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Ed Orgeron pumps his fists to fans as he leads the Tigers down Victory Hill to Tiger Stadium before a 2016 home game.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

The folks at Texas de Brazil better get ready.

The LSU football team plans to host one of its largest recruiting weekends in several years this week, welcoming at least 14 prospects, including many uncommitted top targets in the 2017 class.

The Brazilian steakhouse normally is the Friday night dinner spot for prospects and their parents or guardians during big recruiting weekends such as this one. Friday’s turnout could be one of the biggest.

“This weekend will be one of the largest visitor weekends they’ve had in recent memory,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting reporter for Geaux247, the 247Sports.com site covering the Tigers. “It’s a byproduct of LSU having uncertainty throughout the football season.”

 

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Seniors are allowed expense-free visits to five colleges during their final year of high school. Many prospects delayed their LSU visits until the school hired a full-time head coach, pushing visits — many of them normally scheduled during the season — to this month.

In a normal year, this weekend is heavy on prospects anyway, said Mike Scarborough, publisher of TigerBait.com, the Rivals.com site covering the Tigers.

It’s the first of three critical weekends of official visits leading into the Feb. 1 national signing day, joining Jan. 20-22 and Jan. 27-29. It’s the start of the recruiting calendar’s most pivotal stretch. The open contact period began Thursday, ending a monthlong dead period and allowing coaches to visit high school seniors and their families and host recruits on campus.

This weekend is the biggest of them all.

“This is the most important recruiting weekend of the cycle,” Dixon said. “It trumps summer camp and game-day visits.”

“You’ve got an incredible group of prospects,” Scarborough said. “They feed off each other.”

The Tigers are hoping to add about eight more commitments to a class that stands at 19: 13 verbal pledges and six mid-year enrollees. The group is ranked seventh nationally by 247sports and is capable of finishing in the top five with the addition of several highly touted targets, Dixon said.

This weekend could determine a lot. Included in the list of visitors are key targets like Bellaire, Texas’, Marvin Wilson (the top-ranked defensive tackle in the class), Houston defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, Neville defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis and Amite receiver Devonta Smith.

Wilson, Mathis and Chaisson are at the top of coach Ed Orgeron’s list, Scarborough said, and so are linebackers Chris Allen of Southern Lab and Tennessee’s Jacob Phillips, both of whom are committed elsewhere. Allen is committed to Alabama, Phillips to Oklahoma.

“If LSU finished with Wilson, Chaisson, Mathis and they get a couple of linebackers — Chris Allen or Phillips — I don’t know how you could say … at that point you would say the only loss is (Isaiah) Buggs,” Scarborough said, referencing the junior-college defensive tackle who signed with Alabama last month. “You get that group, and it’s holy smokes, you’re on your way.

“We’re talking about flipping Allen and Phillips. Looks like the chances are good on flipping both, but there are chances you won’t."

Phillips is visiting LSU next weekend, Rivals.com reported. Allen has not scheduled a visit. Both play a position of critical need for an LSU team that has signed just four linebackers in the past three classes. Livonia’s Patrick Queen is the only linebacker commitment in this class.

“You circle back once again to linebackers. It’s been the storyline for the last three signing days,” Dixon said. “This year’s storyline is intriguing because there’s only one committed with less than a month to go. Everybody will be biting their nails along the way.”

No matter what transpires over the next three weeks, the Tigers aren’t likely to jump Ohio State, Alabama or Georgia for a top-three class. The Tigers are in a race for a top-five class with Michigan, Florida State, Oklahoma and Auburn.

“They can make a real statement if they finish top-five given the coaching changes from (Les) Miles to Orgeron,” Dixon said.

It all begins this weekend.

"I’m sure they’re going to have a great weekend," Scarborough said. "They’ve got a lot to build on, lot of excitement, new program."


Ten most wanted

LSU is targeting these players during the sprint to national signing day on Feb. 1: 

 Player

 Position

 Hometown 
(high school)

National
position rank

Top schools

 Marvin Wilson

 DT

 Bellaire, Texas (Episcopal)

1st

LSU, Alabama, Florida St., Oklahoma, Ohio St.

 K’Lavon Chaisson

 WDE

 Houston (North Shore)

6th

LSU, Texas

 Devonta Smith

 WR

 Amite (Amite)

9th

LSU, Alabama, Miami

 Phidarian Mathis

 DT

 Monroe (Neville)

11th

LSU, Alabama, TCU

 Todd Harris

 S

 Plaquemine (Plaquemine)

11th

LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, ASU

 Travis Etienne

 RB

 Jennings (Jennings)

18th

LSU, Texas A&M, Oregon

 Willie Gay

 OLB

 Starkville, Miss. (Starkville)

7th

LSU, Miss. State, Ole Miss, Mich.

 Jacob Phillips

 ILB

 Nashville, Tenn. (East Nashville Magnet)

7th

Committed to Oklahoma

 Chris Allen

 OLB

 Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)

8th

Committed to Alabama

 Racey McMath

 WR

 New Orleans (Edna Karr)

111th

LSU, Texas A&M, Miss. State

Note: 247Sports composite rankings used

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.