BATON ROUGE, La. — The metaphorical and literal significance of this win for the future of LSU football presented itself within minutes. Actual minutes. Because 2024 offensive lineman Khayree Lee (New Orleans) announced his commitment mere moments after Jayden Daniels hit Mason Taylor in the end zone to seal LSU’s monumental 32-31 win against Alabama.
Or because top-50 2023 corner target Javien Toviano nervously watched the finish with his family from the stands and took off sprinting to the field the moment Taylor caught that pass, as shown by a video that surfaced over the weekend.
Or because fast-rising Louisiana defensive lineman Dylan Carpenter flipped to LSU from Louisiana the next day.
The Tigers’ recruiting momentum is rolling, and that started even before the Alabama game kicked off last Saturday.
@j_toviano8 #GeauxTigers pic.twitter.com/vZE80rZ4ET
— M.George (@M_George5) November 6, 2022
The past year has been dictated by questions about Brian Kelly, valid questions that nobody was wrong to ask. Could he win in the SEC? Could he recruit at a high enough level to win titles at LSU? Suddenly both are being answered.
It’s November now, and Kelly has taken a flawed and incomplete roster and has it 7-2 and in control of its own destiny in the SEC West. He has taken down Ole Miss and Alabama in consecutive games, and an unexpected 10-2 regular season is now the target way ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile, Kelly, recruiting coordinator Brian Polian and the entire LSU staff have the 2023 class in better shape than anyone would have predicted. In the days before the Alabama game alone, LSU landed a commitment from top-150 offensive lineman DJ Chester (McDonough, Ga.), and top-50 quarterback Colin Hurley (Jacksonville, Fla.) reclassified into the 2024 class and committed to the Tigers. The 2023 class is ranked No. 4 nationally. Then, LSU had a blockbuster list of visitors on campus for the big game, and the opportunity was there to keep striking the hot iron.
Let’s take a look into where LSU recruiting stands after this big week.
Quarterback set for the foreseeable future
LSU quarterback recruiting has been shifting for years in an unprecedented way. Louisiana historically doesn’t develop quarterbacks, and often the best ones left the state. But LSU is looking at a four-cycle run that could change the program after the commitment of Hurley.
Garrett Nussmeier, a top-100 recruit in 2021, was LSU’s highest-rated quarterback signing in nearly a decade. Walker Howard in 2022 gave LSU a rare five-star pocket passer. And top-250 Baton Rouge quarterback Rickie Collins committed to LSU in August. Considering Nussmeier was born in Lake Charles and considers himself a Louisianan despite playing high school ball in Texas, it meant LSU was able to bring in three consecutive top-tier Louisiana quarterbacks.
Hurley is something bigger. He was already a near-five-star prospect in the 2025 class and won a Florida 2A state title as a high school freshman. He has no obvious connections to LSU, but between quarterback coach Joe Sloan, recruiting staffer Jordan Arcement and others, LSU connected with Hurley and landed a major out-of-state quarterback. That does not happen at LSU.
Looking forward, even if down the road one of Howard or Nussmeier ultimately transfers, LSU can expect to have one of those two — or both — starting through at least the 2025 season. By 2026, Collins will be a redshirt junior with development. And Hurley, who will be 17 with three years of starting experience when he signs with LSU, will have had two years to develop as well.
Point being, Kelly, Sloan, Polian, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and so on have LSU the best prepared it’s been at quarterback in program history. The next eight years are essentially laid out.
Trending well for two elite corners
Cornerback was always going to be a priority in the 2023 class, especially after LSU had to sign four transfer corners in 2022 just to stay afloat. LSU already has three corner commitments in top-150 California commit Daylen Austin and three-star prospects Jeremiah Hughes (Las Vegas) and Ashton Stamps (Metairie, La.).
But now LSU is in the mix to possibly bring in one if not two marquee additions.
Toviano has been a longtime LSU target, and the Tigers have had to fight major foes like Texas A&M, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Michigan for the top-50 corner from Arlington, Texas. It is by no means over, but optimism has been growing in Baton Rouge for weeks that LSU was in the driver’s seat with Toviano, and Saturday only built on that optimism as Toviano watched and celebrated in Tiger Stadium.
Then there’s the reclassified IMG Academy corner Desmond Ricks. He was the No. 2 overall player in the 2024 class before moving to 2023, and even jumping up a year he’s still a five-star prospect ranked No. 15 overall by the 247Sports Composite. Ricks was also in Baton Rouge for the big game, and the sense around LSU is the Tigers have a good chance.
Neither Toviano nor Ricks will be easy, especially not Ricks, who has an entire year less of recruitment, meaning his relationships are likely less entrenched. Still, the buzz for LSU is that it has a chance to land an elite cornerback class in a year it desperately needs it. If it were to land both, LSU would have five cornerbacks in the 2023 class with three in the top 150 overall players.
Right now, LSU’s class is ranked No. 4 in the 247Sports Composite. Add both Toviano and Ricks, and it’s time to start looking at LSU possibly having a No. 2 or 3 class in the country. Still, a very long way to go.
Offensive line building on clear success
Much like quarterback, offensive line recruiting has long been a weakness at LSU. And much like quarterback, much of that has been because Louisiana didn’t produce elite offensive linemen. It definitely didn’t produce great offensive tackles.
But in 2022, Louisiana provided LSU with five-star tackle Will Campbell (Monroe, La.) and four-star Emery Jones (Baton Rouge, La.), and both are now LSU’s starting tackles on a top-10 team as true freshmen. Now the state is giving more, with LSU already having commitments from top-100 tackle Zalance Heard and four-star tackle Tyree Adams (New Orleans).
Add in Georgia three-star lineman Paul Mubenga and now the commitment from Chester, who is ranked No. 138 in the country, and this class is already a clear success. The 2022 and 2023 classes alone could be enough to move LSU toward being able to create sustainably good offensive line play.
LSU isn’t done, though. It got Georgia commit Bo Hughley on campus for a surprise visit this weekend. Hughley is ranked No. 102 overall by the 247Sports Composite. Then, LSU will continue keeping tabs on Texas A&M commits Chase Bisontis and TJ Shanahan. Both are top-150 prospects for whom LSU was in the mix. It will be interesting to see what happens as Texas A&M struggles.
The class as a whole
LSU has 25 high school commitments in the 2023 class that ranks No. 4 nationally, and with no more limits on classes, they can keep adding. The best part for Kelly and this class is there aren’t really any glaring needs at the moment.
The defensive line haul is loaded, with Dashawn Womach, Jaxon Howard, Joshua Mickens and Darron Reed giving LSU four top-200 linemen, plus the new commit Carpenter. The receiver class has two top-60 commits in Baton Rouge five-star Shelton Sampson Jr. and Miami product Jalen Brown, plus Khai Prean and Kyle Parker. Safety has four-star commitments from Kylin Jackson, Ryan Yaites and Michael Daugherty. Running back has two Louisiana four-stars in Kaleb Jackson and Trey Holly. And as mentioned above, quarterback, offensive line and cornerback are looking good.
Linebacker will be interesting. LSU has commitments from four-star Whit Weeks, brother of LSU linebacker West Weeks, and three-star Baylor flip Christian Brathwaite. They could look to add another there. Same goes for tight end, with LSU counting four-star Mac Markway in the class but wanting to add more depth.
Another X-factor to watch will be whether LSU can add one more blue-chip defensive lineman. LSU is certainly in the mix for five-star freak Nyckoles Harbor. It also isn’t giving up on top-100 edge Jayden Wayne and four-star A’Mauri Washington. It doesn’t need any of these, but it would take LSU’s class over the top.
This class, in many ways, will be the real foundation of Kelly’s tenure. The 2022 class was loaded, but it was a small high school class with just 15 high school signings and 15 college transfers. This will be the one that rebalances things.
With that said, Kelly said last week he will have to dip into the transfer portal a little to plug some holes. But not to the extent of last year.
“We have some really good young players, and we’re not going to forsake them,” Kelly said. “That’s where we want to build this program. This program will be built on freshmen, but there are a couple of positions that still have holes in them that need to be supplanted with some transfers.
“We’re much better than we were last year. We’ll get better this year, and then hopefully in another year this is just about player development and bringing in freshmen. That’s stage two in terms of getting to where we need to be to hopefully get to that final narrative of upstaging Alabama. But we’re certainly not there yet.”
(Photo: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images)
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