Ed Orgeron reached beneath his podium in Tiger Stadium’s Lawton Room on Monday and pulled out an imaginary cellphone.
A reporter had just asked him what impact LSU’s new pass-happy offense has had on recruiting. Apparently, the question delighted the man who is always thinking about recruiting, so he thought it best to act out his response.
“So here’s me texting a skill player,” Orgeron said. “You ready?
“’Hey, this is Coach O. Can you call me?’
In years past, when LSU’s offensive identity was not far removed from that of Paul Dietzel’s Wing-T — or a Model-T for that matter — the response was often silence.
Orgeron gave an example of that, too.
“’Hey, this is Coach O. Can you call me?’
“No answer,” Orgeron said with a grin.
“There is high interest” these days, Orgeron said, especially in the wake of LSU’s prime-time 45-38 win at Texas two weeks ago. “Being on ESPN GameDay, being a national TV game like that and having a quarterback (Joe Burrow) doing what he’s doing, there’s high interest across the country in our offense and coming to play for the Tigers.”
College recruiting is a constant sell job, and few play the game better than Orgeron no matter what the circumstances.
But he and his coaching staff definitely have some eye-grabbing numbers to show recruits:
• Third-down conversions: 57.6 percent (No. 1 SEC, No. 8 FBS)
• Fourth-down conversions: 100 percent (No. 1 in FBS)
• First downs per game: 27 (No. 1 SEC, No. 9 FBS)
• Passing offense: 436.3 yards per game (No. 1 SEC, No. 2 FBS)
• Red-zone scoring: 100 percent (No. 1 FBS)
• Scoring offense: 55.0 points per game (No. 1 SEC, No. 3 FBS)
• Passing efficiency: 209.2 rating (No. 1 SEC, No. 5 FBS)
It is almost impossible to put into words what a sea change LSU’s pass-first-run-later offense has been. It as though the national language of the United States switched overnight from English to Urdu.
Whatever it is, 24/7 Sports recruiting analyst Shea Dixon said recruits are eating up what LSU is saying.
“Twenty-one days can change a lot of things,” Dixon said, a reference to the start of the season.
“They’ve sold these offensive recruits for well over a year on the idea that things were changing, that they were moving to this RPO/tempo offense and would spread the ball around. When kids hear a recruiting pitch from teams, often times it doesn’t match what the offseason chatter from the coaches say it will be. But they promised the kids a dynamic, wide-open offense, and it’s resonated with recruits.”
LSU’s 2019-20 recruiting class, ranked No. 2 nationally by Rivals, No. 3 by 24/7 Sports and No. 4 by ESPN, is pretty well set. Though Dixon said a couple of commitments could change, the Tigers already have 23 pledges for their class of 25 players, with the major needs still along the lines.
That commitment list includes two four-star quarterbacks — T.J. Finley of Pontchatoula and Max Johnson of Watkinsville, Georgia — and what Dixon calls the nation’s top receiver class for this cycle with four commits. That list includes five-star Rakim Jarrett of Washington, D.C., Kayshon Boutte from New Iberia Westgate and Koy Moore from Archbishop Rummel.
“For this senior class,” Dixon said, “they just need to hold on to what they’ve got.”
The biggest impact of the new offense will be in the years to come, he said.
“Younger kids look at LSU now like they do Oklahoma or Clemson or Alabama or Georgia,” Dixon said. “Teams that throw it around and get a lot of people involved. LSU has been able to shake that negative recruiting pitch that if you go to LSU they’re just going to run the football.
“LSU had always been able to get skill players, but mostly from Louisiana. Now it’s more of a national brand.”
While the new offense may be playing well with the quarterback and receiver prospects, what about the running backs? Dixon said more recruits are looking for the Alvin Kamara/New Orleans Saints type model, for a school where they won’t be expected to tote the ball 30 times a game and will be more involved in the passing offense.
“Three yards and a cloud of dust isn’t what kids want to do,” Dixon said. “They don’t want to just run into stacked boxes but catch it and run it out of the gun and be out wide (as a slot receiver). That’s the new pitch. That’s what good teams are doing, and LSU is part of that group.”
So if you’re a blue-chip offensive player and you ring Orgeron and the call goes to voicemail, leave a message.
He’ll get back to you. But chances are he’s talking to another player a lot like you.