From Dec. 20 through Dec. 22, high school prospects will be able to sign National Letters of Intent with college programs during the early signing period. It’s the first time high school football players will be able to sign with schools prior to National Signing Day, held annually on the first Wednesday of February.
While the future effects of the first early signing period are unknown, we’re taking a look back to see how this period could have affected previous LSU football teams.
For this story, we’re taking a hypothetical look on which prospects that LSU could have missed on if the early signing period was implemented years ago.
2013: Riley never receives his LSU offer
Duke Riley was among several bright spots on the LSU football team in 2016 after putting in work for years as a backup and special teams contributor before a breakout senior campaign, which earned him team MVP honors and helped vault his draft stock. In the end, the 3-star linebacker became a third-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons.
With the early signing period, Riley would have never been offered by the Tigers.
LSU initially offered the John Curtis standout a grayshirt scholarship, which would have forced Riley to postpone his enrollment at the school until the second semester of his freshman year. Essentially, he would not have been a part of the team or related functions during his first few weeks in Baton Rouge.
Riley received his offer from LSU on Jan. 30, just six days before signing day. He had just given a verbal to TCU coach Gary Patterson the day prior before LSU offered him a full scholarship. Based on numbers and their push for other targets. Riley would have been playing for TCU or Tulane if he were forced to sign early in December, not LSU.
2014: Valentine sticks with the ‘Canes
The Travonte Valentine era at LSU may not have worked out, but at the time, landing the 4-star defensive tackle was a major win for Les Miles’ Tigers.
Valentine, a South Florida native, de-committed from Miami on Jan. 4. In other words, if he had the option to sign his letter of intent a month earlier, he may have solidified his path to Coral Cables, Fla., much earlier and never making the all-important official visit to LSU, which pushed him toward his SEC option.
“When I took my official here, that’s when I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Valentine told NOLA.com in February 2014.
Valentine made his official visit to Baton Rouge on Jan. 24, 2014 before signing his letter of intent with LSU on National Signing Day two weeks later. That never would have transpired if the early signing period existed then.
2015: Would Weathersby be at Texas?
Like Valentine, Toby Weathersby was committed elsewhere for much of his senior year before reopening his recruitment on Dec. 15. Sure, that’s right before when the early signing period would have started, but would he have had enough time to consider all of his other options?
Weathersby, now LSU’s long-time right tackle who has played in 30 games over the past three seasons, didn’t make his official visit to Baton Rouge until January. He committed to LSU on National Signing Day over Arkansas and Ole Miss, indicating the “home” feel on his visit was the difference.
“I felt at home,” Weathersby told KHOU. “If I could feel at home, if I could feel comfortable in an atmosphere like that, I was good with that.”
Regardless, LSU would have likely be a blue-chip offensive lineman short if the early signing period was a thing two years ago.
2015: LSU game-planning against Dillon
One of the biggest stories in Louisiana recruiting back on National Signing Day 2015 was Derrick Dillon’s flip from Florida to LSU — a change of heart in the final hours before signing on the dotted line.
Dillon, a top-10 wide receiver in the 2015 recruiting class and a U.S. Army All-American, didn’t even hold an offer from the Tigers until Thanksgiving. Right after the overture, then-Gators coach Jim McElwain went in-home with the 4-star wide receiver, which would have likely been the nail in the coffin to keep Dillon on board with Florida through the early signing period. After all, he had been committed to McElwain for seven months already at the time.
The difference: Derrius Guice. LSU’s running back pledge was pushing for a flip when the two prospects roomed together at the Army Game in January 2015, which eventually led to Dillon’s signing-day flip.
“The main one in my ear was Derrius Guice,” Dillon told NOLA.com. “Because he was my roommate, so I had no choice but to hear him. Every time I said something about Florida he said: ‘No. You’re going to LSU.'”
If Dillon signed early, LSU could have very well been game-planning to slow down the talented receiver instead.
2015: Moreau elsewhere in Louisiana
Foster Moreau could very well be playing for another team in The Boot if the early signing period was a thing in 2015.
Former LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron offered the New Orleans tight end after a stellar performance in the Division I state championship game back in December 2014. That offer was a bit of a faux; he couldn’t commit right away.
Moreau was bracing to give Tulane his commitment on signing day before Cameron and Miles reached out to inform the 3-star tight end that he now had a committable offer from LSU early that Wednesday morning.
“I have soap in my hair. I jump out the shower and bolt to my phone. It’s coach (Cam) Cameron,” Moreau recalled to The Advocate.
2015: Johnson picks Texas Tech or Oklahoma State
The crown jewel of LSU’s 2015 recruiting class would have almost certainly be playing in the Big 12 if the early signing period was around back in 2014.
Tyron Johnson, a 5-star wide receiver and a prospect oft-compared to Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t decide on LSU until the final hours before National Signing Day.
Johnson, from Warren Easton in New Orleans, committed to LSU late in January, crediting a push from area recruiter Frank Wilson and wide receivers coach Adam Henry, who both compared Johnson’s skill-set to that of Beckham, who then was in his rookie season with the New York Giants.
If he was forced to put the pen to paper in December, then Johnson would have almost certainly committed to Texas Tech or Oklahoma State, where coincidentally, he plays now.
“I wasn’t really feeling LSU,” Johnson told NOLA.com. “It wasn’t like LSU was in front my whole recruitment. They were beat, but they came pushing in the last minute. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were the leaders. It was those three entering the Under Armour All-America Game.”
2016: Martin sticks with TCU
Sci Martin would have been a TCU Horned Frog.
The 3-star pass-rusher had committed to Tulane early in the process before eventually reopening things up when LSU offered during a prospect camp later that summer. Martin eventually settled on the Horned Frogs in the fall despite continued interest from defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
If Martin signed in December, he would’ve all but certainly been locked in with TCU. He didn’t receive his offer from Alabama until Dec. 15 and didn’t make his official visits to either LSU or Alabama until January. That involved both Nick Saban and Orgeron battling for the potential-laden pass-rusher into National Signing Day, which forced Martin to delay his signing for an extra month.
LSU dialed up its efforts for Martin over the final month of the recruiting calendar and into signing day, Martin recalled to SEC Country. Otherwise, he very likely would’ve signed elsewhere.
2016: Fowler still with LSU
Remember Erick Fowler?
Sure, the 4-star edge-rusher was committed to LSU for eight months before signing day antics that leave a bad memory in the minds of Tigers fans. His flip to Texas and then-coach Charlie Strong left LSU was a hole in the 2016 recruiting class because it seemingly came out of nowhere.
Just a few weeks earlier, Fowler spoke with SEC Country at the U.S. Army All-American Game about the strength of his LSU pledge, but left the door open for some surprises on that first Wednesday of February.
“My commitment to LSU is still pretty strong, though I’m still weighing all my options right now,” Fowler said. “I’m already committed to LSU. They have an edge over all those other teams. They already have my verbal. So far, LSU is at the top. They produce so many NFL players, so you can’t really go wrong with that.”
“I’m not going to change my mind,” he added. “If I do, it would be on Signing Day (Feb. 3).”
Fowler stuck to his word, but he very likely would be rushing the passer beside Arden Key if he would’ve signed on the dotted line in December.
2016: Mullen winds up a Tiger
Four-star cornerback Trayvon Mullen stuck a dagger in the hearts of LSU hopefuls on National Signing Day with an early morning commitment to Clemson. That came as a bit of a surprise for LSU, which was very confident in landing another South Florida defensive back. It was seemingly LSU or Florida State, but somehow, Clemson walked away with the blue-chip corner.
How close was LSU? The Tuesday before his announcement, Mullen informed defensive backs coach Corey Raymond that LSU was the choice, according to NOLA.com. His change of heart was a tough one to absorb.
If he had to decide in December, Mullen’s choice likely would have been LSU, giving them a 2016 haul of Saivion Smith, Kristian Fulton, Greedy Williams, Eric Monroe, Cameron Lewis and Mullen — arguably the best haul of defensive backs in history.
2016: Cushenberry joins the Gamecocks
Lloyd Cushenberry would’ve been a South Carolina Gamecock if he had signed on the dotted line in December.
Remember, LSU’s center-in-waiting was committed to South Carolina and didn’t officially visit or receive his scholarship offer from the in-state school until days before signing day. Miles quietly hosted Cushenberry for an official a week before National Signing Day and extended an offer.
Cushenberry opted to keep that news secret until his signing day ceremony.
2017: Chaisson chooses Texas
Among the biggest booms in the 2017 recruiting cycle was K’Lavon Chaisson’s decision to commit to LSU. That was far from a given in the days leading up to signing day.
Chaisson, a 4-star egde rusher and the projected successor to Key, would have likely been a Longhorn right now. After all, Chaisson once named Houston, the school in his hometown, as a top school. Then, Tom Herman landed the job at Texas and made Chaisson a priority in the class.
Orgeron was able to make things interesting. Remember, LSU’s defensive line coach was the first to offer Chaisson a scholarship when the raw freshman showed up to Baton Rouge alongside North Shore High School teammate Eric Monroe, who is now a safety for the Tigers, camped there. Orgeron liked how Chaisson worked out and dished out a scholarship, which jump-started his recruitment.
In January, Chaisson officially visited LSU. Before the 4-star defensive end went to Gainesville, Fla., Orgeron chased down Chaisson as he departed for the airport to see him off and remind him about the need for pass rushers at LSU. That all but locked in Chaisson, arguably the biggest get in the 2017 class.
2017: Phillips sign with the Sooners
Jacob Phillips would certainly be at Oklahoma if the early signing period existed at this time a year ago.
Phillips never officially visited LSU. He was scheduled to go in November 2016, but cancelled that visit and instead went to Alabama. Miles was fixed on Baton Rouge natives Dylan Moses and Christopher Allen and turned away a bevy of other talented middle linebackers in the process, Phillips included.
Once Orgeron got the job, he tasked general manager Austin Thomas with repairing the relationship with Phillips. Thomas helped sway the Army All-American to take an unofficial visit in January, despite being committed to the Sooners. Two weeks before National Signing Day, after hosting LSU coaches such as Orgeron, Thomas and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda for a handful of in-home visits, Phillips flipped to LSU.
Much of that transpired in January. LSU’s push would have never kicked into full gear if the early signing period pushed Phillips, the nation’s top middle linebacker, to sign with Oklahoma a month earlier.
2017: LSU out of the picture for Taylor
Tyler Taylor may have very well been at Auburn or Oklahoma. LSU was late to the party after missing out on a few linebacker targets such as Moses and Allen. Aranda zeroed in on Taylor, Phillips and Willie Gay to join 4-star Patrick Queen in the Tigers’ 2017 class.
Like Phillips, the Tigers put the full-court press on the Georgia linebacker for much of January, including his first-ever visit to campus two weeks before National Signing Day. Before that, his choice was almost certainly Auburn, which is much closer to his home in Buford, Ga.
Aranda sold Taylor on the thin depth chart in Baton Rouge and the chance to play early, which he did as the third linebacker behind Devin White and Donnie Alexander in 2017.
“The conversations that I had with Coach O and Coach Aranda and the early playing time, I think I really have a shot,” Taylor told SEC Country. “They’re not going to give me anything, but they told me that they’re going to give me a chance to play early this year.”
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