What’s next with Class of 2012?
LSU targeting several elite DBs, QB of the future
By SHEA DIXON
Special to Tiger Rag
Editor’s Note: The following report was contributed by Shea Dixon, managing editor of TigerSportsDigest.com, for Tiger Rag’s annual Spring Recruiting Guide.
When fans reflect on the classes that the Tigers have pulled into Baton Rouge during the Les Miles era, 2011 will always come up in conversation.
It wasn’t just that the staff kept 16 Louisiana-born prospects at home; it was which 16 prospects they were.
Three five-star additions - DT Anthony Johnson, OT La’el Collins, and WR Jarvis Landry - came from a 60-mile radius of Baton Rouge, and the fourth - Shreveport DE Jermauria Rasco - picked the Tigers on National Signing Day over a slew of big-time out-of-state offers.
The class finished in the Top 10 once again, and as Miles & Co. made their way through Louisiana and into states like Mississippi and Texas, needs were met across the board.
Quarterback became the biggest concern, and former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton brought on 6-foot-6, 200-pounder Stephen Rivers and 6-foot-5, 250-pounder Zach Mettenberger, giving a bare quarterback cupboard two pro-style arms - one that would enroll in January and immediately compete for the starting job.
New offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe made quick work once he arrived to campus this spring, not just hitting the 2012 call list but also digging back into the 2011 class, landing one-time Oregon QB pledge Jerrard Randall after the Hollywood, Fla., native extended his decision deadline past February’s National Signing Day.
This year, Kragthorpe, who will spearhead the staff’s recruitment of quarterbacks, will stay out of state as he hits the road for spring evaluations. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee on their way out, Kragthorpe will look to fill both vacancies on the roster.
Zeke Pike turned into one of his earliest targets, but the Kentucky native recently picked the Auburn Tigers. Now names like Mississippi’s Jeremy Liggins, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound dual-threat passer, sit at the top of the board.
If the staff continues to pursue Petal, Miss., two-sport star Anthony Alford, LSU fans could find themselves biting their nails just as they did last summer with Zach Lee, who chose professional baseball over college in the 11th hour - after he had been on campus for two months of the summer.
Currently, Alford, who calls the Tigers overture his “dream offer,” is pegged as a first-round selection in the 2012 MLB Draft. He has kept up with the staff on a weekly basis, and defensive coordinator John Chavis drove to Petal High in late April to see the rising senior in person.
While the first quarterback domino has yet to fall, wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales has already added two pass catchers to the arsenal, including four-star Florida native Avery Johnson, the lone commitment from outside the state of Louisiana.
Though eight in-state names are already in, it won’t be a year where eight more are soon to follow.
Gonzales, whose prior coaching stop was at the University of Florida, could well make his third wide-out addition from the Sunshine State (after Johnson and 2010 signee Kadron Boone), having already offered more wide receiver prospects there than in any other state.
Back home quick work was made at the tight end position, with the staff locking up a pair of Louisiana bodies in John Curtis Christian’s Dillon Gordon and Airline’s John Thomas.
Yet, unless he turns to a prospect like Lutcher High’s Daniel Taylor, the recruitment of running backs will take Frank Wilson back out and about in the Southeast.
With a crowded young backfield, offers have been few and far between, with names like Daphne, Ala., running back T.J. Yeldon claiming one of the select scholarship offers that Wilson has handed out.
Questions still loom as to the status of former Redemptorist star back Jeremy Hill, who committed to the Tigers in 2011 but didn’t sign on with the class last February.
When it comes to recruiting big men up front, the tune will certainly change.
After pulling all seven linemen in the 2011 class from the state of Louisiana, the staff will now be forced to stack the board elsewhere.
Defensive end Torshiro Davis committed to LSU on signing day last February, but then just one other Louisiana lineman - Denzel Devall - has picked up a scholarship offer from the Tigers.
Brother Martin’s Julien Obioha and West Monroe’s Terrell Lathan are two names high on the linemen watch list, but the staff will first gauge the temperature with a handful of out-of-state prospects.
New Orleans native and current Georgia resident Vadal Alexander is the player being recruited hardest on the offensive line, while mammoth Mississippi tackle Nick James has worked his way to the top of the wish list on the defensive line.
Both have made visits to Baton Rouge in the past six months, and both plan to take in official visits this fall.
What’s unusual for LSU is that the linebacking class will be pulled from its own backyard.
Breaux Bridge’s Lamar Louis, Thibodaux’s Trey Granier, and West St. John’s Ronnie Feist have already committed to the staff, and an offer is out to Patterson’s Lorenzo Phillips, who has named LSU and Texas A&M as his two leaders. Amite’s Juwaan Rogers and Jesuit’s Deion Jones find themselves on the outside-looking-in, but a strong six months could change that.
At defensive back Ron Cooper has continued to build on his reputation as an evaluator by banking on summer camps, venues where he can work out a player in person and build his signing classes of the future.
After Cooper grabbed three defensive backs at last year’s July session, expect the LSU coach to do much of the same this year. The third-year assistant has already locked up the state’s top cornerback in Dwayne Thomas of O. Perry Walker, and Landon Collins, the state’s top-ranked safety, remains high on the Tigers.
If Cooper has another homegrown product step forward this summer, it would likely be Darion Monroe, who committed to Texas A&M after picking up an early scholarship offer from the Aggies. The East St. John quarterback impressed in College Station last summer when he worked out at cornerback, but he didn’t make a stop in Baton Rouge. This summer, Cooper will work the rising senior out at LSU’s camp.
With the staff on the road through the month of May, expect the road to 23 signees to gain steam in the near future. And with the forecast in Louisiana, it appears the total of names from outside the state’s borders could hit double digits.
And after building his first signing class at home, fans are anxious to see the work of recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson once he hits homes outside the bayou.
Shea Dixon is the managing editor of TigerSportsDigest.com, a Scout affiliate. He is a recruiting analyst who’s been covering LSU recruiting since 2008. Reach him at email@example.com.