If you watch recruiting closely for a few years, and you really observe what recruits say and what eventually ends up happening, you get to be pretty good at reading between the lines of recruiting articles. Recruits often tell recruiting analysts what those analysts want to hear, and the analysts themselves are pretty good at asking loaded questions and providing selective quotes.
As an example of what I'm talking about, suppose you have a kid who lives in Florida and has been a Florida State fan all his life. He says something to the effect of, "Florida State is my team because I've lived in Florida all my life, but that's not going to have a big impact on my life." What he means is, "I'm going to Florida State, but I'm going to take some visits and experience the fun of recruiting first." If he says, "LSU is way up there on my list," what he means is, "LSU is an afterthought." The only real chance LSU or any other out-of-state school has is if Florida State fails to offer the kid.
I'm not being critical of the kids. It's not like they're lying. They are listening to other teams' recruiting pitches. They do have LSU on their list, perhaps a distant 3rd or 4th with little or no chance of making up the ground. Heck, they might even be thinking that they have open recruiting, but in the end a kid like that almost always picks the childhood favorite team if it's a real option for him.
As briefly alluded to earlier in this post, there is an alternative meaning to the kid's words of encouragement to other teams' fanbases. His statement may mean he does not have a real scholarship offer from his favorite school. He wants it, but he may not be willing to come out and say that he does not have it, out of embarrassment and ego.
One thing to be mindful of is that not all "offers" are the same. The written offer the recruits receive in the mail definitely is not an "offer" in the legal contractual sense, and may not actually mean much of anything. A kid who receives an offer in the mail and who actually calls the coach to commit may come to find out that the coach has 4 players ahead of him on the board at his position and will not accept his commitment until he learns what those other 4 players are doing. If the coach gets one or two of those 4 to commit to his school, he will never accept the commitment of the other kid and the offer amounts to nothing.
It's a harsh business, and this is sometimes how it works. A kid may receive the offer he wanted all his life only to find out it wasn't an offer at all.
As you read articles on recruiting services, keep these things in mind. A recruit who tells you he has a lifelong favorite school but is open to anyone is probably not be completely honest, perhaps even to himself, about either his state of mind or the state of his scholarship offers.
This begs the question, however. How do you tell when an athlete is really sincere about being serious about LSU. There's not hard and fast rule, but sometimes a recruit will say something surprisingly candid, like Mississippi quarterback Chris Garrett said recently, as reported by rebelsports.com: "I'm actually looking at LSU pretty hard. Really hard, actually." He continued: "When I went to LSU, I fell in love with the place." But he's not done: "It's going to be really, really soon (that I make my final commitment). I've made up my mind. I just want to wait a little while." [All emphasis added by me].
That's a kid who is really serious about LSU. He's currently a soft commitment to Mississippi State, and he may not end up switching, or may end up switching back if he does, but he's serious. He's getting past cliches, talking about his feelings for LSU in some depth, and indicating he's already made up his mind. Some of these other guys aren't serious. Garrett is.