As I go through these Signing Day previews, I'm going to keep the previous ones linked at the top of each post for easy clicking back and forth.
LSU really needed a strong wide receivers class for 2013. If you take a look at last year's receiver class, the immediate results were poor. Travin Dural was injured and could not contribute in 2012. Avery Johnson was not academically eligible and had to attend prep school. And Kavahra Holmes was switched to defense. That means that the 2012 receivers class contributed zero to the program last year. With the staff uncertain about how that group would rebound, they set out to sign some big time players in 2013 and especially targeted receivers with some size. The main contributors in 2012 (Beckham, Landry Boone) are all 6'0" or under, and LSU really lacked the big presence down the field and in the red zone. Fast forward to today. Avery Johnson is qualified and on campus. Travin Dural is very close to 100% healthy. And LSU is adding three or four new receivers to the mix, one of which is a JUCO player with some size that may be able to help right away.
Current Verbal Commits
John Diarse - Diarse is one of the state's best athletes, though he doesn't stand out physically. He's right at six feet tall. He weighs around 205 pounds. He doesn't have a great 40 time. But when you pop in his film, the guy just makes plays and he's a winner. Despite playing quarterback for most of his high school career, he drew rave reviews for his route running and polish at practices for the US Army All American Game. He's probably not the guy you want running go routes down the sideline. But he can work the middle of the field, get open in space and use his strength and balance to pick up some tough yards after contact. He's already on campus as an early enrollee and will get a head start on earning playing time for next season. I'd expect him to see the field a bit in 2013. It's also not totally out of the question that Diarse finds himself playing some safety at some point in his career.
Rivals: #232 overall, 4 stars
247: #22 WR, #164 overall
ESPN: #23 WR #223 overall
Scout: #14 S, #197 overall
Reminds Me Of: Early Doucet (Class of 2004)
Quantavious Leslie - Leslie is a 6'4" receiver out of junior college that will look to make an immediate impact at LSU. The staff was looking for someone to help on deep routes and in the red zone, and they're going to look to Leslie as the guy to make that happen. He'll get every opportunity to see the field a lot in 2013, and his presence could allow Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham to play more in the slot, where they're more comfortable and more effective. Leslie does most of his damage on the outside where he can use his long stride and height to his advantage. He has good, but not blazing speed, but does show the ability to take a short gain and turn it into a long one. I don't see Leslie as a Cordarelle Patterson type of player, where he comes in, makes a huge impact, and then leaves for the NFL after one season. But like Demetrius Byrd, he can absolutely make an enormous impact in Year #1. Initially, Leslie planned to be at LSU for the spring semester, but he did not take care of business in the classroom. Now, the plan is for him to come in the summer, but he still has quite a bit of work left academically.
Rivals: 4 stars
247: 4 stars
ESPN: 4 stars
Scout: 4 stars
Reminds Me Of: Demetrius Byrd (Class of 2007)
Avery Johnson - The brother of former Tiger great Patrick Peterson, Johnson has been trying to get to LSU for quite a while now. He originally signed with LSU a year ago but was not academically eligible so he spent a semester at prep school. He's now enrolled at LSU and will participate in spring practice. I've never been terribly impressed with Johnson's film, even though his measurables (6'1" 180 pounds, 4.44) are quite good. Once thought to be a nationally elite prospect, the recruiting sites cooled on him during his senior season, which was not terribly productive. He also failed to wow those in attendance at the 2012 Under Armour All-American game. Regardless, Johnson still racked up offers from schools such as Florida, Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State, and many others. Johnson has great speed, which may be his biggest asset, and shows good physicality. His willingness to be physical and block may earn him a spot on the field sooner than it otherwise would. However, Johnson does not display a ton of ability to change directions, run crisp routes or makes plays after the catch. Reportedly, he struggles some with his hands as well. The good news is that the physical tools are there and the rest can be coached up. Johnson can certainly contribute at the SEC level, but I'm not sure he's a super star like many initially thought. It was reported that he would be changing his name to Avery Peterson, like his brother did. However, he's still listed as Johnson on the LSU roster, so I went with that for now.
Class of 2012 rankings:
Rivals: #42 WR #247 overall 4 stars
Scout: #40 WR # 270 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #23 WR 4 stars
247: #37 WR 4 stars
Reminds Me Of: Tavarres King (Georgia Class of 2008)
Kevin Spears - Spears was a very late addition to this class by LSU. A 6'3" 180 pound prospect from Holy Cross, Spears has only played football for two seasons. While getting acclimated as a junior, Spears did not draw the attention of college coaches. But after exploding onto the scene as a senior, he drew some looks from some smaller schools before LSU came calling. Spears caught 61 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. Since he is so new to the game of football, it's easy to deduce that Spears' best football is still ahead of him. Spears doesn't look to have great speed, but it's not bad either. He does a great job of selling double moves and finding himself wide open down the field. He also shows the ability to catch the ball in traffic with defenders all over him...something that translates extremely well to the next level. He's kind of a poor man's Terrance Toliver in my opinion. Not quite as tall and probably not quite as fast, but plays with a similar style. Be sure to check the catch at the 6:00 mark on his highlights below.
Rivals: 4 stars
247: #81 WR 3 stars
ESPN: #46 WR, #297 overall 4 stars
Scout: #53 WR 2 stars
Reminds Me Of: Terrance Toliver (Class of 2007)
Jeryl Brazil - I debated what position to stick Brazil under but with it looking more and more likely that he ends up on offense, I decided to stick him here. For Brazil, it's all about speed. Like, serious, legitimate, no shit speed. He broke Trindon Holliday's high school record in the 60M Indoor as a junior. I see him as a runner/receiver threat that could potentially be a huge weapon by motioning back and forth between the backfield and the slot. LSU hasn't done the best job of utilizing guys like this recently (Trindon Holliday, Russell Shepard) but I'm hopeful things are a bit different this time around. Brazil may start his career as more of a runner since he doesn't look totally comfortable running routes or catching the ball just yet. He's also a bit more stout than Holliday or Shepard at a solid 5'10" 180 pounds. Combining some of the things we saw from Shepard (jet sweeps, receiver screens) and Mike Ford (mostly speed runs to the edge) the last several years, I can visualize a nice role for Brazil, as early as 2013. Originally slated to play defensive back, his speed has to be tempting for Les Miles to utilize in nickel and dime situations, filling the role where we saw Tyrann Mathieu and Ron Brooks have so much success blitzing off the edge. Regardless of where he ends up playing, he should contend for kick return duties immediately upon his arrival to campus.
Rivals: #16 CB, #193 overall 4 stars
247: #12 CB, #143 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #8 CB, #60 overall 4 stars
Scout: #22 CB, #194 overall 4 stars
Reminds Me Of: Skyler Green (Class of 2002)
What To Watch For On Signing Day
I don't think we'll see too much drama on Signing Day from any of these guys. Diarse is already enrolled. If for some reason Leslie's fax doesn't come through, then it probably indicates the staff was not comfortable enough with his academics to let him sign and will continue to monitor. Spears and Brazil are solid.
While LSU would like to add another receiver to this class, I really don't see many possibilities out there. Joe Morris, a 6'4" junior college receiver, has been discussed as a possibility but without visiting, the chances for a last minute switch to LSU seem very low. Morris is currently committed to Arizona State. The addition of Spears probably ended LSU's courtship of Morris.
In the short term, I believe that we'll see Beckham, Landry, Boone and Leslie get the most reps in 2013 with James Wright just outside of that mix. You'll also see some competition between Avery Johnson, Travin Dural and Kevin Spears as a bigger, outside target to earn some reps and stake their spot for playing time down the road. I see Diarse as a guy that will eventually fill Jarvis Landry's shoes as someone who primarily works inside. Also, the Class of 2014 looks stacked with talent at receiver in Louisiana so whoever emerges from this 2013 group will need to really emerge because if LSU recruits the way I expect them to, the competition level will only increase a year from now.
Avery Johnson #86 WR ELY H.S. C/O 2012 (via Coach Feis)