By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Given a late start in the 2017 cycle, Ed Orgeron challenged his class to close strong on an elite signing class despite the chaotic nature of an in-season regime change.
National Signing Day proved something of an up-and-day day for the Tigers, but all things considered, Orgeron and Co. made good on that challenge and delivered a consensus top-10 class.
LSU signed all of its pre-existing commitments and added a trio of blue chip defenders to finish National Signing Day with the nation’s No. 7 class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. According to 247Sports, the 23 signees comprise the program’s fourth highest-rated haul dating back to 2000.
“What a day for the Tigers,” Orgeron said. “I’m proud of our staff and the way we’ve recruited.”
The three new additions, in chronological order, were four-star Georgia linebacker Tyler Taylor, four-star Plaquermine safety Todd Harris and five-star pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson. LSU outmaneuvered Texas coach Tom Herman to ink Chaisson out of the greater Houston area.
The lanky linebacker was a raw recruit without any major Division I offers when he showed up to LSU’s camp last summer. Orgeron, still LSU’s defensive line coach at the time, offered him before the weekend ended. To him, the recently-minted five-star’s abilities were obvious.
“We feel like we got the best pass rusher in the country in K’Lavon Chaisson,” Orgeron said. “He’ll remind you a lot of Arden Key … Quick twitch. To be able to bend and turn. Outstanding pass rusher. He’s long and lean.”
Orgeron took the opportunity to heap praise on two unsung members of his staff, program general manager Austin Thomas and outside linebackers coach Dennis Johnson, for the contributions on the trail.
Johnson, who the staff calls ‘Meatball,’ closed the deal with Chaisson, while Thomas went into Nashville and signed five-star safety JaCoby Stevens — one of LSU’s six early enrollees — and Jordan Phillips, the nation’s top inside linebacker.
There were misses interspersed with the hits that kept the Tigers just shy of reeling in a top-five class. Fate saved the toughest blow for last, with LSU losing out on five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson to Florida State.
LSU was also a finalist for four-star linebackers Willie Gay (Mississippi State) and Markaviest Bryant (Auburn) as well as four-star wide receivers Davonta Smith (Alabama) and Nico Collins (Michigan).
One day earlier four-star Neville defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis chose Alabama over LSU. Orgeron called for improvement when asked about setting up a mythical fence around Louisiana in light of losing in-state stars like Smith and Mathis to the rival Tide.
“We’ve got work to do because Louisiana will always be our primary area,” Orgeron said. “We’ll get them to camp, get in early and do the right things to keep them here … We got Rashard Lawrence last year. It’s not like we’ve been losing players out of Monroe or haven’t been trying.”
Orgeron also shot down perceived criticism of Pete Jenkins, his defensive line coach, and the idea negative recruiting against him played a factor in losing Mathis and Wilson. The former cited lack of communication with Jenkins as being part of the reason he chose Alabama over LSU.
“We got the guys we want,” Orgeron said. “The guys we didn’t want, we’ll play against them. Pete Jenkins is a great coach. That’s all I’ll say about it.”
LSU signed 23 players for a possible 27 spots, meaning it’s got scholarships to work with still. Orgeron left the door open to wining an additional player in the coming weeks, but it may behoove him to save the additional spots for flexibility sake heading into 2018, his first full cycle as LSU coach.
NEWS AND NOTES
– With signing day in the books, LSU now turns its attention to spring. Orgeron said the staff will hold its first meetings Monday to begin implementing Matt Canada’s offense.
– Orgeron on LSU’s four linebackers: “We went out with the specific need to get middle linebackers and we got some of the best in the country … We’re going to have to have guys who can come in and play early … Dave (Aranda) is going put em in football school right away when they arrive in June.”
– Orgeron on quarterback Myles Brennan, who signed Wednesday: “Myles Brennan, in our opinion, is one of the best players in the country as a drop-back quarterback.”
– LSU received a National Letter of Intent Wednesday from Catholic High running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but Orgeron acknowledged the position will be one of LSU’s biggest needs heading into the 2018 cycle: “We think we’re going to have a Heisman Trophy candidate coming back in Derrius Guice. Then next year, we have to go out and get the best running back in the county, maybe two.”
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