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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron leads his team onto the field for the first half of LSU's football home opener against SLU in Tiger Stadium Saturday Sept. 8, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

As the LSU football program finished off the early signing period, Ed Orgeron's greatest takeaway was this: The Tigers didn't lose a single Louisiana player to whom they offered a scholarship.

LSU's recruiting haul — which included the nation's No. 1 cornerback (The Dunham School's Derek Stingley) and No. 2 running back (Destrehan's John Emery), according to 247Sports — followed up on a directive Orgeron had made last year.

In 2018, five of the state's top 10 recruits went somewhere other than LSU. One other thing: The nation's top cornerback at the time, Patrick Surtain, whose father attended Edna Karr High, chose Alabama on national signing day.

Orgeron pledged to be more selective with how his coaching staff spent its time at the beginning of the recruiting period, to "stay close to home" and connect with the best players in their geographic reach.

"We feel like if we do a good job in-state, we'll be very successful at LSU," Orgeron said.

Fast-forward to today, and the Tigers are close to walling off the region.

LSU filled 19 of its allotted 25 spots in December. Within that, seven of the top 10 Louisiana recruits in the 247Sports Composite rankings signed with LSU. The one player they didn't push for, University High inside linebacker Christian Harris, signed with Alabama in December.

The last remaining players on that list, Ishmael Sopsher (the nation's No. 5 defensive tackle) and Devonta Lee (the nation's No. 8 athlete), both attend Amite High — and if LSU is able to land both players, Orgeron will have earned one of his largest victories since he became the full-time head coach at the end of the 2016 season.

"It's a symbolism that's important," said Barton Simmons, 247Sports' national recruiting writer. "It's just such an important state. Very few states have that kind of talent with one school being the only (Power 5 conference) game in town. ... I think Orgeron acknowledges that Louisiana is a foundation, a cornerstone with this program. If you're rebuilding it with Louisiana kids, that really builds strong sustainability."


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The sustained success under former coach Les Miles — who oversaw seven 10-win seasons, a national championship and a runner-up finish — can be largely attributed to his sustained recruiting success in Louisiana.

The Tigers signed an average of about 7 of the top 10 in-state recruits during Miles' tenure. That reached its peak in 2016, when LSU signed 9 of 10, although Miles was subsequently fired after the Tigers started that season with a 2-2 record.

The numbers fell during the transition to Orgeron, who signed three of the state's top 10 recruits in 2017; but the Larose native has since won over Louisiana recruits, endearing them with his personality and his own lifetime love for the Tigers.

"It's a very loyal state. It's bred purple and gold," Simmons said. "(Orgeron) understands that was his charge when he was hired, and he's equipped to do that more than any coach at LSU."

If Lee and Sopsher both pick the Tigers, the LSU coaching staff will have four more scholarship spots to fill however they see fit.

So what are the remaining options?

LSU has held longtime commitments from Memphis, Tennessee, cornerback Maurice Hampton (the nation's No. 14 cornerback) and Ruston High's Ray Parker (the nation's No. 14 offensive tackle), although recent complications have clouded whether Parker will sign with the Tigers after all.

According to 247Sports, Parker may not qualify academically and could end up at a junior college. Ruston High head coach Jerrod Baugh did not return repeated calls for comment. Parker was expected to excel at tackle, but he played tight end for the Bearcats and caught 22 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns.

If Parker does not sign, tackle is still a need for LSU. Parker would be the highest-rated tackle since Austin Deculus (No. 10) signed with the Tigers two classes ago, and he'd join December signee Thomas Perry from Teurlings Catholic, the nation's No. 36 tackle.

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Maurice Hampton Jr.

Pass protection was an issue for LSU last season, when the school ranked 106th nationally with 35 sacks allowed. Deculus and Saahdiq Charles became the standard tackles when junior college transfer Badara Traore struggled to transition to FBS play. 

Hampton is expected to play football and baseball at LSU, although he could give up college athletics completely depending on where he is selected in the MLB draft in June. MLB.com has the five-tool outfielder ranked No. 27 in its top 50 draftable players. The 6-foot, 205-pounder was named Mr. Tennessee Football at the Class 3A level in 2018, an award that was also held by LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips.

Hampton would add to an already strong cornerback class at LSU, joining Stingley, Raydarious Jones of Mississippi (No. 20 cornerback in the nation) and Cordale Flott of Alabama (No. 60) to help fill in for All-American corner Greedy Williams, who left early for the NFL draft.

But the crux of the class remains on the defensive line. Orgeron has said LSU needs to bolster that group since the Tigers lost 29-0 to Alabama on Nov. 3.

The Tigers picked up a commitment Sunday from Mesa Community College's Soni Fonua, the nation's No. 5 JC defensive end, who is expected to sign Wednesday. Fonua attended Salt Lake City's East High with December signee and defensive tackle Siaki Ika.

Other options across the defensive line vary, including Charles Moore, the nation's No. 6 strongside defensive end, who decommitted from Mississippi State in January. The 6-foot-4, 268-pound four-star prospect from Louisville, Mississippi, would help bolster the edge-rusher position, which will lose some depth after next season.

LSU defensive end Rashard Lawrence, who was named the Fiesta Bowl's defensive MVP, helped LSU with its depth when he announced he will returni for his senior year in January.