Late bloomers looking for right fit

BATON ROUGE, La. -- By now, the typical follower of recruiting knows all the 4- and 5-star recruits. Ricky Seals-Jones is a household name, as is Robert Nkemdiche.

When Seals-Jones chose Texas A&M Monday, it dominated the recruiting news cycle. When Nkemdiche makes his decision, the news will rule the day, with the image of Nkemdiche at a table wearing the cap of the winning school on his head while surrounded by family and coaches sure to be placed all over the web.

But decisions like those are only a small part of December and January recruiting. More often, the story is about the kid who comes in from off the radar, the relative unknown who is either a late bloomer or simply late in getting interest.

For LSU, several of those players are coming from to the forefront, both in Louisiana and elsewhere. One new name has an offer. A couple of others are hoping to hear about one soon.

Eddie Jackson, a defensive back from Pompano Beach (Fla.) Boyd Anderson, said he got an offer from LSU after a home visit from Tigers secondary coach Corey Raymond on Monday.

"I'm real excited," said Jackson, who said he also has an offer from Tennessee.

He has reason to be excited, considering that he's a typical off-the-radar, late-emerging recruit. He didn't play football his sophomore and junior years because of grade issues.

"My 11th grade year, I really worked hard to get my grades up and I had a good year and my grades came up," he said. "Now, first I got an offer from Tennessee, then from LSU. Alabama came, but they haven't offered yet."

The 6-foot-1, 178-pound Jackson played receiver, defensive back and returned kicks. He's from the same town, but not the same school, that produced Patrick Peterson and 2013 class member Avery Johnson.

"It's a great thing," Jackson said. "Two schools right next to each other (Peterson and Johnson attended Pompano Beach Ely). My brother played against (Peterson). Peterson fit in real well down there. I feel like I can fit in."

Finding a place to fit in is often the story this late in the recruiting period.

Take Cethan Carter, the tight end-fullback from Metairie (La.) Archibishop Rummel. At 6-3, 240 pounds, Carter has the size to play fullback, which he played as a junior, or tight end, which was usually his position as a senior. He had a productive senior season, including a touchdown catch in the Class 5A state championship game victory over Lake Charles Barbe.

He passes the eye test, the skill test and, with a state championship ring, the accomplishment test. Now Carter is waiting for offers.

"He has a lot of interest," Rummel coach Jay Roth said. "but no offers yet."

He might fit in somewhere soon. Take LSU. The Tigers lost fullback commitment Kennard Swanson and the tight end position might have a need considering that Nik Jacobs, one of three underclassmen returning at the position, did not play the last three games of the season and his status on the team is uncertain.

With a player such as Carter, LSU could potentially meet both needs.

"He can catch the ball," Roth said, "and he's a vicious blocker."

He's not the only New Orleans-area player who's receiving late interest. Kevin Spears, a wide receiver from New Orleans Holy Cross, has seen his interest go up after leading his team to a surprising trip to the Class 4A semifinals.

At 6-foot-3, Spears is a big, athletic receiver who likely would have been better known if not for one detail: He only started playing football a little more than year ago.

His coach, Barry Wilson, said he talked Spears, a basketball star, into trying football his junior year. He didn't play much as a junior, learning the game, but exploded on the scene with a huge senior season with 60 catches for 1,060 yards.

"He's getting a lot of interest now," Wilson said.

Where he ends up depends a lot on who needs what. Most major schools, such as LSU, are nearing their scholarship limits, so not every school will have a need in their signing class for a late-bloomer. There has to be a good fit.

Ask Damian Williams. Roth's three-star quarterback at Rummel was the Outstanding Player of the 5A championship game after completing 11 of 13 passes, including a pair of touchdowns. It capped a stellar undefeated senior season following a junior season where he emerged as a prospect with offers from Kansas State and others.

Williams throws the ball well, runs with power, has good grades, is a proven winner and is mechanically sound. Yet, how many offers does he currently have?

"Not one," Roth said. "He should be a Division I player."

Williams stepped away from football during the summer to play AAU basketball. While he did that, schools that offered him got commitments from other quarterbacks. Others have had coaching changes. Now he's a state champion with a rifle arm and nowhere, for now, to take it.

The trick now, is to find the school that has a need for a quarterback with his skill set, one that uses dual-threat quarterbacks and has room in its class for one such as Williams.

He's looking for a place to fit in.