The recruiting cycle is filled with triumph and pain for every school.
For LSU, the euphoria came in June when the Tigers swept seven commitments into their 2018-19 class. It was a glittering haul capped by a pledge from cornerback Derek Stingley of The Dunham School, rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect.
In a critical year for Ed Orgeron and the LSU football program, the on-the-field results are still to be determined.
July for LSU is ending with a clunk, the hard landing of bitter disappointment with the announcement Sunday by Destrehan’s John Emery, a five-star prospect ranked No. 2 nationally at his position, that he committed to Georgia over the weekend. Monday also brought news that Cord Sandberg, a baseball player with a Hall of Fame surname who never made it out of the minors, committed to play quarterback for Auburn over LSU after signing with Mississippi State in 2013. Auburn offered him a scholarship, LSU wanted him as a preferred walk-on, and apparently that was that.
There are, of course, more than six months for Emery — or any commitment — to change their minds. One only has to think to February when Patrick Surtain flipped to Alabama after four long years in the LSU column to know how binding commitments are not.
But Emery is a painful pill for LSU to swallow if he makes good his intent to leave on that midnight Georgia train.
According to recruiting gurus like 247Sports.com’s Shea Dixon, Emery always looked like he was eager to go out of state. Mississippi State was considered a major player for him until recent days.
Georgia’s recent success may have been the deciding factor. Those Bulldogs are coming off a Southeastern Conference championship and were one play away from a national title. They are picked to win the SEC East again and will almost certainly be in the top five of the preseason polls.
LSU has 18 commitments for the Class of 2019, but some heavy hitters are still out there, and the Tigers still have areas of need.
Those are the kinds of credentials LSU aspires to again. But the Tigers find themselves in the Catch-22 of recruiting. You need major success to land the top players, but you can’t have success until you land the top players.
Not to say LSU’s recruiting is bad. Though the Tigers’ ranking has slipped a bit in recent days, LSU still has the No. 8 class, according to the 24/7 Sports composite. And the Tigers already have a commitment from four-star running back Tyrion Davis of Southern Lab (No. 7 nationally) and are pursuing the player ranked right in front of him, Noah Cain of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. That would be a one-two punch LSU recruitniks could celebrate.
But the LSU misses at running back the last couple of recruiting cycles are accumulating. The Tigers missed in 2017 on Cam Akers from Mississippi, a five-star prospect who signed with Florida State, then tried to double back on Jennings’ Travis Etienne, a capable four-star back who by then had cast his lot with Clemson. The only tailback LSU ended up signing was Clyde Edwards-Helaire. A former three-star prospect, he enters camp this weekend prepared to do battle with senior Nick Brossette and incoming freshmen Chris Curry and Tae Provens to be the Tigers’ featured tailback. Whoever wins, though, will have a difficult time filling the cleats of the stars of the past few seasons for LSU: Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
There was good recruiting news, of a sort, for LSU on Monday. Ishmael Sopsher of Amite, the nation’s top-ranked defensive tackle, named his top seven teams, a list headed by LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M. Those three are considered favorites among the relative equals of Sopsher’s finalists, with LSU considered the favorite of those three.
After spending part of his weekend with the LSU Tigers, Cord Sandberg decided to commit to the Auburn Tigers.
That said, Sopsher doesn’t plan to pick a school until the February signing period, saying he will be monitoring the schools on his list (also Ole Miss, Texas, Florida State and Oregon).
The implications for how critical a season this will be for LSU and coach Ed Orgeron appear to grow by the day.
Fittingly for this 2018 season, LSU’s football complex is undergoing a major renovation and expansion. Coaches are sequestered in temporary of…