Handful of prospects visit LSU this weekend

As national signing day draws closer, there are fewer prospects taking their official visits to LSU. But this doesn't take away from the importance of getting commitments from them. Tiger Rag looks at who's in town and who's not.

Cornerback Aaron Miller of Fresno, Calif., is at LSU after visiting Southern California, UCLA and Oklahoma. As of earlier this week, it appeared that Oklahoma was the frontrunner for Miller – even after a visit to USC.

"I would say Oklahoma still has a slight lead but all three schools (OU, USC, UCLA) are just about equal," Miller told TheInsiders.com before his trip to Baton Rouge. "If I had to rank it, I would say Oklahoma has a slight edge and then UCLA just because I'm so familiar with the players there and I'm pretty tight with Ricky Manning and Matt Ware. I actually bumped into those two at a party. Ricky was like, ‘Man what are you doing here?' I told him I was on my visit and he just kind of shook his head and smiled at me.

"I'm definitely going to take my visit to LSU next weekend and then that following week, sometime between Monday and Wednesday, I'll make my decision. If I had to decide right now, I really couldn't. All three teams are right there."

A Q&A session with Miller can be found at TheInsiders Network site for Oklahoma

Selma, Ala., wide receiver Ben Obomanu was labeled an Auburn lean for a while, but things became uncertain when Tommy Tuberville decided to replace his offensive coordinator. Florida then came into the forefront when it was learned Gator receivers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney were leaning toward early exits for the NFL, but the picture in Gainesville grew cloudy for Ben when Steve Spurrier announced he was leaving.

Obomanu had been to an LSU game unofficially and was supposed to make his official visit on Dec. 1, but he changed his mind in order to attend the Florida-Tennessee game. Of course he didn't foresee Spurrier's exit, and it may work out for the Tigers since Obomanu cancelled his trip to Notre Dame to come to Baton Rouge. An extensive interview with Obomanu can be found on the Inside The Auburn Tigers Web site.

The most intriguing name on the LSU visit list this weekend is Peter Dyakowski, an offensive lineman from Vancouver College (equivalent of U.S. high school) in British Columbia. At 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, the Canadian prospect has attracted a great deal of attention from colleges in the United States. He is also a standout on his school's wrestling team.

Schools on the West Coast like Washington, Oregon State and Stanford were Dyakowski's initial visits, but he is going well out of his way to check out LSU. A number of Canadian prep standouts are in Louisiana this weekend for the Junior Global Football Championships taking place around the New Orleans area in conjunction with Super Bowl XXXVI.

Linebacker Willie Demps (6-1, 215) of Pensacola, Fla., is a relatively new name on the LSU recruiting front. An outstanding senior season at Washington High School earned him Class 4A all-state recognition and thrust Demps into prominence. Tulane has already hosted him earlier this month.

LSU commitment Archie McDaniel also made his official visit for the Jan. 25 weekend. The Bay City, Texas, linebacker has made only one visit since committing to LSU, and that was to Texas A&M on Jan. 18. The Aggies, Oklahoma and Texas have continued to recruit McDaniel even after his pledge to LSU, which is solid heading into national signing day.

Another Texas linebacker was scheduled to come to Baton Rouge this weekend, but LSU coaches asked Marvin Byrdsong of Longview to postpone his trip until next weekend. Marvin told Tiger Rag on Saturday he still doesn't have a favorite among the Tigers, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Arkansas. He has visited all of these campuses and will wrap up with the Tigers on Feb. 2. He said that he did take added notice of LSU when Trev Faulk decided to leave the Tigers following his junior season.

"Coach (Gary) Gibbs and coach (Charlie) Harbison have been by to visit me at home," said Byrdsong. "I'm just going to sit down with my parents after making all of my visits, figure out the pros and cons of each school and make a decision."

Although Byrdsong's brother, Shawn, is a safety at Mississippi State, Marvin says he isn't getting any family pressure to commit to the Bulldogs. "They're just letting me be my own man on this," he said.

Marvin says he has earned qualifying core grades and plans to retake his standardize test on Feb. 9.

TheInsiders.com Network ranks Byrdsong (6-3, 235) as the nation's sixth-best linebacker prospect. He finished his senior season at Longview with with 154 tackles, including 95 solos. He was selected as the District 12-5A Defensive Player of the Year for 2001.

Tiger Rag talked to Hahnville coach Lou Valdin earlier this week regarding the plans of wide receiver Mark Young to visit LSU. He said he didn't know if Young solidified the trip to Baton Rouge but remarked that he is still working on his standardized test score. Louisiana Tech and Tulane are also recruiting Young.

Kirkland's commitment may not be firm 

By Sean Temple 

To commit or not commit  - that was the question New Albany, Miss., offensive lineman Jay Kirkland faced last week. Kirkland had just arrived back from his Auburn trip and still had a verbal commitment to Ole Miss Rebels. But on Monday, Jan. 21, Kirkland decided that he wanted to go to a team that had an immediate chance of winning a championship. He judge that to be the team with the most recent SEC title - LSU.

Kirkland (6-4, 300) had taken his official visit to Baton Rouge in December, where he took in a Tigers basketball game, saw his name in lights and was presented with a jersey featuring his name in the LSU locker room.

Kirkland played offensive guard at New Albany (formerly W.P. Daniel High) and, according to coach Steve Denson, graded out at a 92 percent in his blocking this season. Denson says it is "the highest I have ever had in my years of coaching."

Denson credits Kirkland with a 350-pound bench press, a 500-pound squat and a time of 5.1 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Kirkland was also a defensive lineman and has a brother, Russ, who plays tight end at Murray State.

Kirkland first announced his verbal commitment to LSU through the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss. He said that the coaches at LSU told him "there is a very good chance of getting moved from guard to tackle" if he committed to the Tigers.

Kirkland was named to the Clarion-Ledger "Ten Most Wanted List" earlier this year, ranked as the ninth most-sought-after high school recruit in the state of Mississippi.

The rap on Kirkland is that he has a problem battling through injuries in his career. As a senior, he was slowed with shoulder and ankle injuries, and last season had chronic knee problems. There has also been conjecture that Ole Miss may have lost interest in Kirkland because of the injuries.

He lives about 30 minutes away from Oxford and there may be a push from his family to stay closer to home than the six-and-a-half hours it would take them to see him play at LSU. 

Some players don't learn the difference between pain and injury until they get to college. Kirkland may need a lesson in that if he does stay with his verbal commitment to the Tigers. Kirkland expects to sign a letter of intent on the national signing day, but don't rule out the chance that it could be received at a fax machine in Oxford.

- Sean Temple is Tiger Rag's Mississippi correspondent. He is a sports reporter/anchor for WXVT-TV in Greenville, Miss.

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