Kardell Thomas shut down his recruitment two weeks ago.
If you’re unclear what that means, don’t worry. It is an oft-used term in the peculiar world of college football recruiting. A prospect uses the phrase to emphasize his commitment to a certain school — in this case, LSU. It is a message to all others that he’s uninterested in visiting their campuses or speaking to their coaches.
“110% A TIGER thanks to all the schools that recruited me,” Thomas’ message on Twitter proclaimed.
Thomas, a Southern Lab lineman and the top-ranked guard in the 2019 class, figured his announcement would slow the pursuit from other programs.
“That’s made everyone come harder,” Thomas laughed during an interview earlier this week.
Alabama coach Nick Saban himself delivered a message after his announcement: “We’re going to flip you,” it said.
Texas A&M offensive line coach Jim Turner reached out with one, too: “We’re coming even harder now.”
Heck, one day after the announcement, Auburn offered Thomas a scholarship.
“I was like, ‘What?!’ ” Thomas said.
“I saw you shut your recruitment down,” the Auburn coach told him. “We don’t care.”
Welcome to the weird world of college football recruiting.
This is a microcosm of the battle that awaits LSU coach Ed Orgeron in the fight against programs trying to poach members of Louisiana’s 2019 class, one of the most talent-rich in-state groups in recent years.
Thomas is carrying a proverbial purple-and-gold banner for an already ballyhooed 2019 class in Louisiana, pointing these highly rated guys toward LSU’s campus. The Louisiana 2019 class is one Orgeron has talked up for months. The group is rife with talent, specifically at the top, recruiting grades confirm.
Three prospects in the state are, as of now, rated five stars, the highest classification for any recruit. Just 29 players in 247Sports’ 2019 composite player rankings have such designations. Louisiana’s current five-star trio includes the 6-4, 320-pound Thomas, Amite defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher and Dunham cornerback Derek Stingley.
It is the most five-stars in a single Louisiana class since the state had four in 2014. Louisiana combined for four five stars in the past four classes.
The pressure is on for Orgeron and his recruiters to fight off out-of-state coaches and sign the highly ranked class he's expected to.
“If you take care of business and keep everybody home and fill in the blanks with out-of-state guys, there’s no excuse for not having one of the top five classes in the country,” said Mike Scarborough, publisher of Rivals’ TigerBait.com.
LSU’s coaching staff is complete.
The class is resembles the 2011 in-state haul headlined by receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, tackle La’el Collins and defensive lineman Anthony Johnson.
Six of the top 10 in the state for 2019 are ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position. There is the No. 1 defensive tackle, No. 1 offensive guard, No. 2 cornerback, No. 6 running back, No. 7 receiver and No. 9 safety.
“It’s one of the deeper we’ve seen since 2011,” said Shea Dixon, a recruiting reporter for Geaux247, the 247Sports’ site covering LSU. “The early feeling is the top 10-15 in Louisiana will be highly sought after. There are 12 guys already ranked in the top 250 nationally. That alone makes a good group of guys.”
The coaching staff got “ahead,” Orgeron said, in recruiting the 2019 prospects last month. They invited one dozen juniors onto campus for unofficial visits on the weekend of Jan. 26, for instance.
The position diversity of the in-state 2019 class makes it that much stronger. Cranking out football talent in Louisiana is nothing new. In fact, the state per capita produced the third-most Power 5 conference signees in the past decade.
However, the state historically is poor at producing certain positions, most notably offensive linemen and quarterbacks. This year’s class includes four top-70 and two top-20 offensive linemen.
“But,” Scarborough said, “I still don’t see a quarterback.”
LSU has offered five quarterbacks for 2019, none from within the state. The position is one of the only spots, in terms of top-notch talent, missing from this Louisiana class.
“Louisiana is always deep, 30-40 signing with Power 5 teams a year,” Dixon said. “That will grow by more than 15-20 this year.”
Leading the pack is Thomas, a player who committed before his sophomore season in the summer of 2016. In a private meeting last spring, Orgeron pushed on Thomas the role of leading the Tigers’ 2019 class, a signing group that is likely key to the coach’s future with the program.
The class is good enough that Orgeron is potentially saving two scholarships in 2018 to carry over to next year, giving him the ability to sign 27 players.
“This year in the state of Louisiana, we feel like we have some of the top players in the country,” Orgeron said. “All the players we lost (in 2018), that didn’t come here, were from out of state. We feel like, (if) we do a good job in state, we’ll be very successful at LSU.”
Ed Orgeron learned something after Year 1 of sweeping changes to college football recruiting: be more particular about whom you sign in Decemb…
These events usually begin with a high-pitched squeal or loud scream.
Thomas is pushing his fellow Louisianans to join a commitment list that stands at six, with four from Louisiana: his Southern Lab teammate, running back Tyrion Davis, and other in-state prospects like Teurlings Catholic tackle Thomas Perry and defensive tackle Joseph Evans of Haynesville.
Thomas has taken to Twitter in his leadership role of this 2019 class. During a bumpy national signing day Wednesday for LSU, he spoke out to those who spurned Orgeron’s program.
“If You didn't sign with Us then I wish you the best. No hate in my heart — that's a big decision. Let God lead you,” he wrote before switching to all capital letters, “but do know IF YOU HAVE TO PLAY IN THE REAL DEATH VALLEY WE ARE AT YOUR NECK AND YOU GON FEEL US.”
Davis, the Southern Lab tailback and LSU commitment who has spent two seasons running behind Thomas, said it would be “wonderful” to run behind him for “three to four more years” at LSU. They both hope others in this highly ranked group join them.
They’re all good friends, camping together and playing against one another.
“Bunch of talent,” Davis said of 2019. “Not going to lie — it’s a lot of talent.”
Said Thomas: “The fact that it’s all in state is scary if all of us stay home. If we stay home, we’re getting a national championship.”
No one can accuse Ed Orgeron of not being aggressive enough on the recruiting trail.
Louisiana’s four- and five-star rated prospects each year for the past 10 signing classes, with total number of five-star recruits in parentheses. This year’s class, currently, has the most five-star prospects since 2014.
- 2019: 13 (3)
- 2018: 13 (1)
- 2017: 12 (0)
- 2016: 21 (2)
- 2015: 13 (1)
- 2014: 16 (4)
- 2013: 12 (0)
- 2012: 12 (1)
- 2011: 12 (3)
- 2010: 7 (1)
- 2009: 11 (2)
- 2008: 8 (0)
- 2007: 13 (1)
The 2019 cycle in Louisiana is rich with talent. Six of the top-10 players in the state are ranked in the top-10 nationally at their position. Three are in the top 2.
Position rank /overall rank^
DT Ishmael Sopsher
CB Derek Stingley
Baton Rouge (Dunham)
OG Kardell Thomas*
Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)
WR Devonta Lee
RB John Emery
WR Trey Palmer
OT Ray Parker
CB Devin Bush
New Orleans (Edna Karr)
S Ishmael Burdine
RB Tyrion Davis*
Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)
^Rankings from 247Sports composite
*Committed to LSU; All others uncommitted
LSU’s future verbal commitments for the 2019 class are below. These are non-binding and will only be secured on signing days.
Nat. Pos. Rank
OG Kardell Thomas
Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)
CB Maurice Hampton
RB Tyrion Davis
Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)
OT Thomas Perry
Lafayette (Teurlings Catholic)
DT Joseph Evans
LS Quentin Skinner
Buford, Georgia (Buford)