Because of an elongated regular season LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron finds himself pulling double duty going into one of the most important days on the coaching calendar.
When the Southeastern Conference rescheduled LSU’s game with Ole Miss from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19 so the Tigers could host top-ranked Alabama instead, Orgeron was aware of the ramifications of such a move.
Instead of just preparing his 4-5 team for one of the SEC’s more prolific offenses to close out the regular season, Orgeron and his coaching staff are also hoping to wrap up a significant portion of its current recruiting class which can begin signing Wednesday on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period.
“Just always have the phone in your pocket and I’m always available,” Orgeron said Monday during his weekly news conference. “We’re talking to parents all the time. We’re talking to players all the time. We have unlimited phone calls with them. It’s kind of 24/7 and you’ve got to balance your time. And everybody’s dealing with the same thing. So, Ole Miss is dealing with the same thing. We’ve got to balance it right down the middle 50/50.”
With some slight attrition over the past several weeks LSU’s class features 19 commitments and is ranked fourth nationally and third in the SEC by 247Sports.
Orgeron expects at least 15 of those commitments to sign on Wednesday. The NCAA will conduct its second signing period Feb. 3.
“Obviously, we’ve built relationships,” Orgeron said. “Again, these guys saw last year one of the best teams to ever play in college football history, and they remember that. And they see all those guys going into the NFL and having a lot of success, and they see us having a young team.
“Obviously, we’ve struggled in some areas that we’ve got to get fixed. But they know that. It gives them an opportunity to come in and play early, see true freshmen playing, two freshmen quarterbacks playing and having success. And especially skilled positions on offense, they know we have great quarterbacks coming. We’re fixing to sign another great quarterback on Wednesday. So, they see the future looks bright.”
Trying to construct this year’s recruiting class wasn’t without its share of challenges for coaching staffs all over the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA extended its dead period throughout this entire year with coaches unable to host prospective athletes and their families for visits or have any in-person communication.
Coaches have been permitted an unlimited number of phone calls to recruits per the NCAA and instead of in-person visits with players and their families, they’ve had to be creative with virtual tours of their campus and facilities.
The biggest uncommitted fish in the recruiting ocean is 6-foot 5, 316-pound defensive tackle Maason Smith of Terrebonne High, a five-star recruit who’s the No. 1 recruit in Louisiana, No. 2 defensive tackle and the No. 18 prospect overall nationally on the 247 Sports Composite ranking.
He collected 31 scholarship offers during his recruitment and has narrowed his finalists to LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Miami. He set he will sign Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
LSU has one five-star prospect in this year’s class in Lafayette Christian Academy safety Sage Ryan – the nation’s top-rated player at his position – to highlight a class that reportedly is not expected to get signatures Wednesday from four-star commitments Aledo, Texas wide receiver JoJo Earle and Santa Ana, Calif. outside linebacker Raesjon Davis.
The makeup of LSU’s class is heavily influenced by out-of-state four-star prospects such as quarterback Garrett Nussmeier of Flower Mound, Texas-Marcus, safety Derrick Davis Jr. of Monroeville, PA.-Gateway, offensive lineman Garrett Dellinger of Clarkston, MI.-Clarkston, running back Corey Kiner of Cincinnati-Roger Bacon, safety Greg Penn III of Hyattsville, MD.-DeMatha Catholic, outside linebacker Xavier Carter of Atlanta-Hapeville Charter and defensive ends Landon Jackson of Texarkana, Tex.-Pleasant Grove and Keanu Koht of Vero Beach, Fla.
Ryan is one of five signees expected from Louisiana that also includes four-star wide receiver Chris Hilton of Zachary, defensive end Saivion Jones of St. James along with wide receiver Jack Bech of St. Thomas More, safety Matthew Langlois of Catholic-Pointe Coupee and punter Peyton Todd of West Monroe.
“We’re going to always look in Louisiana first, and like I think it was two or three years ago was one of Louisiana’s best years,” Orgeron said of his staff’s recruiting strategy. “We stayed mainly in Louisiana and Houston or Dallas. I mean those are going to be the hot areas for us and always will be the hot areas for us.
“Now, if a young man from the state of California is a great player and he calls us and tells us he wants to come, I’m going to take him. If a guy’s from Washington, I’m going to take him, Florida, Atlanta, whatever it is. Atlanta has always been good to us. So, we’re always going to recruit there. We spot recruit those areas because of specific needs. So, it’s always going to be Louisiana, Houston and Dallas and then specific needs around the country.”
In a season that’s been marked by seemingly nonstop cloud cover Orgeron and LSU experienced a ray of sunshine on a dark, foggy night last Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.
LSU faced a sixth-ranked Florida team as a 23.5-point underdog, a number that could have swelled in light of a travel roster of 54 players that took significant hits throughout the game.
Orgeron said half of that roster was freshmen and sophomores who wound up contributing to all of the points scored in a memorable 37-34 victory that certainly had a high approval rating among LSU’s commitments and prospects still considering the Tigers.
“I think it was huge,” Orgeron said. “I think it’s reassurance. And obviously recruits have a short memory what you did yesterday, and they all watched the game. But, you know, they’ve been seeing the whole time all the freshmen were playing, all the players that we lost. So, I think the game had a lot to do with giving us some momentum this week, but we were on solid ground with most of our recruits before this game. But it does help.”