TSD has all the notes as LSU continues to make a heavy press to add several highly rated linemen in this 2014 class.
DON'T SHUT THE DOOR ON WILLIS YET
Nothing in recruiting is ever certain until the ink dries on a National Letter of Intent, and in the case of Gerald Willis, it may very well go down to the final minute. The chances of LSU flipping Willis from Florida rose earlier this week when it was reported that the Edna Karr prospect would not be able to enroll early in Gainesville. Sources have said it's the ACT that's holding back Willis for now, and he will need to improve his scores in the coming semester.
LSU will continue to monitor Willis' situation, and the more time the Tigers have to work him, the better their chances are of taking him back from the Gators. Willis has since said he's 100 percent in his commitment to Florida, but he admitted the day of his announcement that he wasn't sure of his pick, and that it was a late conversation with his brother, Landon Collins, that ultimately convinced him to leave the state.
But there are many that still feel LSU is the better situation for Willis. There's no denying the Tigers have a desperate need for defensive linemen, both at end and tackle, and Willis would have the chance to step in and play from Day One. LSU also has the major advantage in coaching stability, as Will Muschamp needs to right the ship in 2014 to possibly save his job. While a flip is far from guaranteed, LSU does have another month to work its magic.
When it comes to LSU, the biggest beneficiary of Willis' commitment to Florida was Ole Miss commit Breeland Speaks. The four-star DT received an offer from LSU shortly after Willis made his decision, and he's become a major target for the Tigers moving forward. Speaks has said he will take his official visit to LSU on Jan. 17, and the Tigers hold out hope that will help sway the player who called LSU his childhood dream school.
But multiple sources say Speaks will not flip from Ole Miss regardless of how serious his flirtations become with LSU. The Tigers are facing a steep uphill battle in trying to flip Speaks, but that won't stop the Tigers from trying.
And LSU isn't just stopping at Speaks. The Tigers are hoping the door they open with him also helps them open a door with OL Roderick Taylor, a high school teammate and fellow Ole Miss commit. Taylor, ranked as the No. 3 OG in the country, has said he will not visit LSU and is firm to the Rebels, but the Tigers will hope that if they can flip one, they can flip both. While that's an even longer shot, LSU is not leaving any stones unturned in its pursuit of players along the lines.
TIGERS AT TOP OF LIST FOR KELLY
Now one offensive lineman that LSU does have a legitimate chance with is fast-riser Derrick Kelly. The three-star from the Florida Panhandle has exploded on the scene in the last month, and has become one of LSU's primary targets along the offensive line. Kelly is still set to take his official visit to LSU the weekend of Jan. 17, and according to a source, the Tigers are in a great place.
One of Kelly's high school coaches said LSU "is at the top" of Kelly's list exiting the dead period, especially after Les Miles impressed both him and his family during an in-home visit last month. The Tigers will look to capitalize on that early momentum with a successful official visit next weekend.
But plenty of competition remains for this late bloomer. Florida State and now Alabama have also been in the mix for Kelly, though neither of those schools have the need LSU does along the offensive line. The Noles already have six offensive linemen committed in the 2014 class, and there's a strong feeling that they don't have room for Kelly. Alabama has four committed, but Scout's John Garcia reports that JUCO tackle Dominick Jackson is a longshot to qualify academically.
For that reason, the Tide are making a strong push for Kelly to be their right tackle in this class, and they're expected to receive an official visit as well. So though LSU has to like its position for now, there's still a long way to go in Kelly's recruitment.
OPTIMISM THERE WITH VALENTINE
LSU also feels its in a great position with recent Miami decommit Travonte Valentine. The four-star DT said after the Army Bowl last week that he was dropping his pledge to the Canes because of the uncertainty around Al Golden and his flirtation with Penn State. Though Golden has since said he's staying in Miami, that hasn't changed where Valentine stands in his recruitment.
Sources indicate that Valentine would have eventually decommitted from Miami regardless of the coaching situation, and LSU is the new leader for this behemoth on the defensive line. He'll take his official visit this month, with it expected the Jan. 17 weekend, though as of late last week, Valentine and his camp were still in the process of finalizing the details.
It's also worth mentioning that LSU feels there are no character or academic concerns with Valentine, and he is an absolute take at this point in the game. All those issues have cleared with Valentine in the last few months since his transfer to Champagnat Catholic. His previous school did not offer the curriculum necessary for him to earn the credits to qualify with the NCAA, similar to what happened with Rashard Robinson, who spent the last summer at Champagnat to get cleared by the NCAA. Now Valentine is on the right degree path as well, and according to his coach, he has a GPA higher than 3.0, so there won't be any lingering academic issues for him moving forward.
With all this effort by LSU to flip prospects committed elsewhere, they must also mind their shop, as Oklahoma continues to make a strong push for Deondre Clark. The Oklahoma City native is coming off a dominant performance at the Semper-Fidelis All-American Bowl, and keeping him remains another high priority for LSU. The Sooners started making a strong push during the most recent contact period, and most feel that Clark's family wants to keep him close to home.
Oklahoma's confidence has grown in the last few weeks, and Scout's Bob Pryzbolo feels that they're a legitimate contender for Clark's signature on Signing Day. This will ultimately come down to whether Clark's family feels comfortable with him going so far from home for college, because Clark has long said he wants to play in the SEC. But if he ultimately feels family is more important, he will likely end up a Sooner.
CARTER NOT ANOTHER NKEMDICHE
For the second straight year, LSU's making a late push at the nation's No. 1 DE. The Tigers have secured an official visit with Lorenzo Carter for the Jan. 17 weekend, a year after Robert Nkemdiche made a January visit to Baton Rouge. But according to Scout's Chad Simmons, the Tigers are a much more legitimate contender for Carter than they were for Nkemdiche.
There was little doubt about how strong a lean to Ole Miss Nkemdiche was a year ago, and that proved true as he ultimately signed with the Rebels. Though Carter is considered a heavy Georgia lean, most feel that it's not as much a lock as Nkemdiche was in 2013. The official visit will go a long way in determining LSU's chances with Carter, but because he has grown an increasingly stronger relationship with Brick Haley, you can't rule out the Tigers at this point. It's still a longshot, but LSU can make up serious ground with a successful visit next weekend.