LSU Recruiting: The Big Picture for the Class of 2009
Tiger Rag looks at where the LSU Tigers stand now and in the future
by Daniel Mingea III
Tiger Rag Recruiting Analyst
LSU is no different than any other major college football program when it comes to the recruiting department, as it is a never ending process.
However, the only difference one may be able to find inside of the recruiting process is the terminology used to define it. LSU is not a program which “rebuilds,” instead it reloads.
Going into the 2008 football season, LSU’s offense is one of the finest there is, but it contains a couple of asterisks next to a few positions that will require some fine tuning in looking towards the future.
Taking a look at the quarterback position, with the recent dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux, it seems Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch will head into August camp dueling it out for first team honors. Perrilloux, who was kicked off the team late last week for failing a drug test, ended a disappointing career marred with suspensions and off the field turmoil.
Lee and Hatch shared all the first team snaps in the spring and performed adequately in the spring game. True freshman Jordan Jefferson of Destrehan High School will be on campus in June. While Miles has high hopes for the rookie sensation, Jefferson is considered raw and will be project.
In terms of recruiting at the quarterback position, the Tigers currently possess 2009 verbal pledges from ESPN Top 150 prospects Russell Shepard and Chris Garrett.
Shepard is a dual-threat quarterback who can beat you with his 4.4 speed, as well as with his arm strength. He is currently in the running for the Elite 11 camp roster which will be held in California this summer. Shepard is almost a lock to be included with 10 of the nation’s top quarterbacks, and he has intentions of showing the country he is just as much of a passer as he is a runner.
Chris Garrett is a big kid standing at 6-foot-3 and over 220 pounds. He is more of pocket passer, so teams will not be terrified of his speed, but it is his rocket of an arm that will have defensive backfields back peddling. These two prospects will likely be the only two quarterbacks LSU will take in 2009, and they will be added to the mix with 2008 signee Jordan Jefferson.
The Tigers’ running backs are probably the most talented of any position on the team, which may have the coaching staff concerned about their possible early exits for the NFL. The running back committee is led by junior Keiland Williams and sophomore Richard Murphy, as well as junior Charles Scott. Depending on their 2008 performances, Williams and Scott may be tempted to take a premature leap into the NFL, and that is a roulette game the Tigers’ coaching staff does not want to play. To be on the safe side, the Tigers are looking at a handful of running back prospects – three of which have already agreed to verbal commitments – and LSU is likely to look for one more.
The ESPN Top 150 trio of Drayton Calhoun, Michael Ford and Dexter Pratt all bring something different to the table. Calhoun plays running back for his Tucker High School team in Georgia, but the LSU coaching staff is undecided if he will be defending against the rock, carrying it or returning it. One thing is for sure, Calhoun can do it all. The only concern with Calhoun playing running back in the SEC is his build. Calhoun stands at 6-0 and just under 180 pounds. His running style is cut-and-go downhill. He will need to put on some bulk to carry that over into the collegiate level.
Louisiana native, Michael Ford (5-10, 210) is simply a beast with the rock in his hands. He is a power-runner possessing decent speed at the same time. Ford will not be arm tackled, and he is not afraid to lower his shoulder to deliver a blow to a defender. He is the type of back that will have the ability to wear down a defense at the next level. Due to a collarbone injury, Ford was only played in four games during his junior season. However, he still rushed for 567 yards including four scores.
Pratt (6-2, 220) is another workhorse-type running back. Unlike Ford, however, Pratt does not possess as much quickness, but his hands and vision seem to make up for it. The Navasota High School product is the type of back that will get better as a game goes along. He will feed off of wearing down a defense and has the ability to carry an offense throughout an entire game.
With three verbal pledges on the table already, the Tiger coaching staff will probably be satisfied with one more coming from either Christine Michael or Hasan Lipscomb (teammate of Russell Shepard).
The fullback committee seems to be in good hands with senior bulldozer Quinn Johnson, Stevan Ridley and Kellen Theriot, so the odds of the Tigers adding a fullback to the roster this season is slim to none.
The wide receiver position for the Tigers’ potent offense appears to be one of the deepest positions on the roster, so it is likely only one or two receivers will be taken in the 2009 recruiting class. Demetrius Byrd is touted as one of the best receivers in the country and will likely be chosen in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. After his departure, the fight for the number one spot will be led by Terrance Tolliver and Brandon LaFell, as well as any of the other five class of 2008 signees (Chris Tolliver, DeAngelo Peterson, DeAngelo Benton, Timothy Molton and Jhyryn Taylor).
It is likely to see only one or two signatures at the wide receiver position for the upcoming recruiting class, with the main focus on Rueben Randle out of Bastrop High School. The Louisiana all-state product has written offers from just about every major football program in the country so it will be a battle for his signature.
Randle (6-3, 200, 4.5) can simply do it all. He is a game changer with the size and capability to create mismatches for opposing defenses. He has the talent to turn a short pass into a big play and has the quickness to avoid tackles in the open field. This is the type of ESPN Top 150 prospect that you make room for on your team – even if you do not have any. If you are LSU, you can not let a talent like this escape from your own backyard.
As a junior, Randle hauled in 55 receptions for 1,058 yards and 11 touchdowns while returning three punts for scores as well. Other notable receivers LSU is targeting include Marlon Brown, Duron Carter, Shaquelle Evans, and Kenny Bell.
Like the receiving corps, the tight ends’ squad looks to be just as solid and just as deep. LSU is not targeting any tight ends at the moment and will likely stick to what they have for now.
The big man leading the tight ends this season will be junior Richard Dickson. The knock on Dickson may be his speed, but he has the size and the hands to make a reliable receiving threat. True freshman Tyler Edwards will probably make an early appearance this year, and red-shirt freshman Matt Branch may also receive some considerable playing time as well. It is likely Branch will be used more for his blocking abilities than for his receiving skills. Look for the tight ends to catch even more passes this season.
Next up is the offensive line – these are the guys that do much of the work and receive least of the praise. Coach Les Miles is a big fan of the hog mollies and that is why the offensive line pigpen is always stocked and ready for battle under his watch. Miles believes in keeping this chamber of the team loaded at all times, especially with his pound-it-out on the ground mentality.
As for now, the leaders on the offensive side of the trenches appear to be Brett Helms, Ciron Black, Joseph Barksdale, Herman Johnson and Lyle Hitt. The guys on the second team are considered to be just as good, but need a little more experience. Ciron Black will have the opportunity to be a first-round draft pick next season, and Herman Johnson may have shot at the league as well; but those are the only two possible losses the LSU offensive line will suffer after this season.
With that said, look for Miles to haul in another two to four linemen in February. Two of the possible four have already given the general their word. The two ESPN Top 150 prospects ready to come on-board are Joshua Downs (Bastrop H.S.) and Henry Orelus.
Downs has the motor and the skills to be a very productive down-lineman at the next level. The only negative scouts have found on Downs is his height, as he stands at just 6-2, but his fine footwork is what allows him to hold his own inside of the trenches.
Orelus will look to serve as a future center for the Tigers. Like Downs, he stands at 6-2, but has the lower body strength to contest against the bigger defensive linemen. Orelus plans on taking other visits from now until February, which may be a concern for the Tigers’ coaching staff.
In the meantime, the LSU coaches are looking at three other linemen (John Martinez, Chris Faulk and Chris Freeman) with the hopes of landing at least one of them. The Tigers have a legit shot at landing home-grown offensive tackle Chris Faulk (North Shore H.S.) and Martinez, with Freeman appearing to be a long shot.
The other side of the ball is what LSU has been known for as of late. The Tigers’ defense is what keeps opposing coaches up all night before games. Some may even argue it is defense that wins championships.
Like the offense, it all starts up front. The defensive line is led by Ricky Jean-Francois and Al Woods. Woods could likely go in the first round of the NFL draft next season, and Francois would likely be a high draft pick as well – if he were to choose to leave early. The departure of these two guys would leave the defensive line far from empty. Just about every man on the line could start for any team in the country, and that is why high school recruits feel privileged to join such a talented cast.
LSU landed four defensive linemen in the 2008 recruiting class, gaining signatures from Lavar Edwards, Cordian Hagans, Chancey Aghayere and Chase Clement. The Tigers will look to possibly match those numbers again this year, as LSU has already received one commitment thus far.
ESPN Top 150 defensive end Mike Brockers (6-6, 260) gave Miles his verbal pledge in February, and it’s Brockers’ pass rushing abilities that gained him a written offer.
Brockers possesses the speed and the agility to get to the quarterback, but he will need to add a few pounds, along with some extra strength, if he intends on defending the run at the collegiate level. As a junior, the Chaves High School product recorded ten sacks and averaged just under eight tackles a game.
The Tigers appear to have a good shot at landing another three defensive linemen in JaMarkus McFarland, Chris Davenport (Mansfield H.S.) and DeAndre Coleman. Reliable sources say Davenport is LSU’s to lose; McFarland’s interest in LSU is steadily rising while Coleman appears to be a long-shot with distance being a factor.
Turning attention to the linebackers, senior Darry Beckwith, Kelvin Sheppard and Perry Riley lead the way followed by reserves Shomari Clemmons, and Jacob Cutrera. The 2008 recruiting class also added talented newcomers Ryan Baker and Kyle Prater, who are expected to play immediately. On the surface this unit looks fulfilled, but due to injuries and off the field issues, the LSU staff is looking to bring in another two to three head hunters.
Two of the three linebacker openings for the 2009 recruiting class have been taken care of, as Willie Ferrell and Kevin Minter gave Miles their verbal agreements earlier in the year.
Ferrell (6-2, 222) is a humble kid with the hunger and the desire to become the best. The linebacker unit will benefit from Ferrell’s ambition alone. The ESPN Top 150 prospect has all the fundamental skills needed to play at this position. With a few added pounds, Ferrell will serve as a very productive linebacker in the middle taking on traps while tracking down ball carriers.
Minter is yet another ESPN Top 150 prospect the Tigers’ coaching staff managed to haul in. Minter has the build to play in middle, as well as the quickness to come off the edge. He is a very versatile athlete that will give the defensive coaches the opportunity to blitz with effectiveness.
Barkevious Mingo, out of West Monroe High School, has a high interest in the Tigers and will more than likely be another major commitment for the Tigers’ defense. In Mingo’s first year (junior season) of playing organized football he took home all-state honors while recording 66 tackles (12 tackles for loss) and six sacks.
Other promising recruits include Chris Williams, Jon Bostic and Tahj Jones (Sulphur H.S.). Jones is likely a candidate out of this bunch with Williams and Bostic following.
Behind the head hunters are the ball hawks in the secondary. The 2008 secondary looks to be deep in numbers (six defensive backs signed in the 2008 class), but shallow in experience. It appears some spots have been filled at corner (Jai Eugene and Chris Hawkins) and at safety (Curtis Taylor and Harry Coleman), but it is not set in stone to remain that way.
For the most part the Tigers will be returning just about everyone from the secondary after this season, so the defensive backfield is not an area of high concern, but sometimes there are players you cannot pass up.
The LSU secondary will benefit from adding two more ESPN Top 150 prospects (Janzen Jackson and Drayton Calhoun) as well.
Jackson brings something different to the table. He has the size and toughness as a safety, possessing the 4.4 speed of a corner at the same time. The All-State defensive back is the type of player that will make receivers think twice about coming across the middle. Jackson has good closing speed with quick anticipation timing. He is also just as good in providing run support, as he is not afraid of delivering a devastating hit.
Calhoun, as mentioned above, has the talent to play multiple positions. After getting closer looks at him at each of the positions, the LSU coaching staff will have a better idea of where to place him on the roster. Calhoun is open to playing anywhere on the field, as he is happy just to be there. To be able to play multiple positions at such a high level says a lot about his abilities.
LSU has 11 verbal commitments thus far with only a few left to go. Of the 11, all are currently ranked on the ESPN Top 150 Watch List. By looking at it on paper, it appears the 2009 recruiting class has a chance at becoming one of LSU’s all-time greats.
Daniel Mingea III is a recruiting analyst for Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.