Even During COVID-19, It's Important for Recruits to Unofficially Visit LSU Football Campus
Official visits are not an option right now because of COVID-19. That has not stopped recruits from trying to find a way to visit LSU and other programs. It’s good for all parties that recruits are taking the initiative to do just that.
How does a prospective football recruit pick a college or university without seeing it first? It’s certainly a risk. Virtual tours help. They are not, nor will they ever be, the same as physically taking in the sites and sounds of a specific institution’s campus environment. LSU football is in the same situation as every other major school, but there are some positive signs for recruiting despite the pandemic.
During the first weekend of September, several key committed and uncommitted recruits visited LSU. Sounds normal, but it is not normal. These recruits traveled on their own money and had to do pretty much everything in coordination with each other. Sounds crazy, but welcome to COVID-19 recruiting.
Recruits Visiting on Their Own
This is complicated. Unlike an official visit, there’s no official funding to recruits from LSU, the Tigers coaching staff cannot be involved with recruits once on campus, and the prospects have to basically do everything themselves. There’s really no other choice for LSU.
First off, this is a medical issue. LSU, like any other institution, does not want an outbreak of COVID-19 so it’s not going to facilitate visits featuring interactions between recruits from several regions of the country and numerous LSU staff and players, let alone the student body.
Thus, LSU will not officially be a part of the visits. There are legal ramifications, and money always matters. LSU does not want to be sued, nor does any other school trying to recruit during the pandemic.
What Recruits Will Still Learn from Visiting LSU: Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge is a large metropolitan area. Many recruits, especially out of state recruits, will be learning about the city itself for the first time. It’s difficult for LSU coach Ed Orgeron and his staff to provide a clear depiction of the areas near LSU without visits because it’s such a unique city. That’s a huge benefit for the recruits that already visited (more on those prospects in a moment), as well as the recruits that may take unofficial visits before the pandemic concludes. That’s only the beginning.
Learning About the Cajun and Creole Food
While many people in the central Louisiana area take the unique and flavorful food for granted, it’s something new for many recruits to try crawfish etouffee, gumbo, or deep fried alligator. It’s how people on the bayou live, and it’s an enormous part of the LSU culture. It’s also a big part of what the LSU football program has utilized as a recruiting tool for decades. Coach Orgeron is no exception. Then there’s the way of life in Baton Rouge.
Recruits Navigating Baton Rouge
Before an LSU recruit can be truly sure about LSU, he needs to at least begin to understand the city—and the traffic—for starters. Those that have lived or live in Baton Rouge know just how difficult it can be to get around sometimes. Maybe that’s fine for a recruit, maybe not. A prospect needs to see that for himself, and that’s a huge benefit with each of these unofficial visits.
There are many places for entertainment in the greater Baton Rouge area, and that’s only going to be seen by traveling around and visiting the different parks, restaurants, neighborhoods and shopping centers. Of course that means meeting the locals as well. The hospitality of the region, the lingo that will be experienced and discussions of life in Baton Rouge will surely come up. That’s all helpful for the recruits that visited or will visit in the future.
Life on the LSU Campus
When the recruits actually go around the campus, see the Oak trees (my personal favorite part of the LSU campus), walk across the quad, see the dorms and academic buildings, go by Mike the Tiger, see Tiger Stadium, those are the moments that recruits will begin to imagine if they can see themselves playing for the purple and gold. Being on the LSU campus matters.
To be able to touch it, see it and even ask random people about places to go and see around the LSU campus is important. Taking the unofficial visits allows recruits to be able to experience LSU for what it is. That’s truly important.
Meeting the other Recruits and Helping One Another
Each recruit will want to meet other prospects considering or already committed to LSU. It’s nice to place a name with a face, mask or not. LSU recruits nationally, so many of its top recruits come from a great distance to experience LSU.
Committed recruits from outside of Louisiana like defensive end Keanu Koht from Vero Beach (Fla.) High School and in-state commitment Chris Hilton from Zachary (La.) High School may communicate with each other and coaches on a cell phone. However, it likely did not compare to meeting up with each other in Baton Rouge.
An uncommitted recruit like defensive end Korey Foreman can also learn quite a bit about LSU and the surrounding area via local recruits. Asking Hilton, for instance, about the daily life in Baton Rouge is a prime example. Hilton lives only a half hour from Baton Rouge. It’s inevitable that a recruit like Foreman, from California, will ask several questions about life in Louisiana. These unofficial visits will enable Foreman, and other prospects, to make more informed college decisions.
Consider where many of these young men come from. Offensive tackle Tristan Leigh hails from Fairfax (Va.) Robinson, while slot wide receiver Jojo Earle attends Aledo (Texas) High School, and local star defensive tackle Maason Smith plays for Houma (La.) Terrebonne. These are all unique areas.
The players will quite possibly learn as much about each other as they learn about attending LSU and being a football player. It’s truly great that these young men met up at LSU. It will benefit each of them.
Bottom Line: These Unofficial Visits Will Be Important for LSU and Recruits
There’s much to be learned by visiting LSU. That’s why it’s good that recruits came together to meet up in Baton Rouge. Parents were also along with many of the recruits, and that’s helpful to them as well. Hard to send your child off to school if you and/or the recruit never stepped foot on LSU’s campus.
With more information at hand, the LSU commitments and uncommitted recruits like Foreman will be able to make a decision they can live with for three to five years. This means players that are happy with their final college decisions, as well as mitigating transfers after enrolling at LSU.
Let us all hope and pray that this unfortunate pandemic comes to a close sooner than later. Until then, the LSU football program, and each recruit that it offers, will need to find different ways to learn and understand one another; beginning with unofficial visits.