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Some Late Thoughts National Signing Day 2018 and LSU’s Signing Class

Late to the party, but here are some thoughts on LSU’s finish in 2018 recruiting.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Notre Dame vs Louisiana State Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve read this site for any duration of time beyond, “Hey this is the first article I’ve read on this site” you are well aware that I’m staunch believer in the recruiting star system. Is it flawless? No. Evaluating human skillsets is one of the most difficult endeavors imaginable, so it would be ludicrous to assume there would be a 100-percent hit rate when trying to extrapolate the potential of teenagers. Evaluation has improved as kids do more and more popular camp circuits, game footage is more readily available (and quality versions at that) and services devote more resources to actual evaluators. I turn to the 247 Composite, since it takes into account all of the major service’s rankings. So this is all a very long lede to say, if you came here expecting me to now trash recruiting rankings in the name of supporting my favorite school, you’ve come to the wrong place.

That said, I also believe in being objective both ways. When people start running through their commitments and rattling off how every other signee is underrated, it typically means you are in for a bad signing class. The reality is, your class probably does have one-to-three guys that are underrated. It also has one-to-three that are totally overrated. Hit rates are really difficult to evaluate. I’ve tinkered with the idea of exploring this topic myself and trying to create my own evaluation system, but what’s your standard?

For example, take Ed Paris. Paris ranked as the 41st recruit nationally in the 247 composite. 247 picks 32 five-star talents a year, aligning with the NFL draft slots. That means Paris was considered a fringe five-star talent coming out of high school. In four seasons at LSU he’s struggled to lock down starting roles, and never really been a central contributor until this past season, which he then lost to injury. Paris is probably considered a bust by his recruiting ranking standard right? But what if he gets his fifth year of eligibility and comes back and has an All-SEC season? Could we really term any player that made All-SEC a bust?

And then you get into the difficulty of defining success for players at other schools, especially non skill roles. Does anyone really know how well Auburn’s right guardplayed last year? Imagine tracking that year-over-year. At least skill position players we can blanket apply some type of statistical measures. But even still, D.J. Chark’s numbers look pedestrian on a national scale, but they were really strong for us. He was a three-star on the composite. To me, he’s a high achiever, but if you put his data into a national hierarchy, he’d come out looking average.

So we’re left with these loose and rough definitions of success and bust, and it’s all just very difficult to evaluate. So if you are looking for my general impression of this signing class it’s that it’s below our standard and certainly below the expectation we had when hiring Orgeron. That said, people want to curious tuck away Miles’ class in 2012, which ranked 13th in the composite and had a lower score than this year’s class, despite signing 25 players. So, I don’t buy the oppo-hype of WORST SIGNING CLASS IN TWO DECADES OMGZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Both of these things can be true. I’m disappointed, but it’s just a single signing class and there are some things to like about it. So, let me hit the high notes:

  • Davin Cotton and Nelson Jenkins may be the most undervalued guys in this class. Both were considered top Louisiana prospects heading into their senior season, and both were injured early in their final campaigns. Cotton is a guy Orgeron specifically mentioned he believes can be day-one contributor due to his high-school coaching (former Tiger defensive lineman Byron Dawson is the head coach at Evangel Academy in Shreveport) and explosiveness. Jenkins was always less-heralded, but word in recruiting circles building to early signing day is that Alabama was still working away at trying to lure him to Tuscaloosa. LSU also offered Jenkins in February, which is a strong indicator they held a high grade on him. I’m bullish on both exceeding their rankings.
  • Cameron Wire is another guy I like quite a bit. Offer lists can be shaky means of evaluation, but Wire has 20 something offers from a lot of big time national programs. At 6-6, 280 he’s really long and project-able. Another guy with a solid hit rate chance in my eyes.
  • Add to that list Dare Rosenthal. At one point in time, Rosenthal was mentioned as a potential no. 1 overall prospect. Not in the state of Louisiana. In America. He briefly committed to Alabama. Held a brief flirtation with IMG which saw him move and move back to Louisiana and finished out his career at a small school in Louisiana. Rosenthal is 6-7, 327 and looks like a prototypical NFL left tackle. His senior tape is stinking good, albeit up against a lower caliber of athletes. He says he wants to play defensive line, but I think they will lean him back to offense once he gets on campus.
  • So there’s four guys I think could outperform their rankings and fortunately, they are all linemen. If you want to point to an “underrated group” those are the guys, for my money.

Terrace Marshall and Ja’Marr Chase are the type of elite receiver talents to really bring the LSU passing game up to standard.

  • I’ll play wait and see on whether that comes to fruition, but these two will be household names in Baton Rouge by the end of 2019 at the latest.
  • The staff totally biffed it not getting a corner in this class. Worse yet, they could have probably had four-star Mario Goodrich but couldn’t properly prioritize their boards. When you spend multiple years years recruiting Patrick Surtain Jr. to be the head of the class, the idea of landing Goodrich seems like a luxury. When you land neither, you are damaging your depth chart.
  • There’s a few takes I outright don’t understand. Jaray Jenkins and Tae Provens come immediately to mind. Both are three-star guys. Both are smaller-framed types that have return ability. That seems like a clear one or the other situation to me, even if one is listed at receiver and the other at running back. Instead, we took both.
  • We still don’t know much of anything about Travez Moore other than his high athletic promise. I’m not counting on him being much and they used a scholarship on him. They need him to make impact.
  • I suspect both JUCO offensive linemen will be starters considering the somewhat unexpected departure of Will Clapp.
  • I can be talked into liking a guy like Zach Sheffer or Dantrieze Scott. Both have upside and potential. But the way this class shakes out we need them both to hit in some capacity, whereas most years the would be flyer types to fill out the class.

We also came up two spots short, and it’s not yet clear how O will use those spots.

  • I hope not on fringe prospects, especially if there’s any possibility of back-counting in a loaded crop next season.
  • I think the management issues reared their head when the news about Cole Tracy counting showed up. I’m guessing the staff wanted to finish with James Foster and Mario Goodrich on top of Joseph, Surtain Jr. and Chase. They turned away Justin Watkins for similar reasons. Instead, they only got two of the final five targets.
  • Not landing a QB is once again sub-optimal. Signs look good for nabbing someone in 2019, but any relief of going through the throes of never having enough available talent at that position, or squandering what we do have on hand don’t seem apparent yet.
  • I said it in my Surtain Jr. piece and I’ll say here again. Delivering signing classes of this nature won’t buy O any favors in Baton Rouge.

He’s got to deliver on the field next season or his job will be on thin ice.