Learn a Little about LSU’s last man
Remember the name — Desmond Little.
The Mobile, Alabama, youngster, evidently a huge LSU fan, was the official afterthought to the Tigers’ recruiting class. He was probably the only person with any interest in LSU who was ecstatic when the TV cameras dipped into Amite High School Wednesday to announce that the big fish left in Louisiana, defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher, was turning down LSU for — wait for it — Nick Saban and Alabama.
LSU’s Twittersphere went into a blue funk. It was all ready to open Christmas presents and was foiled again by St. Nick.
But there, suddenly, was Little’s scholarship.
It was no coincidence that moments later LSU announced that Little was the 25th and final piece of the Tigers’ recruiting puzzle.
If Sopsher had chosen the Tigers, no doubt Little would have found somewhere to play football and continue his education.
But it wouldn’t have been LSU.
LSU fans, minus the true recruiting junkies, had likely never heard of him.
He didn’t blind you with a bunch of recruiting stars — just three of them, when four is the accepted cutoff to get really excited about these days.
Head coach Ed Orgeron knew all about him.
Orgeron said Little had been a “silent commitment” with the Tigers for quite a while, which I guess is yet another recruiting term we have to learn (although if it makes the internet, which makes it official, is it still a “silent” commitment?)
Trouble was, if Sopsher had said yes, the Tigers would have been fresh out of available scholarships.
Little, whose Vigor High School steady churns out players, didn’t complain that the Tigers kept him waiting. He really wanted to be a Tiger.
He’s an intriguing prospect — probably a project you’re not likely to hear from for a year or three.
Mainly, at 6-foot-5 but only 210 pounds, he needs some Cajun cooking, preferably cracklins. But he’s also a sprinter on his high school track team (23.2 seconds in the 200 meters).
It certainly suggests an edge rusher in the making.
The science of recruiting as a spectator sport has taken remarkable steps in recent years.
Seemingly half the country is involved in rating and analyzing high school kids who still have a growth spurt or two left in them.
But it’s still a hit-and-miss deal. Players slip through. The five-star busts are legendary.
Of the starters in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, there were more former three-star (and less) high school players than the former four- and five-star studs.
The NFL draft throws a big party for the last man drafted — you may recall that last spring it was Lake Charles’ Trey Quinn to the Washington Redskins — and calls him “Mr. Irrelevant.” And if Quinn’s rookie season is any indication, even with a rash of injuries, he’s well on his way to becoming quite relevant.
Same for college.
Let’s call him “Mr. Afterthought.”
In fact, history suggests that you better keep an eye on Little. It also suggests you should be patient.
My friend Shea Dixon, who has the unfortunate task of keeping up with recruiting 12 months a year for 247Sports.com, can tell you who the Tigers “Mr. Afterthought” was dating to 2012.
It certainly gives hope to Little.
Two years ago Mr. Afterthought was Justin Jefferson — who last season was probably the Tigers’ best and certainly the most consistent receiver.
The year before that it was Lloyd Cushenberry — a rock on this year’s offensive line.
And in 2015? Only tight end/team captain Foster Moreau, without whom I don’t know what the Tigers would have done this year.
It gets better.
In 2014 the last man in was Darrel Williams — forgotten during the recruiting process in Leonard Fournette’s shadow — who eventually teamed with Derrius Guice for a formidable 1-2 running game punch. He recently completed his impressive rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The years 2012 and 2013 were more proof why you should wait a few years before judging a recruiting class.
There was the 2013 Afterthought, linebacker Duke Riley, who spent three years as an athletic special teams star before a breakout, team-MVP defensive season catapulted him to NFL stardom with the Atlanta Falcons.
He was following the career path of Deion Jones, 2012’s Mr. Afterthought, who also toiled mostly on special teams before his one big season at linebacker also landed him with the Falcons.
All of those guys only ended up at LSU because somebody else said no.
And it worked out pretty well.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org