It might be Frank Wilson’s first time steering the recruiting vessel for an SEC school in Louisiana, but fortunately for LSU, the New Orleans native isn’t a stranger to the game.
On the job less than six months, Wilson’s touch on the LSU recruiting process has yielded big results for the Tigers and their 2011 class.
Prior to hitting the road for spring evaluations, LSU jumped out to their fastest start on the recruiting trails in school history, landing pledges from nearly all of the top prospects on their in-state board.
When Wilson went back into the hallways of St. Augustine, his former high school, to nab 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive guard Trai Turner earlier this month, the staff moved their in-state total to double digits.
Anthony Johnson and Quentin Thomas, both linemen, represented the lone defensive commitments. A trio of running backs and linemen, coupled with Jarvis Landry and Alonzo Lewis at receiver, rounded out the class on the offensive side.
With school out of session for the group, Wilson, hoping to strengthen the bond among the rising senior prospects, organized an afternoon gathering, which the staff tabbed as Family Day.
By encouraging each prospect to bring relatives, the day created the bonding atmosphere that that staff had hoped for when drawing up their plans.
“Coach Frank knows that the 10 committed guys from in-state are tight, so getting all of our families here helps them get closer,” said five-star tackle La’el Collins, one of the first commitments to the class. “I thought it was a great idea. The coaches didn’t even make it about the recruiting process. Hanging out and meeting everyone’s family seemed like their only goal.”
New Orleans native Anthony Johnson, who flipped his pledge from Tennessee to LSU when Wilson made his coaching switch, echoed Collins’ words.
“They brought guys like Mickey Johnson and Bradley Sylve onto campus and didn’t really hit them with the pressure to commit, but they showed them how much fun we are all having together,” he said. “The committed guys weren’t really talking about that stuff, either. It was laid back.
“Bradley might be committed to Alabama, but you can tell he is still open to what LSU has to offer,” he said. “Hanging out and playing games today probably helped him cut loose a little more. There’s a long way until he has to make a decision on what he wants to do.”
Redemptorist High running back Jeremy Hill, who told Scout.com earlier this week that he was still solid to LSU but would entertain interest from Alabama and Florida State, left campus carrying a confidence with his decision to remain a part of the class.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anything to worry about with Jeremy,” said Collins, Hill’s high school teammate. “He is always having a good time when all of us are hanging out up at LSU like this. He wants to be a part of that in college.”
Those absent from the event included the likes of Greg Robinson, Jermauria Rasco and Odell Beckham. Robinson attended Auburn’s Big Cat Weekend, while Rasco and Beckham missed for personal reasons.
Covington’s Mickey Johnson, Galena athlete Ryan Byrd and Pineville running back Derek Milton were among the uncommitted prospects on hand.
Johnson, who already holds an offer from the staff and remains one of the most coveted in-state names, gave the day two thumbs up.
“We had lots of fun, and I brought a couple of my family members to let them see what it was all about,” he said. “Coach Miles met with me in his office and we talked about where things stand, so it was a good trip.”
With the first camp session set for next weekend, the focus turns back to evaluations, which means prospects like Byrd will be back with hopes of being welcomed with increased interest - and an offer.
“They said that an offer was probably going to happen, but they also want to test me out on a few more things in person before they decide anything for sure,” Byrd said. “I was glad to make it into town this weekend though. That was a lot of fun.”