Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Under-the-radar WR set for LSU visit
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- A year ago, you had your list of big receivers on your LSU wish list for the 2013 class.
There were Ricky Seals-Jones, Quantavius Leslie, and any number of wideouts, 6-foot-3 and above. Any of them would fill a need for a tall receiver for the Tigers after the departure of Rueben Randle to the NFL.
Bet you never thought of Kevin Spears.
Better think about him now.
Spears (New Orleans/Holy Cross), a rangy wideout, will take an official visit to LSU this weekend. He landed an offer a day after committing during a visit to Louisiana Tech. He's one of several relative unknowns who have popped onto LSU's radar lately, something that's not uncommon this time of year.
LSU has a visit this weekend from off-the-radar defensive back prospect Eddie Jackson and another scheduled for Jan. 25 from tight end Cethan Carter. This time last year, Jackson hadn't played his first varsity game yet. At season's end, Carter had no major offers, but he'll come to LSU for a visit Jan. 25 fresh off visits to Nebraska (Jan. 11) and Alabama (coming up this weekend).
Why would LSU want these players?
Spears is your typical late-bloomer who comes into focus late in signing period. He's one of a couple of such players in LSU's wish list for the second half of January. Carter emerged after a growth spurt turned him from a marginal fullback to an intriguing tight end. Jackson was an academic risk.
They represent three typical stories of the under-the-radar player.
At 6-foot-3 and with athleticism and tremendous hands, Spears has all the makings of a major prospect, but he only started playing the game in the 2011 season and he emerged as an accomplished player in his senior season in 2012, catching 60 passes and surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for a Tigers team that reached the Louisiana Class 4A semifinals.
"I worked hard in the off-season," said Spears, who was an established basketball player before making the switch. "I didn't know where it was going to take me, but I worked hard at it."
And it quickly paid off.
It's a similar story for Jackson (Pompano Beach/Boyd Anderson), a Florida prospect who did not have the grades to even participate in football until his senior year. After putting in work to get his grades in order, Jackson was finally able to play this year and showed elite athleticism as a wide receiver/defensive back. LSU would like him as a defensive back.
For some of these players, the process moves almost too fast. Spears was a hidden gem for a long time and received interest, but no offer, from LSU.
Then Louisiana Tech asked him to visit last week.
"I liked it," he said.
So he committed. But not so fast, LSU said, and turned what had been a serious flirtation into an official offer and a scheduled visit.
"I committed to Louisiana Tech, but LSU is giving me the opportunity to visit and I'm going to take it," he said.
Perhaps LSU thought it had Spears safely hidden away for a late offer. Maybe Tech changed that dynamic.
It's where a lot of teams and prospects are now. That four-star recruit everybody's aiming for has likely made his choice. These hidden gems are great options to close the class -- if you can find them and keep them hidden. When word gets out, it spreads like wildfire.
After his team won Louisiana's 5A state title, Metairie/Archibishop Rummel coach Jay Roth complained that his most visible players, quarterback Damian Williams and Carter, lacked an offer from a major program.
How quickly that's changed. Carter went from no offer to an LSU grayshirt offer, to an offer from Nebraska and a visit to Alabama, all in the matter of a month. Williams had no offers either, but now he's lined up a series of mid-major suitors, coming off a weekend visit to Southern Mississippi, he is deciding what his next visit will be with Utah State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Kent State interested in his visits.
"Everybody was after the same kids, and now a lot of them need to look for somebody else," Roth said.
And a lot of colleges who like these unknowns would just as soon you, or any rival school, know who they are until signing day.