WATSON – The sight of LSU football coach Ed Orgeron on campus Thursday at Live Oak High School created quite a buzz among administrators, faculty and students.
Turns out the Tigers head coach was bearing good news for one of the school’s student-athletes.
Live Oak junior defensive lineman Jalen Lee continued to ride the crest of a recruiting process that continues gaining steam when Orgeron informed Eagles fifth-year football coach Brett Beard the Tigers were offering Lee a scholarship.
“He told me he had watched Jalen’s film the night before,” Beard said of Orgeron. “He said he really loved what he saw and wanted me to tell Jalen that they wanted to offer. When he offers it’s a big deal.”
It’s been that kind of month for Lee – an underrated 6-foot-4, 285-pounder – who’s recruiting process has truly taken flight the past two weeks.
“I knew when the first Power-5 offer came, then they would start rolling in,” Lee said. “It’s been crazy. Coaches have come in and out, calling me out of class.”
Just before a Junior Day visit to Southern Mississippi two weeks ago, Lee was offered by Florida which seemingly lit the spark. That continued five days later with an offer from Tennessee followed by Kansas and most recently LSU, where Orgeron’s visit was greeted with great fanfare.
“It’s a big deal here to have somebody like that on our campus,” said Beard, who played collegiately at Vanderbilt before finishing at Southeastern Louisiana. “It’s a big deal whether he’s here to get a kid or not.”
Orgeron was one of two Division I head coaches to visit Live Oak on Thursday which has become a regular stop this month on the recruiting trail because of the building interest in Lee’s massive talent.
UL-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, whose program had already extended an offer to Lee, also made an appearance at the school’s campus.
“I’ve got all the respect in the world for all the coaches in this state,” Beard said. “I look at all of them as big-time coaches. That kind of says that things have changed here. Of course, it has everything to do with Jalen, his gifts he got from a higher power. Football can surround you with some big-time people in your life.”
Because Lee is still a junior, he’s not permitted by NCAA guidelines to have contact with head coaches. He remembers meeting Orgeron for the first time during the summer at the LSU-Tulane football camp held in New Orleans.
He didn’t have to hide his feelings on the weight that an LSU scholarship offer carries for in-state prospects.
“That’s everybody’s dream that plays high school football in Louisiana, to play football at LSU,” he said. “That’s like a dream offer.”
The offer from LSU increased Lee’s overall total of scholarships offers to 11 with Alabama and Mississippi State displaying heavy interest after recently dispatching assistant coaches for on-campus visits.
An assistant from Tennessee’s also been on campus to watch Lee workout, which led to his offer, while new Houston coach Dana Holgorsen has also visited the Live Oak campus.
“My classmates ask me every day, ‘Where you going, where you going?”, Lee said. “The teachers are happy for me.”
Lee plans to continue taking Junior Day visits to learn about prospective schools and gain a better understanding of what they have to offer both athletically as well as academically. Developing a bond with a school’s coaching staff will be of supreme importance to Lee, who wants to find a program where he’s most as ease.
Lee will have to decide between a Feb. 16 Junior Day visit to either LSU or Alabama before heading to Florida on March 16.
“I just have to take all of my (official) visits and see what the bond’s like with the coaches and build that relationship,” Lee said. “I want to see where I can see myself playing for the next three to four years. Whatever fits me the best. I’m not worried about staying home. All of that doesn’t bother me.”