Signing Day Preview Football

In this Dec. 18, 2019 photo, Hammond's Jordan Burch hugs his mom, Henri Burch, after announcing that he would attend South Carolina to play football during a signing day event in Columbia. S.C. The-6-foot-5, 275-pound Burch is a potential immediate-impact player out for the Gamecocks. When the early signing period opened in December he announced he would stay close to home. But he didn't actually sign, leaving open the possibility LSU could be his final destination. (Tracy Glanz/The State via AP)

The friendly bounce.

That’s what LSU is looking for Wednesday with the start of the traditional national signing period, this important mile marker between January’s national championship and whatever future awaits this now flush-with-success program.

Traditionally the benefits of a national title are felt in the next recruiting cycle, not the current one. LSU can and should be expected to cast a nationwide net for the 2020-21 class and bring in a boatload of prized players.

It’s a long way to signing day next year, but Ed Orgeron and his retooled coaching staff already appear headed down that road. For the class of 2021, LSU has commitments from the nation’s top outside linebacker, five-star prospect Raesjon Davis from California, and four-star wide receiver Deion Smith, the top-rated prospect in Mississippi.

But back to this year. So much of the recruiting class, and recruits' choices, are already baked in by this point. LSU, like all the national powers, signed the vast bulk of its class in the still-relatively-new early signing period in December. The Tigers go into Wednesday with 19 signees and a maximum of six spots left open.

The hope for signing day surprises has more often than not left LSU recruitniks with national disappointment. Call it national sigh-ing day. Last year, LSU pulled in a top-five class nationally, but there was the big letdown at the end as five-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher of Amite signed with Alabama (Sophsher, by the way, redshirted in 2019). In 2018, it was Fort Lauderdale cornerback Patrick Surtain, who appeared headed to Baton Rouge but made an 11th-hour turn toward Tuscaloosa.

His reasoning: “They win championships, and I want to be part of that.”

Well, LSU won championships in 2019 and is now poised as an existential threat to Alabama’s long run of Southeastern Conference and national dominance.

But to win in the fall, you have to win in recruiting. Recruiting is the bonfire that constantly must be stoked for a program to remain red-hot.

Currently No. 4 in the 247Sports.com national composite rankings, LSU already appears to have a top-tier class locked up. And the Tigers look to pick up a couple of sure signees Wednesday in Lancaster, Texas, running back Kevontre Bradford and Magnolia, Mississippi, wide receiver Alex Adams. But what happens beyond that is going to go a long way toward determining how much of a bounce LSU may have gotten out of that just completed 15-and-eaux season.

The biggest question mark on the LSU board is five-star defensive tackle Jordan Burch out of Columbia, South Carolina. He committed to the hometown Gamecocks but didn’t sign in December, drawing out the signing day drama to the breaking point. An 11th-hour recruiting visit to LSU spurred the Tigers’ hopes, but Burch then followed with a visit to South Carolina as well.

LSU already has signed defensive linemen in University High’s Jaquelin Roy, Alexandria Senior High’s Jacobian Guillory, B.J. Ojulari out of Marietta, Georgia (teammate of five-star tight end Arik Gilbert), junior college transfer Ali Gaye and Trussville, Alabama’s Eric Taylor.

But Burch, the nation’s No. 8-ranked overall prospect, would take things to another level for the Tigers. And LSU needs more bodies on the defensive line as new coordinator Bo Pelini is expected to switch the defense back from Dave Aranda’s 3-4 base to a 4-3.

With Burch — and let’s throw in another defensive tackle, former Tigers commitment McKinnley Jackson from Lucedale, Mississippi — the LSU intrigue is on high alert.

Add to all this the strong possibility that Orgeron and his staff will decide to leave one or more recruiting spots open. You never know when the next Joe Burrow could be lurking out there looking to transfer (OK, there isn’t going to be another Burrow, but someone who can really help the Tigers). Or, as noted by Shea Dixon of 247Sports.com, the rules even allow LSU to carry over unused scholarships from this recruiting class to 2020-21.

Aranda, of course, left to become head coach at Baylor, and that could hurt LSU’s prospects of a late recruiting grab. But long-term, LSU is going to be fine.

A group of signees that pack a Wednesday wallop will allow the Tigers to warm themselves by that national championship campfire just a bit longer. But if players like Burch don’t show, it doesn’t have to mean a repeat of the bitter disappointment of years past.

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Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com