BATON ROUGE, La. — If there are two sides to every story, why should recruiting be any different?
Shortly after he committed to Alabama over LSU on Tuesday, four-star defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis — from Monroe (La.) Neville — explained part of his reasoning. “First off, you know they got coach Pete Jenkins over there, the d-line coach,” Mathis told reporters, “and I never got to talk to him.”
Jenkins is a long-time defensive line coach who came out of retirement when Ed Orgeron took over for Les Miles on an interim basis. Jenkins will remain on Orgeron’s staff for the 2017 season.
“He’s busy,” Mathis continued. “But if I’m going to play for you, you got to call me so I can get a contact number from you or something.”
On the other hand, Mathis said he and Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar have a good relationship. “I love a good coach that can help me out and help me do what’s best for me,” Mathis said.
Mathis’ comments caused quite a stir, as it’s almost unfathomable in 2017 that a blue-chip prospect would not have the chance to talk to his position coach. And Mathis’ claim is being disputed.
“(Mathis) came to Baton Rouge three times and was introduced to Pete when he was here unofficially,” said an LSU staff member on condition of anonymity. “And he has Pete’s number.”
Praise for Jenkins knows no bounds. Before last season’s Alabama-LSU game in Baton Rouge, Tide coach Nick Saban said, “Pete’s arguably maybe one of the best defensive line coaches in my era. I have that kind of respect for him.” Saban hired Jenkins at LSU when he took over before the 2000 season.
Even the younger generation is well aware of what an asset Jenkins can be. LSU All-America defensive end Arden Key said in September, “The defense is about to be way better than it once was because we got ‘Coach O’ and his mentor, coach Pete Jenkins, coming in.”
It is understandable why any prospect would want to play for Saban and Alabama; every class Saban has signed during his time in Tuscaloosa has played for the national title. That’s why Mathis’ claim seems unnecessary.
“(Mathis) never wanted to be here,” the LSU staffer said. “So he used Pete.”
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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