Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting , with Sam Spiegelman. In this edition, we discuss Mr. Pancake, aka Kardell Thomas. The 5-star offensive lineman is the centerpiece of LSU’s 2019 recruiting class, but after making stops at Alabama, Florida and Texas, where do the Tigers stand?
Why Kardell Thomas continues to make visits
WALKER, La. — It has been 14 months since Kardell Thomas committed to LSU.
Since then, the self-proclaimed 6-foot-4, 330-pound athlete has blossomed into a 5-star prospect, the No. 2 guard in the country and, naturally, one of the most sought-after recruits in the entire country.
Thomas’ early pledge to the Tigers hasn’t prevented him from exploring his other options. As a result, terms such as “flip” and “solid” have been exchanged regularly over the past calendar year.
This summer, Thomas made multiple visits to college campuses. That includes nearby LSU, but also Texas, Florida and most recently, Alabama. After each stop, Thomas has spoken highly of his visits and the coaches that hosted him.
The latest unofficial visit was to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he was joined by fellow 2019 LSU commitment Tyrion Davis. Anytime a pair of Baton Rouge natives and Tigers commitments step onto Alabama’s campus, it generates buzz. But rest assured, this is merely Thomas going through the process to ensure that the commitment he gave in July 2016 was, in fact, the right move.
“Me and LSU are always close,” Thomas told SEC Country after a season-opening loss to Riverside Academy at Walker High School. “A lot of schools are coming. I ain’t going to lie — ‘Bama is kinda edging it. I didn’t think they’d impress when I was up there, but they impressed me a lot. I’ll probably put them in my top 5 in January.”
Expect Alabama to join LSU, Florida and Texas in that top group. Schools such as Florida State, Oklahoma and Arizona State are all pressing for that fifth spot.
Even committed recruits release top 5s and top 10s. It’s a part of the process. Thomas understands as much and is merely doing his homework. But there is a reason why he has continued to honor his pledge.
“A lot of people don’t understand that it’s a process. You can’t expect everything to come at you all at the same time,” Thomas explained. “You can go down there and then they add another 4-star, another 5-star. I keep that in mind and that’s why I go to schools. LSU just lost a lot of [offensive] linemen; that’s what put them back in the centerfold. Everything is shaping up right. When I went to Alabama, there were about 18 to 20 offensive [linemen]. I was looking at them, [but at LSU], I think I can come in and start by that time.
“That’s what put LSU back on top with me. They’ve lost a lot of linemen and they have two freshmen starting. That’s showing me a lot.”
The proof is at right guard
The two freshmen starting on the Tigers line play the same position Thomas does.
Saahdiq Charles got the nod at right guard in LSU’s season-opening victory against BYU in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday evening. Fellow freshman Ed Ingram rotated in throughout. Thomas watched closely from the stands along with teammate and fellow Tigers commitment Damone Clark.
For months, LSU offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has been promising Thomas that he could be an impact player when he arrives in Baton Rouge. Heck, Ed Orgeron even created a PowerPoint presentation to prove it earlier this spring.
Grimes’ pitch is real. The proof was in the depth chart on Saturday.
“It means a lot,” Thomas said of Charles winning the starting right-guard job. “It ensures me that he [Grimes] is telling the truth. Those guys have been doing great in camp and it shows me that when Coach tells me that if I can handle it, we’ll put you in. I think I’ll be able to handle it at that time.”
College coaches were officially able to contact 2019 recruits beginning Sept. 1 at midnight. That occurred just minutes after Southern University Lab’s (La.) season-opening loss.
Grimes, as expected, was among several college football coaches to reach out. Thomas expected it because of his strong bond with the Tigers offensive line coach. Among the topics discussed was Thomas’ fit in the 2019 plans and preparing for his time in Baton Rouge.
“We talk almost every day, every week, and he makes sure I know that I’m No. 1,” he said. “The best thing he said was probably that I’m their No. 1 guy. If I can add a few touches to my game, I’d be unstoppable. LSU just makes sure I know I’m their guy. A lot of people are ranked, but LSU says that they don’t care about that and that I’m their No. 1 guy and they stick with me.
“Now that the dead period is over, he wants me to come to meetings and write down plays. I actually took a couple down the last time I was there. When I committed, I was sure.”
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