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LSU ends with lowest-ranked class in 13 years at Nos. 13-15 after missing pair of top CBs

National Championship U. beat Defensive Back U.

BATON ROUGE — It rained hard Wednesday at LSU. It rained Red Elephants, Aggies and the wrong Tigers.

In a way, it was LSU's worst recruiting nightmare as it lost major prospects to former LSU head coach Nick Saban at Alabama to the east and to former LSU head coaching target and ex-LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M to the west on the same day.

By the time hump day was over, LSU was under it with its worst signing class since 2005 — just more than a month after Saban left LSU for the NFL to coach the Miami Dolphins. The Tigers' 2018 class woke up Wednesday at No. 11 in the nation, according to Rivals.com. It finished at No. 13 in Rivals.com, and that was one of the better rankings of the recruiting websites.

The 247Sports and Scout sites had LSU at No. 15. ESPN had the Tigers also at No. 13.

The previous LSU low was in 2005 at No. 22 by Rivals.com, but even that had an asterisk as coach Les Miles — on the job for barely a month — could only sign 13 players. This was because Saban had filled the roster to the brim with the No. 1 and No. 2 classes in the nation in 2003 and '04 — a pair of elite groupings still at LSU a full three years later at 30 strong who won the 2007 national championship.

This 2018 class was LSU coach Ed Orgeron's first full recruiting class. He has been the permanent head coach for 14 months now and was the interim head coach for two months prior to that. Saban's first full class in 2001 was ranked No. 1. Miles' first full class in 2006 was No. 7.

And Orgeron, a journeyman two-time interim head coach at USC and LSU and one-time 10-25 (3-21 in the SEC) permanent head coach at Ole Miss, was billed as a recruiting ace and expert closer by his boss at USC — Pete Carroll. He filled that bill a year ago, but not this year.

"Let's see what happens with this class," Orgeron said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon when asked about the low ranking. "We have some defensive linemen and some offensive linemen who are very good.

"I trust my rankings. I chose this class. I trust in my abilities to evaluate and develop better than anybody else. I'm not going to trust anyone else's evaluation. We could have had a higher class. I understand that. We missed on some so-called guys."

Orgeron found out he lost the big one at 11 p.m. Tuesday. That's when the nation's No. 1 cornerback — Patrick Surtain Jr. of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area but with strong Louisiana family roots as his father played at Karr High in New Orleans — called to say he would be choosing the Red Elephants of Alabama. The Tide had closed the gap in recent week, but this was still a surprise.

"I got on the phone and started calling other people," said, Orgeron, who had been working on Surtain basically since he was hired by Miles at LSU in January of 2015. "It's tough. We put a lot of work into him — three years, maybe four. All indications the whole time was that he was coming here. The night before, you get a phone call, and he's not. Obviously, you have to change your plan.

"That's recruiting. We are happy with the guys we got. We want guys who want to be at LSU."

Orgeron has known Surtain's father. The elder Surtain played at Southern Mississippi before a NFL career with Miami and Kansas City and is now his son's coach at American Heritage High in Plantation, Florida.

"Coaching stability," the elder Surtain said to various media outlets Wednesday when asked why his son chose Alabama and 12-year Alabama and six-time national champion coach Saban (with one at LSU) over LSU and Orgeron, who will be entering his second full season in 2018.

Orgeron's first call after Surtain's call was to 13th-ranked cornerback Mario Goodrich of Lee's Summit, Missouri, but Orgeron had not previously offered Goodrich a scholarship because he thought he had Surtain. Goodrich said no to Orgeron and yes to 2016-17 national champion coach Dabo Sweeney at Clemson.

Orgeron figured he would lose No. 18-ranked dual quarterback James Foster of Montgomery, Alabama, to Florida State. Instead, Foster pulled a twin killing as did Surtain. Not only did Foster not sign with LSU, he signed with a division rival of LSU. Foster is now with Fisher, the quarterback guru at Texas A&M.

Then, later in the day, Fisher dipped into the New Orleans area to sign No. 41 tight end Glenn Beal of John Curtis. Beal was not an LSU priority, but now he is at a division rival as well.

The rankings fallout could have been worse. LSU saved the day somewhat by signing No. 5 safety Kelvin Joseph of Scotlandville High in Baton Rouge and No. 12 wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase of Rummel High in Metairie. Joseph will now play cornerback, Orgeron said, as LSU is suddenly short there. He would have remained at safety had Surtain signed with the Tigers.

Chase joins the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana and No. 4 wide receiver in the nation in Terrace Marshall Jr. of Parkway High in Bossier City. Marshall signed with LSU's first group of 21 from Dec. 20-22 in the new early period. The Tigers did get eight of the top 10 players in the state.

"LSU ... LSU ... LSU," chanted the crowd at Rummel High when Chase (6-2, 185 pounds) put a purple-and-gold LSU cap on his head during a signing ceremony. Chase picked LSU over Auburn, which he visited over the weekend. He is the No. 4 prospect in Louisiana, according to Rivals.com, and the No. 67 prospect in the nation.

"To get two of the best receivers in the country, that was something we wanted to do," Orgeron said. "To get five defensive tackles, to sign eight of the 10 top guys in the state of Louisiana, we are proud of them."

Joseph (6-0, 185) picked LSU over Alabama and Clemson, but he had already committed to LSU last week. So his signing was expected, but then so was Surtain's to LSU. Joseph is the No. 3 prospect in Louisiana and the No. 55 national prospect, according to Rivals.com.

LSU has 23 signees for its Class of 2018, counting Cole Tracy, a transfer from Division II Assumption in Worcester, Massachusetts. No longer on any LSU class lists for 2017-18 is cornerback ArDarius Washington of Evangel Christian in Shreveport. Washington, who was not ranked nationally overall or at his position, signed with TCU as the No. 33 overall prospect in Louisiana. LSU had never signed him. He was grouped in some website listings, but he had only committed to LSU.

Because LSU is two under the maximum of 25, Orgeron said he will try to possibly fill those two with transfers at the cornerback or quarterback positions — two targets not met in 2017-18. If not, he could sign two more in 2019, which is expected to be a much better year for talent in Louisiana.

"We can add them for the next class," Orgeron said. "We are excited about what happened today. Obviously, we are disappointed with some of the losses, but you know what? We have the guys who want to fight for the Tigers, and we are proud of that."

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