Les Miles tried to get his son, Manny, to stay in Louisiana, to come to LSU.
You don’t need to leave the state, Miles said to Manny, the former U-High quarterback and pitcher now at North Carolina.
Yes I do, Manny said to his father.
Manny didn’t want to play in a state or city in which his father, the 11th-year LSU football coach, was such a prominent figure. Miles didn’t understand. Won’t you hear about me at North Carolina, too, he asked his son.
“Yes,” Manny shot back, “but not necessarily every day.”
Miles told the story Tuesday to hundreds of the state’s high school football coaches at the LHSAA summer coaches clinic at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge. He finished the tale regarding his son with this:
“I got beat in recruiting,” he said, “and it still makes me mad.”
Coaches chuckled, and Miles smiled.
Miles hopes to win recruiting battles for prospects who play for the very same men he spoke before Tuesday. LSU will welcome hundreds of recruits to campus this weekend for the school’s biggest camp of the year.
It’s a key time on the recruiting calendar for a squad that currently has the top-ranked 2016 commitment class in the nation. This isn’t the time to take a deep breath and count those chickens. They’re more than seven months from hatching.
“As we all know, it’s just the beginning,” said LSU recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Frank Wilson, on site at the Crowne Plaza listening to Miles’ speech.
The Tigers have 17 commits in the class and expect to get nine more before National Signing Day in February, Wilson said. The program can sign 26, one more than the usual 25, this go-around, he said.
The group is on its way to being the school’s first unanimous No. 1 signing haul in school history, but things are far from settled. Wilson and staff must hold on to the current players committed, specifically guys like cornerback Savion Smith, quarterback Feleipe Franks, safety Eric Monroe and offensive guard Donavaughn Campbell — all ranked third or higher nationally at their positions.
Don’t think teams haven’t been swooping in to pluck LSU’s star-laden group.
“They try to encourage them to come on their campus for an unofficial visit for the summer time,” Wilson said. “They’ll do it again for their season as well as official visits.”
Wilson and staff also must fill the nine open spots with the right guys. Who are they?
“I think we’ve got some spots still at the defensive-line position, more than anything, at the defensive-end position, we need to fill,” Wilson said. “A couple of linebackers we got to get in the boat and then, offensively, we’ve got a need at the tailback position and a couple of receivers.
“I like where we’re at,” he continued. “I like the pace that we’re on right now, but probably more than anything, just need to hold steady.”
That’s tougher than it sounds, and it’s something that will continue this weekend when high school players flock to Baton Rouge for a three-day camp at LSU’s practice fields. Five of the top seven players in the state — all uncommitted — will be at the camp, according to Scout. com. It runs from Thursday to Saturday.
The Tigers get to show off their flashy facilities and woo parents who aren’t yet sold.
They can lock down current commitments, too, but they can’t have them sign financial-aid agreements like other schools can.
LSU is in the first year of a two-year suspension from signing prospects to financial-aid agreements. FAAs are not National Letters of Intent. Prospects can sign FAAs on Aug. 1 of their senior years, granting the school to which they sign unlimited contact until their enrollment.
Those who sign an FAA, though, must enroll at the school with which they signed or that school could incur NCAA penalties. LSU signed Mississippi offensive lineman Matt Womack to an FAA last fall. Womack de-committed from LSU and eventually signed with Alabama.
Subsequently, the NCAA stripped LSU’s use of FAAs for 2016 and 2017 classes in a retroactive ruling that drew national criticism toward college’s governing body.
Miles and Wilson shrug off the NCAA sanctions.
“I don’t think that’s going to be that significant of an issue,” Miles said Tuesday. “Put it this way, it meant nothing to Matt Womack. He signed it. It didn’t deter him in any way.”
Commits can still enroll early at LSU, Wilson said, and that’s key.
In fact, at least two of the current commitments are expected to enroll early: Franks, the nation’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, and Texas linebacker Rahssan Thornton.
Two LSU targets leaning toward committing to the Tigers are also expected to be early enrollee guys: running back Devin White of North Webster and John Ehret linebacker Michael Divinity.
Miles on Tuesday agreed with two other coach SEC coaches who want National Signing Day eliminated completely. Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Tennessee’s Butch Jones told ESPN this week that they’d like to see signing day gone.
Players would sign a binding National Letter of Intent when they commit to a school.
“That would be so cool. I’d be for that,” Miles said. “To me, that is exactly what the prospect wants. If it’s an offer and I’ve just been gathering offers and it’s one of many, I don’t sign, but if it’s the one I want to go to, then heck yeah, let’s sign that guy.”
For now, though, signing day continues. And so does recruiting. It never ends, in fact. Wilson has a list in the program’s computer system of eight prospects in the class of — wait for it — 2020.
Those eight players are entering their eighth-grade year.
It’s something somewhat new Wilson and LSU are doing, tracking young teens.
“Over time, they continue to get bigger and faster and stronger. And we get them in our youth camp, and kids come in and run a sub-5 (40-yard dash), it just catches your eye,” Wilson said. “You’re 12 years old and you’re running 4.9, 4.8. That’s crazy.”
Recruiting has gotten crazy. Don’t tell that to LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the notable recruiting guru who’s from Louisiana. He also spoke Tuesday at the coaches clinic.
How have his first six months recruiting for LSU been?
“It’s really been a perfect fit for me,” he said. “Everything I’ve dreamed of and more.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.