The recent commitment of Barbe receiver Trey Quinn brought LSU's total in the class to 14. And when examining the players remaining on LSU's board, it's astounding how neatly the remaining targets fit into those 11 spots.
1) RB Leonard Fournette
2) WR Malachi Dupre
3) WR Speedy Noil
4) OL Cameron Robinson
5) DL Gerald Willis
6) DL Davon Godchaux
7) DT Garrold McDowell
8) LB Clifton Garrett
9) LB Kenny Young
10) CB Tony Brown
11) S Hootie Jones
With the exception of maybe two guys, it's widely believed that LSU leads for the players listed above. I tend to believe that we know how most of this class will finish out. LSU may not have a perfect ending (i.e. getting all 11 of those guys), but they'll get the large majority of them and fill in any holes with other nice prospects. Knowing that (as much as you "know" something when following recruiting), I wanted to take a look at how this class may fit from a depth chart perspective to see if LSU is properly filling needs at each position.
Note: As I began putting this thing together, it started to get a little wordy, but seeing how this is my last post here (more on that below), I figured, "what the heck?"
With the troubles LSU found themselves in from 2008 through 2011, I'm now in the boat that says you try to take a quality quarterback in each class. But seeing as how LSU signed two awfully good ones last year, this would be the year to pass on one if you couldn't find the right guy. Fortunately, LSU is primed to get a very talented player in Brandon Harris who will graduate early. He'll step right in and compete for playing time this spring.
While Anthony Jennings seems to be setting himself up to be the starting quarterback next year, it's certainly conceivable that Harris could come in and compete strongly for the backup spot. If LSU is going to implement any stuff in the offense to take advantage of Jennings' running ability, then it actually makes good sense for Harris to be the backup since he can do a lot of the same things.
For the first time in a while, the present and the future of the quarterback position seems to be in excellent shape.
Many have debated whether LSU should take two or three running backs in this class. Alfred Blue will need to be replaced. It's almost a given that Jeremy Hill will need to be, as well. Then, there's a strong chance that Kenny Hilliard will also opt for the pros. If that scenario plays out, then LSU is looking at having only Terrance Magee and the true freshmen as running backs. It's tough to go through a season with only three backs, although "specialty" guys such as Jeryl Brazil and/or Jarrett Fobbs could help ease the burden a tad.
For now, LSU has a commitment from Sione Palelei, and they're in excellent shape with Leonard Fournette, who is supposed to announce in early January. I suspect LSU is willing to roll with those two guys in this class. But if the above scenario takes place and everyone bolts for the NFL, LSU will know about it no later than January 15, which is the deadline for underclassmen to declare. That will leave them a few weeks to find someone else at running back prior to National Signing Day, if they feel it's necessary.
I think the staff would prefer not to take three backs if they can at all avoid it. That's because the state of Louisiana has three excellent prospects for the Class of 2015 in Nick Brossette, Derrius Guice and David Ducre. Brossette and Guice already have LSU offers and are leaning heavily to the Tigers. LSU will probably wait to see how numbers shake out before deciding whether to offer Ducre. There's precedent for signing five backs in two years. LSU signed Alfred Blue and Spencer Ware in 2010 and then signed Kenny Hilliard, Jeremy Hill and Terrance Magee in 2011.
The timing is perfect for an influx of talented receivers that can play immediately, and it looks like that's what LSU is going to get. LSU already has commitments from Trey Quinn, Tony Upchurch and DJ Chark, though it's not entirely certain that Upchurh and Chark will play receiver. Chark could be a defensive back while Upchurch could potentially fill a number of different roles, including H-back. LSU hopes to add Speedy Noil and Malachi Dupre to the mix which will give them five potential pass catchers in the class.
LSU loses seniors James Wright and Kadron Boone after this season and could potentially lose Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham early to the NFL. Beckham seems the most likely since he's got more of the measurables the league looks for. After those guys, LSU has zero sophomore receivers on the roster. Freshmen Travin Dural and John Diarse look like future contributors, and Kevin Spears has reportedly looked a little better than expected thus far in his first fall camp. But after that, playing time is wide open for 2014 and beyond and this group of freshmen will see the field early and often because a) they're ultra talented and b) the opportunity is there.
The state has multiple good options for the Class of 2015 too, led by Warren Easton's Tyron Johnson. LSU may be in a position to be picky with receivers in that class, though.
If both Beckham and Landry leave after 2013, then we could see a whole lot of youth and inexperience in 2014. But by 2015, LSU will have one of the best groups of receivers in the entire country, assuming they sign Dupre and Noil.
LSU looks to be in good shape at tight-end, too. LSU does not have any seniors, so the entire group from the 2013 team will return as pretty established veterans in 2014. Logan Stokes, Travis Dickson, Dillon Gordon and Desean Smith give LSU a pretty solid group with varying skills. With a commitment from Jacory Washington, LSU should be able to ease him into the mix next year while still getting him on the field and taking advantage of his unique receiving skills. Even with Desean Smith ahead of him on the roster, Washington should still see plenty of balls come his way early in his career.
The following year, LSU will lose a couple of guys, but the state has yet another very good looking prospect in Acadiana's Bry'Keithen Mouton. Like Smith and Washington before him, Mouton projects as more of a receiver than a blocking type, but that could all fit perfectly into what we THINK Cam Cameron wants to do with these guys. They may look at taking two in the Class of 2015.
It's generally not a good idea to take any less than eight players on the offensive line over any two-year span. LSU took five a year ago; although, one was a JUCO guy. This year, it looks like they're going after three. If LSU can't land Cameron Robinson, I'm sure they'll scramble to try and find someone else with some potential. That will give them eight over two years, but it's close to being not enough since one has just two years of eligibility.
That means they'll likely be looking to go with at least five again in 2015 or they'll have to go the JUCO route in another year or so. Unfortunately, Jerry Tillery, one of the state's top linemen for next year, has already committed to Notre Dame.
If the quantity is bordering on being too thin, the good news is that the quality is excellent. We've seen a significant uptick in the talent of the linemen coming into the program over the last couple of years. In the past, LSU wasn't landing enough of the Pocics, Bouttes, Brumfields, and Clapps. Now, they are. Adding Robinson to the mix would give LSU it's best collection of young linemen in a really, really long time.
It's tough to map out exactly who will be in the lineup any more than one year in advance. The good news is that LSU doesn't have any seniors in their projected starting five this year. In fact, they have two sophomores and one freshman...possibly two freshmen. So most of this group should play together for the next two seasons. La'El Collins is certainly a candidate to leave early for the NFL, which would open the door for either Cameron Robinson to step right in or for Ethan Pocic to slide back outside to what is probably his more natural position of tackle.
LSU has a pair of juniors as starters, and then a whole lot of unproven youth behind them. This fall, expect those young guys to see a lot of minutes. They'll do more than get their feet wet this year, they'll need the experience because there's a very high chance that Freak Johnson and/or Ego Ferguson will leave after this year.
Despite taking three tackles last year, LSU needs to continue to load up. On the list of 11 from above, three guys are potentially defensive tackles. Garrald McDowell is the only one of the three that will for sure play on the interior. Davon Godchaux looks like his future is one the inside, too; although he could surprise and stay at defensive end.. Gerald Willis plays like an elite defensive end, but he continues to put on weight. He could eventually move inside as well. So I see LSU with anywhere between two and three tackles in this class, which will compliment last year's group very well. These guys will immediately be competing for spots in the rotation in 2014, especially if both Freak and Ego leave.
For 2015, it's early but LSU is very much in the mix for a pair of very elite prospects in Shreveport's T.D. Moton and Texas prospect Daylon Mack, who is one of the top junior prospects in the entire nation.
I see a potential one-year gap in 2014 where the tackles may not quite have the experience that we're used to having. But hopefully, guys like Christian Lacouture, Quentin Thomas, Quay Bain and Greg Gilmore emerge in 2013 so that 2014 won't suffer. Regardless, the future past 2014 is really, really bright and taking two or three tackles in this current class is the right thing to do.
LSU lost three really key guys last year, but they have some veterans that seem ready to step in with Rasco, Allen and Hunter. In addition, LSU signed four players in the most recent class to help shore up the depth. After the three listed, it's pretty much the freshmen who are next in line. The only other end on the roster is Justin Maclin.
I'm not sure that Rasco and Allen are early departure types, but then again, I'm not sure they're not. It's certainly possible that one or both could leave with a good season in 2013.
Regardless, it looks like LSU is only taking one or two ends in this current class. Deondre Clark is the only true defensive end of the projected group, and he's a really good one. He has been flirting with Ole Miss some lately, so that's something to watch. Then as mentioned above, Gerald Willis and Davon Godchaux could play on either the inside or outside. Right now, my gut says Godchaux goes inside while Willis stays at end, at least to start his career. That means LSU will have signed five or six defensive ends over a two year period, which is plenty.
For 2015, LSU will probably want to sign another two or three and Louisiana has a few intriguing prospects.
More than any other position, LSU is loaded with young talent at linebacker. Despite that, it looks as if the Tigers will roll out three veterans in the starting lineup this season. Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones are fifth year seniors, while D.J. Welter is the only junior linebacker on the team. Behind them are a gaggle of freshmen and sophomores posturing for playing time this season and in the future. Between 2012 and 2013, LSU signed eight linebackers, which is...a lot. But Trey Granier has already left the program and Melvin Jones has been moved to fullback, at least for now. The rest of the guys seem to have the right mix between the three linebacker positions, so it could work out nicely.
In the current class, LSU has a commitment from Donnie Alexander who is an outside guy, and they're heavy favorites for one of the top linebackers in the country in Clifton Garrett who will, in my opinion, be the next big deal at middle backer for LSU. Then there is Kenny Young, who is just too good a prospect to pass on. In the end, I think they push for him and get him.
Bottom line, LSU will likely fill a need with a big-time inside linebacker (assuming they land Garrett), and they are more than stocked for the future at the position.
LSU was forced to press a pair of freshmen into action last year due to some early entrants and a high profile dismissal, but the pair of Jalens stepped up nicely and will now provide solid play for years to come. Behind the two sophomores are four freshmen with a fifth hopeful on the way soon in Rashard Robinson, who is still waiting on clearance from the NCAA. I've got very high hopes for Tre'Davious White as a multi-year starter and future star.
LSU is looking at signing two or three cornerbacks in what they hope is Tony Brown, Ed Paris and possibly one more. From a numbers standpoint, the worst case is if Robinson doesn't get cleared, Ed Paris moves to safety and LSU can't sign Tony Brown. LSU would then likely go after another cornerback to replace Brown...someone like Santos Ramirez or Russell Gage and that's would be it. The roster would still be in OK shape, though. The best case is obviously if Robinson gets cleared and Brown signs with LSU.
It's also a possibility that D.J. Chark end up at cornerback. He's got ideal size at the position and his shuttle times from a combine in New Orleans this spring were excellent and imply that his skills could be a great fit at the position.
Either way, big-time help is on the way as LSU has a commitment from Kevin Toliver, arguably the nation's top junior cornerback prospect for the Class of 2015. Louisiana also has some excellent prospects at the position, including East St. John's Xavier Lewis who already has an offer from LSU.
Safety is another position where LSU looks to be in pretty hands for the future. Ronald Martin, Micah Eugene, Corey Thompson and Jerqwinick Sandolph will all see the field a ton this fall and should have loads of experience to help ease the loss of Craig Loston for 2014. But will any of those guys emerge into an All-SEC caliber player? With the positive, early reports on Rickey Jefferson, he's another that looks like a contributor down the line.
In this class, LSU is adding some more top notch talent. Many think that Ed Paris, one of the best athletes in the country, will ultimately play safety. Then, LSU also has commitments from John Battle and Devin Voorhies while still heavily recruiting Hootie Jones.
2015 looks promising too, with local prospect Kevin Henry from Central leading the in-state crop.
LSU is fine in both the short term and the long term as far as numbers. If none of the young players on the roster develop into stars, 2014 could be the first in a while without a legit All Conference player back there, but LSU will be solid. By 2015, at least one stud will emerge.
LSU is adding a kicker in this class in Cameron Gamble. James Hairston is a scholarship kicker but did not win the place kicker job this fall. Instead, that went to freshman walk-on Colby Delahoussaye. Depending on how good Delahoussaye does this year may dictate whether the decision to burn a scholarship on Gamble was a good move or not. He reportedly has a strong leg, though and could learn the ropes for one year before taking over kickoff duties from Hairston. He'll also compete for the place kicking duties, too. As we've learned in the last few years, kicking is important. It's nice to have options there.
All in all, it sure seems like LSU is hitting the right areas with this class, assuming it finishes up the way we all expect it to. From analyzing the numbers, the only thing I may change is to trade one linebacker spot for another offensive lineman. But at this point, that ship may have already sailed. Plus if you ask me, guys like Clifton Garrett and Kenny Young are in the "too good to pass up" category. This is just one of those yeas where you wish you could sign 35 instead of 25.
P.S. As alluded to above, this will be my last post here at ATVS. I unfortunately have to bow out due to other obligations (real life and all), but I want to publicly thank the team here for giving me the opportunity to do some blogging about recruiting and baseball for a while. Truly, the guys that make this site go are as good as it gets. They're talented writers and genuinely good people. ATVS was the best LSU blog out there before I arrived, and it will continue to hold that distinction long after I'm gone...just glad I was able to be a part of it for a little while. I'll still be on Twitter following recruiting stuff like an idiot so hope to see many of you on there.