Five-star Illinois linebacker Garrett commits to LSU

LSU has its first five-star commitment.

Illinois linebacker Clifton Garrett gave a verbal pledge to the Tigers on Tuesday in front of a full auditorium at Illinois-Plainfield South High School, becoming the 16th LSU commit of 2014 and the most heralded one of them all.

Garrett is ranked as a top 3 player at his position nationally and the No. 1 player in the state of Illinois, according to all three major recruiting sites.

He’s rated five stars (out of five) by 24/7 Sports and Scout.com and four stars by Rivals.com.

No other LSU commit is rated five stars. His commitment is nonbinding. Players sign binding National Letters of Intent on Feb. 5.

Garrett’s pledge boosts LSU in the team rankings at each site.

The Tigers move from No. 15 to No. 12 in Rivals.com, No. 20 to 13th at Scout.com and No. 12 to 11th at 24/7 Sports.

At his announcement, Garrett, standing in front of a podium, grabbed an LSU hat from within the lectern, slipped it on and then unzipped a jacket to reveal a purple LSU shirt.

“Louisiana State, baby,” he immediately said after the announcement and before an interview that was broadcast live online.

“When I went down for the spring game, I loved it,” he said of LSU. “Every moment of it. It was the spring game and there were people everywhere. I loved the whole atmosphere. I want to play in the SEC with the big boys.”

Garrett was expected to pick LSU. He chose the Tigers over Ole Miss and Tennessee and had other offers from a list that includes Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Southern California and Florida State.

LSU seemed to always have a lead for the Chicago-area talent, said Mike Scarborough, publisher and recruiting analyst at TigerBait.com, a Rivals.com affiliate.

“Tennessee made it interesting during the summer, and then Ole Miss passed up Tennessee, but LSU was always the clear front-runner,” he said.

Garrett, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, first visited LSU in the spring and returned for the Tigers’ win over Texas A&M. He was recruited by offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and defensive coordinator John Chavis, according to 24/7 Sports.

“Chavis is not known as being one of the staff’s best recruiters,” Scarborough said. “But he got a lead on him and held it.”

Garrett is the first of a host of five-star LSU targets expected to announce their college choices over the next month.

Five are scheduled to announce Jan. 2 at the Under Armour All-American Game in Tampa, Fla., a day after No. 14 LSU (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) meets Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) in the Outback Bowl.

Cornerback Tony Brown and safety Jamal Adams, both of Texas, and highly rated in-state stars running back Leonard Fournette, defensive end Gerald Willis and receiver Devante Noil are all set to announce during the Under Armour game.

Garrett gives the Tigers a prized recruit at a key area.

LSU’s linebackers this season struggled at times. Most saw the group as the team’s weakness.

Scarborough sees Garrett as “a big-time (middle) linebacker.”

From a perception standpoint alone, Garrett’s commitment is “big,” Scarborough said.

“They went out of state to get a highly coveted national recruit at a position of need,” he said. “ Linebacker is a very serious need area for LSU, as we’ve seen this past season.”