The next D.J. Chark could be in Baton Rouge this weekend.
He could be running around the Charles McClendon practice fields, an unknown high school player wowing coaches at LSU’s elite prospect camp, starting Thursday and running through Saturday.
That was Chark four years ago — an unheralded, skinny speedster from Alexandria who stole the heart of then-head coach Les Miles during a similar camp. Miles offered him a scholarship during that camp, a move that stunned recruiting reporters and fans alike.
“All the sudden, they offered and took Chark and nobody knew who he was,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting reporter for 247Sports.com.
Maybe another diamond in the rough is uncovered on the McClendon practice fields and develops, like Chark, into a potential all-conference receiver.
LSU expects more than 500 high school prospects at this weekend’s elite camp. Some of them will are highly regarded four- and five-star players who already hold offers from LSU or have already committed. Many others will be like Chark was on that June day in 2013.
Many didn’t even know the name of the then-three-star receiver and defensive back from central Louisiana.
Chark’s commitment sparked a most fitting headline on the SBNation.com’s fan-run LSU website.
“D.J. Chark commits!” it read. “Ahem, who?”
Chark, projected as the Tigers’ top receiver this season and a future NFL draft pick, wasn’t the only diamond found recently on the LSU practice fields. Current head coach Ed Orgeron, then the defensive line coach, spotted K’Lavon Chaisson while at a June prospect camp in 2015.
Orgeron and Miles offered Chaisson. To that point, he had never played a down of high school football. Chaisson evolved into a dominant edge rusher in Houston and signed with the Tigers in February as a five-star talent, joining the program who gave him his first college offer.
“I like to be first to offer,” Orgeron said earlier this spring. “If I see somebody that we like ... that was a great example there: K’Lavon Chaisson and (nose guard and) Tyler Shelvin. They both became four- and five-stars.”
This weekend, maybe it’s a 315-pound defensive tackle or a 6-foot-2, pocket-passing quarterback. It could be a brawny running back — LSU needs one of those — or a shifty outside linebacker.
That’s what these camps are all about, recruiting gurus say — uncovering unknown talent, offering scholarships to highly recruited players and getting commitments from decorated targets.
Most of all, Orgeron enjoys the former.
“I like going out and not necessarily getting five-stars all of the time,” he said, “but getting the diamond in the rough.”
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So who will it be this weekend? Who knows? That’s the point.
The top targets and big names are known, however.
LSU will welcome two Florida players at a priority position for 2018: running backs Chris Curry and Lavonte Valentine, both three-star prospects ranked in the top 30 at their position. Many High’s AJ Carter, the No. 33 tailback in the 2018 class and a UCLA commitment, will be here, too, and perhaps he will get an offer from his home-state school.
Orgeron hopes to sign two running backs during this cycle, replenishing a group that’s expected to lose draft-eligible juniors in back-to-back years (Leonard Fournette, 2016, and Derrius Guice, 2017).
Although the Tigers' Class of 2018, with 18 commitments, ranks No. 3 in the nation, they do not have a running back.
“They’re inviting in a handful of guys to add to the running back class,” Dixon said.
Maybe that happens this weekend. Or maybe LSU secures the one quarterback it expects to sign in 2018.
Carter Bradley, a three-star pro-style quarterback from Jacksonville, Florida, plans to participate in this weekend’s camp. The No. 29 pocket passer in the 2018 class, Bradley has offers from Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Wisconsin, among others.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada gets his shot to see the 6-3, 200-pound Carter this week.
“Is there a quarterback who can come in and throw well and get an offer?” Scarborough asks. “Or is the type of quarterback they want an exceptional quarterback? Would they take a project type of quarterback? We just don’t know.”
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Two top wideouts will be here, too: Parkway High’s Terrace Marshall, the nation’s No. 1 receiver in 2018, and Rummel’s JaMarr Chase, a top-10 player in Louisiana. LSU is fighting TCU for both players, according to 247Sports.com’s projections.
“They’re inviting all the names in for this one,” Dixon said.
It’s the big one, and it’s the last one — a change from previous years.
Under Miles, LSU held its largest camp in July. Orgeron is holding his camps in June only. The first-year coach is giving his staff much of the month of July off before preseason camp begins.
New NCAA rules passed this spring restrict camp days from 30 to 10. Already this month, LSU has held five other camps: an offensive line and defensive line camp, a youth clinic, skills camp, kicking camp and, just last weekend, a 7-on-7/linemen camp.
A potential diamond in the rough was discovered at the latest camp, Scarborough said.
Orgeron offered a little-known tight end out of Richwood High in Monroe: Geor’quarius Spivey, a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder whose only previous offer came from Mississippi State while he attended the Bulldogs’ camp.
“That kid was mainly a basketball player,” Scarborough said. “Goes to Mississippi State, runs a fast 40, gets offered, next day is at LSU and gets an offer. Now Bama is trying to get him to their camp.”
Chark was in a similar position. He had offers from Southeastern Louisiana, Southern and Memphis before attending LSU's camp. Texas A&M followed the Tigers' offer.
Brad Chesshir, now an assistant at Nashville High in Nashville, Arkansas, coached Chark at Alexandria.
"With D.J., the thing that kind of made recruiters so hesitant was his size," Chesshir said. "D.J. was growing in the weight room, but nobody knew exactly how fast D.J. was until he came out and attended some of those camps and combines. Once they saw his speed and work ethic, there was no doubt college coaches wanted him."