Nine on board early for Class of 2011
By RICHARD MEEK
Tiger Rag Recruiting Contributor
Despite a late arrival in Baton Rouge, Frank Wilson played a major role in salvaging the Tigers’ recruiting class of 2010.
His impact on the 2011 class may be even more significant.
Two of LSU’s nine early commitments, defensive lineman Anthony Johnson of O. Perry Walker and wide receiver Alonzo Lewis of St. James, credit LSU’s recruiting coordinator with impacting their decisions to call Tiger Stadium their collegiate home.
Perhaps the most stunning is Johnson, who had originally committed to Tennessee when Wilson was still wearing Volunteer orange as an assistant to then-coach Lane Kiffin. But once Wilson, a New Orleans native, swapped Rocky Top for Fais-Do-Do, Johnson was not far behind.
“(Wilson) made a difference,” said Johnson, who also gave kudos to Tigers’ defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive line coach Brick Haley for their influence. “It’s a good school and a good place to be.”
“They are good coaches and love the game of football, just like me,” added Johnson, who had staggering numbers with 79 solo tackles, 16 sacks and an interception in his junior season with the Chargers. “They are great teachers and know how to win, and that’s what I want to do.”
Lewis verbally committed after LSU’s junior day on Feb. 20.
“I liked LSU and the (coaches) never pressured me,” said Lewis, who may also project as a defensive back. “I talked to (Wilson) during the visit and he never pressured me. I didn’t think I would commit when I went up there, but when they asked, I decided to do it. I followed my heart”
LSU’s remaining early commitments are homegrown, reflecting coach Les Miles’ advancement in protecting the borders, with only one import. The list includes offensive tackle La’El Collins (6-foot-4, 281 pounds) and running back Jeremy Hill (6-1, 224) from Redemptorist of Baton Rouge, running back Kenny Hilliard (6-0, 218) of Patterson, wide receiver Jarvis Landry (5-11, 181) of Lutcher, offensive guard Corey White (6-4, 305) of Capitol, quarterback Terrance Magee (5-9, 195) of Franklinton who projects as a running back and linebacker Trevon Randle (6-2, 285) of Clear Springs, Texas.
Although the class is stocked with four- and five-star recruits, Johnson, ranked as one of the top defensive linemen in the country, appears to be the prize of the early haul. Johnson had committed to Tennessee in May, but reports began to surface in August that he was reconsidering.
Johnson, who has 4.8 speed, said staying close to home also was a major consideration.
He said the coaches have told him he will play at either defensive tackle or shift to defensive end. Either way, he believes he can have an immediate impact in autumn 2011.
“I have good speed and quickness,” he said. “I have great hands and get to the ball well.”
Lewis also plays in the defensive backfield for the Wildcats and may eventually land a spot in the secondary, although his size traditionally points to the offensive side of the ball.
“As you see him maneuver you see he is capable of being an excellent defensive back,” St. James coach Rick Gaille said. “He has corner skills.
“He also has soft hands. You never hear a sound when he’s making a catch. And he’s very good at breaking tackles. If he continues to progress as he is capable of doing, he can make a contribution early on.”
Lewis had 16 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns as a junior, including a 91-yard scoring reception in a 34-27 loss to East St. John on Sept. 18. He also had one interception.
Randle, ranked as one of the nation’s top five linebackers, also committed Feb. 20. In his junior season, Randle had 99 solo tackles, 17 in one game. The four-star recruit with 4.46 speed also recovered four fumbles, had three interceptions and one sack.
Hilliard brings a familiar name back to the school where his uncle, Dalton, once starred. Hilliard, a four-star recruit whose bruising power is similar to his uncle, ran for 2,512 yards and 32 touchdowns as a junior. That was following his sophomore season with 2,377 yards and 34 scores.
Although the Tigers early commitment rush is record setting, spring’s optimism can often become fall’s heartbreak. Already, Landry, who committed in January, has softened his commitment and is considering a number of suitors, among them SEC rivals Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
Landry’s speed barely seems up to SEC standards, 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard run, but his elusiveness in the open field is what makes him so desirable. He caught 80 passes for 1,406 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2009.
Hill, who was LSU’s first commitment in September, is planning on making official visits to Alabama and Florida State. Alabama coach Nick Saban seems poised to make a strong run at Hill, who appears to be a prototypical Saban running back: big, physical and deceptive speed once in the secondary.
Lewis said he plans on visiting Nebraska because former LSU assistant Bo Pelini was the first to contact the wide receiver. He also said he is planning additional unnamed visits “with my teammates.”
Even Johnson may have a chink in his commitment. He admitted he is planning a visit to USC, where former Tennessee assistant Ed Orgeron recently returned when Kiffin bolted Knoxville for the Trojans on the West Coast.
Johnson is also planning visits to Michigan, Alabama, Cal-Berkley and Georgia.
“I’m planning to stay with LSU for now,” Johnson said.