Commitment of Neville defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence pushes LSU closer to historic class

Rashard Lawrence helped LSU get one step closer to history.

Lawrence, the state’s second-ranked Class of 2016 prospect and the fifth-best defensive tackle, committed to the Tigers on Friday at a ceremony at Neville High in Monroe — another in-state big-fish that coach Les Miles and his staff reeled in.

Lawrence is the eighth top-10 player from the state to commit to LSU. The Tigers have never signed more than seven of Louisiana’s top-10 prospects in Miles’ 11 years as coach.

In a crowded ceremony in Neville High’s gym, Lawrence slipped on a black LSU baseball cap and raised both hands, flashing the LSU “L.”

“I stayed up long nights for this,” he said before announcing his decision. “It’s tough. I decided yesterday, actually.”

Lawrence’s addition strengthens LSU’s grasp on the No. 1 recruiting class, keeping the Tigers ahead of Ohio State in a back-and-forth battle less than two weeks before national signing day. Miles’ club now holds the top-ranked recruiting class in three of the four major outlets. LSU has never signed the consensus No. 1 class.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Lawrence is the Tigers’ 22nd commitment in a class that’s expected to reach as many as 28 to 29 by signing day Feb. 3. Lawrence finished his senior season with a team-leading 91 tackles, 58 of them solo. He had eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

Lawrence’s decision mostly hinged on new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, he told Monroe news station KTVE/KARD.

“It was LSU for a lot of reasons. The key reason was being able to talk to Coach Aranda,” Lawrence said. “I’ve always liked the school, but he showed me some things that I liked. That’s what it came down to.”

He made his final decision Thursday, but Lawrence woke up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., he told the news station.

“I tried to stay off social media so my mind wouldn’t keep going back and forth,” he said.

Lawrence spent two hours visiting and speaking with Aranda and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron during his official visit to LSU last weekend — a key moment in his recruitment. Lawrence said they explained how they plan to “utilize me.”

Lawrence had offers from the likes of UCLA, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma and Georgia, trimming the list to two for his much-awaited final decision. Buckeyes coaches visited Lawrence at his home Tuesday, and Miles followed with a Wednesday in-home visit as two of the nation’s powerhouses battled for one of the country’s best.

Many of them this year are in Louisiana. The state is enjoying one of its deepest recruiting classes in recent history. LSU has 21 players ranked as four- or five-star recruits. That’s fifth-most nationally, only trailing jumbo states Florida, Texas and California and football factory Georgia.

Per capita, no other state has more four- and five-star prospects this year. The Tigers are reeling them in, too — and with former recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson gone.

Wilson ended his six-year stay in Baton Rouge last week to be the head coach at Texas-San Antonio. Austin Thomas, Wilson’s right-hand man in recruiting and LSU’s director of player personnel, is assuming many of his old boss’ duties. Thomas even hit the road with other assistants during this critical time in the recruiting calendar.

Lawrence’s commitment wasn’t necessarily surprising. Many felt he was a strong lean to LSU. Orgeron and special teams coordinator/linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto, known as two of the nation’s best, were his primary recruiters.

“Hold that tiger!” Orgeron tweeted minutes after Lawrence’s announcement.

Lawrence chose between the nation’s two recruiting juggernauts this year.

Ohio State and LSU are the top teams in the team recruiting rankings of three of the four major outlets. They’ve battled for a host of players, including most recently Maryland quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who committed to OSU earlier this week.

Lawrence becomes LSU’s first composite five-star commitment. The Buckeyes also have one. LSU has a nation-leading 17 four-stars to OSU’s 15. Just four other teams have double-digit four-star players committed.

LSU’s 2016 commitment class

Edwin Alexander, DT, 6-2, 310, Hammond (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Willie Allen, T, 6-7, 300, New Orleans (John Curtis)

x-Dee Anderson, WR, 6-4, 177, Mesquite, Texas (West Mesquite)

Andre Anthony, DE, 6-3, 215, New Orleans (Edna Karr)

Donavaughn Campbell, G, 6-4, 345, Ponchatoula (Ponchatoula)

Da’Monte Coxie, WR, 6-3, 175, Baton Rouge (East St. John)

Connor Culp, K, 5-10, 180, Phoenix (Desert Vista)

Drake Davis, WR, 6-4, 215, Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)

x-Michael Divinity, LB, 6-2, 218, Marrero (John Ehret)

Erick Fowler, LB, 6-1, 230, Manor, Texas (Manor)

Rashard Lawrence, DT, 6-3, 305, Monroe (Neville)

Cameron Lewis, S, 6-1, 190, Monroe (Wossman)

Glen Logan, DT, 6-4, 290, Destrehan (Destrehan)

Eric Monroe, S, 6-0, 180, Houston (North Shore)

Jamal Pettigrew, TE, 6-6, 225, New Orleans (St. Augustine)

Caleb Roddy, DE, 6-5, 250, Denham Springs (Denham Springs)

Jakori Savage, T, 6-6, 300, Bay Minette, Ala. (Baldwin County)

x-Saivion Smith, CB, 6-1, 175, Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)

x-Stephen Sullivan, WR, 6-5, 230, Donaldsonville (Donaldsonville)

Rahssan Thornton, LB, 6-4, 220, Killeen, Texas (Shoemaker)

Andraez Williams, CB, 6-2, 165, Shreveport (Calvary Baptist)

x-Devin White, ATH, 6-0, 255, Springhill (North Webster)

x-already enrolled at LSU

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.

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