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February 22, 2013
Louisiana stars in no rush to leave
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Not only are Louisiana prospects not leaving the state, they're not getting past Baton Rouge.
The past six recruiting classes have included 17 players from Louisiana ranked in the Rivals100; only four did not sign with LSU. In the class of 2014, Louisiana has two players ranked as five-stars and three others in the Rivals100 with four-star designations entering the spring period.
Louisiana has been a state on the rise in terms of top-tier talent as well as quality depth. The ability for LSU to lock up those players has pushed the program to the top of the SEC and into national title contention.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said that while LSU is the only major program in the state, the team is not guaranteed to get kids.
"This isn't an industry that allows for laziness," Farrell said. "It isn't like LSU is just tapping kids on the shoulder and telling them are going to go to LSU and it is over. Ole Miss is a major player for kids now, Texas A&M is going to keep fighting for players in Louisiana and you always have to worry about Alabama, Auburn and the rest of the SEC coming into the state because of how much talent there is."
LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said steps taken by the staff are the reason for the success.
"Because of our early identification process and how we're recruiting, we're able to withstand the test of time," Wilson told Rivals.com
Wilson was the Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year for 2011 and said that the ability to close has been a reason for the why the team stays on top.
It would be easier to list those who didn't to go LSU from the Rivals100 since the rankings began with the Class of 2002.
Of the 10 players who did not end up staying home, four of them did so in 2002-03. Since the program has been revitalized under Nick Saban and then Les Miles, players are not as inclined to look elsewhere.
The two most comparable classes to this version are the class of 2011 and the class of 2007. Each year had multiple five-star players, as well as at least five members of the Rivals100.
The class of 2011 was headlined by La'El Collins at No. 6, Anthony Johnson at No. 17, and Jarvis Landry at No. 18 -- all three chose LSU. The four-stars in the group were Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 43, Kenny Hilliard at No. 63, and Greg Robinson at No. 90.
The class of 2007 had Joe McKnight as the No. 2 player in the Rivals100 and he chose to sign with USC.
The rest of the class elected to stay with the in-state power. Chad Jones was the No. 14 player in the country and a five-star. DeAngelo Benton was at No. 41, Stefoin Francois at No. 63 and Drake Nevis at No. 93.
One of the few significant prospects to leave the state since 2006 was Janzen Jackson, who was scheduled to sign with LSU before flipping for Lane Kiffin and Tennessee in the class of 2009. Jackson was kicked off the Tennessee football team in 2011 and was cut by the New York Giants after signing as a free agent.
The class of 2013 had three players in the Rivals100 from Louisiana. All three signed with LSU.
"We were able to bring the guys we started with to the finish line," Wilson said. "Many of them committed to us a year ago."
WHO STANDS TO GAIN FROM THIS CLASS
Fournette is the top-ranked player at his position and the No. 3 player in the nation.
While coaches are not allowed to discuss players who are not signed, both Wilson and Miles have made what many believe to be veiled overtures to Fournette.
At his signing day press conference, Miles addressed the question about not taking a running back in this class with a description of a player the program would target.
"I think we'll have to recruit a great tailback to come forward if you look at what we'll need," Miles said. "We will need a great one of those guys that has great speed and ball skills and can run with power. I'm thinking of him right now."
It was a message that Fournette knew was intended for him.
"I take that as a compliment," he said. "I'm feeling the same way. They're waiting on me."
Robinson is the top-ranked player at OT and the No. 7 overall player in the country.
He has said it is a two-horse race between LSU and Alabama.
"Both schools are almost identical, so I can't just point out one thing that one school does different than the other one," Robinson told Rivals.com.
Robinson added that neither school is rushing him to make a decision, and that is how he likes it.
The remaining players seem to be myopic about LSU.
Laurence Jones of Monroe (La.) Neville checks in at No. 25 in the Rivals100.
The 6-foot-2 safety has already been on campus in Baton Rouge and took his mother. He said that she will need to sign off on his decision and he has known only LSU football his whole life.
"Most likely she'll be the main reason I choose a college," Jones said. "Everybody says I'm a momma's boy."
Not disappointing mom might make it easy for LSU in the recruitment of the No. 42 player in the country, Gerald Willis III.
Willis is the younger half-brother of Landon Collins, who was one of the four players to leave the state when he chose Alabama in the class of 2012. His mother, April Justin, expressed her displeasure on national television.
"I feel LSU's a better place for him to be," Justin said. "LSU Tigers. No. 1. Go Tigers."
Willis said he is still open to any school, but he also admitted that LSU is likely the leader.
"Right now, I am liking LSU, of course," he said. "They're my home state school, and I would love to represent Louisiana; but at the same time, I'm keeping my options open.
Malachi Dupre rounds out the players in the Rivals100. The 6-foot-4 receiver from River Ridge (La.) John Curtis is the No. 83 player in the national rankings.
He also acknowleged LSU plays a major factor.
"I like them, of course," he said. "But I am going to take my time and see some other schools."
Farrell believes that this group of players could all end up at LSU and that this class may have the makings of the class of 2011, which had six players from the state inside the Rivals100, five of whom chose to sign with LSU.
"When it is a good year in Louisiana, it is just assumed that LSU is going to clean up," Farrell said. "The class of 2011 was really good and could give LSU a real chance at a national championship run.
"I think that if this class all comes together, then we will be talking about it in a couple years as another group that can challenge for the national title."