Now that it all appears to be over as far as the Class of 2015 goes, what are your thoughts on LSU's efforts through this recruiting cycle?
Is there a better definition of a complete 180? At this time last year, we were reeling from the transgressions of the Under Armour game, going from #5for5 to 2 for 5. In a way, that has turned to 2 for 4 due to the stupidity that is Gerald Willis. Regardless, emotions were at a low heading into spring practice.
This year, it's the opposite. It starts with replacing the lazy Chavis with a former-National Recruiter of the Year in Kevin Steele. Then, we add the fan favorite and another National Recruiter of the Year Coach O to replace Brick, who had a tendency to finish second in most of his big game hunts. While it didn't have the biggest impact for 2015 (it did a little, which I will touch on), it sets the stage for a lot of optimism going into the 2016 class.
Those negative surprises we got last year were the complete opposite this year. It wasn't all "surprises," but from the month of January to NSD, we pulled in one helluva haul. Not only that, we kept everyone in the class as well with no defectors. All in all, almost everything went right and even better than expected
Someone asked me if I could give them a grade on the class this year and I said A minus or B plus. It's a fantastic class that fills needs at DB, OL and RB. It also adds an impressive group of DB's and WR's.
All in all, I think we panicked and overreacted to the Chavis departure, especially the timing of it. But it turned out to be a bit of blessing, at least right now it seems that way (we'll see once the games begin). I love what Steele, Orgeron and Wilson bring to the recruiting table. Honestly, I think it could help us rival Bama for the No. 1 class in 2016.
My ONLY knocks on this recruiting cycle were our misses. Daylon Mack is going to be a freak of nature and we had him. Same with Kyle Phillips, but I'm glad we got Arden Key to replace him. Oh and we didn't get a LB which is lame, but that won't hurt as bad if we get a good amount of guys in 2016.
I really thought LSU would end up maxing out at 10 ranking wise. I was confident they'd close well enough to get to 8-10 or so...but that was it. Didn't think they'd manage to make ground with some other targets.
They did. They reeled in Arden Key, who just oozes potential. He's gonna be an absolute monster by his sophomore/junior years. They got Toby Weathersby to just add to a terrific OL haul. And they added more speed and talent with Donte Jackson and Derrick Dillon
No LB's hurts. It's what really prevents this class from getting close to last year - with the exception of a transcendent talent like Fournette and two studs in Dupre and Adams. It puts in a position where we NEED to get LB's next year so we're not in a huge hole for the 2016 season.
Most importantly....I think this NSD and close to the recruiting cycle is just what the program and fanbase needed. After an 8-5 season, Chavis bolting (even though it probably won't hurt in the long run), and the hiring of Steele....the mood of the fanbase was just bad. No optimism or belief. Just pure negativity.
This helps get the fanbase a bit more positive and happy again and looking forward to what the 2015 season can bring.
In a way, this class is even more impressive than last year's. Now, it's not the same objective quality as last year's class, but the in-state talent last year was absolutely loaded and LSU landed the #1 recruit in the nation. Everyone expected LSU to land a top 5 class, and anything less would have been a disappointment. This year, the expectations were far lower, and fans would have accepted a class ranked in the top 20, particularly after Chavis left so close to Signing Day.
Instead, the departure of Chavis seemed to energize this staff. They turned a decent class into a great one, and they didn't lose a single defection after losing their coordinator. Miles and his staff had a built-in, ready-made excuse, and instead they went out and hauled in one of the best classes in the nation, which should be sandwiched in between two truly exceptional classes, if next year goes the way we think it will. That's just an amazing job by this staff, and they have re-energized a demoralized fanbase over the past month.
The single best thing about this class is how quietly it was put together. There was no drama on Signing Day, and most of the faxes were in by 10 AM. It was like no one in the nation noticed, yet suddenly, LSU had a top 5 class. It just snuck up on all of us.
My mood is pretty much with the consensus on this recruiting cycle. It was a fairly "meh" cycle until the very end, where we finished strong and held on to our early recruits.
I'm really excited to see what the offensive backfield will be capable of doing in the next two years. Adding Derrius Guice, Nick Brossette, David Ducre, and Lanard Fournette gives us a lot of talented youth to go with Darrel Williams and Leonard Fournette. The thought of having Leonard, Guice, and Williams on the field at the same time gives me a tremendous amount of joy and should be a headache for opposing defenses.
The corner back spots should be interesting as well. I think it'll be next to impossible to keep Kevin Toliver off the field, so it'll be interesting to see if he winds up as the number two corner or not.
It's not that this year's class isn't very impressive, especially with Chavis leaving, and all the aforementioned things, but it's almost like it depends on next year being even better. I'm a little nervous about the LB position, but there is plenty of talent in 2016. I'm also tired of acquiring tons of talent at skill positions, but not capitalizing. Don't want to be negative, I'm very impressed, just expressing concerns.
With that being said, if that class is what Steele and Orgeron can do in one month, I can't wait how until NSD 2016. Of course I'm not discounting the recruiting skills of Miles and Wilson, they were great as usual.
I think what I liked best about this class was that it fit the identity of the program. Big backs, a ton of big offensive linemen and a pretty baddass set of defensive backs. Competition in the secondary will be ridiculous in the coming seasons. I mean think about how highly thought of Ed Paris was a year ago and then realize that he's going to have to fight off both Tolliver and Jackson. That's the kind of situation that leads to the 2011 secondary where the fourth corner could have started for most of the SEC and wound up being a third-round pick.
Linebacker leaves a hole, but I feel a bit better knowing that Leo Lewis is also signing with a junior college in addition to Mississippi State, because better to not have that guy at all than to be depending on him and then find out he won't qualify this summer. Yeah, LSU took a risk on Brandon Martin not getting in, but there's plenty of depth at receiver. He's gravy, not a necessity.
At quarterback, I think Justin McMillian is important BECAUSE he's a developmental guy. You need program players at the quarterback spot. Guys that become invested and don't transfer after a year or two for playing time. That's how you wind up with a Blake Sims or a Cardale Jones. Is McMillian one of those guys? Doubtful, but at least we can reasonably expect that he'll stick around for a while.
It was also very encouraging to see Jeff Grimes work his ass off down the stretch and close on Valentin-Okeke and Weathersby. He didn't just fill needs, but he did it with high-level prospects from out-of-state.
So who are some of your favorite prospects out of this class? The guys you'll be watching for -- be them five-stars or sleeper picks.
What the hell do we do with David Ducre? I listed him as my 1B to Guice's 1A when I was ranking our running back crop. I think he's too talented to leave at FB and not get quality touches. I think he's a more athletic Darrel Williams if I am being completely honest. I need that kid to get the football and I hope this spring he shows some flashes and gets the opportunity to show what he can do with the football in his hands.
I'm most interested in Maea Teuhema, mostly because he's supposed to be the next big thing at OT. I also love it when (in the words of Trai Turner), THE BIG GUYS "pancake 'em and sit on 'em." I want to see Teuhema eat, and judging by his size he'll eat well and eat often. Same with guys like Weathersby and Okeke-Valentine.
Other than that, I feel like David Ducre is a guy who hasn't gotten much love because he's been overshadowed by Guice and Brossette. However Ducre's got the chance to step right up with the hole at fullback now that Melvin Jones has been released. Bry'Keitheon Mouton is another guy who Les said could play at FB (in a more limited role I'm sure), and I look forward to both of them smashing facemasks and laying devastating lead blocks. Connor Neighbors got Leonard the space for one yard on 4th and 1 against Ole Miss, so I never underestimate how important that lead blocker can be.
On defense, Arden Key and Isaiah Washington might need to grow up fast considering the holes at end we've got with Rasco and Hunter's respective departures. So I'll be following that closely. Defensive end play was big at times for us in 2015, not necessarily in the box score, but in terms of creating chaos. So hopefully we'll see the new guys rotate in and do some damage.
Yeah, this class fit the mold of LSU. It's what this team wants to be and what's made it successful. Power and strength up front with speed on the outside. The OL class is great and the more depth on the OL the better. And you never can have too many speed and skill guys.
Since you brought up Key, Zach, I would like to inform anyone that does not already know he is going to be a BALLER.
I think our defensive line this year is going to improve immensely and guys like Key and maybe Teuhema/Bower are going to really step up this year. We need to be aggressive as a defense again and I think this is the year we do that, especially with how talented we are in the secondary.
I think the obvious answer from most is going to be Ducre and for good reason. He has running back speed in the size and build of a fullback. I can see them adding a little extra weight to him and it should make Miles happy he actually has a FB that knows how to run the ball with how many times he tried with Copeland.
I'll go with someone unique though, and it may be awhile before we see him, in George Brown. This is a guy that Grimes circled when he first got the job and came out and told him he was going to be at LSU. He's got a lot of athleticism for his size but will need to add some serious weight to be an SEC tackle. If he can retain most of that athleticism with the weight gain, I think he can leave here as one of our best tackles ever -- and that may be a high claim but I think he generates it.
And we're also forgetting a number of guys from the 2013 and 2014 classes that are going to see increased roles and should develop, getting a fresh start and a guy like Orgeron to motivate them. We also get to see Trey LMFAO and Valentine for the first time, so that should help the DT position immensely.
Can we all reference Trey Lealaimatafao as Trey LMFAO from now on? That would be lovely, thanks.
I mean just because that music duo faded off into oblivion doesn't mean we can't reference him to that.
To add onto Billy's thought, I love the fact we finally have some elite speed and it seems we will hold onto it (looking at you Brazil). That helps in taking Fournette off of kick return duties with guys like Donte Jackson, Derrick Dillon, Derrius Guice and even someone like Tyron Johnson, to go with an in-house option like the Chark Attack. No reason a guy that should be getting 25 carries should be returning kicks. I just think of the amount of torches that would be lit if Fournette ever got hurt on a kick return
I'm a big fan of David Ducre as well. Obviously he's got the shortest path to the field with Melvin Jones leaving the program, but athletically he definitely looks like more than a fullback. I have some familiarity with those Northshore districts, and while they don't churn out a ton of big-time prospects, they always have kids that can run, so seeing highlights of a guy with Ducre's size running away from those teams, that's exciting.
I'm very interested in seeing how Kevin Tolliver transitions this spring. His recruitment makes me think a lot of guys like Glenn Dorsey and Eric Reid, who were legitimately kind of downplayed by the recruiting process for being committed so early. Hell, I think by signing day in 2004 Dorsey was ranked behind guys like Marlon Favorite and Charles Alexander who played the game a bit more. In that way, Tolliver might be a little underrated.
And then there's Donte Jackson, and aside from his rankings I just like that a lot of the scuttlebutt around him kind of reminds me of Tyrann Mathieu coming in. "He's just a football player, just get him on the field," stuff like that. That's not to try and compare the two as players, because there's only one Mathieu and we'll never see a guy exactly like that again, but I love those types of players on defense. I like hearing Les talk about him as an offensive player as well, although I have to admit my first thought was "yeah, let's just worry about getting the ball to our current receivers before we talk about using cornerbacks, k?"
To your Jackson thought, I will make the obvious comparison to Adoree Jackson at USC. I believe that is essentially how Les will use Donte. Remember, we were a legitimate contender for Adoree last year, just a bit late to the party. Makes me wonder if that's why we pushed so hard for Donte.
The two guys who excite me most are the ones everyone else are mentioning. Arden Key is going to contend for a starting position next season. That's huge. Our DE's have been talented and they've played to the scheme, but they have been a bit underwhelming the past few years. A lot of that is on Chavis, and his concept of the DE's playing to contain, but I love the idea of someone with Key's skill set just being placed on the line and being told to go wreak havoc. We need a young end to step up (and let's not forget we had SIX freshmen on the defensive line depth chart last year), and Key is a major contender to do so. If he's playing, it's because he is the Jamal Adams of defensive lineman.
But I'm even more excited by Donte Jackson. Yeah, he could be yet another awesome corner at LSU. That doesn't make you special at DBU. No, what excites me so much about Donte is that he can return kicks. Nothing against Fournette, but it terrifies me to see him out there, and outside of that big kickoff return in the bowl game, he never flashed that much explosiveness. I'd rather have an electrifying talent back there who is more explosive than powerful. The Miles formula at LSU is power running, defense, and the special teams touchdown. The special teams were good last year, but we're used to great. The biggest difference between 2014 and 2010 was the ability to turn any punt at any time into 6 points. Donte makes punt returns a weapon again, and not just a time to hold our breath and pray for no fumbles.
The sleeper of this class? Clearly it has to be Foster Moreau. He's likely only on the team because Leo Lewis turned us down, and he jumped at the 11th hour scholarship offer. Programs need guys like that, who spent their whole life dreaming of playing in the purple and gold. I don't think he's going to be a star, especially at tight end where it will be hard to make an impact, but I have a soft spot for the Last Guy In the Class. I don't know... maybe he can play linebacker.
Donte's so explosive that he brings more than just returning. He'll be amazing there, but he'll be able to do much more on offense as well. I think Les said that he wants to do with Donte what he wished he did with Patrick Peterson: use him on offense some as well.
I could see end-arounds and reverses with him and maybe even some plays at receiver. He's that amazing of an athlete.
To be honest I don't follow recruiting that closely. I did see we are starting to reap the benefits of the Steele/ Orgeron tandem with the recruits we picked up on defense. I also saw we picked up a bevy of recruits at RB and WR. Even the casual follower of recruiting, such as myself, can see LSU reloads this year instead of rebuilding. But with the crop of talent we have on offense, WE NEED A QUARTERBACK TO GET THEM THE BALL.