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2008 Recruiting: Overview

It occurs to me that I have done this whole 2008 Profile business backwards.  I've started with profiling individual players, but the proper thing is to give an overview of the class and my thoughts on it.  The big picture, if you will.

Once we're done with the big picture, you can go back and check out the individual profiles on P.J. LonerganLavar EdwardsThomas ParsonsClay SpencerKellen TheriotGreg ShawMatt BranchDerrick Bryant, and Karnell Hatcher.  And then you can sit around and wait for the other profiles.

I take pride here in giving things to you straight, without a lot of sugar coating.  Which is not to say I'm pessimistic, but you have understand that in recruiting, everything is fraught with uncertainty.  The 5-star can't miss prospect can sometimes miss badly (Ryan Perrilloux).  The 2-star waste of a scholarship can sometimes become a legend (Jacob Hester).  And these stories are more common than you realize.  Sometimes, all the film and premium info in the world will still lead you astray.

But you shouldn't take that to mean that the premium sites and the professional (amateur, really) evaluators are clueless.  They are not.  The people who run the Rivals and Scout sites and who do the evaluations are bright people.  They just aren't psychics or mind-readers.  And neither are coaches for that matter.

Take the example of Nic Harris at Oklahoma.  He's an outstanding safety, and he's from right up the road from Baton Rouge in Alexandria, Louisiana.  Nick Saban, well known as a great recruiter and evaluator of talent, did not want Nic Harris.  LSU was going to have a small class that year, and he just wasn't a priority.  He ended up getting an offer rather late in the recruiting process, but by then he was enamored of Oklahoma and wasn't interested in LSU any longer.  Saban left, and Miles tried to repair the damage to the relationship, but it was too late.  Harris left Louisiana, and is an All-Big 12 performer at Oklahoma.  A local guy that our head coach didn't want.

That's not to criticize Nick Saban (though it is to suggest that he is fallible, which some people seem not to realize).  Everyone makes mistakes.  The point is to say that recruiting is an area where even the best will make almost as many poor choices as good ones.

Which is all to say that you should take my own evaluations with a big grain of salt.  I usually am forced to base my judgments on a few minutes of grainy video, a few quotes in the media, and some insider-chatter.  Probably the most reliable information about the desirability of a player is to look at who is recruiting him, but even that is sometimes not entirely clear.  That information usually comes from the players themselves, and they have incentive to be less than honest.

My opinion of this class as a whole is that it is good but not great.  It's a solid class, with a few outstanding players, a lot of players who need to develop, and some players I think are going to be depth/special teams players.  I don't think it's as strong as the 2007 class (which was epically good), and I don't think it's as strong as the 2009 class is shaping up to be.  It could get a lot better, if Deangelo Benton, a tremendous wide receiver prospect, qualifies academically.  Right now it is questionable that he will, but he still could.

Probably the strength of the class as it stands right now is the defensive backs.  Patrick Johnson is the most highly anticipated member of the class.  He may be the best recruit we've brought into the program in years, and he may be the best cornerback recruit we've ever had.  Brandon Taylor and Karnell Hatcher are also very good prospects at corner and safety respectively.  Derrick Bryant is a solid corner/nickel/safety prospect, and Ryan St. Julien is a nice sleeper.  

If Benton makes it, wide receiver becomes another big strength of the class, with Benton and speedster Chris Tolliver being the headliners.

After that, we have an excellent prospect at defensive end in Chancey Aghayere, who looks to be a future star.  Ryan Baker will be a stud at linebacker, the best linebacker prospect we've signed since Darry Beckwith.  I think Jordan Jefferson has better physical tools as a quarterback than anyone currently on the LSU roster.

After those guys, we have a lot of people who have work to do.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Not everyone is or can be a can't-miss star.  Everyone has something going for him or he wouldn't even be invited to the party, but after that handful of outstanding players we have a bunch of players who probably won't see the field for a while until they either find their proper position, develop their bodies, or develop their technique.  Or simply gain experience.  

Some of those projects will inevitably not develop as hoped.  Some will be better than we ever could have expected.  I'll be damned if I can identify who will fall into each category.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I will break players into three categories: headliners, solid players, and projects.  All of the headliners have been mentioned.  They will probably get on the field quickly, in the first year for most of them.  The solid players will probably redshirt, unless a depth problem develops at their position.  The projects are probably looking at developing in practice for a couple of years before being able to compete for playing time.