You aren't the only one in the world who thinks it's very strange that we start getting commitments for the 2010 recruiting class long before most members of the 2009 recruiting class even enroll in school (which happens in June, by the way). That's the college football world we live in, however. One where the calendar keeps shifting up more and more due to an arms-race between the big schools all going after the same big recruits.
This weekend, LSU held its second Junior Day and took its first four commitments. Two of the commitments were big surprises: Wide Receiver Mike Davis of Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas, and fullback Brandon Worle of Troupe High School in Lagrange, Georgia.
We'll get to two later. Like when you call a customer service line, we will talk about these commitments in the order in which they were received, after going over a few general principles first.
For reasons I can't entirely explain, we seem to have a two-year cycle on the perception of in-state recruiting and our ability to recruit great players from out of state. For example, 2007 was a banner year for recruiting in the State of Louisiana, with two 5-star players produced by the state: Joe McKnight and Chad Jones, along with several very highly regarded 4-star type players. Not only that, but LSU's recruiting class was widely considered about the most solid in the country, with 21 four- and five-star commitments signed, including 5-star Terrance Toliver, and only a handful of 3-stars. This resulted in a #4 ranking according to Rivals, and was generally considered to be an outstanding class.
Contrast that with the 2008 recruiting class. It was much more heavily weighted towards 3-stars, with thirteen 3-star players signed, along with thirteen 4- and 5-star players. There were no in-state 5-stars. With the exception of Patrick Peterson (formerly Patrick Johnson), our out-of-state recruiting was considered lackluster, as it was believed we got a lot of guys who were other teams' leftovers. Examples include Derrick Bryant, Alex Hurst, and Kyle Prater, 3-stars out of Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas respectively. It was considered a down year and was ranked #11 by Rivals (fourth in the SEC).
The early results on both of these classes (keeping in mind that the 2007 class has had an extra year to develop and an extra year to have players wash out) is that these classes are more-or-less equal. From the 2007 class, we had 4 players get essentially a starters' share of playing time last year: Chad Jones, Terrance Toliver, Joseph Barksdale, and Jarrett Lee. Kicker/punter Josh Jasper was also a big contributor. A couple players slid right into backup positions and appear to be poised to be starters this year: Drake Nevis, Josh Dworaczyk and Will Blackwell. A few more have contributed as backups and on special teams and look to stay in those positions for now while they wait for more experienced players to clear out: Stevan Ridley, Phelon Jones, Ron Brooks, Mitch Joseph, etc., etc.
But look at the 2008 class. The QB from the 2008 class appears to have beaten out the QB from the 2007 class for the starter job, despite one fewer year in the system. Patrick Peterson beat out all the 2007 corners signed and became a starter. Ryan Baker was a monster on special teams and looks like he might win a starter's position this year. Brandon Taylor will compete as well, now and in the future. Offensive lineman Alex Hurst is drawing raves and many close to the program believe he'll be one of the next outstanding LSU offensive linemen, and he was one of the "leftovers".
My conclusion is that, at this time, it appears the 2008 LSU recruiting class was just as good as the 2007 class. It's hard to say how much of that was the 2007 class being overrated (just look at the guys who left the program without ever contributing: Jordon Corbin (sadly, due to injuries), Delvin Breaux (likewise), Jarvis Jones (kicked off; not to mention the ones who just don't look like they're going to be good players (no names mentioned at this time), and how much of it was the 2008 class being underrated.* I think it's a little of both.
That's my conclusion. My point is that the 2009 class was highly regarded, both in- and out-of-state, and so we're due for a down cycle in perception. The 2010 Louisiana recruiting class is not considered to be as great as the 2009 class or the 2007 class. It's considered more like the 2008 class. I wouldn't buy it though. Try not to get too high about the highs or too low about the lows. There will be lots of solid players in this class from the State of Louisiana. We will also sign some very good players from out of state, maybe even some real blue chippers.
Just calibrate your conclusions according to the inevitable result that it will be perceived to be middling. I think it's just part of the psyche of LSU fans and of recruiting observers in general. We're coming off a serotonin high of a great recruiting class. It's time for a bit of a come down. It's time, I guess, for the heroin half of our recruiting speedball to kick in (sorry, criminal defense lawyer-mode came out for a second).
You have to realize, to a certain extent, the perceptions are self-fulfilling. It is pre-determined that LSU's recruiting this year will be a little down. One of the ways in which recruits are judged and ranked is by who is recruiting them and how much interest teams show in them. Because we are "down" this year, when we show interest in a player, it doesn't mean as much as it does when we are "up". The very same player who may have been a 4-star if signed last year when we were kickin' ass and takin' names on the recruiting trail may be judged a 3-star this year.
By way of example, I am convinced that Tim Molton and Tyler Edwards would have been 4-stars if they had been a part of the 2007 or 2009 recruiting classes instead of the 2008 recruiting class. (Alex Hurst's problem was more that his high school did essentially nothing to market him to recruiting sites by failing to ever submit any film of him; I think coaches in the region knew he was a total stud).
I don't know what to do about it. There may not be anything to do about it. It all has to do with how psychological recruiting coverage can be. A great recruit and a great school match up and set up a feedback loop, where the success of each reflects on the perception of the other.
Tomorrow we'll start on the actual player profiles.
*Bonus points to any of my readers who can accurately diagram that sentence.