lsuricefootball.111818_HS_056

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron smiles before leading his team down Victory Hill before kickoff between LSU and Rice in the Tigers' final regular season home game, Saturday, November 17, 2018, on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La.

HOUSTON — Moving from the spicy odor of boiled Louisiana crawfish to the smooth barbecue smoke of southeast Texas, Ed Orgeron spent Monday in LSU's out-of-state recruiting hotbed of Houston.

This is where Orgeron had found one of the Tigers' best defenders in unanimous All-American safety Grant Delpit, a Katrina transplant who spent his first three high school seasons at Lamar High before attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

And in the large east Houston suburb of North Shore, LSU had signed outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson and safety Eric Monroe off arguably one of the best high school defenses in Texas history.

Both led North Shore High to the Class 5A state title in 2015, when the Mustangs held teams to 17.5 points per game.

Orgeron told a semicircle of reporters at the Houston Touchdown Club that the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Chaisson — who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the 2018 season opener against Miami — was "one of the top players in the country" and is "very healthy this year."

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Monroe will battle with Todd Harris for the starting free safety position after seeing minimal playing time in a 2018 season when he did not record a statistic.

The North Shore legacy could come in handy for Orgeron and LSU, which is in a deep recruiting battle for the nation's No. 1 overall recruit, Zachary Evans, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back who is entering his senior season at North Shore High.


Can't see video below? Click here.


Evans is uncommitted, and he released his top five programs on Twitter on May 28 — a list that included LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

LSU, which has the No. 3 2020 recruiting class per 247Sports with 15 commitments, also has Houston pledges from Cy Creek High linebacker Josh White (No. 8 overall inside linebacker) and Shadow Creek High defensive end Alex Bryant (No. 12 weak-side defensive end).

And outside of North Shore's Evans, there's a bevy of Houston talent that has received scholarship offers from the LSU coaching staff, which Orgeron said has three coaches devoted to recruiting the gulf coast's largest city.

"I'd rather have all our recruiters here," Orgeron said. "That's the most we have in any city out of state. We treat it like an in-state area. We go to every school. Obviously we can't get everybody, but we want to get our share. We're doing good again this year. There's some big interest. Obviously, there's some great players. Some of the best in the country."

And, oh yes, there's that game coming around the corner. That potential top 10 showdown with Texas on Sept. 7 in Austin, which ABC has slotted for primetime at 6:30 p.m.

The stakes are as high as they possibly could be for a regular-season game between the storied teams from the bordering states, which have battled on the gridiron and the recruiting trail for decades.

LSU and Texas are returning to peak form, having won New Year's Six bowl games last season.

The Tigers recorded their first 10-win season since 2013 with its Fiesta Bowl victory over Central Florida, and Texas recorded its first 10-win season since 2009 with a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia — a game after which the Longhorns' Heisman candidate quarterback, Sam Ehlinger, announced on national television from the postgame podium that Texas was "baaaaaaack."

LSU hasn't played Texas since the 2002 Cotton Bowl, which the Longhorns won 35-20. It's been long enough ago for today's generation of players to not have even been aware of that game.

Some recruits may hardly remember when Texas A&M split with its in-state rival and joined the Southeastern Conference, creating an annual Western Division matchup with LSU that Orgeron said "adds a little spice" to the Tigers' upcoming game with Texas.

But June is recruiting time in college football, and that's the most important ramification Orgeron could consider on Monday afternoon.

"It's good that we're playing UT for the first time (in a while)," Orgeron said. "Obviously playing them in Austin is going to be a tremendous challenge. But it does some good (in) recruiting, and obviously Texas A&M, we play them every year. ... As many times as we can play these teams, it's going to give us exposure in Texas."

Before Orgeron left for Houston, he and the LSU coaching staff welcomed in 19 new freshman from its 2018 signing class, which ranked No. 5 nationally, that moved into campus over the weekend.

Orgeron said two freshmen did not arrive with the rest of the class: John Ehret inside linebacker Donte Starks and junior college transfer Soni Fonua.

Orgeron said Starks (nation's No. 10-rated inside linebacker) and Fonua (No. 4 JUCO strong-side defensive end) both still have academic work to complete before they can arrive on campus.

The entire team will now be under strength coach Tommy Moffitt's summer program, and Orgeron said they will start with a running test Tuesday to see where how conditioned the players are.

"We're about to see how hard they work," Orgeron said. "Some of them are going to do well. Some of them aren't going to be ready for the intensity. We're excited to see our whole team, first time we'll see our whole team back together."