Jimbo Fisher looked Kevin Toliver II in the eyes.
“You’re going to change that ‘L’ to an ‘F,’ ” the Florida State coach said to the top-flight recruit.
That’s according to Toliver’s father, who was sitting in Fisher’s office at the time of the meeting. This was during a junior day visit to Tallahassee, Florida, in the spring of 2013. The “L” stood for LSU, where Toliver was committed. The “F,” of course, stood for Florida State.
Moments after the meeting, the young Toliver turned to his father, also named Kevin Toliver: “‘Dad, I want to decommit and commit to Florida State,’ ” he told him.
That never happened.
Kevin Toliver II, a highly recruited cornerback from Florida, stayed true to a verbal commitment of more than two years when he enrolled at LSU in January.
National Signing Day on Wednesday will make official a stunning fact: No other signee in Les Miles’ 10 years was committed for a longer period than Toliver. He has the record — by far.
He was committed to LSU for a whopping 820 days, nearly 300 days longer than the next best under Miles. He’s a rarity in a modern-day recruiting circus full of decommitments and signing day surprises.
“It’s very rare,” said Sonny Shipp, a local recruiting reporter for 247Sports, “especially when you consider someone of his caliber. There was probably as little drama with his recruitment than any other player ranked (in the top 10) in the country that I can ever recall.”
There was no public drama, at least.
Toliver did, indeed, waver multiple times from the non-binding verbal pledge he made to LSU in November 2012, his father said. He just never publicly made a stink about it, and he never made any rash decisions, in part because of his parents’ guidance.
His father, in a recent interview, made public those close encounters during a two-year-long recruiting battle for a kid who committed early in his sophomore year of high school. Kevin Toliver II did not return calls seeking comment.
While LSU fought to keep its prized commit — Toliver is a five-star prospect — other schools made tempting pitches.
“He wavered a couple of times, I’ll admit it,” the elder Toliver said. “He did waver.”
There was the instance at Florida State and strong flirtations with Virginia Tech and Auburn. LSU, meanwhile, was always there, an eventual landing spot for a guy who, at one point, was ranked the top recruit in the 2015 class.
Scout.com’s Scott Kennedy can only think of one player as highly recruited as Toliver to hold true on such a lengthy commitment to an out-of-state college: former Georgia receiver A.J. Green. Green committed 16 months before signing day; Toliver committed 27 months before signing day.
It’s probably been a hold-your-breath moment for the Tigers.
“Having to wait over two years to finally see him …” Kennedy said. “It’s like (buying) a new car and waiting two years to drive it.”
Here’s how far out Toliver committed: Nineteen of the 20 players in the 2014 class who committed to LSU before signing day last year did so after Toliver’s pledge.
“Whoever thought they could get his attention was trying,” said Shea Dixon, a local recruiting reporter for 247Sports. “He’s probably got 100 offers.”
They tried, most notably Florida State, Virginia Tech and Auburn, Kevin Toliver said. Each of those three schools stubbed their toes during a fragile recruiting process.
Communication was the big issue.
After that meeting in Tallahassee with Fisher in April 2013, the Toliver family didn’t hear from the coach for a year, Toliver said.
“Jimbo Fisher had told my son, when we had that visit, ‘I’m going to recruit you hard until you change that L to an F,’ ” Toliver said. “He said that right in front of me. We didn’t see that. That’s what put FSU on the bottom.”
Virginia Tech may have flipped the younger Toliver’s commitment with a simple, “Hello.” Even Toliver’s father admits that he honestly thought his son would end up at Virginia Tech.
Then came the official visit this past fall. Virginia Tech’s defensive backs coach never introduced himself or spoke to the recruit’s mother, Stephanie Toliver, until the third day of a three-day visit, the elder Toliver said.
During a Sunday meeting with defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Stephanie Toliver called out secondary coach Torrian Gray, who also was in the room.
“ ‘I’ve been here all weekend, and I haven’t met you,’ ” Stephanie told the coach, Toliver said. “He apologized. You should have seen the look on Bud Foster’s face. He nearly fell out.”
On the drive back from Blacksburg, Stephanie Toliver told her son that she couldn’t “swallow” being ignored for two days by the guy who would be coaching her son’s position.
Kevin Toliver II never took a visit to Auburn, but he wanted to. If he had, who knows if he would be in Baton Rouge?
At one point, Auburn was Toliver’s No. 2 pick “if it didn’t work out with LSU,” his dad said. The prospect told Auburn coaches in the summer that he wanted to visit. He even spoke to one of them in the fall about setting up an official visit.
“We’ve got to get to Auburn,” Toliver told his dad often in the fall.
Finally, the younger Toliver got an Auburn coach on the phone.
“He said, ‘I want to come on a visit,’ ” Toliver’s dad said.
“Let me get back to you,” the Auburn coach told Toliver.
Said Kevin Toliver: “We’re still waiting for that call.”
Through all of this, LSU never stopped recruiting Toliver until he enrolled in classes last month, and the Tolivers never had communication issues with LSU like it did for Auburn and Florida State.
The Tigers staff presented the family with a schedule of when to call coaches, the elder Toliver said. Recruits can place unlimited phone calls to coaches, but coaches can’t do the same to recruits.
“When I would call, I would always get them on the phone,” Toliver said of LSU. “They gave us a schedule of when to call, what time, what day. When we’d call (Florida State), we’d miss them. So I stopped calling.”
LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond was the primary recruiter on Toliver, and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson joined his recruitment as signing day neared. Sharon Lewis, LSU’s assistant athletic director for football recruiting, helped with the paperwork process.
In the end, LSU got a five-star prospect whom 247Sports’ composite rankings peg as the nation’s second-best cornerback in the 2015 class.
It was a long, long time coming — 820 days, to be exact. How long will that record stand?
University High linebacker Dylan Moses committed in the fall of 2013 as a ninth-grader. Also, LSU has a commitment for the 2018 class from quarterback Zadock Dinkelmann, the nephew of former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Ty Detmer. He committed as an eighth-grader.
“We’ll see if he stays (committed),” said Mike Scarborough of Rivals.com. “That’ll set the record.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.
Longest LSU commits in the Les Miles era who signed (or enrolled) with the Tigers:
CB Kevin Toliver II
Signing class: 2015
Date committed: Nov. 5, 2012
Days committed: 820
DB Devin Voorhies
Signing class: 2014
Date committed: Aug. 28, 2012
Days committed: 526
WR Avery Peterson
Signing class: 2012
Date committed: Sept. 1, 2010
Days committed: 518
OL La’el Collins
Signing class: 2011
Date committed: Sept. 28, 2009
Days committed: 492