Another year, another signing day, another highly ranked recruiting hall for LSU. With possibly the deepest crop of Louisiana players in a long time, LSU has cleaned up with 16 in-state commitments (the highest number since 2002), with a few more still dangling on the line. And, as a part of our Signing Day coverage, Shea Dixon, managing editor of Tiger Sports Digest, which has established itself as the top LSU-centered recruiting site, was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
1. It seems like most of real work for this recruiting class is wrapped up, and that we're only waiting on two or maybe three names for National Signing Day. Who are those final guys, and what are their statuses?
Shea: The final fish are Tim Jernigan and Jermauria Rasco, and because of the reduction in scholarships from 25 to 23, I think they look at those two guys as the only ones left on the board. I think Florida's on the outside for Jernigan, but they seem to be making an 11th hour push for Rasco. The relationship Will Muschamp had with Rasco at Texas is starting to pay off, but is it too late? With Timmy, I think it's FSU or LSU, and Tennessee is the wild card after getting his final official visit. My gut tells me to feel good about LSU, but my head tells me that Florida State is tough to beat given momma wants him to stay close to home. Right now I feel like LSU splits the pair and calls it a day.
2. What's your grade for this year's crop?
Shea: They are certainly deserving of an A. I think it compares in a lot of ways to the 2001 class in terms of talent, and then could compare to the 2010 class in terms of instant impact. More than three-fourths of the class is from Louisiana and the majority of the big-time pulls (all three 5-stars are from in-state, for instance). They also recruited well to positions of need. They got Zach Mettenberger at quarterback. They landed Freak Johnson at defensive tackle. Both guys are also in for the spring so that they can have a head start. All in all, it's another great year. If they close strong on the defensive line, it ranks as perhaps the best year for Miles.
3. We've seen a lot of early contributors in the last two recruiting classes. Should we expect that again this year, and who are some of the names to watch?
Freak Johnson and Zach Mettenberger (Ed. Note: both are enrolled and will participate in spring practice along with Kenny Hilliard) are two, but I'd also keep an eye on names like La'el Collins, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Terrance Magee and Micah Eugene. Collins could come in and compete with Chris Faulk for the left tackle spot. Landry has proven that he can play even on the outsides, so he's one who could grab a spot next to Rueben Randle. Beckham projects as a slot receiver or cornerback, and I think the staff will give him looks at both spots in fall camp (much like with Morris Claiborne in 2009).
4. Are there any names that you feel we should be talking about more?
Shea: I think people should be paying closer attention to Micah Eugene and Terrance Magee. Both led their teams to state championships and pretty much put the other 10 guys on their back throughout the season. Magee played quarterback, but he'll be a running back in the Spencer Ware-mold when he gets to LSU. He's also a southpaw, so throwing it from the Wildcat could be fun to watch. With Eugene, you get a guy who played both ways for Acadiana and was unstoppable on either side. He's great with the ball in his hands, but he's a terror when he's going after the ball carrier. I think he'll make a really good nickel back, and he's got the talent to come in and move into the defensive backs rotation as a freshman.
5. There's been a lot of talk about the major in-state players in this class forming a bond. We've seen that sort of thing before in the 2001 and 2004 groups. Talk about "the Fam."
Shea: It's unlike anything I have ever seen before, and I think that bond has helped this class stay together as much as anything else. The first commitments were guys like La'el Collins, Anthony Johnson and Jarvis Landry, and they wanted to lay the foundation for something great. What they did was get on board with assistants like Frank Wilson, and their combined efforts were enough to start reeling in the class. By the summer most of the in-state guys were on board and building on that relationship. They've now known each other for over two years, and by the time they get to campus it will be an even stronger bond. You don't find that at any other school, regardless of how many players they grab from in-state.
6. When you run a recruiting site, answering questions is a daily routine. What's the biggest thing about the recruiting process that the average fan never seems to understand?
Shea: That the majority of recruits, especially come this time of year, just want their recruitment to end. From college coaches to local and national media, these kids are hit with phone calls, text messages, emails, mail, and so forth on a daily basis. Recruits like Jarvis Landry tell me that when coaches are out recruiting, he can barely keep his phone charged. That's why it makes it so much easier to get a recruit to open up as a junior than as a senior. By then he's tired of it all, and most of the premier prospects become guarded. That's why things like Facebook are no good for college recruiting. Fans get on there and add another element that prospect's didn't expect, and sometimes that can push a kid over the edge. Look at C.J. Johnson. It might not have been the reason he switched from Mississippi State to Ole Miss, but it didn't help...