They say you can’t measure a recruiting class until four years later, when the class has largely completed its time on the roster. But here’s the thing, we never go back and look at how the class from four years ago actually did. The class signs, the coaches get their rating, and we all move on.
So let’s actually do what they say we should, and evaluate a class with the benefit of hindsight. This should also give us an idea of what to expect from our current class, as recruiting is a numbers game, and we should expect about the same number of hit and misses.
Furthermore, the 2013 class was similar to the 2017 class in that it was ranked sixth in the nation by 24/7 consensus. The top recruit for both classes was a defensive back. LSU signed 19 blue chip recruits in 2013, and 16 this year.
Overall, the class is what we thought it was: a strong class with depth and top to bottom talent. LSU took 28 recruits that year, three from JUCO. Those 28 players appeared in 739 games so far and made 270 starts. That means, roughly speaking, the average player was a three year letterman and a one year starter. That’s about all you can ask for from a class.
Of 28 signees, 19 finished their career in Baton Rouge. Of the nine players who transferred, only five transferred without ever starting a game for the Tigers, which we can classify as your true whiffs. Home runs are great, and this class had a few, but the real goal in recruiting is to have as few strikeouts as possible. You can’t afford signing too many guys who make no contribution to the program.
Let’s get into each group of players, listing their games played and games started for the Tigers.
Logan Stokes (25-5), Fehoko Fanaika (26-3), Quantavius Leslie (7-0)
All three played out their remaining eligibility to various degrees of success. LSU doesn’t dip its toe in the JUCO pool that often, and here’s an indication of why. Stokes was a decent tight end, but not an impact player. On the other end of the spectrum, Leslie played some special teams but could never crack the top of the depth of chart. This is an unspectacular group, but at least they all contributed, even if it was primarily in backup roles.
Kevin Spears (12-0), Maquedius Bain (10-0), Avery Peterson (4-0), Michael Patterson (3-0), Jeryl Brazil (0-0), Hayden Rettig (0-0)
Let’s first give some credit to Michael Patterson. He only appeared in three games and by the end of his career, he was listed as a non-varsity squad player. But you know what? He played four years in the program and gutted the whole thing out. I have nothing but respect for guys like that.
I’m iffy on putting Bain in this group, but he never earned a start. He did see meaningful action as a sophomore and was well on his way to being an impact player, but he was one of the trio who was involved in the Great Laptop Caper. The charges were dropped, but he transferred anyway.
Avery Peterson was a four-star recruit and younger brother of Patrick, but he could never put it together and he left the program after two years and four starts. This was a clear miss. Jeryl Brazil ran afoul of the law in his freshman year, a common pitfall for four-star recruits who don’t pan out. Rettig was a four-star recruit who sunk on the depth chart and quickly transferred out. The less said about LSU’s recruiting failures at quarterback, the better.
Still, just six clear misses is a pretty good rate of return, though it is concerning only Spears and Patterson were three-stars. Of the six clear misses, four were blue chip recruits.
Anthony Jennings (24-13), John Diarse (25-8), Rashard Robinson (20-8), Melvin Jones (18-1)
These aren’t failures of recruiting, but of roster management. All four of these players started at least one game for LSU, but then took their talents elsewhere, for varying reasons. Melvin Jones was a clear case of attrition, losing his job and not seeing his scholarship renewed. Robinson was suspended indefinitely after his sophomore year and decided to simply sit out a season before entering the NFL draft.
Diarse looked like he had asserted himself as the team’s most reliable receiver, but he bolted for TCU last season. Anthony Jennings, well, we’ve beaten that dead horse. All four were blue chip recruits, all made an impact for the program, but we couldn’t make it work for four years. It’s hard to chalk that up to a recruiting miss.
The Program Guys
Rickey Jefferson (37-15), Greg Gilmore (30-13), Josh Boutte (44-11), Tashawn Bower (40-7), DeSean Smith (47-2)
It hurts to put Jefferson on this list, but a broken ankle in his senior year abruptly ended his career. These are all clear success stories, though maybe not quite as successful as they would like. Again, these were all four star recruits. The chance at being a star was there for each of these guys, but there’s no shame in being a solid college player. These are the players that form the backbone of any program.
The Still Eligible
Christian LaCouture (37-23), KJ Malone (29-12), JD Moore (26-8), Andy Dodd (14-1), Frank Herron (26-0)
Five members of this class still have eligibility and will likely be on the team next season. Linemen tend to get redshirted so they can spend a year putting on the necessary bulk to play at the college level. Malone and Dodd fit that bill, and should anchor the line next season. I’m not positive Dodd will be a starter, but Malone certainly will be and could be a contender for the All-SEC team.
Herron was left home from the Citrus Bowl due to academics, a bad sign going forward. He’s in Coach O’s doghouse, so a win for his career at this point is simply playing out his senior year. He likely will never start a game for LSU, but he will provide desperately needed depth on the line.
LaCouture getting an extra year of eligibility after his injury is huge for LSU, and he will be one of the team’s best players and off the field leaders. JD Moore is not quite in that class, but he is a guy who overcame long odds to be a reliable starter and key blocker. These players’ stories have not yet been written.
The Diamonds in the Rough
Lewis Neal (47-24), Duke Riley (50-13)
The classic tale of the person who doubts the importance of recruiting is the tale of the unheralded recruit who blossoms into a terrific player. LSU didn’t quite have a Jacob Hester story in this class, but it did have two non-blue chip recruits who turned out to be damn strong players.
At the beginning of his senior year, Duke Riley looked like he was just going to pass through the program without making much of a mark. However, he took to the coaching change like no one else on the roster, going from a guy who had 51 tackles on his career to LSU’s leading tackler last season. His 9 TFL’s ranked second the team, behind only Arden Key.
Lewis Neal had 8 sacks as a junior but saw his numbers dip as a senior due to the change in scheme. He did see his total tackles go from 48 to 60 in his senior year, and he still made 5 TFL’s in his final campaign.
Tre White (49-37), Ethan Pocic (42-37), Kendall Beckwith (47-29)
These guys were all blue chip recruits, saw the field immediately, and took over starting jobs by their sophomore years. They put up monster numbers and will all likely get taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
Honestly, you would like to see more than three home runs in a class, but that’s how this class was built. There were a lot if singles and doubles mixed in, so it didn’t feel that bad to not have a large number of superstar players. But come on, we’re talking about two All-Americans, and another guy who likely could have been one, which is a huge number for any team. How many All-Americans do you want one team to have anyway?
The biggest takeaway is that these were the three highest rated recruits, and they turned out to be the three best players in the class. That’s some quality ‘crootin.
Of the current class, we will likely have about the same number of truly elite talents, give or take one. If we can keep the same rates of low misses, low attrition, and a few guys who turn out better than their recruiting hype, then this current class will be even better than the 2013 class.