Everyone loves a great running back, and wide receivers tend to be very flamboyant, but I think most football observers believe that the big guys are often the difference between wins and losses. I don't exactly buy into the "games are won and lost in the trenches" cliche, but I think we can all agree that many a good running back and quarterbacks owe a great deal of their success to their offensive line, and many a good defense was built around a good defensive line.
This is where LSU has had perhaps a bit of trouble in this recruiting class. Right now there are no defensive tackles committed to this class. There are a couple of defensive ends committed, but one of them may end up at H-back or at linebacker. And what's more, there really aren't a lot of defensive linemen on the radar. The good news is that the Class of 2009 appears epically good on the defensive line, and the offensive line recruiting looks solid again.
Let's get to the commitments:
This is a class where some have accused this coaching staff of taking a lot of projects and recruiting a lot of players who are not well-known. I am on record as saying that I don't at all mind a coaching staff going out and evaluating on its own and identifying players it thinks may be diamonds in the rough. if you don't trust your coaching staff to know what they're doing in recruiting, you probably should advocate for your staff to be replaced. Cameron Fordham of Duluth, Georgia, would definitely qualify as a projected diamond in the rough. He was reportedly offered as a center, though he is currently less than 250# at 6'4" tall. Because all of the available film of him has him playing tight end, there's really no way for us the casual observers to evaluate how he might look at center. Then again, is there any way for us to project how good a prospect might be at center? Like with a lot of prospects, you just have to decide whether or not you trust Les Miles and his assistants to offer players with reasonable probabilities of success at this level. You have reason to decide either way. The class of 2006 offensive linemen all left the football team without actually playing one down of football in an official game. On the other hand, the somewhat unpopular decision to offer Alex Hurst a scholarship appears at this point to have been very sound. The decision to offer Josh Downs a scholarship for the 2009 class was not immediately accepted by all observers but after he blew up in his senior year everyone loved that we had wrapped him up early.
Linebacker Justin Maclin of Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tennessee, has been an important part of the recruiting puzzle since late in 2008 when LSU first got on him. Many observers thought he would get 5-star consideration, though his future may be at defensive end rather than linebacker. His recruiting stock has actually gone down a little bit, as Rivals recently took him off of their Rivals250 list of the 250 best prospects in the country. They said that he went to a camp at USC and, though he was not bad at all, was not one of the best players there in terms of upside. it is said that he has "stiff hips", to which I respond, "Well, so did Luke Sanders, and... nevermind." OK, maybe he is and maybe he isn't bluechip prospect material. I don't know. On the occasion of his commitment I noted that most of his highlights seem to involve plays in which no one blocked him. However, everyone acknowledges that he has an NFL-calibre frame and NFL-calibre speed for the position and even with teh criticism he is still a 4-star prospect on both Scout and Rivals. Early Doucet was stiffer than ideal, and he had a great career as a college wide receiver. Anyway, we move along.
It seems a little strange to be giving another write-up of Jordan Allen after we just profiled him a few days ago. Still, we are nothing if not completists. Allen is of course the 4-star defensive end from West Monroe High School. i say, "of course," because I assume that all of you have actually read that profile and have committed its more important passages to memory. There's really nothing to add on Allen to what I said before. He looks like a very solid defensive end prospect, perhaps not a pass rusher in the Rahim Alem mold, but a solid all-around defensive lineman with size, strength and quickness to be a 3-down player in the future. It doesn't hurt that his high school has as good of a relationship with the LSU program as any in the country. A good player from a program that has an established relationship with LSU? It works out for both sides.
The last commitment written up today is JUCO offensive tackle Jamarcus Hardrick. Like with Akiem Hicks of the 2009 class, profiled later today, the decision to recruit a JUCO player was born out of the expected loss of an important player at a key position. Jamarcus Hardrick is a left tackle, all 6'7" 315# of him. LSU will finally be losing Ciron Black after this year. Ciron has been starting at left tackle since I was a senior at LSU in 1996. Right now his primary backup and heir apparent is sophomore Greg Shaw, who performed admirably as a true freshman last year in a very limited role. After Ciron leaves, Miles and OL coach Greg Studrawa will have a few choices: a) slide Shaw up the depth chart and let him start, b) move Joe Barksdale (assuming he doesn't bolt for the pros after this year) over to left tackle and find a new right tackle, c) find another left tackle on the roster somewhere. The recruitment of Hardrick, who is expected to arrive in December, in time to participate in Spring Practice, is an insurance policy in case Shaw is not ready, and gives the coached a d) selection, which would be Hardrick. All things being equal, I think the coaches would absolutely prefer to leave Barksdale at right tackle, and there is no obvious candidate already on the roster to give Greg Shaw any competition at the position in 2010. As important as the left tackle position is, it would be foolish to put all the eggs in the Greg Shaw basket, as good as he might be. Plus, even if Shaw is the answer, what if he gets hurt?