Ed Orgeron has always been used to going into recruits' homes and getting to know the families of all who want to be a part of the LSU program. Recruiting has been the backbone to his coaching career, establishing himself as one of the elite recruiters across the country.
But that wasn't the case this past season. He wasn't able to go into their homes or welcome them to LSU's campus throughout the course of the year because of the restrictions on recruiting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are still in effect through April 15.
So when nine early enrollees and their families came to campus for the first time officially as LSU Tigers, Orgeron admitted that it was a little awkward because he hadn't yet met all of them face to face.
"We had a meeting on Saturday and it was the first time I'd met some of these guys," Orgeron said on Off the Bench. "I recruited them on zoom, I've never been in their homes, I've never had dinner with them, never been to their school. It was different but we laughed about it."
Among the early enrollees are quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, receiver Deion Smith, offensive lineman Garrett Dellinger, defensive linemen Maason Smith and Landon Jackson, linebackers Nevonteque Strong and Zavier Carter, safety Derrick Davis and punter Peyton Todd. Orgeron said it was the first time he'd ever met Strong and Davis, who were two of the later additions to the 2021 class.
"It's a great group of guys," Orgeron said. "I'm excited about these young guys that we signed. We're gonna be stacked on the entire defensive line for years to come."
Of course Orgeron and the coaching staff were also ecstatic to learn that senior offensive lineman Austin Deculus would be returning to the program for the 2021 season. With Deculus back in the fold, the Tigers now have nine returning veteran players, including four offensive linemen and the entire starting defensive line as well.
"Austin's been a great young man, has a lot of Louisiana ties and been a great leader for us, a great young man," Orgeron said. "That goes to show that our whole offensive line is coming back and they should be a strength of our football team next year."
Again, coaches can't have contact with recruits until after April 15 and there has been no indication from the NCAA if that will be extended or not. Orgeron said the program hasn't even asked for an update because that deadline is still months away.
With 20 players signed and an additional two who are committed, LSU has a little more work to do to fill out the 2021 class. The Tigers currently have three open spots on the class that would get them to 25 and offensive line figures to be the position of focus. Also keep an eye on Walker receiver Brian Thomas, who has yet to make a decision but appears to have LSU firmly in the mix.
The program is also getting a good jump on the 2022 class with seven committed players already and a number of high profile Louisiana recruits like Will Campbell, Shazz Preston and Le'veon Moss who are considering the hometown Tigers.
"We're recruiting graduate transfers, we gotta finish and then we've gotta a great start to 2022," Orgeron said.