The charged atmosphere of a packed night crowd in Tiger Stadium against a highly ranked opponent Saturday will be the backdrop of what is likely to be LSU’s biggest recruiting weekend of the season.
In all, the Tigers will welcome about 60 prospects — many of whom have already committed for the Class of 2013, a few who are still out there and still others whom LSU hopes will be the cornerstones for highly ranked classes to come.
Shea Dixon, a recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports’ LSU website, said the recruits will probably be the least concerned people in the stadium about who wins and who loses.
For them, it will all be about the show, and where they see themselves in the years to come.
“I don’t think a lot of these kids live and die each week with who wins the game,” Dixon said. “The things that count are the crowd they get to see and the environment they would be playing in.
“They like to look at their position. With both of these teams, Alabama and LSU, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. If you come in and see a game like this and see a lot of freshmen on the field on both sides, that’s the thing that will stick with them.”
LSU’s Class of 2013 stands at 22 commitments — 23 if you count Avery Johnson.
Johnson, the younger brother of former LSU All-American cornerback Patrick Peterson, signed with LSU in February but didn’t make the necessary grades. He is now playing at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. Johnson plans to enroll at LSU in January.
With the Southeastern Conference placing a ceiling on signees at 25, LSU has to be selective about who fills those final few slots.
As fate would have it, the Tigers have invited some highly desirable prospects this weekend.
According to 24/7 Sports, six players will make their official visits this weekend. Four of them are already LSU commitments: quarterback Hayden Rettig (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) of Los Angeles Cathedral; cornerback Rashard Robinson (6-2, 161) of Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely (Peterson and Johnson’s high school); defensive end Lewis Neal (6-1, 230) of Wilson (N.C.) James Hunt; and tight end Logan Stokes (6-6, 240) of Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Two other uncommitted players are making official visits which could soon turn into new commitments for LSU: defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (6-4, 285) of Hope Mills (N.C.) Southview and defensive end Christian LaCouture (6-5, 267) of Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest.
Gilmore’s final three include LSU, Florida and Oklahoma, but neither the Gators nor Sooners have pushed past the Tigers into the role of Gilmore’s favorite. Dixon said both of Gilmore’s parents are slated to make the visit with him, an exceptionally good sign on for LSU.
“That’s huge,” Dixon said. “(Defensive line coach) Brick Haley has really been looking for a defensive tackle to close out this class.”
Gilmore has set Thursday as the date he will announce his commitment.
“The consensus feeling is if he comes and brings his mom, he’ll announce for LSU next week,” Dixon said.
Gilmore is ranked No. 52 on the Scout 300, No. 101 on the ESPN 150, No. 112 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247 and No. 202 on the Rivals 250.
LaCouture was committed to Texas A&M and then Nebraska, where his family recently moved so he could be closer to the Cornhuskers program. Dixon said LaCouture’s mother is in the military and can move easily.
But LaCouture decommitted from Nebraska last week, leaving him open to LSU, which has continued to pursue him.
“The LaCouture stuff has been in the works for awhile,” Dixon said. “Steve Kragthorpe recruited him when he originally committed to A&M and stayed on him.
“The only school he’s looking at is LSU. In his mind, he comes in this weekend, and as long as everything checks out, he’ll commit to LSU.”
LaCouture isn’t ranked on any of the national top player lists, but his list of offers is impressive. Aside from A&M and Nebraska, he has offers from Missouri, Michigan, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Utah.
The list of unofficial visits is also tantalizing, led by the nation’s top wide receiver/athlete prospect, Ricky Seals-Jones (6-5, 230) of Sealy, Texas. Seals-Jones has narrowed his choices to LSU and A&M after decommitting earlier this season from Texas.
Seals-Jones is expected to return for an official visit in January.
“Even if he commits to A&M, they (LSU) will still have it in their back pocket to get the kid to come to campus in January and maybe flip him,” Dixon said.
Also making unofficial visits this weekend are Louisiana’s top two uncommitted prospects: University High defensive end Tim Williams (6-4, 230) and Jackson East Feliciana linebacker/athlete Kendell Beckwith (6-3, 225).
Another highly regarded unofficial is defensive tackle Justin Manning (6-2, 275) of Dallas Kimball.
He’s also strongly considering A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma and TCU. Manning is No. 24 on the Scout 300, No. 89 on the ESPN 150, No. 101 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247 and No. 94 on the Rivals 100.
Other prospects for future classes making unofficials include 2014 wide receiver Speedy Noil (5-10, 169) and defensive end Gerald Willis (6-3, 260) of New Orleans Karr, 2014 cornerback Tony Brown (6-0, 179) of Beaumont (Texas) Ozen, 2014 running back Leonard Fournette (6-1, 232) of St. Augustine and 2015 running back Nick Brossette (6-0, 207) of U-High.