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LSU's last big fish gets away but Coach O almost catches the in-state limit

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LSU went 1-for-2 at Amite (La.) High on Wednesday's signing day, but 4-star receiver Devonta Lee became a Tiger.
Rivals

The general public believes college head football coaches and assistants are grossly overpaid.

Maybe the average Joe and Jane wouldn’t think that if they spent two to four years kissing up to five-star 17-year old recruits, keeping in constant contact through phone calls and text messages to maintain a steady stream of ego massage.

And then after the all the ridiculously long hours and pandering you put in, just when you are about to take that final step to the altar on signing day, the kid dumps you to sign with your most hated rival.

You have to be gracious to the prospect you just spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of manhours recruiting. He just might have a younger brother or cousin who you may seek in the future.

But privately, you just want to throw things and break them. You'd like to get a baseball bat and smash everything you see.

For the second consecutive year Wednesday, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron had to grit and bare the thought of losing a five-star recruit to Alabama and Nick Saban.

A year ago, it was Patrick Surtain II, the Rivals No. 1 nationally rated cornerback talking how he grew up an LSU fan but decided to sign with Alabama because he said “every year they compete for championships.”

On Wednesday just before 1 p.m., it was Amite (La.) High’s Ismael Sopsher, Rivals’ No. 3 rated defensive tackle, choosing Alabama. His reason? “I felt that I can go there and they can prepare me well and I could be there (in the NFL) one day,” Sopsher said.

It wasn’t easy for Orgeron to hear A-la-bama again. But when you’ve been in the recruiting game as long as the 57-year old Cajun fireball, breaking up isn’t hard to do.

“I do believe we gave it all we had on all the guys,” Orgeron said. “We did it the right way. We went as hard as we possibly could. As soon as recruiting is over, I’m concerned with guys we signed. The guys we didn’t sign – it’s over.”

The 6-4, 330-pound Sopsher shouldn’t expect any Christmas cards from Orgeron and his staff the next few years.

But he will get plenty of 6-3, 358-pound five-star LSU offensive guard signee Kordell Thomas in his grill. And he’ll have fun trying to get his hands on his Amite teammate Devonta Lee, a four-star receiver who signed Wednesday with the Tigers.

What can’t be lost in the temporary dejection of losing Sopsher to Alabama is LSU signed 8 of the top 10 players in prep football-rich Louisiana, according to Rivals’ ratings.

It’s the most top 10 in-state players the Tigers have signed since 2006 when they inked 9 of the top 10.

Look at Orgeron’s first two recruiting classes – he signed just 3 of the state’s top 10 in his 2017 class and 4-of-10 in the 2018 group – and it appears he and his staff have just about closed state borders.

The only two that got away were Sopsher (the state’s fifth best player) and Baton Rouge University High outside linebacker and Clemson signee Bryton Constantin, Louisiana’s ninth best player who wasn’t an LSU recruiting priority.

The in-state success helped LSU finish No. 3 nationally in the Rivals recruiting ratings behind No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama.

“We’ve been recruiting these guys for two years, some of them for three or four,” said Orgeron, who finished with 10 in-state signees among LSU’s 25-man signing class. “Obviously, to keep the guys in-state is a huge deal for us.”

Back in December’s early signing period when the Tigers signed 19 players, three of LSU’s 5-star signees were from Louisiana including cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., Rivals’ No. 1 overall recruit nationally.

Stingley, a January enrollee, took part in LSU’s Fiesta Bowl practice. Orgeron said Stingley played so well that he would have been in the starting lineup to face UCF had he been eligible.

“He was one of our best players on the field,” Orgeron said.

LSU signed seven players rated by Rivals in the top five nationally at their specific positions, including three No. 1s – Stingley, Thomas and placekicker Cade York.

The Tigers signed three out-of-state rated by Rivals among the top three players in their respective states, including the state of Utah’s No. 1 player nose tackle Siaka Ika, the state of Michigan’s No. 2 recruit offensive lineman Anthony Bradford and the state of Texas No. 3 prospect safety Marcel Brooks.

Orgeron said LSU’s 10-3 2018 season and Fiesta Bowl win gave the Tigers’ momentum that will likely pay off more chasing the 2020 recruiting class than the ‘19 group.

“There has been interest from California that has come to us,” Orgeron said. “There has been interest from Arizona that has come to us. There has been interest from the Baltimore area. It is legit. We have a commitment from California already.”

In the current Rivals Louisiana Class of ’20 rankings, the Tigers have commitments from defensive tackles Jaquelin Roy (state’s No. 3 prospect) of Baton Rouge University High and Haynesville’s Cameron Jackson (No. 17).

But Alexandria’s Jacobian Guillory, the state’s top prospect and No. 6 nationally ranked defensive tackle, is undecided.

Looks like Coach Oeaux and the Nicktator are gearing up for Round 3.