LSU made a concerted run at last year's No. 1-rated player Robert Nkemdiche - a push that lasted all the way until signing day.
Once again the Tigers find themselves in the mix for one of the nation's most coveted players in Rivals' top-rated player defensive end Da'Shawn Hand of Woodbridge (Va.) Senior High School.
"They've just had a knack for producing defensive linemen," Hand said. "That's what sticks out with LSU. The coaching staff's real cool. I've talked to (Head Coach) Les Miles every once in a while. I've got to see what it's about and they told me they want me to come down there."
Hand, a 6-foot-4, 245-pounder, said he's developed a top five consisting of Alabama, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina and Virginia Tech.
He said he's been able to visit all of those schools except Florida and plans to see the Gators this summer along with USC and LSU, that latter visit coming sometime in July.
"I've got to see when I can get down there," Hand said of LSU. "It's kind of chaotic right now because every school in my top five wants me to go. It's all on me."
Although signing day's still eight-plus months away, and several plots can thicken between now and then, there's been a lot less circus-type atmosphere surrounding Hand's process in comparison to Nkemdiche's of a year ago.
Since he rose to the nation's top-rated player Hand has been more low-keyed in his approach and hasn't allowed the status to interfere with his process of continuing to improve as a player.
"It's a big deal because you feel like all of your hard work is starting to pay off," Hand said of his No. 1 billing. "But you have to keep working because you have a target on your back."
During his three-year career at Woodbridge Senior, Hand has put together some incredible totals with 259 tackles, 59 tackles for loss, 40 sacks and nine fumble recoveries.
Hand has amassed nearly 40 scholarship offers but has narrowed down his list earlier in the game than most and may or may not carry out his process all the way to the end in February.
"It's a possibility it could go to signing day if it takes that long to decide, but right now I don't have any plans when to do it," said Hand, who will take part in the Under Armour All-American game. "It's whenever I decide because it's up in the air right now."
Hand said it was somewhat frenzied during the spring evaluation period with coaches visiting his school, even those not from among his final group of schools, trying to making a favorable impression.
"A lot of the time I've told coaches whether I'm interested or not," Hand said.
LSU defensive line coach Brick Haley made a stop at Woodbridge Senior in the spring and during his conversations with Miles it was common for Hand to hear all about the school's substantive offerings and received an invitation from the Tigers ninth-year coach to visit the campus.
"He said LSU played good football and had a good environment and for me to come see it," Hand said. "I'm looking for a place with it all: Good people, good professors, academic support, a good coaching staff and players along with the environment and the food."
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