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From left, LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda look on as head coach Ed Orgeron addresses the crowd after last year's signing day.

Ed Orgeron has acquired recruiting advice from many of his bosses along the way.

At Miami, Jimmy Johnson taught Orgeron how to evaluate and identify talent. At Southern California, Pete Carroll showed him the importance of tilling the local area.

In this recruiting cycle, however, it is Paul Pasqualoni’s advice that will come in handy.

Pasqualoni, then the head coach at Syracuse, introduced Orgeron in the 1990s to junior recruiting, a practice Pasqualoni borrowed from then-Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Nowadays, junior recruiting is known as normal recruiting: offering scholarships to high school juniors.

“Joe Pa was doing all the early recruiting at Penn State,” Orgeron said. “This was when I learned junior recruiting. Syracuse started it, and we brought it to California and then brought it to the SEC.”

By the end of Wednesday, LSU’s 2018 signing class is expected to be nearly complete, with 15-plus commitments signing letters of intent during the inaugural early signing period. So what happens afterward?

A practice Orgeron learned 20 years ago: junior recruiting.

The coach plans to focus on building his next recruiting class, mining what is expected to be a strong haul in 2019. Orgeron will also targeting a small group of uncommitted prospects to fill five to eight open spots in the 2018 class.

“You don’t have to worry about 70-80 percent of your class, because they’re already signed. That will be just a sigh of relief for coaches,” said Shea Dixon, reporter for 247Sports’ Geaux247.com. “So often in January you might be after five to six guys, but you spend 60 percent of your time going in-home and hosting kids already committed.”

The pre-Christmas effects of the early signing period are obvious and have been well-documented: quicker coaching firings and subsequent hirings; coaching staffs juggling bowl or playoff practice with critical recruiting periods; and coaches giving some commitments an ultimatum — sign now to secure your spot or risk it by waiting until February, when a spot may not exist.

The post-Christmas effects of the early signing date have not yet played out, but they are predictable.

With schools expecting to sign all or most of their commitments, the final six weeks of the recruiting calendar turns into a fight for a handful of highly rated prospects.

For example, half of 247Sports’ top 20 prospects in the nation are not committed to a team. Many of them are delaying any announcement until the traditional signing period — either undecided on a school or wishing to be courted by them during January official visitor weekends.

Like normal, programs will use the final three weeks of January — the open contact period — to lure the nation’s best players.

This year, the difference is the size of the pool of players.

“The player pool is going to be so dramatically shrunk to what it was before,” said Tom Luginbill, a recruiting reporter and sideline analyst for ESPN. “It’ll be like everybody sitting around at the card table, but you can see everybody’s cards. There are no secrets. Your board has shrunk. Options have shrunk. You’re recruiting to your remaining number. Now you’re recruiting your remaining number and know exactly who it is and likely know everybody else’s too.”

For LSU, many believe the Tigers are zeroed in on eight prospects to potentially complete the class after this 72-hour signing period passes: running backs Harold Joiner of Alabama and Pooka Williams of Hanhville; defensive backs Patrick Surtain and Scotlandville Magnet’s Kelvin Joseph; Rummel receiver JaMarr Chase; quarterback James Foster of Alabama; Dunham athlete Michael Williams; and Curtis tight end Glenn Beal.

Six of the eight are ranked in the top 15 at their positions, and Orgeron and staff plan to spend January securing their commitments — with an eye, of course, to 2019.

“If (we) sign the number I expect to sign, it gives you time to target the big-time guys and spend more time with them,” Orgeron said. “(You) get one day to see them a week. You can go to (their high) school for the whole day and hang out instead of going to (see) two or three guys (a day).

“It gives an advantage to junior recruiting. We said 2019 is a great year in Louisiana. You can see by the new reports coming out.”

Those reports? They are rankings. Seven of the state’s top-10 players in 2019 are among the top 10 nationally at their positions. Three are in the top five: Amite defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher, Southern Lab guard Kardell Thomas and Dunham cornerback Derek Stingley. Two of Louisiana’s top-10 2019 crop are committed to the Tigers: Thomas and Southern Lab running back Tyrion Davis.

Junior recruiting, though, takes a back seat to filling out a 2018 class among a star-studded group of players who pass on signing early.

Recruiting experts expect the drama of the traditional signing day to still exist. There will still be shocking, last-minute flips and televised announcements, but fewer athletes will sign in February. That’s not necessarily a good thing for major college teams.

Power 5 programs rely heavily on late signings, a way to fill out their class with a lower-caliber player who may be committed to a less-tradition-rich school. LSU, in fact, executed something like this in 2015 with tight end Foster Moreau (Tulane) and 2016 with Lloyd Cushenberry (Mississippi State).

“Let’s say a school has a kid already going to be dangling out there until January, and that kid is committed to Troy, and Missouri losses 3-4 guys (near signing day), and they swoop in and get that kid. Can’t do that anymore,” Luginbill said, assuming in his example that the kid signed in the early period with Troy.

Alabama coach Nick Saban is noticing the Troys of the world pressing for their commitments to sign to avoid a major school’s last-minute plucking. 

“I see more players getting pressured by some schools to sign early so that they don't get an opportunity from maybe a bigger school later, which I don't think is in the player's best interest,” Saban told reporters last week.

“Because a guy may have an opportunity to go to a place that he's always wanted to go to, or an SEC school, and he's getting pressured by somebody else to sign early.”


LSU top targets after the early signing period

The Tigers plan to sign more than 15 commitments in the early signing period starting Wednesday, but what happens next? LSU will zero in on a group of prospects to fill out its class of 25 signees.

 Player

 Hometown (school)

 Nat. position rank^

 RB Harold Joiner

 Birmingham, Alabama (Mt. Brook)

 6th

 RB Pooka Williams

 Boutte (Hanhville)

 12th *

 CB Patrick Surtain

 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (American Heritage)

 1st

 WR JaMarr Chase

 Metairie (Rummel)

 15th

 QB James Foster

 Montgomery, Alabama (Lanier)

 13th **

 ATH Michael Williams

 Baton Rouge (Dunham)

 77th

 TE Glenn Beal

 New Orleans (John Curtis)

 27th

 S Kelvin Joseph

 Baton Rouge (Scotlandville Magnet)

 4th

^Rankings from 247Sports composite
*Ranked among those labeled an “all-purpose back”
**Ranked among those labeled a “dual-threat QB”

Top junior (2019 prospects) in Louisiana

The 2019 cycle in Louisiana is rich with talent. Seven of the top-10 players in the state are ranked in the top-10 nationally at their position.

 State

 rank

 Player

 Hometown (school)

 Position rank  /overall rank^

 1

 DT Ishmael Sopsher

 Amite (Amite)

 1st/2nd

 2

 OG Kardell Thomas*

 Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)

 2nd/23rd

 3

 WR Devonta Lee

 Amite (Amite)

 9th/44th

 4

 WR Trey Palmer

 Kentwood (Kentwood)

 10th/44th

 5

 CB Derek Stingley

 Baton Rouge (Dunham)

 4th/75th

 6

 RB John Emery

 Destrehan (Destrehan)

 6th/85th

 7

 CB Devin Bush

 New Orleans (Edna Karr)

 9th/121st

 8

 RB Tyrion Davis*

 Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)

 15th/199th

 9

 OT Ray Parker

 Ruston (Ruston)

 25th/217th

 10

 RB Charvis Thornton

 Baton Rouge (Southern Lab)

 17th/218th

^Rankings from 247Sports composite
*Committed to LSU; All others uncommitted

‘Hold That Tiger’

LSU plans a national signing day show called “Hold That Tiger,” which will stream live on LSUSports.net, WatchESPN and Facebook/LSUFootball starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday and running through noon.

The show is hosted by ESPN reporter and Barstool Sports contributor Julie Stewart-Binks. She’ll be joined during the broadcast by Jacob Hester and Marlon Favorite. The trio will offer analysis on each of LSU’s signees. Coordinators Matt Canada, Dave Aranda and athletic director Joe Alleva will be featured interviewees during the show. An interview with Orgeron will wrap up the show.


Two signing days?

The NCAA this spring created an early signing period, allowing high school seniors to sign with programs during the normal signing date for junior college players. Prospects can ink with schools over a 72-hour period starting Wednesday and running through Friday. The traditional signing period, the first Wednesday in February, still exists. Prospects who choose not to sign this week can sign Feb. 7.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.