For the past 18 months, the 6-foot-6 frame of star high school quarterback Feleipe Franks seemed as prevalent on LSU’s campus as any current football player.
Franks frequented coaches’ offices. He watched practices and attended LSU’s yearly summer camps.
It was commonplace to see Franks’ gangly, tall body walking down the staircase in the lobby of LSU’s football operations building.
Franks even barked out LSU play-calls during a recruiting camp at the school over the summer, said Jeremy Crabtree, recruiting reporter for ESPN.com.
“He already new the terminology and schemes. ... I had a good source telling me that. That’s how entrenched he was,” Crabtree said. “He was the guy. He was walking around campus like he was running the place.”
That’s no longer the case. Franks’ decommitment, and subsequent commitment to Florida last month, has left LSU’s coaching staff empty-handed. The Tigers have no quarterback committed in the 2016 class two months before national signing day Feb. 3.
They’re on the hunt for a QB, searching for a prospect to replace Franks — a guy ranked at one point as the top dual-threat QB in the 2016 class.
It’s not the best time to be looking.
First, the contact period, during which coaches can visit prospects, ends Sunday. A dead period — no face-to-face contact with prospects — begins Monday and extends through Jan. 13.
Second, “it’s slim pickings,” said Crabtree.
“All of the truly elite quarterbacks are already off the board,” he said.
Third, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s contract expires at the end of March. Cameron is in charge of recruiting quarterbacks. He signed starter Brandon Harris. He helped land Franks’ commitment before the quarterback dropped his 18-month verbal pledge Nov. 23, committing to Florida a week later.
As recently as this week, LSU attempted to regain Franks, a Florida native who plans to enroll early with the Gators in January. Cameron visited Franks on Wednesday night — a few hours after the quarterback, in a video interview with SECCountry.com, strongly reinforced his commitment to UF.
Franks visited Florida over the weekend, a further sign that he doesn’t plan to return to LSU.
“He’s made it pretty clear he’s going to Florida,” said Chad Simmons, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.
So what now?
“That’s the million dollar question,” Simmons said. “I really don’t have an answer. They put the eggs back into Franks’ basket, hoping they can get him back. They’ll probably sit down in December and evaluate who they have a chance to flip or pursue.”
The Tigers’ 2016 haul is currently ranked No. 2 nationally. It includes 17 commitments, and LSU will likely sign as many as 28, said Shea Dixon, recruiting reporter for Geaux247.com, the 247Sports’ affiliate covering LSU.
Of the 17 commitments in the class, seven play linebacker or on the defensive line — an area of need for a team that has lost a host of front-seven players to dismissals, transfers and early NFL departures.
There’s still more to come as the staff heads down the final, most important leg of the recruiting marathon.
“Getting defensive linemen and linebackers has been their big priority,” Dixon said. “They’ve done a good job of it, too. They need one or two more linebackers and one or two more defensive linemen.”
LSU has at least one player committed at every single position — except running back and quarterback, a bugaboo spot the last couple of years.
LSU’s passing game — headed by Anthony Jennings last season and Harris this year — has been one of the nation’s worst. The Tigers have averaged 167 passing yards per game in the past 24 games.
Of 128 teams, they finished 116th last year and 111th this year in passing. Cameron’s quarterbacks in 2014 and 2015 combined to complete just 51 percent of their passes.
For now, Harris and Purdue transfer Danny Etling are expected to battle for the starting job in the spring.
What’s still unclear: Will they have competition from a true freshman?
“There needs to be a quarterback in the class,” Crabtree said. “They’ve got feelers out to committed kids. They’re kicking the tires.”
LSU offered scholarships to seven quarterbacks in this class, according to 247Sports.com. Many of those offers came months ago. Six of the seven are ranked in the top seven at their quarterback position — dual-threat or pro-style.
All seven are currently committed elsewhere: Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Coastal Carolina and Louisville.
Will Cameron and the staff push to flip any of those guys? Probably, Dixon said. Dwayne Haskins, a four-star Maryland commitment from that state, has shown interest in LSU since the Tigers offered. He’s related to LSU freshman cornerback Kevin Toliver, Dixon said, and Maryland just underwent a head coaching change, firing Randy Edsall and hiring D.J. Durkin.
“They’ll start with Dwayne Haskins,” Dixon said. “There are some connections there. He’s starting to look around again. He’s the main one. They’ll work down from there to guys who they haven’t offered.”
Haskings seems to be Plan B — something the Tigers never expected to use.
National recruiting reporters say Franks’ decommitment blindsided Cameron and the LSU staff, and Dixon said Franks requested that he be the only quarterback in the Tigers class.
“That’s the sticky situation,” Dixon said. “They put all of their eggs into Franks’ basket.”
Simmons added: “He had been committed for a year and a half. He showed no signs leading up to October that he was looking anywhere else. It happened fast. Visited Florida a couple of weeks in a row. Then he flips. ...
“It’s a big loss. When you have a kid like that recruiting for a year and a half, it hits you pretty hard. They likely didn’t have a Plan B at that time.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @DellengerAdv.