It's early yet in the 2015 recruiting cycle, but you know the ball never stops rolling in that regard. The coaches have been hitting the road aggressively, keeping tabs on both in and out-of-state prospects that top their boards. While Boys from the Boot is in the books and a handful of in-state offers have been doled out, you should be accustomed to the fact, by now, that the players the coaches are less sure of will need to camp in Baton Rouge this summer to solidify their offer status. Cameron Sims, a 2014 Bama signee, is a prime example of a highly ranked kid that never received an LSU offer because he refused to make the trip and camp. Whether or not you agree with the practice, this is absolutely how we've seen things play out under Frank Wilson's tenure as Recruiting Coordinator. Only a select few elite in-state prospects receive offers before the summer camp circuit, and most of them spent earlier years at LSU camps, so the coaches are familiar with them.
That being said, let's turn our eyes to the way the 2015 class should be built. The major factors here are going to be positional need and depth. LSU has done a fine job of expanding their recruiting territory into a more national entity, so whereas in year's past you could count on the class being 80/20 Louisiana to out-of-state talent, the current staff won't be filling the class with Louisiana talents just because. If you are from Louisiana and being recruited by LSU it's because they really, really like you AND think you fit what they are trying to accomplish schematically. In this era, though, the staff can confidently venture out of state and pluck away top targets from all over the country.
Current Scholarships: 3
Should Take: 1
Stephen Rivers' transfer leaves the current LSU quarterback situation both young and up for grabs. While it seems the battle has transitioned to mostly a Brandon Harris vs. Anthony Jennings dual, Hayden Rettig is still a factor. Rettig's future is up in the air. A highly regarded recruit himself, practically, it's hard to envision a scenario where he sticks around for four more years as a career back-up. This assuming he doesn't come on in a fury and win the job this summer.
Walkons Brad Kragthorpe (Jr.), Jake Clise (RS Fr.) and Brandon Bergeron (So.) are the only other QBs on the roster. While it's possible one of them could be rewarded a full scholarship, I wouldn't expect that to happen until their Senior seasons, if at all. None figure to factor into the QB picture long term.
Due to the depth and the potential for Rettig to opt to transfer, LSU should definitely be hunting for a QB in this class. Currently they've extended offers to superstar recruit Torrance Gibson, and dual-threats Brandon Wimbush and Tucker Israel (a Clemson commit). Gibson is a talented athlete, but I'm uncertain about his projection to QB, which he's insistent on playing. I don't see him winding up in Baton Rouge. I don't know much about the other two at this point, but expect this list to expand as the cycle wears on. The summertime has typically been when we find our QB targets.
Current Scholarships: 4
Should Take: At least 2
The LSU running back depth chart is surprisingly thin, due to the full-press strategy to secure the signature of Leonard Fournette. He is quite obviously the future, and possibly the present, of the LSU running back situation. Of the other three scholarship backs, two are Seniors (Magee and Hilliard), with Darrel Williams joining Fournette as a Freshman in the backfield. Expect to see all four on the field at times this season.
Four running backs is a healthy number for a stable to play with, but when those are the only four scholarship backs, the situation could quickly become dicey. Any single injury puts this unit under duress. It's so, so important that the staff find at least two backs in the 2015 signing class, possibly more.
Nick Brossette, from Lab High School in Baton Rouge is already committed, and there's little reason to question his commitment. The staff has extended offers to Kirk Merritt, Traveon Samuel, Jordan Scarlett (FAU commit), Derrius Guice and Tristian Houston (Texas commit) to go along with Brossette. Guice is the mostly likely of those targets to become LSU's second RB commitment, but prepare yourselves now for a long and winding route to that decision.
This offer pool will certainly grow as we get deeper into the cycle, and don't be surprised if the staff hones in on an underrated in-state back, not currently on the radar, that they find and like, much like Alfred Blue or Darrel Williams.
Current Scholarships: 2
Should Take: 1
The fullback situation is often the hardest to predict, since we so rarely see a player recruited to that position. Under Miles our best fullbacks have been players converted from the defensive side of the ball, most frequently. If you look at the roster as of today, only four names are listed: Devante Meullion (Jr.), Jason Cormier (Sr.), Bennett Schiro (RS Fr.), and Connor Neighbors (Sr.). Of those four, only Neighbors stands much of any chance to play. Cormier and Schiro are both right around 200 pounds, so I don't consider them realistic options. Meullion has the size, and he's been in a few Big Cat drills, so perhaps the coaches see something there.
The other note here is the Melvin Jones remains listed as a LB. At 6'3", 245 pounds and highly athletic, Jones has the tools to be the type of multi-down fullback that could give us a new toy on offense. In the Spring, he was even taking snaps as a tailback to help spell the backs. That should give you an idea of how athletic he is.That said, there's some murmurs that he's not all too enthused with the idea of playing fullback and not linebacker. But there's no signs of him moving from that side of the ball anytime soon.
It's clear Neighbors will be assuming most of the playing time, as he did toward the end of 2013, but we often spell our fullbacks, so who is that number two guy? Right now, that's unknown. I included Melvin Jones in the scholarship count above, though LSU continues to list him as an linebacker.
Another guy here that I think could be a factor is 2014 recruit Tony Upchurch. At 6'2", 228 pounds he's already well built. He doesn't have top end speed or the type of explosiveness that you would expect from a receiver, but he may be a hair too short to function as a tight end as well. Upchurch would certainly be more of an H-back type than a pure, downhill masher, but I think it's something he could do. The guy currently in that role is Travis Dickson, who we could also see steal some snaps at fullback this season.
Currently, LSU has a commit from David Ducre, a 5'11", 238 pound running back from Mandeville. Ducre's a bit more nimble and athletic than your average fullback, which could make him a candidate to see RB snaps in a pinch. The fact that he's built like a brick house helps, obviously. There's also a couple of walkons that the staff could be eyeing for the position.
Current Scholarships: 5
Should Take: 2
The lack of tight end use in recent years has been a source of frustration for many LSU fans, but expect that to change quickly. The depth chart now features two high-end pass catching TEs in Sophomore DeSean Smith and Freshman Jacory Washington. Though neither profiles to become an elite level blocker, neither was recruited for that purpose. These are the type of movable pieces that Cam Cameron has made tremendous use of throughout his coaching career.
Beyond those two, the rest of the depth chart is filled out by Travis Dickson (Sr.), Logan Stokes (Sr.), and Dillon Gordon (Jr.). Dickson, as discussed above, is an H-back, while Stokes and Gordon are nearly exclusively big-bodied blockers. Adding a pair of recruits to replace Dickson and Stokes will prove important.
That said, it appears LSU has already found their two. Hanner Shipley (yes, THOSE Shipley's), from Marble Falls, TX is a 6'5", 260-pound tight end that looks ready to step in and fill the blocking role. He could potentially beef up to OL, something Jeff Grimes has done with success before, but I look for him to remain at tight end. The other commit is Jazz Ferguson of West Feliciana HS. Ferguson is built similarly to Jacory Washington coming out, listed at 6'5", 205 pounds currently. He's long and thin, right now, but a very natural receiver. Recruiting sites list him as a WR, but I think with his size and the fact that he lacks elite explosion/speed for a WR, will push him down to being a receiving TE.
Unless either of those two don't wind up in the class, don't expect any other additions.
Current Scholarships: 10
Should Take: At least 2
Only Rob Bolden and Quantavius Leslie are Seniors from this group. After this season, Travin Dural will be the only underclassmen draft eligible. Unless Dural blows the doors off the 2014 season, the depth chart will be eight players deep and exceptionally young. As such, it might be tough to convince young studs to come on and compete with the likes of Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn.
Then again, only Dupre, Quinn and Diarse are players I'd consider to possess SEC-starter type of talent. Players like Tony Upchurch, D.J. Chark, Avery Peterson and Kevin Spears likely profile as more functional depth than surefire starters.
LSU has offered 11 players at the position, and all of them, save Tyron Johnson, are OOS. What's the common theme you'll note among them? Size. All are listed over 6'0", many of them over 6'2". Henry is clearly trying to add some size to the unit.
George Campbell is probably the single "elite" receiver in this class, but I'm a huge fan of Damarkus Lodge from Cedar Hill, who reminds me a lot of Dez Bryant. I expect LSU to nab a couple receivers in this class.
Current Scholarships: 13
Should Take: At least 4
The biggest hole in the 2014 signing class was the lack of offensive tackle prospects. Garrett Brumfield and Will Clapp are both exceptional o-line prospects, but both are likely to project inside... I think. Which is why I've lumped all linemen together rather than by position.
Currently, Ethan Pocic is listed as a center (we thought he'd be a tackle), Evan Washington is listed as a tackle (he'll neck deep in the competition for the right guard spot), and others like Josh Boutte and Andy Dodd are given the "OL" listing. It's not entirely clear how the depth chart will shake out. This time last year we figured Boutte was bound for guard and Pocic to be the heir apparent at left tackle. Instead, Pocic spend most of the last year working at Center and Boutte was the second-team left tackle.
What we do know is that we will lose four scholarship players from this group next offseason, at least: Elliott Porter, La'El Collins, Hoko Fanaika, and Evan Washington. Meanwhile, players like Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins will both be draft eligible, and with the way so many underclassmen have made that leap in recent years, even ones that surprise us, don't be surprised if one, or both, decide to make the jump too.
It's imperative LSU reload here. We are yet to have a true feel for what Grimes will prefer in his blockers, but I think there's a good chance he's been given a level of autonomy in picking those players, especially considering the "Run Game Coordinator" tag slapped on to his title. Historically he's seemed to prefer lighter, more athletic types to suit zone blocking schemes.
That said, LSU's lone current commit, Maea Teuhema, the younger brother to 2014 signee Sione, is a 6'4.5", 350 dancing bear. Sure, he may not be as long and lean as Grimes would like, but watch his highlights and you'll quickly figure out that he's plenty athletic.
Beyond Teuhema, the staff has been aggressive in doling out off. line offers. 247 lists 14 offensive tackles and 6 offensive guards, to date. One of the primary targets of interest is Evangel OT Jerry Tillery, a long time Notre Dame commit. Tillery has long been considered a lost cause, but since the hiring of Grimes the landscape seems to have shifted. I don't suspect LSU to go down without a fight in that one. The other major name is Patrick Vahe, cousin to the Teuhema's. Many expected Vahe to eventually flip to LSU and join his cousins. Charlie Strong seems to have solidified his commitment, but we'll see what happens once official visits start to transpire. The draw of family can be awfully tough to ignore once it comes to decision time.
Ultimately, LSU needs a good combination of guards and tackles, but the number of early offers suggests they are well aware. We'll get to see the fruits of Jeff Grimes labor as a recruiter very early in his career.
Current Scholarships: 9
Should Take: 0 or 1
While the defensive tackle depth chart looks a bit shaky heading into 2014, due to the loss of two underclassmen starters, I would expect to see a heavy rotation of talented young players. Christian LaCouture (So.) and Quentin Thomas (Jr.) should be your starters while Maquedius Bain (RS Fr.), Frank Herron (RS Fr.), Greg Gilmore (RS Fr.) and Mickey Johnson (Jr.) see back-up duty. Of those six, I think LaCouture, Herron, Bain and Gilmore offer impact-player ability. Thomas is a capable starter and Johnson is little more than a rotational back-up.
Incoming freshmen Trey Lealaimatafao (another wildcard FB candidate), Davon Godchaux and Travonte Valentine will also get a shot to stake their claim this summer. Valentine's got college-ready size, though carries some bad weight and needs to clean up his technique. Godchaux really piques my interest, because I'd have pegged him as an early contributor prior to his injury. Lealaimatafao is a guy I expect to redshirt.
Not much need here. The depth chart is exceptionally young and talented. Only Thomas and Johnson will be draft eligible, and I doubt either makes that leap into draft-worthy prospects this year. There's no pressing need to take a player here, though there are some elite targets the staff is after, including T.D. Moton in-state.
Current Scholarships: 8
Should Take: 1 or 2
The defensive end depth chart is a bit less settled for the future. Of the eight scholarship players, both Jermauria Rasco and Justin Maclin will be graduating, while Danielle Hunter will be draft eligible. Jordan Allen already left the program, which is a factor for 2014 but not beyond, since he was going to be a Senior anyhow.
Behind those three are Sophomore Tashawn Bower, Sophomore Lewis Neal, and RS Freshman M.J. Patterson. Bower should be a key backup in 2014 and a starter by his Junior season. Neal doesn't feature prototypical size, but his ability to rush the passer got him on the field as a true freshman. Expect to see him used as a moving chess piece. Patterson is longer but super lean, and while he looks to be a decent athlete, there's no telling what his future is.
The rest of the ends are all incoming freshman. Deondre Clark is a 6'2", 240 pound guy that played running back and dunked basketballs in hgih school. He can be an immediate factor if he shows up focused and in shape. Sione Teuhema looks like a project, but at 6'4", 215 pounds with room to add good weight, he could be a sleeper contributor. Teuhema looks like a good chase player, but he'll need to add some mass to play at the point of attack. But he's got the type of size we've had success with of late in Barkevious Mingo and now Danielle Hunter.
The other wildcard is Godchaux, who lists at 6'4", 271. That's more of a tackle in Chavis' scheme, but he played DE in high school and he's a good athlete, or at least was, pre-injury.
The current commitment is Isaiah Washington, a 6'4", 225 pound player from Edna Karr. Washington is a long prospect with solid athleticism. He's probably got starter upside, but I don't see All-SEC potential in him. We need to add an impact DE prospect in this class and the staff is hot after several including 5 stars Terry Beckner Jr., CeCe Jefferson, Byron Cowart, Josh Sweat, and Keisean Lucier-South. I expect Brick Haley to pull some magic and land one of these types (Note: maybe not one of these few, but an elite level guy) before the cycle is over.
Current Scholarships: 9
Should Take: 1
Two years ago, LSU pulled a linebacker crop that many considered the best in the school's history. We have yet to see the fruits of that pull, at least fully. Kwon Alexander has shown flashes, while Debo Jones and Lamar Louis have struggled to stay on the field consistently. Ronnie Feist has yet to see a meaningful snap. 2014 could be that year, as all are now mature juniors, should know the defense and be ready to contribute.
D.J. Welter is the only player of the remaining four scholarship players that won't return after this season. Kendell Beckwith (So.), Duke Riley (So.), Clifton Garrett (Fr.) and Donnie Alexander (Fr.) round out the depth chart. I think all four have SEC-starter level talent, with Beckwith and Garrett having the shot to be All-conference or All-American types.
Unless Alexander, Jones, Louis AND Feist all declare for the draft, there's no reason for LSU to take a heavy LB haul this year. If they can secure an elite player, obviously don't pass him up, but if that doesn't happen I won't be surprised if they only player they take is a guy who will be content to be a ST ace type.
Current Scholarships: 6
Should Take: 1 or 2
LSU lay claim to the DBU moniker and the results there speak for themselves. They are pumping defensive backs into the NFL like it's their job, so it's no shock top level DBs continue to list LSU among their favorites during the recruiting cycle.
As such, the depth chart is not only loaded, but pretty young as well. The two expected starters, Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson, are both true sophomores. The expected nickel is a RS Sophomore. At corner, only Jalen Collins is an upperclassmen and even he still has two years of eligibility remaining. So trying to scratch out playing time in that crowd will prove difficult for young players. This isn't Patrick Peterson showing up to compete with Jai Eugene here.
True freshman Ed Paris is currently working at CB, but he's got the athletic tools and size to transition to Safety, if need be. Incoming freshman Russell Gage is also a guy most expect to wind up at CB. That makes your current CB core 1 Junior, 3 sophomores, 2 Freshman.
The lone commitment is 2015 super recruit Kevin Tolliver II, who is potentially the top player in the entire 2015 signing class. Tolliver is big, super athletic and, as Bud Elliott told me, mean. He jammed a player into the ground in 7-on-7 competition. Basically, this is Kevin Tolliver's world and we are all living in it. Still, it would be nice to pair him with another strong corner, and the staff is after plenty.
Current Scholarships: 7
Should Take: 1 or 2
Similar to corner, the safety depth chart is loaded with young talent. Ronald Martin is the lone senior at the safety spot. Newly converted Jalen Mills and the injured Corey Thompson are both juniors that could declare after this season. Even if all three were to leave, LSU would still have incoming freshmen Jamal Adams, John Battle and Devin Voorhies, to go along with Ed Paris. That's a pretty good situation to be in.
I like Jalen Mills enough to think he's a likely candidate to declare for the draft after this season. Corey Thompson likely should be back (and finishing a Civil Engineering degree!). Rickey Jefferson will be a Junior. That's five returning safeties, if you don't count any other corners making the shift.
The staff has already secured the commitment of Kevin Henry, a 6'1", 200 pound player from Central, right there in Baton Rouge. Henry's a bigger, physical type of safety that may ultimately wind up at linebacker, but he does have some coverage skills. LSU remains in the hunt for elite-level safety prospects, so I expect them to add another player here to go with Henry.
Current Scholarships: 4
Should Take: 1
The scholarships belong to long snapper Reid Ferguson, kicker Colby Delahoussaye (I think), kicker Cameron Gamble (I think) and punter Jamie Keehn. None of them are Seniors and while Ferguson and Keehn are draft eligibile that's just... something that doesn't happen. LSU returns all of their key specialists, so there's no real need to press for a kicker/punter in this class, especially not having just signed Gamble. Gamble could assume the kick-off duties as early as this year, his big leg being the primary reason he's believed to have been recruited.
Kyle Pfau is another guy from 2014 walking on to the program that could be your future Alleman/Delahoussaye kicker/punter that emerged against the scholarship guys. Reid Ferguson's younger brother, Blake, is the lone 2015 commitment. I don't expect there to be any others, but I've been wrong before. Also, if you haven't read Blake Ferguson's story, you really should.
Current Scholarships: 80
Scholarships on Offense: 37
Scholarships on Defense/Special Teams: 43
Scholarships in 2015 (only counting graduating Seniors): 64
Current Commits: 9
The current NCAA rules allow for 85 scholarship athletes, so LSU still has 5 scholarships available to extend to walk-ons, if they so choose. It's possible they may look to keep many of those open and attempt to sign a handful of early enrollees in 2015 to back count.
Based on my projections of how many players LSU SHOULD take in the 2015 signing class, it would be a 21-man class, which would bring LSU to over capacity if no players opt to declare early or leave for other reasons. Since we know that's almost certainly not going to happen, there's a good chance that LSU can and will sign a full 25-man class in 2015.
The unique thing here is that LSU is set up phenomenally well for the future. Of the 65 scholarship players in 2015, 33 will be Sophomores or younger. 50 will be Juniors. That's an exceptionally young squad. Being that LSU is SO young, 2014 could be a "rebuilding" team until we reach teams more ready to compete for championships in 2015 and 2016.
How would you like to see the scholarships distributed in 2015? By my current projections, LSU still has four open spots available to whomever they see fit. Where do you add depth from there?