Judging a signing class before the bulk of its members conclude their careers is a fool’s errand. That’s one hell of a lede to an article that’s about to do exactly that. It’s exceedingly rare to be able to so quickly judge the success or failure of a signing class, but just one year in and there’s enough evidence for me to call this one dead on the scene.
Let’s do a quick review:
2018 Signing Class
|Terrace Marshall||WR||5 Star||Active|
|Kelvin Joseph||DB||4 Star||Active|
|JaMarr Chase||WR||4 Star||Active|
|Jarrell Cherry||DE||4 Star||Active|
|Chasen Hines||OG||4 Star||Active|
|Travez Moore||DE||4 Star||Active|
|Micah Baskerville||LB||4 Star||Active|
|Davin Cotton||DT||4 Star||Transfer|
|Badara Traore||OT||4 Star||Active|
|Dare Rosenthal||OT||4 Star||Active|
|Kenan Jones||S||4 Star||Active|
|Chris Curry||RB||4 Star||Active|
|Damone Clark||LB||4 Star||Active|
|Cameron Wire||OT||4 Star||Active|
|Cole Smith||OC||3 Star||Active|
|Jaray Jenkins||WR||3 Star||Active|
|Nelson Jenkins||DT||3 Star||Active|
|Dominic Livingston||DT||3 Star||Transfer|
|Zach Sheffer||TE||3 Star||Transfer|
|Damien Lewis||OG||3 Star||Active|
|Tae Provens||RB||3 Star||Dismissed|
|Dantrieze Scott||ATH||3 Star||Transfer|
Of 22 signees, five are already out of the program. Nearly one quarter of the entire signing class never so much as contributed a useful snap. That’s a massive amount of dead weight after a single year. It’s not an uncommonly high number over the life of a signing class, but you never want to see 25% of a previous year’s signing class off the roster within a single season. It gets uglier.
The class’ five highest rated players (Marshall, Joseph, Chase, Cherry, Hines) all look poised for good LSU careers. Four of the five played significant snaps as true freshmen. Cherry took a redshirt but earned some Coach O praise for his work in the Spring. The staff expects him to contribute heavily in 2019.
Okay, so five utter busts, and five very likely hits. Batting .500 isn’t so bad, right? Let’s look at the remaining 12 signees.
JUCO signee was apparently still not ready to contribute as he took a redshirt in 2018. There doesn’t seem to be much optimism around his future, either. Moore looks to be trending heavily to bust category.
Played in eight games as a true freshman and even started against Florida. He only notched 18 tackles, but finding considerable minutes in Aranda’s defense as a true freshman portends well. This one is trending to a major hit.
The highly touted OT showed up to campus with a ton of expectations, failed to a win a starting spot, rotated in and out of the lineup and struggled all along the way. He did play in 13 games, but there’s not a lot right now to suggest this one will turn out well. Trending bust.
Took a RS as he transitions to playing OT. Expected to be on a slow developmental arc, nothing seems out of the ordinary here thus far. In 2019, it would be nice to see him rise to a backup role. Trends look solid here, but not exclusively positive.
Big-bodied receiver that’s already shifted to defense. You could look at the short term and see a loaded wideout depth chart and lack of a path forward for Jones. Or you could see the way the offense is trending to a wide-open passing attack and wonder why they wouldn’t want more bodies there? Besides, the safety depth chart isn’t exactly wide open. Jones is an athlete, and it’s far too early to give up, but this feels like a guy that quickly fizzled at wideout and now the staff is trying to find a home for him.
Heralded running back that looked like he could step in and contribute right away but struggled mightily in 2018. Let’s chalk it up to transitioning to the college game, as Curry looks to be settling into the offense this spring. That said, Winter is Coming, in the form of John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis. Can Curry really fend them off for serious snaps?
He played in 13 games but only registered one tackle. Snap counts aren’t available, but I’m guessing he played largely on special teams. Not at all a bad spot for a true freshman to be. Trending well here.
Took a redshirt to adjust to the college game and focus on adding size. Nothing to take away here yet as he was expected to have a longer developmental arc.
That he played at all in 2018 surprised me. He somehow became the backup center (non-rotational variety), which puts him way ahead of his expected developmental arc. I saw Smith as a 2-3 year project with high-end of starting potential. He’s got a chance to become a starter, but Cushenberry has the position locked down for the next two yeas.
He took a redshirt, which is unsurprising. He’s listed on the roster at 6-foot-3, which is very surprising. Growth spurt? The redshirt is not at all surprising after injury derailed his senior year. Should be plenty of reps to go around in the new offense. There’s hope still.
LSU needs the depth and Jenkins will have chances in 2019. Another player injured during his Senior year, he’s now up around 300 pounds. Still hope here.
Stepped right into a prime position and became the player many thought Traore would be. He’s a starter and a good one. Total hit.
The other factor here is that technically Joe Burrow and Cole Tracy were both members of the 2018 signing class as transfers. You’d be hard pressed to find two more impactful transfers in the history of the program and the success of those two alone might be enough to hold up the efficacy of the entire class.
There’s a hidden layer here that many may not yet be considering: Orgeron’s willingness to turn over the roster more expeditiously than Miles. In the Miles era, it was rare to see players transfer out just a year into their careers. Two, three years down the road, after the players never contributed, they would ultimately leave. O seems less concerned with that PR game. Of the 2018 guys that left already, only Davin Cotton was really one they fought to keep. That’s probably the best case hope here, because right now, losing so many players you signed just one year ago doesn’t portend well to the class’ overall success in the future.
O may have spent the first couple years treading water in Miles policies, but he’s beginning to leave his fingerprint on the program. Will it work? Time only knows.