Worsham: Thoughts on Successful Start in Early Signing
Digital Media Reporter
When two years of work comes down to three days of craziness, things get unpredictable.
Those 19 were a mixture of types: skill players and linemen, five-stars and three-stars, Louisiana prospects and others from out of state.
Now, they all share one thing in common: they’re Tigers.
“It took a lot of work to get the class signed we have so far,” Orgeron said Wednesday evening. “We’re really proud of these guys. We had relationships with these guys for two years, their parents. We feel really good about their character, the type of players they’re going to be for LSU.”
Here are a few thoughts from Orgeron’s Wednesday evening press conference.
Orgeron’s been recruiting – and recruiting well – for a long time.
But he’s never signed a player like Derek Stingley, the No. 1 player in the country according to Rivals.com. A 6-foot-1, 195 pound corner from The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, Stingley runs a 4.3 40 and sports a vertical leap above 40 inches, with measurements and playmaking skills that draw comparisons to former Tiger great Patrick Peterson.
“Derek Stingley [is] one of the best young men I’ve ever recruited,” Orgeron said. “He’s going to be an outstanding corner for us… We’re so excited about Derek. We’re so excited about his parents, that he chose to stay home. One of the best players I’ve recruited in my history of coaching.”
Stingley will enroll early and participate in spring football. Orgeron wishes he could get him earlier – say, for the Fiesta Bowl.
When asked what Stingley could offer LSU in the punt return game, Orgeron was terse.
“Touchdowns,” he joked.
Asked about the impact made by players who commit early in the process and never waiver, Orgeron opened up in earnest on how much those sorts of recruits mean to a program.
“You have to create bonds and relationships,” Orgeron said. “If I could tell you how crazy the last three days have been, and all the stuff that goes on out there. You have to build a strong foundation.”
Two such foundational pieces were Southern Lab signees Kardell Thomas and Tyrion Davis. Thomas, a five-star guard, and Davis, a four-star running back, each committed to the Tigers early and never de-committed. Thomas, in particular, took the mantle as a recruit-turned-recruiter who made his pitch to high-profile prospects across the country on the merits of coming to play in Baton Rouge.
“Kardell was a rock for us,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t take any other visits to any other SEC schools. He shut down his recruitment for a long time. 6-3, 358, a dominating guard. Probably one of the best guards I’ve ever recruited. An outstanding man and a great recruiter.”
Orgeron is so fond of Thomas, he already has a job in mind for when his football career finishes in the future.
“I think he’s going to be governor one day,” Orgeron said. “He has it. He has charisma. He’s intelligent. He’s a leader. He’s trustworthy. He’s fun to be around. He lights up the room. The guy can juggle a lot of things at one time. He’s a great communicator. He comes from great parents. I’m looking forward to having him on the team. Everybody loves Kardell.”
Davis, meanwhile, was the first commitment in the 2019 class. The number six running back in the country, according to 247Sports, gives LSU an instant-impact presence at a position of need.
Most importantly, he was one of the steady pieces Orgeron knew he could build around, even as things got chaotic – as they always do – as signing day grew nearer.
“The winds are going to blow,” Orgeron said. “You gotta trust the relationships and what you’ve done. People come with all kinds of tactics. You have to stay there and believe. Once you have a solid set of parents and a solid young man, and you do a good job of recruiting him and you visit him in the home and you’ve done all the work, you’re going to win out doing it the right way.”
Davis will team up with five-star Destrehan product John Emery – 247Sports’ No. 2 overall running back and No. 12 player in the country – to give the Tigers a readymade running back duo in 2019.
Orgeron said he could’ve taken more backs, but turned down players to keep a promise to Davis and Emery.
“It was fantastic,” he said of getting two of the six best running backs in the country. “It is what we needed. It’s what we set out to do. We could’ve gotten three, but we weren’t going to do it. We made a commitment to those two running backs, and they made a commitment to us. We actually turned down some very good running backs. We told them we’re only taking two. They’re a lot alike but in some ways they’re different. Both of those guys are going to play for us this year. We have a hole there. We think both of those guys are going to be great players for us.”
Emery was once a Georgia commitment, but LSU was able to flip him back to the hometown school by keeping calm. Orgeron said the Tigers’ 36-16 win over the Bulldogs earlier this season in Baton Rouge dind’t hurt, either.
“We didn’t panic,” he said. “We had a great relationship with the parents. We had a great relationship with Destrehan High School and with John. We played it cool, played it smooth. The Georgia game had a big say so, and he felt it. John has such a big family in Louisiana. Everyone wanted him to come to Louisiana. They weren’t going to tell him. They were just going to let him figure it out, and he figured out LSU was the place for him.”
LSU got two pleasant surprises on Wednesday in Siaki “Apu” Ika and Raydarious Jones, elite prospects who entered the day uncommitted but finished the day signed as Tigers.
Ika is a four-star defensive tackle from Salt Lake City, Utah, while Jones is a four-star cornerback from Horn Lake, Miss.
“It was a battle with Apu until the end,” he said. “Other teams came in late. It was a battle with Raydarious. We just kept battling. Overall, I think our assistant coaches did a tremendous job of closing today.”
Of Jones, whom he likened to Greedy Williams, Orgeron said: “He’s a long, tall corner. Athletic ability. He can run, has great ball skills, he’s physical, a competitor.”
Ika, meanwhile, is a plug-and-play player up front who picked the Tigers early on Wednesday morning to set the tone for a memorable day.
“This guy can help us right away,” Orgeron said. “He’s a mid-year graduate. I’ve got to credit Bill Busch for one of the best recruiting jobs I’ve ever seen in my history of coaching football.”
Not Done Yet
There are still two more days until the early signing period ends, and February 6's signing day will be here in no time.
That means that despite all the work done so far by Orgeron and his staff, there's more to do.
Orgeron wants to prioritize the defensive line and add up to six players to get the Tigers to a full class of 25. He'd like to build on the success of LSU's in-state work so far, as the program didn't lose a single Louisiana prospect it's offered, so far.
"We’ve got a ways to go on the defensive line," he said. "It’s going to be a priority for us. There’s diversity. We filled needs in the state of Louisiana. And when we went out of state, we got great players."