“The most surprising swing was Maason Smith,” Nussmeier said with a laugh. “He was really good.”
The off-the-field levity, which included brunch on Sunday, seemed to be the perfect end for a group of guys who were truly on the same team for one weekend before returning home.
“It was 100% worth it,” Rigney said. “Even though we didn’t get to take the traditional tour that you get on an official visit, these kids getting to know each other was probably the single best recruiting technique you could ever possibly do.”