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Monday, March 18, 2013
LSU recruiting rewind: Upchurch added

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When LSU landed its seventh 2014 football commitment, Tony Upchurch, on Saturday, it sent a message about LSU's recruiting area and how the Tigers will approach recruiting the wide receiver position

If there's one big take-away from the commitment, it's this ...

Tony Upchurch
LSU reached into Texas to land a commitment from 2014 WR Tony Upchurch.
LSU is working to be a recruiting player in the state of Texas, a particularly profound message to be sent the year after LSU was shutout in the Lone Star state. That led some to speculate that perhaps Texas A&M's entrance into the SEC had given Texas players a route to the SEC that would keep them from being tempted to leave home for LSU.

That has not been the case this year as Upchurch became the third Texas player to commit to LSU and one who most demonstrates LSU's commitment to thoroughly evaluate Texas talent.

Upchurch, a wide receiver from the Houston suburb of Pearland, is not one of the 50 Texans on the ESPN Watch List for 2014, and his offer sheet is minimal (LSU was his first major offer). Yet, LSU was confident enough in Upchurch to offer him a scholarship in a year when Louisiana has four wide receivers who are in the Watch List.

What that says is LSU is doing more than skimming the surface for obvious names outside of its state lines. LSU already had commitments from ESPN Watch List Texans Ed Paris and Chris Hardeman. But Upchurch is a more obscure prospect. LSU could have stayed home and picked up bigger names. Instead, it obviously felt comfortable enough with its evaluations to offer Upchurch.

Sure, LSU is after the names everybody knows about. Aside from Paris and Hardeman, LSU is considered a frontrunner for elite Texas cornerback Tony Brown, but LSU's connections in the state run much deeper than that. On the same weekend Upchurch committed, the LSU coaching staff also extended an offer to Kevin Shorter, an athlete from Newton, Texas. Shorter might project as a running back at the college level but, like Upchurch, he was not on the ESPN Watch List.

Newton is in the recruiting sweet spot of LSU receivers coach Adam Henry, who recruited the area when he was an assistant coach at McNeese State, an FCS program. At the time, Newton, a rural school that competes in Class 2A, was supplying a steady stream of players to McNeese (including NFL player Bryan Smith), which enjoyed what seemed to be a hidden talent factory on the southern edge of east Texas' piney woods.

Henry is banking on those old contacts to help LSU mine a talent-rich area in the heart of Texas A&M's recruiting base.

For Henry, the impact of the Upchurch commitment also affected the position he coaches. In Louisiana, there was an expectation that LSU might look to fill its wide receivers need -- more or less four receivers -- with its four in-state Watch List prospects, a bumper class for the state.

With LSU accepting the Upchurch commitment, it probably means the Tigers won't pursue all four Louisiana Watch List receivers. LSU has not extended an offer to Cameron Sims, the tall Watch List receiver from Ouachita Parish High School in Monroe, La. The Tigers have, however, offered the other three in-state Watch List receivers: Trey Quinn (Lake Charles/Barbe), Malachi Dupre (River Ridge/John Curtis) and Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr).

If Upchurch seems like a reach, one can easily look at the talent available in Louisiana's home state and conclude he must be pretty good, if LSU is passing on some of its local talent for him.