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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron sings the alma mater with his players and wife Kelly Orgeron after LSU's football game against Texas A&M at Tiger Stadium Saturday Nov. 25, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.. LSU won 45-21.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

Ed Orgeron does not regret using one of his precious 25 spots in the 2018 signing class on a kicker, even though it left LSU “tight” on numbers ahead of the traditional national signing day.

Orgeron and staff signed 21 players during the early signing period, leaving them with just four open spots for as many as a half-dozen targets, the coach said. Orgeron confirmed that transfer kicker Cole Tracy is included among the 25 initial counters. Schools are under a strict mandate this year to sign no more than 25 players, something the NCAA passed in the spring.

“I wouldn’t trade anybody that we have on our board,” Orgeron said Wednesday. “Worked out perfect. Our coaches did a tremendous job of getting all the guys that are committed to sign. Now we’ve got four, five, six guys we’re targeting left to fill those needs.”

Orgeron on Wednesday shed some light on the situation with Tracy, a California native who is transferring from Division II Assumption in Massachusetts. The school petitioned the Southeastern Conference to have Tracy not count against the 25 allotment.

Orgeron hoped to count Tracy in a different signing class, a practice that was common before the NCAA instituted its strict limit of 25 signees. With regard to Tracy, the coach mentioned 2017 offensive line signee Seth Stewart, who spent less than a week on campus before leaving.

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The SEC office confirmed last week with The Advocate that Tracy is included in the 25.

“The graduate transfer (kicker Cole Tracy) had to count as an initial (counter), but we needed a kicker, needed that spot. Glad we got him,” Orgeron said. “I was trying to get that as a non-initial (counter). Obviously you try to count back and do things like that. We tried everything, but we haven’t gotten a response on getting an extra initial. Right now, we have four.

“We just tried (through the SEC) with the graduate transfer to see if it counted. It did count as an initial (counter),” he continued. “Seth stayed only two days last year, but it did count as an initial (counter). Those are tough deals to swallow, but we have to do it.”

Coaches continue balancing recruiting while preparing for LSU’s Citrus Bowl game on Jan. 1 against No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3). The 16th-ranked Tigers (9-3) depart Thursday for Orlando, Florida. Orgeron greeted reporters Wednesday after holding what he called a “big recruiting meeting” with the staff.

Left with just four spots, gray shirting would seem to be an option, but Orgeron shot down the possibility. A prospect who receives a gray shirt is ineligible for his true freshman fall semester and must pay his own tuition and fees during that semester. The player joins the team full time for the second semester.

Many highly rated players are not willing to accept a gray shirt, something Orgeron alluded to.

“I’d hate to do that,” he said. “The guys we recruit are deserving of scholarships. It’s hard to gray shirt those guys.”

As a result, the coaches are left with four spots, an admittedly “tight” number, the coach admitted. LSU's 21-man class is ranked 12th nationally. Two of the 11 teams ranked higher than LSU (Ohio State and Notre Dame) also signed 21. No team signed more than that. The average amount signed of those top 11 teams is 18.2.

The Tigers are focused on specific positions for those four openings, including quarterback and defensive back, Orgeron said.

Targets for those spots are believed to Florida cornerback Patrick Surtain, Rummel receiver JaMarr Chase, Curtis tight end Glenn Beal, Alabama running back Harold Joiner, athlete Mario Goodrich of Missouri, Alabama quarterback James Foster, Dunham’s Michael Williams, Florida receiver Justin Watkins and Baton Rouge safety Kelvin Joseph.

“We’re still looking for a quarterback. Several quarterbacks we’re evaluating that are going to come visit, and hopefully we’re going to sign them,” he said. “We need some DBs. Obviously we have some cornerbacks (who) going to leave. We need some safeties.”

The Tigers mostly took care of their need at receiver in the early period, signing in-state wideouts Jaray Jenkins (Jena), Kenan Jones (Berwick) and Parkway’s Terrace Marshall. Marshall, the top-ranked receiver in the nation, signed with LSU on Friday, choosing the Tigers over Alabama, Texas A&M and others.

“Huge,” Orgeron called Marshall’s signing. “We’ve been recruiting Terrace for a while. (F-back coach) Steve Ensminger’s been recruiting Terrace for a while. Steve Ensminger did a tremendous job. We signed seven guys from the 318 area code. Steve and Dennis Johnson did a great job in north Louisiana.

“Terrace is a guy we’re going to count on to play right away,” Oregeron said. “He’s big, he’s physical, he’s smooth, has great hands. I think he’s going to be a tremendous receiver at LSU — right away.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.