Georgia LSU Football

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron arrives before an NCAA college football against Georgia in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton) ORG XMIT: LAMH102

Ed Orgeron didn't name him.

Nor did LSU's football coach list the rest of the four defensive linemen, who like Amite High's Ishmael Sopsher, didn't sign with the Tigers on National Signing Day Wednesday.

After signing two defensive tackles during the early signing period, Orgeron emphasized that LSU's top need was still "Defensive line. Defensive line. Defensive line."

Bolstering the trenches had been the crux of Orgeron's recruiting speeches ever since LSU lost to Alabama 29-0 on Nov. 3. Just what did he think about not landing the linemen he wanted?

"I really don't care," Orgeron said Wednesday afternoon at a signing day news conference inside Tiger Stadium. "We got the guys we want. I'm not worrying about the guys we didn't get. I do believe that we gave it all we had on all the guys. We did it the right way. We went as hard as we could."

Sopsher, the nation's No. 5 defensive tackle per 247Sports, chose Alabama. Three Mississippi defensive linemen — Charles Moore (Auburn), Nathan Pickering (Mississippi State) and Byron Young (Alabama) — all went elsewhere.

Sopsher was the one that hurt.

While the LSU coaching staff was trying to get the other linemen to flip commitments, they had been with the 6-foot-3, 334-pound Sopsher from the beginning of his recruitment — smack-dab in the middle of a recruiting battle with rival Alabama.


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The Tigers were able to land Sopsher's teammate, Devonta Lee, the nation's No. 8 athlete and Louisiana's No. 10 overall player.

Lee is the first player that LSU has signed from Amite since 2002 with Lester Ricard, a quarterback who ended up transferring before he ever played. Orgeron was excited about Lee, because LSU hadn't "had much success out there."

Lee's addition to LSU's 2019 recruiting class meant Orgeron and staff nabbed eight of the top 10 players in Louisiana, which has only been done three other times since 2002.

Counting December signees like Dunham's Derek Stingley, the nation's top corner, and Destrehan's John Emery, the No. 2 running back — players whom Orgeron said "everybody in the country was coming after" — the LSU signing class finished No. 5 in the nation according to 247Sports, No. 4 in the SEC.

It's LSU's highest national recruiting ranking in Orgeron's tenure.

But because of the split signing dates, the spotlight was on Sopsher and the defensive line, and February will mostly be remembered as a time when the Tigers made the most of what remained.

LSU finished its class with four defensive linemen, including December signees Siaki Ika, the nation's No. 13 defensive tackle, and Haynesville High's Joseph Evans, the nation's No. 55 tackle.

Two more signed their letters of intent on Wednesday. That included Mesa Community College transfer Soni Fonua, a 6-foot-4, 264-pound defensive end who committed Sunday.

Then, a few hours after Sopsher announced he was signing with Alabama, LSU announced it had filled its final scholarship spot with three-star defensive end Desmond Little.

Orgeron called Little, the nation's No. 56 weak-side defensive end, a "diamond in the rough," saying the 6-5, 210-pound Alabama native silently committed to LSU "a long time ago."

Orgeron said Fonua, the nation's No. 5 junior-college defensive end, reminded him of former LSU defensive end Lewis Neal — someone who can play both inside and outside in the Tigers' 3-4 defensive scheme.

He lauded Little's athleticism, pointing out he was a track athlete, who could perhaps be a pass rusher like former outside linebacker Arden Key.

Orgeron wanted to improve on LSU's pass rush, which ranked 32nd in the nation with 34 sacks after edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson tore his ACL in the season opener.

But Orgeron seemed to know ahead of time that the coaching staff might have been too late with some of the defensive linemen they were unable to flip.

"Again, our priority was defensive line, and some of the guys we were recruiting didn't come," Orgeron said.

So Orgeron said he called Jay Ward, a Georgia native and the nation's No. 51 corner, Monday night and told him he had a scholarship available.

Ward helped fill the needs in the secondary, with All-American cornerback Greedy Williams leaving for the NFL draft and graduate transfer Terrence Alexander's expired eligibility.

The Tigers were also able to nab two-sport star Maurice Hampton, the nation's No. 14 cornerback, who will play baseball and football at LSU.

Even the recent complications to get Ray Parker, a tight end/offensive tackle from Ruston, academically eligible got sorted out.

Still, overall, there wasn't as much recruiting fanfare for the Tigers in February as there was in December.

"If those (December signees) get overlooked, it doesn't get overlooked by us," Orgeron said. "It's what you did for me lately. Everybody forgets about December. But we know that we have an outstanding class, a hand-picked class by us."