A group of LSU fans approached Emmit Gooden during the Tigers’ loss to Arkansas.
They wanted to make sure the uncommitted, four-star defensive lineman didn’t judge LSU based on Saturday’s performance. They, like many LSU fans, worried the Tigers’ poor form would have an adverse effect on recruiting. Gooden eased their concerns.
“I know LSU is going to come back,” Gooden told them. “They’re still going to make some noise.”
Gooden was one of about two dozen LSU recruits in Tiger Stadium this past weekend. Most of them shared a similar feeling about the state of the program. Individual losses, even a string of them, don’t mean much to recruits evaluating schools.
Relationships, proximity, facilities and early playing time all mean more than results.
“Most every high school prospect is used to losing a football game,” said 247sports’ Shea Dixon. “They’re concerned with the bigger picture. As long as a team is on the national stage, recruits listen.”
The rankings back that up. LSU has finished with a top six recruiting class each of the past three years despite losing at least three games each season. The Tigers’ current 2016 class is ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“Most recruits see a loss and say, ‘If that was me out there, we would’ve won,’ ” said local radio host Derek Ponamsky. “They always see themselves as the difference.”
That’s how the coaches can turn a loss into a positive. LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron essentially shared that same message with Gooden after Saturday’s game.
“He told me he wishes I was out there playing,” Gooden said, “getting in the backfield and making plays.”
Gooden spent time after the game with Davon Godchaux and some of the other defensive linemen. He got to see how they responded to the loss. That meant even more than what happened on the field.
“Godchaux was telling us that they’ve got still got work to do,” Gooden said. “They’re not finished yet. They’re hungry, and they’re going to get after it.”
A problem can emerge if losing becomes a trend, though. Coaching stability is one of the ultimate pitches a school can make to recruits. On the other hand, instability at the top can lead to issues.
That chatter’s starting to build at LSU. Most coaches can tune it out and soothe recruits’ worries about the threat of a change. But when a coach is fired, that’s typically an obstacle few can quickly overcome.
“Coaching changes are one of the biggest variables in recruiting,” Dixon said. “People always warn recruits to commit to a school, not a coach, but that’s not always the case.”
Until something that drastic happens here, the LSU coaches will continue with business as usual. Gooden woke up Sunday and returned to the LSU facility to meet with them before he left town. He said you would’ve never known they lost the day before.
“They still had a lot of energy,” Gooden said. “They all had smiles on their faces. ... Hopefully this week they get after it, so they beat Ole Miss.”