Frank Wilson says LSU can still get to 10 wins.
Addressing the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club this past week, Wilson, LSU’s recruiting coordinator and running backs coach, claimed the Tigers could reach the 10-win mark for a fifth straight season.
That’s mathematically impossible, a questioner pointed out to Wilson. LSU is 8-4 with just its bowl game left. Nine wins is the maximum, right?
“There’s a regular season, there’s a bowl game and there’s a game that’s won on the first Wednesday in February,” Wilson said. “When National Signing Day comes and we get the best receiver in the country, the best player in our state … that’s a 10th win.”
In the recruiting season’s fourth quarter — the final two months until signing day — Wilson and LSU are gunning for that 10th win by chasing the top 10.
Four of Louisiana’s top 10 prospects are uncommitted, and the Tigers are fighting to flip two who are committed elsewhere while trying to keep their four commits.
With the last sentence in his answer, Wilson was referring to Warren Easton’s Tyron Johnson, an uncommitted player who happens to be the top-ranked player in Louisiana and the nation’s No. 2 receiver for the 2015 class.
LSU’s success with Louisiana’s top 10 recruits could make or break a class that currently lacks the luster of that highly touted haul from a year ago. It also could continue a streak: An LSU signing class has not finished outside the top 10 in both Rivals.com and Scout.com under coach Les Miles. The current group is ranked 17th by Rivals.com and 18th by Scout.com.
LSU has just 16 committed players for 2015, the second-fewest total of any school in the top 20 of 247Sports’ composite team rankings. National Signing Day is Feb. 4, and the Tigers are nine commits shy of their target of 25 signees.
Is there reason for worry?
Not really. It’s still early.
“We’re in a good place right now,” Wilson said.
“You look at it right now and say, ‘Man, (it’s) going to be a tough road. Can they even get into the top 10?’ ” said Mike Scarborough, a recruiting reporter for TigerBait.com, the Rivals site covering LSU. “But you start talking about kids now that we weren’t talking about a month ago that can maybe be the difference. Right now, it’s hard to project it, but there’s a path to getting (into the top 10).”
The path likely starts with two uncommitted New Orleans prospects who are both ranked in the top 10 nationally at their positions: Johnson and Riverdale cornerback Donte Jackson.
Johnson narrowed his list of schools he’s considering to five recently, and LSU made the cut with Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Georgia and Auburn. In its projections, 247Sports has Johnson at 75 percent to sign with LSU. Jackson is projected to sign with Georgia at 55 percent, with LSU at 40 percent.
Johnson and Jackson are two of the four key targets for LSU during the final two months before signing day, said Shea Dixon, a recruiting reporter for Geaux247.com, the 247Sports site covering the Tigers.
The other two are Louisiana prospects as well: Evangel tackle Jerry Tillery and Patterson receiver Daylon Charlot, a pair of four-star players ranked in the state’s top 10.
Tillery is a Notre Dame commit, and Charlot recently decommitted from Alabama after a visit to LSU last weekend. He’s seen as an LSU lean.
“Those are the four left on the board that they’re clearly really pressing for,” Dixon said.
Their ultimate decisions might be more about perception than anything else. They’re all from Louisiana, and LSU doesn’t often lose many of the state’s top 10 players.
LSU has signed 57 of 80 players it has offered who were ranked in the top 10 in Louisiana since 2006, a stretch of nine recruiting classes. Over the same span, among in-state prospects, the program has signed 32 of 44 players it offered who were in the top five.
“I remember about five years ago, they offered 14 in-state kids and got all 14,” said Barton Simmons, 247Sports’ national recruiting analyst.
But, he added, “LSU is starting to face stiffer competition. The biggest obstacle they face is the amount of new predators in the state. They got a lot more competition to lock up the in-state prospects right now.”
That brings us back to this season. LSU has four of the top 10 in-state recruits committed: Catholic running back Derrius Guice, University High running back Nick Brossette, East St. John cornerback Xavier Lewis and Lakeshore fullback David Ducre.
Last year, the school signed five of the state’s top 10, the fewest it has reeled in under Miles. It signed just two of the top five in 2014. That’s tied for the lowest under Miles with the 2012 group.
Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, Miami, Arkansas and Texas all have signed at least one top-10 prospect from Louisiana in the past three years. Bama has signed six in that span.
“It’s gotten tougher every year ... because people are realizing how much talent is in the state,” Simmons said.
That talent has dipped when compared to last season’s in-state crop, one of the best in years. The so-so in-state class has forced LSU to go out of state, said Hunter Paniagua, a recruiting reporter for TigerSportsDigest.com, the Scout.com site covering the Tigers.
That’s part of why LSU’s commitment number (16) is so low.
There were four in-state players last year rated five-star talents. This year? Just one: Johnson.
Earlier in his address to the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club, Wilson gestured to Johnson’s coach at Warren Easton, Tony Hull, who sat beside him at the banquet.
“Tony,” Wilson said, “is kind of important to us.”
The top 10 list
LSU has commits from four of the top 10 players in Louisiana, as ranked by 247Sports’ composite rankings:
Rank, player/high school/commitment/national position rank
1. WR Tyron Johnson, Warren Easton, uncommitted, 2
2. RB Derrius Guice, Catholic, LSU, 4
3. CB Donte Jackson, Riverdale, uncommitted, 7
4. RB Nick Brossette, University, LSU, 15
5. WR Daylon Charlot, Patterson, uncommitted, 19
6. CB Xavier Lewis, East St. John, LSU, 20
7. OL Jerry Tillery, Evangel, Notre Dame, 15
8. ATH Derrick Dillon, Pine, Florida, 11
9. RB/WR Kirk Merritt, Destrehan, uncommitted, 5
10. FB David Ducre, Lakeshore, LSU, 1
The in-state battle
How LSU has fared when it comes to signing the top 10 and top five players in the state each year under Les Miles, using 247Sports’ composite rankings:
Year, top 10 signed, top five signed, others in top 10 signed with…
2014, 5, 2/Alabama (3), Texas A&M, Florida
2013, 7, 4/Alabama, Miami, did not sign
2012, 6^, 2/Alabama (2), Arkansas, Texas
2011, 7, 4/Alabama, Auburn, did not sign
2010, 7*, 4/Texas A&M, TCU, Auburn
2009, 6*, 4/Alabama (2), Mississippi State, Tennessee
2008, 7*, 4#/Alabama, Arkansas, Penn State
2007, 5*, 3/Tennessee (2), Alabama, USC, did not sign
2006, 7^, 5/Alabama, Ole Miss, American International
^ — didn’t offer one of the top 10 who signed elsewhere
* — didn’t offer two of the top 10 who signed elsewhere
# — didn’t offer one of the top five who signed elsewhere
NOTE: 2005 is not listed because Miles and his staff took over with just about two months left before National Signing Day.