Three recruiting cycles have passed since the NCAA split its national signing periods in two, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron said his staff is still learning lessons about how to deal with December's early signing period and the hard-and-fast February deadline.
The main lesson?
Don't go into the final signing period with too many spots to fill.
The Tigers signed 19 players during the early signing period, the base of a 2020 recruiting class that now ranks No. 4 nationally, according to 247Sports.
Orgeron called it "one of the top classes we've signed since I've been here," and according to 247Sports, it's the highest-rated class since former coach Les Miles hauled in a 2016 class that ranked No. 2 nationally.
But it left LSU chasing six scholarship openings to reach the allotted 25 the NCAA permits each year, and Orgeron and his coaches found themselves chasing more quality players than they could realistically sign.
"I think when you're going in with six scholarships for the last signing period, that may be too many," Orgeron said Wednesday. "I think if you can sign 21 to 22 and leave yourself three scholarships, I think that's a good number."
LSU signed three players Wednesday. None made significant waves across national headlines, but Orgeron said the new recruits would "fill some needs" within the team.
Four-star Tre Bradford, a 6-foot, 195-pound Texas native, ended up being LSU's only running back signee of the 2020 class, and Orgeron lauded his track speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Four-star cornerback Dwight McGlothern is a "long" 6-foot-2, 185-pound Texas signee whom Orgeron said "fits in our system," and three-star wide receiver Alex Adams, from Mississippi, could also eventually play safety or be "a great special teams player" for the Tigers.
The trio's signings came amid LSU's failed pursuits of two top out-of-state defensive tackles.
Four-star tackle McKinnley Jackson, the top recruit in Mississippi, chose Texas A&M, and five-star tackle Jordan Burch seemed to stick with his commitment to his homestate school, South Carolina, although the school never announced it had received Burch's letter of intent.
It was the second straight cycle that Orgeron had missed on late pursuits of a highly coveted defensive lineman. Last year, Amite High defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher chose Alabama on national signing day.
Orgeron has long placed a high value on elite defensive tackles, and he called Burch and Jackson "first-round draft picks" Wednesday before wishing them well.
Given LSU had just come off its first national championship since 2007, there was some speculation that Orgeron just might flip either Burch or Jackson.
But there were some complications.
First, LSU went through a defensive coordinator transition. Dave Aranda left last month to be Baylor's new head coach, and he took former LSU defensive line coach Dennis Johnson with him.
Johnson, who shifted to an analyst role in 2019 after suffering major knee injuries in the summer, was replaced by Orgeron's mentor and longtime friend, Bill Johnson, on LSU's staff. Dennis Johnson returned to full-time coaching on Aranda's staff.
Orgeron couldn't blame Dennis Johnson for leaving.
"He got a very hefty raise, so I'm proud of him," Orgeron said.
But Dennis Johnson was also one of Orgeron's point men for recruiting defensive linemen, a 30-year-old former Tigers defensive tackle who could relate well to young recruits.
"I don't know if that was the deciding factor or not getting the final two defensive linemen," Orgeron said. "I can't say that. I think coach Bill Johnson did a great job of coming here at what I call 'halftime' with the recruiting. The guys we didn't get, we don't worry about."
The wide gap LSU had to make up on national signing day also came from the program's push for national talent in December, when it missed on five-star wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (Maryland) and four-star receiver Jermaine Burton (Georgia).
Local prospects like four-star safety Major Burns, who eventually signed with Georgia, slipped past.
As for the three remaining spots in LSU's 2020 recruiting class?
Orgeron said the team will use those scholarships to sign transfers and graduate transfers in the offseason.
Signing a center could be an option, Orgeron said, or another linebacker. Those were the position focuses, but they'll still pursue the "best player available."
"Obviously, we're always looking for offensive linemen," Orgeron said. "If there's a center position there, we'll look at it. Maybe a linebacker. It all depends on the guys we have, that we may need, may not."