BATON ROUGE, La.-- There's one thing Justin Manning wants to see when he visits LSU for the Alabama showdown Saturday.
"Hopefully, I'll see a win [for LSU]," said the Dallas/Kimball four-star defensive tackle who will make LSU his fourth official visit. "For some reason, all the schools I visit lose while I'm there."
Indeed, he visited Texas A&M when LSU won there, 24-19. He was at TCU when the Horned Frogs were upset by Iowa State, and he visited Oklahoma when the Sooners lost to Kansas State. So next weekend he'll be looking for a win -- just as LSU is looking for a win in its efforts to land a quality defensive tackle like Manning.
Defensive tackle is, arguably, the need area that has been the least addressed so far in LSU's signing class.
The Tigers will lose defensive ends, but have two four-star ends coming in in Lewis Neal and Frank Herron and a lesser known prospect in three-star in Michael Patterson. The Tigers will lose offensive linemen, but they've got help on the way in four-star prospects Ethan Pocic, Andy Dodd and K.J. Malone and three-star Josh Boutte.
But at defensive tackle, there's an itch that still needs a lot of scratching. Facing the inevitable loss of senior Josh Downs and the likely loss of junior Bennie Logan to the NFL draft, there will be a need for quality players who can push for playing time. Yet, for LSU, the 2013 recruiting class has yielded only Tevin Lawson, the Denham Springs, La., star who has a longer track record as an offensive lineman than he does on defense.
Another three-star defensive tackle, Kennard Swanson, has committed to the Tigers, but as a fullback.
There is plenty of room in the class for a talented tackle to make an impact.
That's where Manning's story gets important to the Tigers. He'll be in Tiger Stadium Saturday, as will Greg Gilmore, the Hope Mills, N.C./Southview product who, like Manning, is an ESPN 150 defensive tackle. It'll be the only day of the season where two ESPN 150 defensive tackles are likely to be in the house at the same time.
If LSU is to land a big-name defensive tackle in this class, it's most likely to be out of those two, although ESPN 150 DT Maquedius Bain of Fort Lauderdale/University New School of Nova has said he will visit LSU for the Ole Miss game. A solid three-star defensive tackle, Christian LaCouture, a recent de-commit from Nebraska, said he'll visit LSU for the Alabama game.
Gilmore seemed to have LSU as a leader late in the summer, but enjoyed a September trip to Florida that seemed to propel the Gators to the forefront, then visited Oklahoma for their loss Saturday to Notre Dame.
Manning, meanwhile, has already had a chance to be impressed by LSU, even while he was being hosted by Texas A&M.
"The difference between them," he said, "was LSU always had fresh d-linemen, rotated them in and out. Texas A&M kept the same four on the field the whole game."
If LSU is to keep the depth that would allow it to continue its four-man rotation, it might need an impact true freshman. Anthony Johnson, who splits starting time with Downs, and Logan's backup, Ego Ferguson, will likely return next year to be the starters, but behind them, reserves Quentin Thomas and Mickey Johnson have played sparingly.
Manning didn't tip his hand as to whether he preferred to be in a deep rotation like LSU uses or featured in more snaps, as in Texas A&M's situation.
"Either way," he said. "Whatever place is the best for me."
One thing is clear: LSU coach Les Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis love the deep rotation of tackles. To have that same depth next year, they might have to sign one of the talented prospects visiting this weekend.