LSU facing stiff competition for top prospects

Kind of sandwiched between recruiting hotbeds Texas and Florida, it is no shock that the state of Louisiana is an excellent producer of football talent. In addition to the normal SEC and Big XII schools that sign talent out of Louisiana, programs like Penn State, Louisville, Arizona State and USC have recently come to Louisiana to get prospects.

While Texas and Florida may produce more talent, neither of those states have had a No. 1 overall player like Louisiana did last year with Joe McKnight (River Ridge, La. / John Curtis Christian), who signed with USC. The 2006 class saw Louisiana natives -- safety Jai Eugene (Destrehan, La.) and defensive tackle Al Woods (Elton, La.) -- both grab the No. 1 ranking at their respective position. The majority of the top prospects usually sign with in-state power LSU, but if the state's current No. 1 rated prospect, linebacker Michael Mauti (Mandeville, La.), signs with Penn State, it will mark the second year in a row the top prospect has left.

Top Recruit
Michael Mauti, Linebacker
Mandeville, La.
Verbal: Penn State

Penn State isn't usually a factor in Louisiana, but despite the grief he might take from hometown fans, you can't blame Mauti for heading to Happy Valley. His father Rich played at Penn State and he currently has a brother Patrick who is a sophomore wide receiver there. Plus, the high-motor and aggressive defender is a great fit for "Linebacker U"; the Nittany Lions have turned out some excellent linebackers over the years and have been very strong at the position recently. Mauti should help continue that tradition of high quality play at the linebacker spot.
He is physical and can make plays between the tackles and take on blockers. He has very good change-of-direction skills and an excellent closing burst to the ball. One of his greatest strengths is using his hands to shed from blockers and track down the ball.

Under the Radar Player
Casey Narcisse, Defensive tackle
St. James (Vacherie, La.)
Considering: Louisiana Monroe, Northwestern State, Louisiana Lafayette, McNeese State, Nicholls State

We often talk about smaller defensive backs or running backs flying under the radar for their size, though often guys at the skill positions have a better chance of getting recognized if they are speedy or quick. However, size can be a huge barrier for linemen.
One case of a good football prospect getting overlooked because of size -- or lack thereof -- Narcisse. He is listed at 5-foot-10 and about 280 pounds, and that lack of height seems to be scaring off recruiters. He has an offer from in-state Louisiana-Monroe but is productive enough to deserve more attention.

St. James head coach Eltonary Oubre points out one of Narcisse's strengths is his aggression, and that comes across on film. He is a hardworking, productive kid who displays the ability to make his size work for him. He can be like a cannonball coming out of his stance and knocking a blocker back. Through five games he has 47 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Oubre also points to Narcisse's athleticism. He is receiving interest as a track prospect for his abilities in field events, and he also handles some of the kicking duties for the team.

You do worry some about his wingspan and his ability to consistently fend off and shed from blockers. It would be more ideal if he was at least two inches taller, but sometimes you have to overlook measurables and see if a prospect can play the game and be successful.
Narcisse will have some limitations, but he is a productive and could provide a steal for a program willing to take a chance.

On the Trail
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LSU, 16 commits
Louisiana has five Division-I football programs, but LSU is the big dog -- or should I say tiger -- in the state when it comes football and recruiting. Shockingly though, LSU currently no ESPN 150 prospects of its 16 verbal commitments. The class does have talent with prospects like outside linebacker Ryan Baker (Blountstown, Fla.), but things are likely to get even better before signing day arrives. LSU has a big upcoming weekend, as its clash with Florida is scheduled to bring many highly-rated prospects to Baton Rouge. Some of the players scheduled to tale officials this weekend are linebacker Arthur Brown (Wichita, Kan./East ) and defensive end Chancey Aghayere (Garland, Texas).

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Tulane, 8 commits
Tulane was forced to pretty much start over following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Two years removed, it is moving forward under new head coach Bob Toledo. All but one of its commits are in-state.

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Louisiana Tech, 4 commits
So far, La Tech has commitments from two Texans, one from Mississippi and one from in-state -- guard Kevin Saia (Geismar, La. / Dutchtown). Expect this class to grow in December and January.

The Sun Belt conference is home to Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Warhawks of Monroe have two verbal commitments, both out of Texas, while the Ragin' Cajuns of Lafayette have no commitments yet.

Christopher Lawlor's Game of the Week
Morgan City (5-0) at Archbishop Shaw-Marrero (5-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.
Four teams from District 8-4A carry 5-0 records into this weekend, including Shaw and Morgan City. With district play kicking in, this game should go a long way to deciding a champion. Morgan City has allowed 61 points this season. Shaw, which has won 21 consecutive regular games and advanced to last year's 4A title game, relies on RB Steffon Gray and QB Ramaad Robinson. The defense has surrendered only 14 points, with three straight shutouts. All-State safety Beau Boudreaux was suspended for a 34-0 victory over Walker (New Orleans). His status for Saturday is unknown, according to coach Scott Bairnsfather. -- Lawlor

Craig Haubert is recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. Drop Craig a line in his mailbag.