Class of ‘10: Defensive Star
No clear-cut ace, but still plenty of bright spots
DE Justin Maclin, at left, could be the next great pass rusher on LSU’s defensive line. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Maclin-Love)
By RICHARD FISCHER
Tiger Rag Recruiting Contributor
When LSU’s 2010 recruiting class is in the books, the Tigers will lack a five-star recruit on the defensive side of the ball for the first time since Les Miles’ first class in 2005.
Although it is unlikely that any of the 2010 recruits will make an immediate impact on defense, some will be given early opportunities to make tackles on special teams while others will focus on gaining size and strength as underclassmen.
This allowed the LSU coaching staff to concentrate on filling their needs with players who should compete for starting positions as upperclassmen.
One need that had to be addressed was the pass rush. LSU recorded a mere 21 sacks in the 2009 season, with only 14 coming from defensive linemen.
Of those 14 sacks, 11.5 came from players who will not be returning next year: Rahim Alem, Charles Alexander, Harry Coleman, Jacob Cutrera and Al Woods.
That’s why LSU has spent much time and effort recruiting four-star defensive end Justin Maclin from Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tenn.
“LSU’s struggles with rushing the passer has made them aggressively continue to pursue him and make sure they have him locked down,” said Maclin’s high school coach Rod Brown. “He’s definitely a sack master so they’re definitely excited with what he can offer them.”
When Maclin gets on the field in Death Valley, he should make a strong impact. As a junior in high school, he recorded a whopping 95 tackles and 19 sacks.
“He’s definitely a guy that can come off the edge and can make plays in the back field,” said Brown. “The things that Justin brings to the table, you don’t just get in average kids every day. That’s being a 6′4″ kid that can run, that’s got tremendous upside, and that can do a lot of things on the football field.”
At 6′4”, 215 pounds, Maclin was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.5. It is likely that Maclin will redshirt in order to gain size and strength to get big enough to play defensive line in the SEC. However, LSU’s lack of depth at defensive end may give Maclin the opportunity for early playing time.
Only Lazarius Levingston and Chancey Aghayere return with starting experience at defensive end. Therefore, Maclin may have a chance to compete with inexperienced but talented defensive ends Chase Clement, Benny Logan, Michael Brockers and Sam Montgomery for P.T. this fall.
At 6′6”, 266 pounds, Jordan Allen, another one of LSU’s four-star defensive end recruits, may have a better chance of early playing time because he will be enrolling with enough size.
However, some recruits in the 2010 class will have to make a name for themselves on special teams before they will be given the chance to start on defense.
That’s especially true for defensive backs, where LSU will be very thin in the near future due to the early departure of Chad Jones and the graduation of Chris Hawkins. Add in the fact that Jai Eugene will be a senior next year and Patrick Peterson will likely enter the NFL draft.
This lack of depth could be counteracted with commitments from four-star defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Ronnie Vinson.
Mathieu will play cornerback, Reid will play safety, and Vinson can play both. However, all three will likely earn playing time on special teams before settling into their defensive positions.
“He can play on all the special teams, and he’s a real threat with the ball in his hands,” explained Vinson’s high school coach Nelson Stewart. “He’s all about earning his position and his spot on the team, and he’s anxious to get up there and start working with his teammates.”
Vinson will bring lots of experience to the Tigers as a four-year starting defensive back at Isidore Newman High School.
The 5′11″, 186-pounder had 72 tackles in his junior season. As a senior, Vinson recorded 59 tackles, two interceptions, and scored two defensive touchdowns.
“He’s explosive. He has great straight-line speed, and he moves his hips well,” said Stewart. “He’s a lock-down guy, and he does a great job in man coverage. He tackles well in the open field.”
At Newman, Vinson saw time at running back, wide receiver, quarterback, linebacker and defensive back.
“They’ll start him at corner and then play him a little at safely possibly, but he’ll do whatever they ask him,” said Stewart. “I think they’re going to get a young man that can do a number of things.”
Even without a can’t-miss star in this year’s recruiting class, LSU will still look forward to another top-10 class.