With three massive recruiting weekends left until national signing day, LSU remains in great position to claim ESPN’s No. 1 class for 2016.
Although three of LSU’s top five committed prospects -- defensive backs Saivion Smith and Eric Monroe and linebacker Rahssan Thornton -- are from out of state, the top-to-bottom quality of this class will heavily rely on homegrown talent.
Louisiana is typically fertile recruiting ground, and that is especially true this year. Nineteen ESPN 300 prospects hail from Louisiana, and LSU has already earned verbal commitments from 10 of them. The top three uncommitted prospects from the state -- No. 5 overall prospect Willie Allen (No. 1 in Louisiana), No. 7 Rashard Lawrence (No. 2 in Louisiana) and No. 35 Kristian Fulton (No. 4 in Louisiana) -- will reportedly visit LSU this weekend.
Getting an offensive tackle Allen would be the icing on the cake for LSU’s class. The Tigers signed a strong crop of offensive linemen last season and already has made use of two of those signees: guards Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby. However, offensive line is not as big a need in 2016 as defensive line or linebacker, so LSU has focused a heavy portion of its recruiting effort on those positions.
Let’s take a quick look at how LSU has addressed its positional needs for 2016 thus far and what might still happen between now and signing day on Feb. 3:
Defensive line: Roughly a third of Louisiana’s ESPN 300 prospects (six of 19) are defensive linemen, so LSU’s recruiting needs up front arrive at an opportune time.
Signing Lawrence would be a major coup, not only because he is a coveted prospect who is strongly considering other heavyweight programs like Alabama and Ohio State, but also because it would strengthen LSU’s recruiting ties in northern Louisiana. The Tigers have lost some players from that area in recent years, so adding the big lineman from Monroe would decrease the volume on that narrative a bit.
ESPN’s highest-rated prospect among LSU commitments is defensive tackle Edwin Alexander, the No. 20 overall prospect and No. 3 in-state player. He and three other four-star defensive linemen -- Andre Anthony, Glen Logan and Caleb Roddy -- have already committed to the Tigers.
LSU should return nearly everyone up front next year, but tackle Christian LaCouture and ends Lewis Neal and Tashawn Bower will be seniors, while tackle Davon Godchaux will be a draft-eligible junior. Now is the time that LSU must replenish its depth chart along the line.
Linebacker: As with defensive line, the Tigers need to restock the two-deep at linebacker -- and the situation could become somewhat dire if Kendell Beckwith opts to enter the 2016 draft. Seniors Deion Jones and Lamar Louis are already out of the picture, leaving behind a fairly shallow and inexperienced group.
That’s what made Michael Divinity’s re-commitment so important. The No. 4 outside linebacker and No. 46 overall prospect, Divinity will get a valuable early start as a January enrollee. He, Thornton and and Erick Fowler -- also ESPN 300 picks -- will provide instant depth and talent infusions. A fourth ESPN 300 honoree, No. 3 athlete and early enrollee Devin White, will apparently start out at running back but can also play linebacker if necessary.
Wide receiver: While wideout is not an immediate concern, it could be before long. LSU will lose Travin Dural after next season, and draft-eligible junior Malachi Dupre will almost certainly have the opportunity to become an early-round pick if he enters the 2017 NFL draft.
With John Diarse also transferring recently, the Tigers will have a considerable amount of playing time available in 2017 -- and to a lesser extent, 2016. That makes their commitments from ESPN 300 early enrollees Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson highly important. The Tigers already have verbal pledges from ESPN 300 wideout Drake Davis and three-star prospect Da'Monte Coxie, as well.
Quarterback: This one remains the big question mark. After losing Feleipe Franks, now an early enrollee at Florida, LSU is without a quarterback commitment for this class.
There was some thought that the Tigers might be able to lure Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight to compete with Brandon Harris before Knight ultimately chose Texas A&M. There has been recent buzz that LSU was pursuing No. 23 overall prospect Dwayne Haskins and three-star pocket passer Anthony Russo, but Haskins has been committed to Maryland and Russo to Rutgers since last May.
LSU’s outcome at this position is difficult to predict at this point. This late in the game, the Tigers might have to flip a commitment if it is to add a quarterback in 2016.