As we steam roll towards National Signing Day on February 6, it's always a good exercise to take a look back at previous recruiting classes to see how they panned out. The excitement from Signing Day usually subsides pretty quickly, and the true story of a Signing Class can't be judged for several years. With all eligibility exhausted, I thought we'd take a look back at the Class of 2008.
On Signing Day, this class was a good one, but not a great one. Both Rivals and ESPN rated the class #11 nationally while Scout had it at #7.
LSU still had Ryan Perriloux on the roster, and they signed Jarrett Lee the year prior. Therefore, they were looking to sign just one QB in this class....and boy, did they!
Jordan Jefferson - Oh boy. Jefferson had his moments during his career at LSU, but he will mostly be remembered for serving as lightning rod for criticism...directed at both him, and at Les Miles for his persistence in playing him. That all exploded in the BCS Championship Game following the 2011 season when Miles refused to replace Jefferson despite his horrific play and with the offense failing to cross midfield until the fourth quarter. Jefferson did enjoy two fine bowl performances in the 2008 Peach Bowl and 2010 Cotton Bowl. And who can forget the 2nd half of the 2010 game against Alabama? Jefferson would throw in a performance like that just often enough to give you some hope that he could do it consistently...but he never could. Jefferson generously provided his critics with some ammunition by screwing up off the field too. Of course there was his alleged involvement in the brawl outside Shady's prior to the 2011 season. Even after his eligibility was complete, he still made news by instigating the event that led to the arrest of Tyrann Mathieu, along with himself and two other former Tigers, which served as the final nail in the coffin for any return the Honey Badger may have been considering. All in all, I can't recall a more disliked Tiger in recent memory.
Missed On - Tyler Wilson. Out of Arkansas and without an offer from the Hogs, Wilson seem poised to commit to the Tigers at LSU's summer camp. However, LSU decided to pass because they wanted to get a closer look at Jefferson in the fall. It may not have mattered had LSU accepted his commitment though. One of the first things Bobby Petrino did upon landing the Arkansas job was offering Wilson, which he immediately accepted. LSU also couldn't hold onto Darron Thomas, who landed at Oregon. I'm not sure that's a miss though since it's tough to say how Thomas would have fared in an offense that wasn't run by Chip Kelly. LSU wanted Thomas as an athlete, so his story would have been much different had he signed with the Tigers.
Nationally - Blaine Gabbert, Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, Mike Glennon, and Robert Griffin are just some of the highly rated guys that panned out and had good careers (though some might debate Pryor). However, guys like Dane Crist and Star Jackson didn't fare as well. Some lower ranked guys found success in the Big-12 such as Seth Doege, Collin Klein, and Nick Florence.
LSU chose not to sign a running back in 2008, which may or may not have been a mistake. The Tigers signed just one (Stevan Ridley) the year before but signed three good ones in 2006 (Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy). When injuries hit hard in 2009, LSU's did not have enough depth and ended that season with just one healthy back.
Missed On - Brandon Bolden. Out of Scotlandville, Bolden seemed like the kind of in-state talent that should not get away. But he went to Ole Miss and had a great career and oddly enough, is now playing with Ridley for the Patriots. He would have been a nice fit in the shotgun, one-back sets that LSU used a lot in 2009 and 2010. LSU also made a late run at Jermaine Thomas and just days before Signing Day, it looked like they might steal him away from Florida State. But he stayed home to play for the Noles and had a nice career.
Nationally - Darrell Scott (Colorado) and Jermie Calhoun (Oklahoma) were the two can't miss, stud backs in this class. They were both flops. Some other top ranked guys have had nice careers though such as Jeff Demps, Andre Ellington, Chris Polk and Ryan Williams. A little lower ranked was LaMichael James. Lower ranked guys who found a ton of success include Bolden, Mikel LeShoure, Kenjon Barner, and Jacquizz Rodgers.
LSU was looking to sign several receivers in this class, and during the recruiting process, it seemed like they were in on a can't miss group. But once the dust settled, this group produced practically nothing for LSU on the field.
Chris Tolliver - Tolliver was a speedster who put up crazy numbers at Rayville and was the state's top overall player. Early on, he struggled to crack the depth chart. He then suffered multiple concussions which ultimately ended his once promising career.
Tim Molton - Molton was not that highly rated by the recruiting sites but he impressed everyone on the practice field during his redshirt season in 2008. Looking to be a contributor in 2009, he suffered a knee injury in the offseason and then decided to transfer to Louisiana Tech where he never made a big impact.
Jhyrn Taylor - Taylor was not a highly rated guy but was considered a solid guy who could contribute. He stayed on LSU's team for two years with no significant action prior to transferring.
Deangelo Benton - Benton was a big time talent who signed with LSU on multiple occasions, never able to qualify academically. He eventually made his grades but signed with Auburn where he had a disappointing career.
Missed On - Deandre Brown. Brown was a big-time, five star talent out of Mississippi that was leaning towards LSU for the entire recruiting process...until the end. On the fence of qualifying academically, Southern Miss convinced Brown he would be in a better environment close to home. He had a terrific freshman season before suffering a bad leg injury. He bounced back to have a nice sophomore season before his career fizzled out. You could also argue that LSU missed on Hahnville product Laron Byrd. LSU chose not to offer Byrd, who signed with Miami and had a nice career there.
Nationally - Yep. It was THAT year. A.J. Green and Julio Jones topped the rankings and the debate over who is better still continues today. You also had Michael Floyd and Jonathan Baldwin as highly ranked guys who had terrific college careers. Jeff Fuller, Jarius Wright and Tavarres King were in that second tier group, and each proved their worth and then some. You also had some lower ranked guys prove everyone wrong. Going by Rivals' rankings, Darvin Adams was the #48 ranked receiver and Greg Childs was the #84. Both guys found their way onto some All-SEC teams. Oh, and the #91 ranked receiver? Justin Blackmon.
LSU signed four guys that would ultimately play tight-end in their careers, and a couple made significant impacts.
Tyler Edwards - Edwards, the younger brother of former Tiger Eric Edwards, seemed like a slam dunk for the Tigers. But LSU found themselves in a recruiting battle with Alabama....something that would be played out multiple times each year on the recruiting trail. But for LSU fans, Edwards was the first major battle against their former head coach, and I recall it being pretty tense and maddening. Edwards eventually chose the good guys, but hasn't made a huge impact during his career. He was poised to see the field quite a bit in 2012, but was academically ineligible and missed his final season.
Matt Branch - Branch was a big blocking tight end that was highly thought of by the recruiting sites. He eventually grew into an offensive lineman where he never contributed much.
Deangelo Peterson - Signed as an athlete, Peterson played his true freshman season at wide receiver before bulking up and playing tight-end. His athleticism proved to be an asset at the position and he caught 39 passes in his career. Peterson showed flashes of being a real weapon for LSU but could never just put it all together. He played a bit soft at times and didn't seem to have the "it" factor. He may be remembered most for his huge play against Alabama in 2010, taking a reverse on a 4th and 1 down to the goal line to set up a critical touchdown.
Chase Clement - Originally signed as a highly rated defensive end, Clement couldn't crack the depth chart on the defensive side of the ball. After two years on defense, he moved to offense and immediately saw the field in 2010 prior to becoming a full time starter for the last two years of his career. While Clement was just OK as a receiver, he was a real asset as a blocker.
Missed On - Nobody. LSU landed two quality guys from in state and did not look elsewhere.
Nationally - Kyle Rudolph was the top tight end prospect in the country, and he enjoyed a great career at Notre Dame. This group also produced Dwayne Allen, who won the Mackey Award in 2011.
This offensive line class turned out OK for LSU. They missed on a few guys, but also landed a pair of multi-year starters.
P.J. Lonergan - Lonergan was not a highly recruited guy, but he has played a whole lot of good football for LSU. He has been LSU's most consistent offensive lineman and a three year starter.
Alex Hurst - Hurst won the right tackle job in 2010 and started for the rest of his career until he left the team midway through the 2012 season due to "personal issues." Hurst had some trouble in pass protection throughout his career but proved deadly as a run blocker.
Greg Shaw - Though never a fixture in the starting lineup, perhaps he should have been considering how well he always played in relief roles. Stepping in for injured started at times in both 2010 and 2011, Shaw proved himself worthy of being on a SEC football field.
Thomas Parsons - Parsons was a "project" recruit that did not pan out. He found the field briefly as a redshirt freshman as a fullback before leaving the program.
Clay Spencer - Spencer never saw any action for the Tigers and medical issues ended his career after a couple of seasons.
Missed On - Dallas Thomas. Something about Scotlandville that LSU overlooked this year. Thomas was not highly rated, but he was good enough to earn offers from a handful of SEC schools. LSU just missed the eval on Thomas, who eventually earned All-SEC honors.
Nationally - A number of five star guys worked out for the schools that signed them, including Mike Adams, Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith. However, Tyler Love who signed with Alabama, was a bust.
LSU signed three guys at this position, even though one of them (Clement) ended up at tight-end. The other two have been consistent contributors and part time starters throughout their careers.
Lavar Edwards - Edwards played a lot of football for LSU throughout his career and was a key contributor for four straight seasons. When Sam Montgomery went down with an injury in 2010, it was Edwards who stepped up to fill the void. He ended his career with an impressive senior season and looks poised to be selected in April's NFL Draft.
Chancey Aghayere - Aghayere also contributed early in his career, starting three games as a freshman in 2009. He got passed by some younger guys and was not much of a factor by the time he was a junior but rebounded to have a nice senior season.
Missed On - Nobody.
Nationally - A lot of disappointment at the top of the rankings for this class, with the exception of DaQuan Bowers who was at the very top. Rated as a three star prospect was Aldon Smith, and he's now a NFL All Pro.
LSU signed just one guy in this class at defensive tackle, and that seemed odd after signing only one the previous season (Drake Nevis). This void in the depth chart would eventually open things up for guys like Bennie Logan and Michael Brockers, signed in 2009, to play early in their careers.
Cordian Hagans - Hagans did not make an impression early in his career and was moved to the offensive line. After practicing there for a year, he decided to transfer to ULL where he switched back to defense. He became a regular player at defensive tackle and had a nice senior season with 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Missed On - Corey Liuget. Liuget hailed from Florida and eventually settled on Ron Zook and Illinois. But LSU made a very strong push to land Liuget and they almost pulled it off. Just days before Signing Day, Liuget named LSU as his leader. He went on to have a great career and was the #18 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Nationally - With the exception of Liuget, not too many of the highly ranked guys lived up to their billing. Marcus Forston, Deangelo Tyson and Omar Hunter were all just OK.
LSU signed three linebackers this year, but only one of them would ever make an impact.
Ryan Baker - On the very first play of his career, Baker blew up a poor kickoff returner from Appalachian State. Baker continued to be a special teams star before becoming a full time starter in 2010 where he led the team in sacks. He was a senior leader at linebacker on perhaps the best defense in LSU history in 2011.
Kyle Prater - LSU took a shot on Prater, a Texas native without an offer from either Texas or Texas A&M and it didn't work out. After two seasons in the program, Prater transferred to Rice where he contributed and had a solid career.
Kellen Theriot - Theriot was a promising prospect with lots of speed for someone his size. But he could never shake the injury bug at LSU and his career fizzled out.
Missed On - Michael Mauti. It's tough to call Mauti a "miss", but he's worth a mention since he's a Louisiana native. Mauti's father played at Penn State, and he was never going to go anywhere other than Penn State. He turned into an outstanding college player and was a source of positive energy while Penn State dealt with so much negativity throughout the past year.
Nationally - Alabama had a flop in Jerrell Harris but hit big with both Don'ta Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. Same for Miami with the flop of Arthur Brown and the hit with Sean Spence.
Since they landed the nation's top cornerbacks, it's tough to consider this group anything but a huge success.
Patrick Peterson - Peterson goes down as one of the most impressive athletes ever to play for LSU, in any sport. He was simply incredible in 2010, as both a corner and a returner. Early on, Peterson's recruitment was all over the place. Once a Miami commitment, Peterson announced for LSU at the U.S. Army All American Game and didn't sway from that selection.
Derrick Bryant - Bryant would later switch to a safety and although he was never a consistent contributor, he did step up when needed. As a senior, he filled in against Auburn when a couple of other defensive backs were suspended and played very well. He was also a constant on special teams.
Ryan St. Julien - St. Julien never did quite adjust to the college game and left the program due to medical reasons after the 2010 season.
Missed On - Prentiss Waggner. Waggner signed with Tennessee and became a multi-year starter for the Vols as a safety, earning some recognition on some All-SEC teams in 2010. It's of course easy to say now, but Waggner would have likely benefited the program more than St. Julien, Rocky Duplessis, or Karnell Hatcher.
Nationally - We know the nation's #1 cornerback certainly panned out. Other highly ranked guys who found success include Janoris Jenkins and Brandon Boykin. Alonzo Lawrence at Alabama did not work out, however.
LSU signed three safeties in this class, and only one of them really worked out. But he was an awfully good one.
Brandon Taylor - Taylor started his career at cornerback but quickly switched to safety and earned the starting job as a sophomore in 2009. He would start for three seasons and developed into a true team leader in 2011. He was a third round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Karnell Hatcher - Hatcher played a lot of football for LSU but almost none of it was good. He was mostly out of place as a safety, and he eventually dropped down to linebacker for his senior season. He eventually lost his job to an emerging Kevin Minter in 2011.
Rocky Duplessis - Duplessis has never played any significant minutes in the secondary but has been a solid guy on special teams throughout his career.
Missed On - P.J. Smith. Smith signed with Nebraska out of John Curtis and has enjoyed a very nice career in Lincoln, starting for three years. He finished the 2012 season third on Nebraska's team in tackles and second in interceptions. Destrehan product Jerico Nelson deserves a mention here as well. He was reportedly hellbent on playing running back in college which is why LSU passed and why he ultimately signed with Arkansas. However, he quickly moved to defense and proved himself a capable SEC player, bouncing between safety and linebacker for the Hogs. LSU did just fine without these guys, but they would have been improvements over some of the guys they signed.
Nationally - Not much to mention here on a national level.
Les Miles has never been afraid to use scholarships on his special teams specialists, but that didn't happen in the Class of 2008.
Drew Alleman - Alleman joined LSU's program as a walk on and eventually won the place kicking duties as a junior and senior. Alleman was almost perfect in 2011 but dropped off a bit in 2012. I'll always remember him shushing the crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium following his game winning kick in overtime in 2011.
Most recruiting classes are considered a success if half of the players signed make significant contributions to the program. It's tough to expect much more .Players leave the program for various reasons and sometimes, players just don't work out the way the coaching staff intended. Here is a quick look at how this class panned out
Big Time Players (6)
Patrick Peterson - NFL Draft Pick
Brandon Taylor - NFL Draft Pick
Solid Contributors (10)
Deangelo Benton (never enrolled at LSU)
Ryan St. Julien
LSU received some kind of contribution from just over half the class, which is normal. However, too many of those contributors were not of the "big time" variety. When it's all said and done, this class was really just OK. Thus far, it has produced just two NFL Draft picks and it only looks like one more player (Edwards) will get picked. That's the lowest amount of draft picks in a Signing Class since the Class of 2005, which only had 13 signees and the lowest amount for a full class since 2002 when only Skyler Green and Kyle Williams were drafted.
Patrick Peterson lived up to his billing and a number of the four star guys did too (Baker, Edwards, Taylor). Lonergan and Hurst probably overplayed their three star rankings. A number of the four star prospects, while contributors, never stepped up to compete for All-SEC honors or anything close to it. Having said that, this class played a huge role in the SEC Championship 2011 season. Peterson and Clement were the top two tight-ends. Lonergan and Hurst were everyday starters on the O-line and Greg Shaw filled in admirably at times. Brandon Taylor and Ryan Baker were two of the defensive leaders. Alleman was huge all season. So while this won't go down as one of LSU's best classes ever, a ton of these guys played big roles on one of LSU's best teams ever.