By DEREK PONAMSKY
Les Miles has been among the best recruiters in the country over the last decade.
Most of that work has been done by wrangling the biggest and baddest recruits the state of Louisiana has to offer. That is a source of pride for the residents of Sportsman’s Paradise.
In the opinion of the good hard-working folks of Louisiana, the head coach at the state’s flagship institution is supposed to make sure a fence surrounds Louisiana and not a single player that LSU offers is allowed to get out of the state to play college football.
"The fence” is a myth.
Sure, the players from inside of the state’s borders should be the backbone of the proud LSU program, that is not something that I or anyone else will argue.
But a fence around the state? That’s an antiquated thought. Here’s why.
The era of signing 30 players a year is gone.
The era of taking every player from in-state regardless of if they fit into the schemes you run is as old-fashioned as a suit with knickers.
And as important as either of those two thoughts is that if you build a fence to prevent guys from getting out, that hinders guys from coming in.
Sometimes the guys coming in are necessary, sometimes they are a luxury.
LSU has had 14 first-round picks in the last 10 NFL drafts.
Nine of them have been players who are from Louisiana (Michael Clayton, Marcus Spears, LaRon Landry, Craig Davis, Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Morris Claiborne, Barkevious Mingo and Eric Reid). Five of them have been guys from out of state (Joseph Addai, JaMarcus Russell, Dwayne Bowe, Patrick Peterson and Michael Brockers).
But that is just the high end of things, there are also the run of the mill situations.
In 2013 LSU started out of state players at quarterback, fullback, offensive guard, tight end, defensive end, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback and safety.
Of the 24 players in the starting lineup against Florida in the seventh game of the 2013 season,10 came from outside Louisiana.
It is because LSU in 2014 is a national program. It recruits everywhere.
But that is just part of the situation.
The entire football playing world knows how good the players in the state of Louisiana are.
Texas A&M, a school in a state with a population of 26 million people, hired a coach this offseason specifically to recruit Louisiana.
Every single school in the SEC recruits Louisiana every single year. Nearly every school in a power conference sends at least one assistant coach to Louisiana to recruit in the spring.
A state with 4.6 million people is recruited harder than any other state in the union.
That is why "the fence” is a myth.
Recruiting is a 365-day-a-year job, and nine LSU coaches simply cannot compete against dozens of schools coming in to the state to compete for players every single year.
Surely, LSU will get its share of players.
And the best of the best are truly what LSU wants. It is why top players from across the nation covet an LSU offer.
Leonard Fournette was not just the best player in the state of Louisiana in the 2014 class, he was the top player in the nation. He could have gone anywhere they play football.
He decided to stay in-state.
Others did not.
Like in the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 classes, there were players in Louisiana's top-10 who left the state. And just like those years LSU was able to go into other states to get its top players.
In those years LSU has gone to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, California, New Jersey and Australia to sign talent.
In the 2014 class LSU signed the No. 1 player in Illinois (Clifton Garrett), the Nos. 3 and 8 players in Texas (Jamal Adams and Edward Paris), the No. 5 player in Mississippi (Devin Voorhies) and the No. 6 player in Oklahoma (Deondre Clark). All while keeping the No. 1 player in the nation in state.
In 2013 LSU signed the top player in North Carolina (Greg Gilmore), the No. 2 player in Illinois (Ethan Pocic), No. 3 in Nebraska (Christian LaCouture), No. 4 in New Jersey (Tashawn Bower), No. 6 in Tennessee (Frank Herron) and No. 20 in California (Hayden Rettig).
Those guys were huge in helping overcome a year where the state of Louisiana was down.
And that is another reason I don’t believe in "the fence” -- sometimes, the out of state guys are a much better fit.
I understand the thought of giving the local guys a shot, but what if they do not fit what LSU does?
Should "the fence” hamstring you from heading outside of the borders to fill your needs? I think not.
Much was made in the 2014 recruiting cycle of the fact LSU did not sign Hootie Jones from Neville. In watching Jones I often questioned his fit at LSU. I was of the opinion that if he lived in Beaumont or Natchez he would not be a guy LSU pursued.
In the end Jamal Adams is a much better fit for what LSU asks their defensive backs to do.
But there was pressure, incredible pressure, on LSU to sign Jones because he lived in the state.
"The fence” was the reason.
Certainly the hope is the LSU staff will keep the top talent in state, but in the event those players decide to play their college football elsewhere, nothing will stop the LSU staff from finding more than capable replacements.
Not even an imaginary fence.