Perception isn’t reality, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful.
Perception is that Alabama, which in reality has the most dominant program going in college football, is swooping into Louisiana and taking all the best recruits. Reality is Bama has gotten some very good players over the years, but it’s also true LSU has locked up the vast majority of Louisiana’s best and brightest on an annual basis.
But there is a point in the near future where perception and reality will intersect, and it will be up to LSU to come through on both counts.
Laurence “Hootie” Jones is a four-star safety from Neville High in Monroe. LSU wants him. So does Alabama. If LSU doesn’t land him (Jones is set to announce his commitment Nov. 25) the Tigers could replace him with a comparable out-of-state talent like Adoree Jackson, a five-star California cornerback whom LSU has a chance to sign anyway.
But LSU needs Jones from a perception standpoint. It needs to keep him in state to show that while Alabama got Robinson — and Ouachita High receiver Cameron Sims (who, in reality, was not offered a scholarship by LSU) — it hasn’t converted northeast Louisiana into the westernmost Alabama county.
From the playing days of West Monroe’s Jerry Stovall down to current Tigers wide receiver and 2012 Louisiana Mr. Football John Diarse of Neville, the Monroe area has been an LSU recruiting stronghold. But just like Louisiana tourists flock to Alabama’s beaches, Bama has established a beachhead on the Ouachita.
“It’s definitely important from a perception standpoint of Alabama coming into Louisiana and getting an elite defensive back like that,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports’ LSU site.
“He isn’t going to make or break either program’s class. But for perception value, it’s always important to get everyone locked up.”
Lately, Louisiana’s top talent has been ping-ponging between LSU and Alabama. Two years ago it was Dutchtown’s Landon Collins. Last year, East Feliciana’s Kendell Beckwith picked the Tigers over the Tide, while LSU also signed Alabama’s No. 3-ranked prospect Kwon Alexander (Bama wanted the linebacker to grayshirt). This year, Robinson chose Bama.
LSU doesn’t need Jones to go, too. If he commits to the Tigers on Nov. 25 after an unofficial visit to Alabama for the LSU game this weekend and an official to LSU on Nov. 23 for the Texas A&M game, it could be a rally point for LSU to scoop up blue chips across South Louisiana like St. Augustine’s Leonard Fournette, John Curtis’ Malachi Dupre and Karr’s Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis.
“Those are guys Alabama is high on as well,” Dixon said.
LSU is high on the lists of top out-of-state prospects as well, such as Beaumont (Texas) Ozen cornerback Tony Brown (the five star’s sister Beloved, herself a superstar track sprinter, enrolled at LSU this fall) and Plainfield, Ill., linebacker Clifton Garrett and Jackson. The interest from those players is a sign to Dixon that LSU is healthy for the long term.
“Guys like Garrett and Jackson, they view LSU as a place where you can compete for championships and have fun doing it and go on to play in the NFL,” Dixon said.
“The direction they’re going on is the pace they’ve been on, having top-10 classes every year, being considered an elite program and an NFL factory. The waves of when a kid goes elsewhere and why come and go. Landon Collins didn’t break LSU and not getting Robinson, they’ll still sign quality linemen and be fine like normal.”
But it would help LSU’s perception as a healthy football program to land Jones later this month. It really would.