Willie Allen admits it would be cool to be part of the nation’s top signing class. Kristian Fulton agrees.
After all, the Tigers’ current recruiting class is on pace to be the first consensus No. 1 group in school history. Who wouldn’t want to be a member of such a historic haul?
“You want to be surrounded by good players,” said Fulton, a Rummel star rated the nation’s fourth-best cornerback in 2016. “Having a great class shows that we could be the best.”
Appropriately enough, the commitments of Allen, John Curtis’ four-star offensive tackle, and Fulton are key to the Tigers securing that illustrious No. 1 team ranking.
Recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson and his staff begin the most crucial three-week stretch in the recruiting calendar Thursday. The dead period turns into a contact period, the most open portion of the NCAA’s regimented recruiting cycles.
Assistants and head coaches visit prospects at their homes. They eat dinner with their families, woo the moms and coach up the dads.
Some assistants — like defensive line coach Ed Orgeron — even wrestle with prospects. He has been known to do that, at least.
It’s all an effort to flip a prospect from one school to another at the last minute or keep a prospect committed to that program. It’s about strengthening bonds and securing a prospect for visits in the remaining three weekends before signing day Feb. 3.
“Huge. These are probably the three biggest recruiting weekends of the entire calendar,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting reporter for Geaux247, the 247Sports’ site covering LSU. “LSU wants to finish with the No. 1 class. They’ve got about 10 spots to fill. They may have double-digit recruits in every single weekend. This is probably that time where all hands are on deck.”
The Tigers head into this stretch with an impressive group already. The class is No. 1 in the team rankings of Rivals.com and ESPN.com and is atop 247Sports’ composite team rankings, which combines all of the major sites. Scout.com ranks Florida No. 1, with LSU No. 2.
Of the Tigers’ 20 commitments, 15 are five stars or four stars, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. Fourteen of the 20 commitments are in Scout.com’s top 300, 16 are in ESPN’s top 300 and nine of the 20 are ranked in the top 10 nationally at their positions.
For LSU, these next few weeks are more about meeting its signing goal — about 27 to 28 players this year — and strengthening its grip around a historic group.
An LSU signing class has never finished No. 1 in at least three of the major four recruiting outlets. They were No. 1 in two outlets — 247Sports and ESPN — in 2009. They were No. 1 in Rivals.com’s rankings in 2003, and they have been ranked second eight times since 2002.
The 2013 class that included running back Leonard Fournette, receiver Malachi Dupre and safety Jamal Adams finished second according to all four outlets. Alabama finished first in all four that year.
Retribution might be coming.
LSU has lost to Alabama on the football field the past five times the two have played, but the Tigers can end the Crimson Tide’s five-year streak of having the top-ranked composite class.
Some believe it’ll be tough not to happen.
“One team that’s in a position to close well is LSU,” ESPN recruiting analyst Craig Haubert said during the network’s “Recruiting Nation” show. “In the state of Louisiana, four of the top five prospects remain uncommitted and, if you follow recruiting, you know LSU has a very good track record of protecting in-state talent. It could be tough for anyone to unseat LSU.”
State-by-state recruiting rankings differ by outlet. According to 247Sports’ composite figures, three of the state’s top five prospects are not committed, and five of the top 10. That list includes Fulton, the third-best player in the state, and Allen, ranked sixth in Louisiana.
The two plan to take their official visit to LSU on Jan. 15 — the first weekend of this key stretch and a big one for the Tigers. Fulton and Allen will be joined by about 15 others during a whopper of a weekend in Baton Rouge.
“I’m not sure what to expect,” Fulton said. “I’ve talked to (LSU commit) Devin White, and they told me it was way different than just going on a regular visit. I’ll get to see the more academic side.”
What’s Allen looking forward to?
“I’ve been out there about 30 times,” Allen said of LSU. “I kind of know what’s going to happen; a bunch of Curtis guys go to LSU. It’s pretty normal. I hope to get to hang out with some of the recruits. I feel comfortable. It’s like 45 minutes away from my house.”
Allen said he’ll make his decision “whenever I’m ready;” Fulton said he’d announce on signing day. Allen also will visit Auburn and Ole Miss during this final stretch, and Fulton will try to visit South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and Miami.
Most recruiting experts see Allen and Fulton as leans toward LSU, but the Tigers aren’t only chasing these hot-shot in-state guys. They are after a quarterback following Feleipe Franks’ flip to Florida last year.
LSU is hearing from a host of QBs, and the Tigers have zeroed in on one, Dixon said: Maryland commit Dwayne Haskins, a 6-foot-3, 198-pounder ranked the seventh-best pro-style quarterback in the class.
“They’re putting out and getting a lot of interest,” Dixon said. “LSU is hearing from a lot of kids. They see an opportunity to be the only quarterback in this class. Haskins is a guy that sits atop the list.”
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, in charge of quarterback recruiting, is expected to visit several QB prospects starting Thursday. Signing a quarterback is key for the future of the program, coach Les Miles has said.
And finishing No. 1?
Well, that’s important, too.
“If they keep reeling off commitments,” Dixon said. “I think there’s a chance LSU doesn’t lose the No. 1 spot.”
Top 10 Most Wanted
LSU heads down the final month of the 2015-2016 recruiting season with its eye on a host of prospects. Here are the top 10 most wanted for the Tigers:
Name (high school)
National position rank
DT Rashard Lawrence (Neville)
OT Willie Allen (John Curtis)
CB Kristian Fulton (Rummel)
CB Trayvon Mullen (Coconut Creek, Fla.)
QB Dwayne Haskins (Bullis School, Md.)
DT D’Andre Christmas-Giles (St. Aug)
DE Sci Martin (McDonogh 25)
OLB Jeffrey McCulloch (Aldine Davis, Tx.)
S Nigel Warrior (Peachtree Ridge, Ga.)
OG John Simpson (Fort Dorchester, SC)
*ranked as a pro-style QB
Information from 247Sports.
Louisiana Top 10
LSU has commits from four of the top 10 players in Louisiana.
National position rank
DT Rashard Lawrence
DT Edwin Alexander
CB Kristian Fulton
CB Shyheim Carter
OLB Michael Divinity
OT Willie Allen
ATH Devin White
WR Stephen Sullivan
OG Donavaughn Campbell
WR Clyde Chriss
Used 247Sports’ composite rankings.
We break down how LSU has faired when it comes to signing the top 10 and top 5 players in the state each year under Les Miles. The Tigers currently have six of the top 10 in the state committed and three of the top five.
Top 10 Signed
Top 5 signed
Others in top 10 signed with…
Alabama (1), Notre Dame (1), Oregon (1)
Alabama (3), Texas A&M (1), Florida (1)
Alabama (1), Miami (1), DNS (1)
Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Texas (1)
Alabama (1), Auburn (1), DNS (1)
Texas A&M (1), TCU (1), Auburn (1)
Alabama (2), Mississippi State (1), UT (1)
Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Penn State (1)
UT (2), Alabama (1), USC (1), DNS (1)
Alabama (1), Ole Miss (1), American
International College (1)
^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-5 who signed elsewhere.
2005 is not listed because Les Miles was hired just a few weeks before signing day.
Used 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.