The first Wednesday in February is now a day of recruiting past. It’s no longer the signature event in a recruiting cycle, but it is the signature of the finality of a recruiting cycle. Finally, the 2019 signing class is wrapped. LSU filled all 25 allotted spots and won’t be deferring any to a potential transfer option nor additional space in 2020. That means we can immediately assess, at least on a surface level, how Coach O and staff fared at meeting expected needs.
QB (1) - HIT
Peter Parrish is the lone signee at quarterback. The long strain of the Miles era, where we often missed on QB targets, then doubled up in a single class, only to miss again in the subsequent year, look to be firmly in the past. I’ve long argued that the staff should make it a priority to sign a QB every year and frankly, 2019 is a beautiful test case. Why? It’s a bad QB class.
Outside of Spencer Rattler and maybe Bo Nix, there’s not a litany of likely top round draft pick types. There’s definitely not a Trevor Lawrence/Tua Tagovailoa type that’s ready to take the reigns right out the gates. It’s more a solid list of developmental types. And to that end, Parrish looks more or less equitable to the rest of the haul. He has definitive strengths and some decided areas of improvement.
The big key here is that he’s got time. LSU will run Burrow back in 2019 and are now positioned for at least one, if not two years of Myles Brennan starting as a redshirt junior and senior. That gives Parrish, hopefully, two or three years to iron out the kinks, and LSU the same amount of time to figure out Brennan’s replacement.
RB (2) - HIT
LSU signed the best running back class in the country, full stop. John Emery is, for my money, the no. 1 back nationally and Tyrion Davis-Price is a guy most schools could build an offense around. LSU got them both. LSU may have lacked star power at the tailback position in 2018 but they will quickly return to the halcyon days of Hill/Fournette/Guice levels in 2019.
Also, they didn’t sign a fullback. The spread is comin’ and it ain’t backin’ down.
WR (2) - HIT
After last year’s huge haul, the staff didn’t need to go heavy here in 2019. They signed the best two wideouts in state and called it a day. Trey Palmer, even as a top-100ish prospect, may be underrated. His athleticism is off the charts. Devonta Lee is going to be an interesting one to monitor due to his positional versatility. He’ll get a shot at receiver, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they start shifting him around early. He reminds me a bit of JaCoby Stevens in that he’s a big, thickly built athlete that could be a back, receiver, safety or even linebacker. But my favorite thing about Lee is that he’s a bulldog of a competitor. He’s gonna be a fan favorite, especially when held up to his higher profile teammate that opted for Bama. Also, respect the shade from O here:
Ed Orgeron opens up his press conference by talking about 4-star Devonta Lee in the state title game for Amite.— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) February 6, 2019
Orgeron: "Devonta was the best player on the field."
TE (2ish) - MISS
TK McClendon feels like depth and insurance. I’m not a huge fan of the take unless Thaddeus Moss is shuffled out of the program this offseason. He just seems like marginal, unnecessary depth.
The “ish” is because of the signing of Ray Parker. This is a guy that the staff ideally wants to bulk into a tackle, but Parker seems insistent on playing tight end. His recruitment waffled. If you think he’s a tight end, this position may well be a hit if he pans out. If you think he’s a tackle, then tight end is a miss with the understanding that LSU may be relying less and less on the position. Going forward, I’d like to see more attention on pure mismatch, pass-catching types and fewer meaty blockers.
OL (5ish) - HIT
I’ll go hit here for the volume. I pencil Parker and Turner both in as line takes and not as tight ends as currently listed. They are the more athletic looking types that LSU’s lacked. Anthony Bradford and Kardell Thomas look more like the linemen of the days of Miles, but I think both, particularly Thomas, have been unfairly maligned of late. Both should be good players, albeit likely on the interior.
I’m intrigued by Thomas Perry. He’s not ranked as highly as we’d like, but he’s got a great frame without a ton of bad weight. He’s got solid bloodlines. He could quietly become the left tackle of the future and should have some time to develop. Some will object to the lack of tackles, but I feel they gloss too quickly over Perry.
DL (2) - MISS
Siaki Ika is a bonafide stud that I believe will outperform his ranking. This is a major haul and kudos to Bill Busch, who really worked that family well.
Joseph Evans is the only other signee and this is the biggest miss of the 2019 cycle. After the early period, Orgeron made it a point to say the staff had to hit on defensive line for February’s signing day. At the time, things looked promising with a handful of targets, some additional guys around the nation and then, of course, Ishmael Sopsher. Instead, they whiffed. On all of them.
Ish will get all the attention, but I say this is less about Ish and more about not signing anyone else. If you are gonna bang the drum that defensive line is a major focus and then totally strike out, then it’s a horrible miss.
It’s time to re-calibrate here. O took a gamble promoting Dennis “Meatball” Johnson to his full-time staff, and Meatball inked K’Lavon Chaisson in his first go around. He’s the primary recruiter for Marcel Brooks in this cycle, so it’s not fair to say he’s delivering no value. But LSU’s really struggled to pull top-tier d-linemen under his watch. It’s strange because it’s the very reason O was brought to Baton Rouge in the first place and it’s now the piece we are watching slip.
I don’t know if making a change is the right decision, but they need to re-think the approach. Something isn’t quite landing. I don’t know if other schools are using Johnson’s lack of NFL proteges against him or quite what is the missing piece of the stew here. O is actively involved in the coaching of the defensive line, so you think that would be a draw. It’s not uncommon to hide a sub-par coach along the front either, but if Johnson isn’t an elite recruiter and isn’t an elite developer, his value proposition comes into question. I doubt we see a change there, but we need some type of change in approach.
LB (4) - HIT
Kendall McCallum and Donte Starks signed in the early period and LSU bolstered the outside depth with Soni Fonua and Desmond Little. Starks brings star potential. He’s not received enough attention. McCallum is a big thumper that will and should be judged against Alabama signee Christian Harris. Dave Aranda passed on the in-state Harris — a good athlete who played defensive back and receiver in high school — as a linebacker and instead signed the lesser-ranked McCallum. In Aranda we trust, but should be interesting to monitor.
I was worried about the lack of additional depth on the outside after the early period and apparently O and Aranda were too. Fonua gives you a stop gap, both as insurance until Chaisson is 100-percent and just another body to throw out in waves of pass rushing. Little is the last signee and Shea Dixon captured the success there, of late:
3-star edge rusher Desmond Little becomes the late addition for #LSU.— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) February 6, 2019
Others who landed the final spot in the class when they had an extra scholarship?
2017: Justin Jefferson
2016: Lloyd Cushenberry
2015: Foster Moreau
2014: Darrel Williams
2013: Deion Jones
2012: Duke Riley
I’m a huge believer in swinging for the fences when you are filling spots. Don’t waste it on some guy with low ceiling and a high floor. Go for broke and I think Little is that. Raw, rangy, athletic — he’s one to be molded. He will redshirt in 2019 and then you see how he progresses. Could be a steal, could be a nobody. Either way, it’s not a big risk.
DB (6) - HIT
Corey Raymond got his money again. Marcel Brooks is listed as a safety, but could very well slide down to linebacker in time. That should be interesting to watch. I think he’s similar to Stevens. Stingley is the star of the signing class. He’s a once in a generation talent and will be LSU’s No. 2 CB in September.
Raydarious Jones is all upside. Big, athletic frame with all kinds of tools. Maurice Hampton is as athletic as almost anyone in the 2019 signing class, but the question there is if he ever makes it to LSU. Flott and Ward are both solid looking depth & developmental options. The only concern here is burning an additional spot on Ward, who is a true CB. He should be a fine player, though, so a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush and all that. Who knows what else it could have been.
SPT (2) - HIT
Cade York may well be LSU’s kicker in 2019. High bar for a true freshman, but he will be the most talented guy at the position on campus. Quentin Skinner is my beefy long snapper son and I’m very proud of him. These aren’t spots to be ignored so O addressed them.
Hell Of A Class
The Sopsher news sucked and Bama duped us and we didn’t sign any defensive linemen and blah blah. It sucks; I agree. But we can either waste time fretting or look at the positives here. This is a tremendous class all the way around. If we missed anywhere, it’s on the DL and even there we signed two players for a defense where we only play three guys on a given snap. It’s not like we entirely whiffed on the position. If Ika and Evans are studs then we won’t even remember this as a weak defensive line class.
Don’t get dragged into constant Bama comparisons. They are recruiting on another level. LSU is recruiting at an elite level with the normal pratfalls of missing on a position group here and there.
This is LSU’s first top five finish under Orgeron and the first one for the program since 2016. This is the strongest offseason in recent memory after the New Year’s 6 Bowl Win, hiring Joe Brady and retaining a ton of talent for a 2019 run. This class is the cherry on top of that. Be happy. The Orgeron Era is going better than dreamed.