Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Recruiting battles: LSU vs. Arkansas
By David Helman
They call this game "The Battle for the Boot," and the word "boot" rhymes with "recruit." What does that mean? Nothing at all, but it's definitely a fun piece of trivia for two programs that have consistently played thrilling games for about a decade now.
Arkansas is a bit reminiscent of the look we took at Mississippi State. The Razorbacks have no problem recruiting talent from Louisiana -- they feature seven players from the state on their roster, including backup QB Brandon Mitchell, an Amite, La., product who has a 113.5 rating in limited action this season as Tyler Wilson has coped with injuries -- but they have yet to really challenge LSU for its prized home-state recruits. Several of Arkansas' Louisiana players were highly regarded enough to earn four-star rankings, but not offers from the Tigers.
This looks like a trend that's likely to continue this year with two prized home-state talents:
RB Kaleb Blanchard (Denham Springs, La./Denham Springs): Blanchard is one of the better backs in Louisiana this year, but LSU's depth at the position, combined with a serious injury Blanchard suffered last year kept the Tigers off his trail. He said Arkansas' interest in him despite his ongoing injury rehab was one of the biggest selling points on the Razorbacks, and he seems firmly committed despite the turmoil at the coaching spot in Fayetteville.
TE Deondre Skinner (Patterson, La./Patterson): With Skinner, you at least have to admit a certain level of interest for LSU. The Tigers never offered the 6-foot-3, 220-pound tight end, but Skinner spent several weeks of this season taking in games at Tiger Stadium and hanging around the program. It looked possible in September or October that the Tigers would try to get Skinner to flip on his commitment to Arkansas, made in May, but that doesn't seem as likely now -- not considering LSU already holds commitments from two tight ends in this class.
LSU doesn't foray into Arkansas on the recruiting scene all that often, but some exceptions can be made. ESPN Watch List defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson (El Dorado, Ark./El Dorado) has already received some early interest from the Tigers, though he doesn't yet hold an offer.
Of course, the dynamics in LSU-Arkansas recruiting could be due for an overhaul in the coming months. The Razorbacks will soon hire a new coach, and just as Bobby Petrino changed the Hogs' recruiting landscape several years ago, a new hire will undoubtedly do so.
The biggest battle for Arkansas is likely going to be Texas A&M, which is rising in prominence in the Razorbacks' fertile recruiting territory of East Texas. But don't forget to throw LSU into that mix, as the Tigers have relied on that territory just as much as the Hogs in the last few years. Of the 14 Texas natives on LSU's roster, half drew interest and offers from the Razorbacks -- including two from last year's class, safety Corey Thompson, who already has nine tackles this year, and defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Surprise, surprise: the battle for recruits in Texas is bound to get more competitive, whether it's LSU, Texas A&M or Arkansas.