It's no secret that the stretch of Interstate 10 between New Orleans and the Greater Houston area produces some of the nation's top high school football talent on a yearly basis. In the Class of 2007, no assistant coach had more success mining that fertile belt than LSU running backs coach Larry Porter. For his efforts, he is Rivals.com's National Recruiter of the Year.
Eight players Porter targeted signed with LSU. They had an average star rating of 4.0, and each came from that stretch of road along the Gulf coast.
Porter was one of only three coaches (Southern California's Todd McNair and Florida's Stan Drayton being the others) to sign two five-star prospects. The 34-year-old Porter pulled Hempstead (Texas) wide receiver Terrance Toliver away from Florida, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and others. Porter held off the Gators and Florida State for five-star defensive athlete/safety Chad Jones of Baton Rouge (La.) Southern Lab.
In addition to Toliver and Jones, Porter signed two more Rivals100 prospects for a total of four, more than any assistant in the country. Rivals100 safety Stefoin Francois out of Reserve (La.) East Saint John and Marerro (La.) John Ehret defensive tackle Drake Nevis rounded out his Rivals100 haul.
"I'm very honored to be recognized for my hard work and my sleepless nights," Porter said. "But all in all, it's a staff award. We do everything as a staff here at LSU. We work hard as a staff.
"We are nationally-ranked and a nationally established program. You want to go out and try and recruit the best kids in America. From athletics, to academics to Tiger Stadium, we think we've got the total package."
Tigers coach Les Miles spoke about the efforts of his staff during a Signing Day press conference. LSU finished with the nation's No. 4 overall class.
"Our coaching staff did a great job," Miles said. "They recruited long and hard. They competed. A recruiting calendar is very much a competitive run, and when the pace gets faster there's so much to do and our coaching staff did that."
This isn't the first year that Porter has been outstanding on the recruiting trail. He was the recruiter of record for five-star prep school running back Keiland Williams in last year's class, winning a recruiting struggle with Southern California that went past Signing Day.
Porter's strategy is simple: get to know the prospect.
"It's all about relationships," he said. "I try to get to know the kid inside out. What are his goals in life? I try to make him understand it's all about trust. Once we can develop a trusting relationship, that's a good start."
Porter has worked with Miles since 2002, when he joined the Oklahoma State staff.
"The thing I try to sell at LSU is what I know and believe about the head coach. That he's a family man, a Christian man, and a good ball coach. He's passionate about all three."
Nevis, Francois and McDonough 35 cornerback Delvin Breaux represented Porter's haul from New Orleans, the Eastern point of origin of Porter's recruiting march.
"New Orleans is just starting to springboard back (from Hurricane Katrina)," Porter said. "They have on a consistent basis produced excellent football players. The thing that we try to do is keep all of them home. We take great pride in that at LSU."
The one New Orleans product that Porter missed was five-star Joe McKnight of John Curtis Christian in River Ridge, who signed with Southern California. Porter handled McKnight's recruitment almost exclusively for the Tigers.
"It was very disappointing," Porter said. "Joe is a good young man. We take a lot of pride in Louisiana kids staying at home and certainly it was disappointing to me, to our staff and to the state of Louisiana."
Breaux presented another set of challenges. The 6-foot-1, 174-pounder committed early and was just starting to emerge as an elite prospect before a broken neck sidelined him for the rest of the season.
"We honored the scholarship and tried to keep him motivated during the season," Porter said. "We had him in camp for two years, which shows you that camp does pay off. We were able to evaluate him for two summers. We knew exactly what we were doing. The thing about Delvin is that he sleeps and drinks football. His dad tells me he comes home some nights and Delvin will be sitting there with his helmet and shoulder pads on, just waiting to get back out there."
Toliver, Rivals250 offensive tackle Jarvis Jones and Rivals250 quarterback Jarrett Lee represented Porter's haul from the greater Houston area.
Toliver, one of the top receivers in the country, was one of many prospects that Porter enjoyed recruiting.
"Terrance was a low-maintenance guy," Porter said. "He was very friendly and a very truthful young man. We had a very strong relationship. That's what got us through this entire process."
Toliver talked about the reaction of Porter when he gave his commitment to the Fighting Tigers the day before Signing Day.
"Coach Porter said he didn't know whether to cry or just be proud," Toliver said.
When Jimbo Fisher left LSU for Florida State, Porter took over the recruitment of five-star safety/defensive athlete Chad Jones of Baton Rouge Southern Lab. Jones signed with the Tigers on Signing Day.
While being named the country's top recruiter is an honor, Porter has bigger goals.
"Hopefully, (my long-term goal is) to be a head coach," he said. "But short term it is to be the best assistant coach I can be. I would much rather be known as a great football coach rather than a great recruiter."