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January 25, 2011

LSU's 2011 Recruiting Class: The Foundation

While a football team sometimes adds up to more than just a sum of its parts, all great teams have a foundation of great players.  21 young men have verbally committed to joining LSU's football team next year but Tiger fans cannot be sure which of these young men will actually join the team until next week's official letters of intent are in the hands of Les Miles.  Expect some who have verbally committed to change their minds.  And expect at least one or two top players who made no verbal commitment to sign a letter of intent with LSU next week.  This is an exciting time of the year in college football in large part because of the uncertainty.  Nobody knows for sure which promising players will end up where and of those promising players no one knows for sure which players will become stars and which will fizzle.

According to the experts where does LSU's recruiting class rank this year?  ESPN, Scout, and Rivals are three of the main services that rank college recruiting classes.  While the final ranks will not be out until after the letters of intent are signed, so far the three main services rank LSU's 2011 recruiting class #8 (ESPN),  #9 (Scout), and #4 (Rivals).  So depending on which experts you trust the most, LSU has at least a top 10 recruiting class and maybe even a top 5 class.  LSU's future success on the field begins with this group.  According to ESPN, Scout, and Rivals only one of Les Miles' LSU recruiting classes has finished worse than 11th and that was the 2005 class.  Miles was named head coach of LSU Jan. 3, 2005 so maybe having a class that only ranked in the top 25 that year was a fairly good achievement in itself.

Players that will be on the field for LSU next year were or will be included in recruiting classes from 2007-2011.  Here is how the three major services rank(ed) those LSU recruiting classes:

LSU Recruiting Class Rankings 2007-2011

                  ESPN          Scout          Rivals
2007             6                  5                 4
2008            11                 7                11
2009             1                  3                 2
2010             8                  7                 6
2011             8                  9                 4

These rankings a big reason for LSU's success story and based on these rankings LSU fans have cause for high hopes this year and for several years to come.  Of course there are disclaimers/qualifiers that come with these rankings.  Sometimes five star players do not pan out.  Ryan Perrilloux comes to mind.  Even though Perrilloux was added to the roster of the New York Giants earlier this month, LSU never really benefited from his 5-star recruit ranking.  Some players do not reach their potential for a variety of other reasons.  Maybe they transferred or maybe they simply peaked in high school and never made the transition to the college game.  On the other hand, some players develop beyond their recruiting star ranking.  Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Kelvin Shepard, Jacob Hester, and Trindon Holliday were all ranked at 3-stars or less coming out of high school but, I think most fans would agree that these players played more like four or five star players.  My point is that as flawed as these rankings can be, they are overall not a bad predictor of a team's success.

So knowing that player rankings can be tricky at best, who are the players in this recruiting class that have the best chance of giving Tiger fans memorable moments?
According to those experts that have studied the players verbally committed to LSU, three players warrant keeping a close eye on:  Defensive Tackle Anthony Johnson, Offensive Tackle La'el Collins, and Wide Receiver Jarvis Landry.

According to ESPN Defensive Tackle Anthony Johnson is the #2 player at any position in this years recruiting class.  While lists the 6'3" 300lbs. Johnson as its #7 player at any position, Scout ranks Johnson as the #1 Defensive tackle in the nation.  Like the other two services, list Johnson as a top 5-star recruit but only the #17 top player at any position.  Still, like the other two services, Rivals ranks Anthony Johnson as the #1 Defensive Tackle prospect in this year's recruiting class.  The addition of Johnson to the LSU defensive front ought to make this possibly one of the fiercest fronts in all of college football.  Even with the loss of Drake Nevis and Pep Levingston, coach Chavis ought to have plenty of outstanding play makers in the middle of his defensive line.  Just prior to this season Chavis remarked that he expected big things to come form 6'6" 300lbs. DT Michael Brockers.  Chavis said "remember the name 'Michael Brockers'" and I have a feeling that Brockers may get more opportunities in 2011 to live up to coach Chavis' expectations.  When you throw in redshirt freshman Ego Ferguson, junior Josh Downs, sophomore Bennie Logan and incoming all star Anthony Johnson into the mix, I think opposing quarterbacks and running backs seeking yards between the tackles are going to have something to worry about.  Even with the talent that LSU has already at Defensive Tackle, I think Anthony Johnson may be one of those players that you can't keep off of the field.

For even more on Anthony Johnson, see what the experts are saying:  ESPN, ScoutRivals

La'el Collins is the #8 player on the ESPN Top 150 class of 2011 list and is considered one of the top three offensive tackles in this year's recruiting class. ranks the 6'5" 281lbs Collins as the #2 offensive tackle in the country and the #17 player at any position.  During the Cotton Bowl I was reminded of the unfortunate fact that LSU has seemed to lose some pretty good offensive linemen for various reasons.  The sole senior on the Texas A&M starting offensive line this year was former LSU o-lineman Matt Allen.  One memorable lineman that committed to LSU but never played for LSU was 6'8" 343lbs. Phil Loadholt.  Loadholt played college ball for Oklahoma, was a 2nd round draft pick in the NFL and still plays for the Minnesota Vikings.  

However, even with past OL losses, Miles seems to have figured out how to recruit put together and keep a very good offensive line.  LSU lost one senior Offensive Tackle this year, Joe Barksdale, and so the addition of Collins makes a lot of sense.  If Collins is not ready to jump into a starting position immediately, LSU has two other very promising yet inexperienced OT ready to play.  Both Evan Washington (6'5" 315 lbs) and Chris Faulk (6'6" 316lbs.) ought to be early contenders to take the open Offensive Tackle position.  It is hard to trust the published weights on high school recruits but if Collins is 281lbs., he may need a good part of the year to put another 15-20lbs of muscle on his frame.  I am convinced that LSU strength coach Tommy Moffitt can add 15-20lbs of muscle to almost any "big man" athlete.  Next to recruiting the best, having the best strength and condition coach possible is crucial to laying the ground work for a winning football team.
La'el Collins has very good chance of earning a starting position in 2011 and I am eager to see how that plays out.

For more on La'el Collins, see what the experts are saying: ESPN, Scout, Rivals

Jarvis Landry put on a show in a post season all-star game that reminded me of Spencer Ware's and Rueben Randle's dominating post season all-star game performances in the past.  Like Ware last year, Landry's performance solidified him as one of the top players in the country.  Jarvis Landry is ranked the 4th best wide receiver by Rivals and Scout and the 3rd best wide receiver in the country this year by ESPN.  LSU lost a strong wide reciever this year when Terrence Toliver played his final down of eligibility but LSU is loaded at wide receiver.  Landry will definitely have stiff competition to see the playing field this year but he proved in post season play that he has what it takes to compete.  And this season coach Miles proved that he is willing to let freshmen compete for playing time.  Even if Landry does not win a starting position in 2011, I expect that before he leaves LSU he will be a star and a solid NFL prospect.

For more on Jarvis Landry from the experts: ESPN, Scout , Rivals

What about the rest of the 2011 recruiting class?
So far LSU's 2011 recruiting class has 21 verbal commits are all potential breakout players.  The QB recruits Zach Mettenberger and Stephen Rivers are getting a lot of attention and for good reason.  Mettenberger led his junior college team to a second place finish in the junior college national championship this year and he has already enrolled at LSU and will be participating in Spring ball.  Many believe that Mettenberger will be LSU's starter next year.  Stephen Rivers may be the LSU QB of the future.  By all accounts Rivers is the spitting image of his older brother, NFL QB Philip Rivers, and younger brother, Stephen, may be even a bit better than his older brother.  With this recruiting class LSU adds another very strong running back in Kenny Hilliard.  I remember seeing his older relative, Dalton Hilliard, play at LSU.  The older Hilliard and Gary James made a real dynamic duo at the running back position in the mid 1980s.  I think another player legacy, Odell Beckham Jr. may compete at either wide receiver or possible defensive back.  But the two guys that I am most curious about are three offensive linemen recruits:  6'5" 340lbs Tra Turner, 6'5" 280lbs. Corey White, and 6'7" 305lbs. Jonah Austin.  Often Offensive linemen seem to emerge from a bit of a crowd.  These three guys will provide much needed O-line depth and one may emerge as a solid starter or two deep guy by the end of the season.  Finally, I have a lot confidence that if Trevon Randle really applies himself at linebacker, he may find himself in the mix early in his career.  Coach Chavis is excellent at developing linebackers.

Who that has not verbally committed already will sign a letter of intent with LSU?
This is a big question.  First, let me say that I do not believe that LSU will be the final choice of #1 DE Jadeveon Clowney or highly rated linebacker C.J. Johnson.  I would venture to guess that both of these recruits will sign with a school in their home states of South Carolina and Mississippi.  I do think that LSU will sign a top defensive lineman from out-of-state.  My bet is on signing Ray Drew or Tim Jernigan, possibly both.  I feel more confident about Jernigan.  I also expect LSU to sign Jermauria Rasco and Mickey Johnson. Both are very good defensive linemen from Louisiana.  

Jeremy Hill and Elliott Porter. 
These two guys are kind of loose ends in the future of LSU football.  Jeremy Hill is still counted by all three services in ranking LSU's 2011 recruiting class.  Hill is still ranked by Scout as the 11th best running back in this year's recruiting class.  However, it is very unlikely that Hill will play for LSU.  It is my understanding that Hill has been arrested for oral sexual battery which makes me think that LSU has plenty of running backs without Hill's inclusion. Here is an article on Hills arrest. Thankfully, Elliott Porter's story is entirely different from Hill's.  LSU over recruited last year and asked Porter to take a "gray shirt" which would made Porter wait to receive a scholarship until January 2011 so that he could be counted in this year's recruiting class.  Understandably, Porter was hurt and accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Kentucky.  Porter did not feel like he was a good fit at UK and will be a walk-on (non-scholarship) player this season. Last year Elliot Porter was rated as a 3-star Offensive Lineman by one service and a 3-star Defensive Tackle by another service.  Porter is about 6'4" and 280lbs but all these stats may be the least telling of Porter's success at LSU.  This young man clearly has a burning desire to prove himself worth of a line position at LSU.  I am interested to see if Porter is able to realize his dream.  For more on Porter click here.

I am excited to see what happens next week when all the letters of intent have been signed and received.  When the dust clears and the ink drys, I will take a look at it and tell you what I think about LSU's 2011 recruiting class.  Spring football cannot get here quickly enough! 


Anonymous said...

The truth is in the pudding..LSU is recruiting as well,if not better, as the best college football team in our country..You cant do better then that.
This is a very good column about this years LSU recruiting..Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Alabama has Saban Maximus recruiting for Bama with the help of Mars,Venus,Zeus.
But the LSU swamp tigers has Captain Les building up the LSU football program with hungry beast that feast in football arenas.
Rome will fall.

Anonymous said...

LSU earned their way into the top spots of the 2011 top ten list.By beating Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Are we on the edge of another 2007 LSU football season?
I do not know if I can stand the pressure.Remember how hard that NC year was for everybody.That was one wild ride.

Anonymous said...

We can't get them all,so LSU is then doing the next best thing.They are doing what all the successful college football program do.
Recruit the best player who you can get.If the one you want goes to another school,fill the spot with another one.Keep singing the best player you can,so far LSU is right up there in the top 10 recruiting class for the past 10 years.
We are still recruiting just great.

Anonymous said...

2009 was the best recruiting year that Les Miles has had at LSU up until this year.This years LSU recruiting class,I think will prove to be his very best class to date.
They have everything you could only dream for before now.This LSU class is tops.

Anonymous said...

God bless Les Miles.

Anonymous said...

Time is a good teacher to who is doing a good job.Les Miles has been coaching LSU for six (6) years.We now know that LSU football program is in good hands.I am very happy with Les Miles.
Geaux tigers.

Anonymous said...

This Les Miles recruited class of football players is even better then I though..The other SEC team get the ESPN stars..And the LSU tigers get the real football players...Boy O boy, lets see how the glamorize ESPN teams play in LSU tiger stadium this season...I bet you a $1.00 that LSU wins.

Anonymous said...

The foundation of the LSU football team is indeed the players.And of course that investment is in the man and not the machine.
Coach Les Miles is also turning out to be a very good leader,and recruiter.And has finely created a understanding with the leary LSU football fans.
Les Miles wants the LSU football players to simply"grab the other team my the neck and choke".
Geaux tigers.

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