This weekend is a big one for the LSU recruiting season for the 2009 class. LSU is hosting a camp for prospects this weekend. Some prospects will be attending hoping to get the attention of the LSU staff. Some will be attending at the invitation of the LSU staff, who hopes to get the prospects' attention. It's a game of hunter/hunted, but with slightly creepier overtones, and shifting roles between hunters and hunted.
In other words, it's just like recruiting. Let's take this as an opportunity to review where we are in the recruiting class so far. LSU has started very strong in recruiting, getting some of the best athletes in the country committed, and more of the best athletes in the country looking at us hard. What's more, Les Miles seems to be focused more than ever on getting high character guys and players who are sure bets to be academically eligible.
Today, we break down the current "little guys", skill position players and defensive backs. Not all are exactly little, of course, but the alternative is to break them down by offense and defense, which evokes a lot of undertainty. Tomorrow, we profile the big guys. Ratings will be those assigned by Rivals, which are of course, taken to be absolute gospel truth.
This is Drayton Calhoun, a 4-star athlete out of Tucker High School in Tucker, Georgia. Getting his commitment was a real coup because Georgia apparently really wanted him. Some people like him as a cornerback. Some people like him as a slot wide receiver. Some people like him as a running back. In his videos, he carries the ball, but almost always carries it wide and gets the ball in handoffs and pitch-backs that look like reverses. He's elusive and shifty, and comfortable with the ball in his hands, but we don't see him running between the tackles very much and we don't see him going out into the pass pattern. He's hard to catch with the ball in his hands, and he can turn on a dime. To me, that means he's a cornerback and a punt returner. He is reminiscent of 2007 signee John Williams in that regard. As mentioned here earlier, he recently reaffirmed his commitment to LSU, and I do not think he will waver. He is also a good student who expects to report to LSU for the Spring semester, and therefore get a jump on learning the college game.
This is running back Michael Ford of Leesville, Louisiana. He is a power runner and a hard-working body building machine at 5'10" and 200#. He is rated as a 4-star, but his rating has suffered due to some injury difficulties that have kept him out of action. His videos are outstanding, and his attitude is first-rate. This is a kid who is going to be a future team leader. Ford is a kid who is not going to be a speed burner, but he's fast enough to get the job done and powerful enough to run through arm tackles or run over smaller tacklers. A lot of people think he is underrated and deserves to be in the Rivals100. He is as solid a commitment to the Tigers as you will find, coming from solid LSU country and knowing the coaching staff well. He's also a solid student who figures to easily be academically qualified for football. He's a pure running back and he could play early.
Three-star quarterback Chris Garrett of Tupelo, Mississippi is a surprise part of this class. His father works for Mississippi State. Chris grew up a fan of Mississippi State. He was previously committed to Mississippi State. Lo and behold, one day he switched his commitment and is now a Tiger. What's more, he committed even though Russell Shepard (see below) was already committed to LSU. Garrett is a big quarterback at 6'4" 220#. He's a drop-back passer but he's mobile enough to get out of the pocket if he needs to. He's got a really good arm as well, good enough to make all the throws. He's like a poor man's Jamarcus Russell, in that he is big (but not JR big) with a good arm (but not JR's arm) and with decent legs (similar to JR). He's also a competitor, in that he isn't scared of an all-world talent like Russell Shepard. He's a good student, but you are forced to wonder if maybe MSU can't come back and re-convince him to go back to MSU, but MSU has already taken commitments from two other QBs, and probably aren't really trying anymore.
Next, we come to Barbe High School cornerback Janzen Jackson, a 4-star, a member of the Rivals100, and rated as the #1 most physical cornerback in the country for the 2009 recruiting class. They aren't kidding. He goes after the ball aggressively and arrives at the ball carrier with a very bad attitude. He has a safety's aggressiveness, and if he really has the hips and speed of a cornerback, he could be a great one. He could be the kind of cornerback no receiver wants to go against. He lists his speed as 4.43 seconds in the 40, and if it's anything below 4.5, he will be difficult to keep off the field early in his career. With his combination of cornerback skills and safety tackling, he could be the perfect cornerback for going against spread offenses. He has recently made a little noise about being interested in other programs, but remains committed to LSU. I would say that given his bloodlines (son of a coach) and the fact that he is in a heavily LSU-centric area, he is probably solid to LSU. He's also another solid student, and all indications are that he will be qualified.
One of my favorite commitments in this class is Navasota, Texas running back Dexter Pratt. He's a 4-star and listed as an "athlete" because a lot of people like him at linebacker. I have always liked his videos at running back, however. He is a powerful, downhill runner with excellent hands in the passing game, very reminiscent of Ronnie Brown (or any of a number of other Auburn running backs). That was, in fact, my first observation about Pratt. His running style is similar to Ford's in that he is a guy powerful enough to get through arm tacklers, but he's not really a guy who's going to run over you. He is perhaps most reminiscent of a more assertive Charles Scott due to his size, pass-catching ability, and blocking. He is bigger than Ford at 6'2" and 220#, which is perhaps a little taller than is ideal in a running back (Ford is an ideal height). He'll make a great part of a one-two running back punch from this class. There is some indication he may be an early enrollee, and he is definitely another high character kid.
Last by the alphabet, but certainly not last in our hearts is the gem of the class so far, Russell Shepard from Cypress Ridge High School in Houston. If you haven't gotten to know Russell Shepard, you should get to know Russell Shepard. He's rated as the #4 overall prospect according to Rivals, and the #1 dual threat quarterback. Obviously he's a 5-star. His videos are, in a word, stunning. He's 6'1" and 180 pounds, which makes him a little small for a quarterback. A lot of people (myself included) concluded early that a position change was in his future. He looks like a taller Percy Harvin with the ball in his hands, but I don't recall a prospect who was more committed to improving as a quarterback and proving he can throw than this kid is. He trains with former Saints QB Jeff Blake, who makes his home nearby. He goes to quarterback camps to work on his throwing. Even better, he is a terrific student who will be an early enrollee, and he's a charismatic kid who recruits other players to LSU. Lots of current and (hopefully) future commitments have gotten plenty of phone calls from Russell Shepard.
If he's not going to make it as a quarterback, he can be LSU's version of Percy Harvin. But really, you shouldn't believe me about this kid. Just watch his videos. I'm serious.
It looks like he's toying with high school defensive players. Tomorrow we get to the big guys.