COLUMN: With National Signing Day less than two weeks away, it’s obvious that football recruiting is coming down to the wire. College teams across the country already have a number of verbal commitments from high school, prep and junior college players on board and they are looking for more before Feb. 1 comes and goes.
One of the top 2012 players in the state that has garnered a lot attention this year, and more specifically in recent weeks, is Lafayette quarterback Jeremy Liggins. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound standout has been courted by almost every school in the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference, a fact that has many wondering where he ends up.
Liggins has toured Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State on paid official visits. He was still on schedule to visit LSU this weekend and will make a final trip to Alabama before making his intentions public on Jan. 30 on the Sports Roundup TV show live at Irie.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze made Liggins a top priority when he was first hired and he and his staff have continued to pursue him through this month.
MSU coach Dan Mullen made a grand entrance to watch Liggins play in the first round of the playoffs when he and assistant coach Melvin Smith landed on the LHS baseball field in a helicopter. The Bulldogs are still a player in Liggins’ decision making process for several reasons which includes depth chart and an offensive style that Liggins is familiar with.
LSU coach Les Miles and defensive line coach Brick Haley, who is Liggins’ direct recruiting contact, also attended the LHS-Shannon game this season.
Liggins camped at LSU this past summer and Miles spent several hours with Liggins and his family during an in-home visit just a short time ago. Miles has wanted to sign Liggins from the beginning, even if No. 1 QB prospect Gunner Kiel had been a member of this class, so Miles’ final sales pitch to Liggins this weekend is expected to be a good one on why he needs to be a Tiger.
There has been a lot of discussion on various message boards as to where Liggins will make his final decision. Making the announcement on the Square, on local television and live on the radio, has many thinking that he will choose Ole Miss in the end, but that’s not really the case. Liggins could very well end up saying he wants to play at Ole Miss — it’s the obvious, comfortable choice — but I’m told the reason for him doing it on the Sports Roundup was to allow him a spotlight similar to the one we saw Channing Ward receive at the Under Armour game. Liggins agreed to appear on the show and it will be his call. It will be a great final sendoff for so many LHS fans and supporters who have seen him grow into the player he has become and that’s what it should all be about anyway.
Tough to stop
One of Liggins’ coaches who has seen him get better and better since he was a sophomore is LHS defensive coordinator Eric Robertson, who will be the head coach next year. Robertson has been trying to stop some of the best talent in the state the last seven seasons at LHS and he knows a good quarterback when he sees one. Liggins, thanks to his ability to run and throw, is not a guy Robertson, or any coordinator, likes to have deal with for several reasons.
“The No. 1 thing with Jeremy is he makes everybody around him better. As far as defending him, as far as a defensive coordinator, it’s OK, or you feel comfortable when a guy just throws the ball. Or we say we feel comfortable with him throwing the ball, we just can’t let him run it,” Robertson said. “The thing about Jeremy is he can throw and he’s a physical guy. You got to get two or three people there to tackle him. With him being a dual threat, that’s what makes it tough from a defensive perspective. I’ve got to defend the run, the pass and I’ve got to account for him with two guys on defense.”
Some detractors have repeatedly tried to find chinks in Liggins’ armor. His passing numbers aren’t as good as others in the nation, but Robertson said he has all the ability in the world to be an effective passer in college.
“He’s improved tremendously. Jeremy can make every throw out there. What people have to understand is we’re not a passing team. We could have been if we wanted to because Jeremy is capable of doing that. If we throw it 10 times a game, that’s a lot to us so when people look at stats, they’re not going to see the stats they do with other quarterbacks,” Robertson said. “Jeremy plays about half of game and we get him out. There is very few games where we play all four quarters with our kids so the stats aren’t going to be there but Jeremy is capable. If we had to win a game throwing the ball, Jeremy could have done it.
“He’s got the arm strength. Somebody may want to work with his mechanics. I don’t know, probably, but his arm strength is there,” Robertson added. “You’re talking about a kid that is strong. He’s a 285 pound bencher. He can throw the out to the wide side of the field. He can make that throw. His arm strength is good enough.”
We will all know soon enough where the 2011 EAGLE Player of the Year is headed to play his college ball. Many are so happy for the attention he’s gotten to this point and while some may not like the school he chooses due to their individual allegiances, it will be his choice to make. And that fact is one of the many reasons that makes the recruiting process exciting and so interesting to follow. (January 20, 2012, Page 7A)