Dig Baton Rouge

Building the A-Team: Examining Coach O’s recruiting style

When head coaches leave a college football program, there’s always that little bit of shock and awe—that deer in the headlights type of freeze that takes place as things phase from one era to the next.

It’s usually short-lived, and it’s never much of a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

But it all usually occurs at the worst possible time—right in the middle of recruiting season, which means that incoming coaches are usually behind the 8-ball when it comes to their inaugural recruiting class.

But not Ed Orgeron.

Where most may falter in their first cracks at recruiting, Orgeron thrived—so much so that the 2017 LSU recruiting class far exceeded that of his predecessors Les Miles and Nick Saban.

Orgeron’s 2017 recruiting class was top-notch—one of the best classes in the country, according to most recruiting services.

Featuring 24 players, the group features one five-star player and 14 4-star guys (according to 247 Sports rankings). It fills all of the Tigers major depth chart needs and shows the world what many already knew: Orgeron is capable of keeping the Tigers’ roster glistened with talent.

“We feel like we have an excellent start—an excellent foundation with this recruiting class,” Orgeron said during his National Signing Day news conference. What a great day for the Tigers.”

It’s a signing day that far outpaces that of other LSU first-year coaches in the new millennium.

A look back at the ol’ history book shows that the Tigers haven’t been immune to first-year recruiting blues—not even when Nick Saban was at the helm.

Saban took over in 2000, and granted, the program he inherited wasn’t yet on the top-tier of NCAA powers.
But his inaugural class wasn’t all that impressive in the rankings, netting just two players who were in ranked in the Top 100 in the country, while losing almost all of the top players in Louisiana to other programs around the South.

Saban’s inaugural class featured 26 signees, and was ranked No. 21 nationally by 247 Sports—the sixth best in the SEC.

And he did even better than Les Miles did on his first try.

After Saban left the LSU program after the 2004 season, the Tigers were in a bit of a recruiting limbo.
Miles’ inaugural class was top-heavy and featured top-tier names like Ryan Perrilloux, Brandon LaFell and Ricky Jean-Francois.

But there was very little sizzle and not enough steak.

The class featured just 13 signees – the smallest in the past two decades for LSU football. Miles got in late on some recruits and had near-misses—something that’s customary of first-year coaches who have a hard time making relationships with players in a short time.

The 2005 class ranked No. 22 in the country.

By math, Orgeron’s first class has almost as many four-star players (14) as Miles and Saban’s first classes had combined—a clear sign that the Tigers are in better position today than they were when both of the other guys took over the program.

When comparing to others around the country who are in the same situation as LSU, it’s easy to see that the Tigers’ recruiting class also outpaces that of all-other first-year coaches who are in similar situations.
According to 247 Sports, LSU’s class was the seventh-best in the country and the third best in the SEC. It lagged behind Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, USC, Michigan and Florida State—all programs who have returning head men.

Aside from the LSU job, the next highest-profile coaching position that was open this offseason was Texas. After that, Oregon was probably next on the totem pole.

So how did the Longhorns and Ducks do in their transitions? Awful.

Texas’ recruiting was a mess after the Longhorns hired Tom Herman—one of the worst classes in the recent history of Longhorns football, according to some who follow the team.

Texas’ class was outside of the Top 25, according to most analysts, and the Longhorns didn’t get commitments from any of the Top 5 players in its own state.

For a program with the proud, rich history that Texas has, that’s embarrassing.

The Ducks fared a little better and finished with the No. 19 class in the country—a pretty nice start for new coach Willie Taggart.

But breaking down the data, we again see that neither the Ducks nor Longhorns have anything on LSU.
Neither school signed a five-star player. LSU inked one.

And if one adds the combined number of four-stars Oregon and Texas fetched (12), it still doesn’t equal the 14 that Orgeron got for LSU.

There’s no telling how the 2017 season will go for the Tigers, and the jury is very much out on whether or not Orgeron will succeed as the king of the LSU sidelines going forward.

But the numbers don’t lie. He’s off to one heck of a start in his recruiting efforts.

He’s defeated history, and he’s defeated all the other first-year coaches around the country.
Fan or not, that’s pretty damned impressive.


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