30 Years of LSU Football Recruiting
A look back at LSU Football Recruiting: The Tiger Rag Years - 1979-2008
Can imagine what recruiting must have been like in years past?
Not like 10 years ago, or maybe even 20 years ago; but way back say 30, 40 or even 50 years ago.
Major college football coaches would come to a player’s home, talk with the parents, the athlete, they’d sign a scholarship and that would be it. There wasn’t any spectacular official visit to the school filled with pretty girls and rich foods. There was no intricate scouting process complete with fancy video edited highlights tapes.
There weren’t any recruiting services, websites, chat rooms, message boards or anyone following the progress of a commitment or a list of favorite schools. Fans knew as little about the incoming players as the players knew about the far away school they were about to attend.
Back in the days of Billy Cannon and the Chinese Bandits, there weren’t even limitations on the number of players you could sign. Coach Paul Dietzel was allowed to ink as many players to scholarships as he wanted. Once they arrived, no matter how talented the athlete, he had to play one season of freshman football before he was promoted to the varsity team.
As years passed, things changed.
There were rules and regulations applied to the recruitment of athletes. More money and time was allocated by universities into the recruiting process pertaining to both on campus visits as well as off campus scouting trips.
Sam Nader has been part of the LSU staff since 1977. Hired by Coach Charles McClendon, Nader originally was a position coach but it wasn’t long before he was handed the duties of overseeing recruiting. Thirty-two years later, Nader is still facilitating LSU’s recruiting exploits as the oldest tenured coach on the Baton Rouge campus.
Tiger Rag got the chance to sit down with Nader last summer as he detailed how recruiting has evolved over three decades. You’d be shocked at how primitive things were back in those days and how far it has come to the present day.
Also, as we continue our celebration of Tiger Rag’s 30th anniversary, we look back at the last 30 classes of recruits reeled in by the LSU Tigers.
Here we look back at some of the great moments in LSU Football Recruiting over the past three decades:
1979 – It would be Charles McClendon’s last signing class. McClendon faced the notion of recruiting players he would not be around to coach. Following the 1978 season, McClendon was told 1979 – his 17th season – would be his last year as head coach at LSU. Among his last class of recruits, Franklin, La. native Leonard Marshall, who led the SEC in sacks as a junior and senior and went on to star for the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl.
1980 – It was a difficult time at LSU. Coach Jerry Stoval was hastily named the Tigers new head coach just days after McClendon’s replacement – Bo Rein – was killed in a bizarre plane crash on Jan. 10, 1980, roughly a month prior to signing day. Stovall inherited many of Rein and McClendon’s recruits.
1981 – In what was Stovall’s first true recruiting class, Stovall reeled in a pair of LSU’s all-time greats. Among the Class of 1981 were future Tiger All-Americans Eric Martin and Lance Smith.
1983 – All-American Michael Brooks signed his letter intent as a part of the Class of 1983. All-SEC linebacker Toby Caston was a member of this class as was future NFL quarterback Stan Humphries. Humphries, a standout at Shreveport’s Woodlawn High School, eventually transferred to Northeast Louisiana where he led the Indians to a I-AA national title.
1984 – New coach Bill Arnsparger pulled off one of the biggest coups in LSU recruiting history. On one afternoon in December, Arnsparger reeled in Nacho Albergamo and Eric Andolsek, both of whom went on to become two of LSU’s greatest offensive stars of all time.
1985 – LSU’s all-time leading passer Tommy Hodson signed with the Tigers out of Mathews, La.
1986 – A year later, the second half of LSU’s “Earthquake” combo signed with the Tigers. Running back Eddie Fuller came to LSU from Leesville.
1989 – Although he would play on some of LSU’s worst teams ever, Leesville center Kevin Mawae signed with the Tigers as a member of the Class of 1989. Mawae went on to become one of LSU’s greatest contributions to the NFL.
1992 – It was a class dotted with future NFL players and the group of athletes that would “Bring Back the Magic” in 1995, but Coach Curley Hallman would be long gone. Ben Bordelon, James Gillyard, Jamie Howard, Sheddrick Wilson, David LaFleur and Gabe Northern all inked scholarships in 1992.
1993 – Faced with reeling in a class fresh off the worst record in school history (2-9 in 1992), Hallman still managed to lure LSU standouts Chris Cummings, Eddie Kennison, Chad Kessler, Kenny Mixon, Adam Perry, Allen Stansberry, Denard Walker and Chuck Wiley.
1994 – It was truly a recruiting class that can be summed up as “what if.” Hallman managed to sign the nation’s top quarterback in Evangel Christian’s Josh Booty. But Booty elected to enter the Major League Baseball Draft instead of coming to LSU. It might have turned the tide for Hallman who was fired after the 1994 season. Booty eventually played for the Tigers, but not until 1999. The Class of 1994 also included future Al-American and NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Alan Faneca.
1995 – When Gerry DiNardo was hired in December of 1994 he had one thing on his mind, signing Carencro’s Kevin Faulk. And he did. Faulk went on to become an All-American and LSU’s all-time leading rusher. Future All-American and NFL standout Anthony “Booger” McFarland of Winnsboro also matriculated as part of the Class of 1995.
1996 – The biggest waste of talent ever? DiNardo signed Louisiana’s Mr. Football in 1996 – Leesville running back Cecil “The Diesel” Collins. His collegiate career at LSU lasted all of four and a half games.
1997 – West Monroe fullback Tommy Banks and Evangel wide receiver Abram Booty headlined the Class of 1997, but the true star of the Class of 1997 was an obscure quarterback from Miami named Rohan Davey.
1998 – The year 1998 was the first of three attempts by Chad Lavalais to sign with LSU. He finally made it in 2000 after biding his time as a prison guard in his hometown of Marksville. Also in 1998, DiNardo signed running back Josh Reed from Rayne, La. He thought he was pretty good at catching the ball out of the backfield.
1999 – Much like Hallman’s Class of 1992, DiNardo’s 1999 collection of recruits had big things ahead of them. Unfortunately for DiNardo, he wasn’t around to see Bradie James, John Corbello, Domanick David, LaBrandon Toefield, Demetrius Hookfin, Norman LeJeune, Jerel Myers, Rodney Reed and Donnie Jones spark the greatest period in LSU football history.
2000 – He called it the “red alert” class. When Nick Saban arrived at LSU in December of 1999, he had less than two months to try and salvage what was left of the recruiting season. He didn’t do half bad considering he managed to attract future All-Americans Chad Lavalais, Stephen Peterman and Corey Webster in what was considered a makeshift class.
2001 – It might go down as one of the most memorable classes ever. In 2001, Saban made his splash on the recruiting scene hauling in a group of talent never before seen at LSU. The list reads like an all-star team including Joseph Addai, Bennie Brazell, Michael Clayton, Travis Daniels, Marquise Hill, Rudy Niswanger, Marcus Spears, Andrew Whitworth, Ben Wilkerson. It was the foundation of the 2003 national championship team.
2002 – It wasn’t considered a great year, but Saban’s third class did produce a pair of All-American including Skyler Green and Kyle Williams.
2003 – If you thought 2001 was good, Saban trumped his previous exploits nabbing future NFL No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell. Russell caused quite a stir that year, but Matt Flynn, who would lead the Tigers a national title five years later, wasn’t bad either. A pair of NFL receivers (Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis) as well as two-time All-American LaRon Landry wasn’t too shabby.
2004 – And the hits kept coming in 2004 as Saban lured another distinguished list of recruits, which turned out to be the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. And the Class of 2004 had plenty of firepower to back up that claim. Try five future All-Americans – Glenn Dorsey, Ali Highsmith, Herman Johnson, Craig Steltz and Claude Wroten – as well as All-SEC standouts Early Doucet, Chevis Jackson, Tyson Jackson… and Jacob Hester.
2005 – Les Miles didn’t have much wiggle room with his first recruiting class. Hired on Jan. 4, 2005, Miles had less than a month to assemble a makeshift class of signees. He did make it a priority to go out and get the nation’s No. 1 quarterback – and he did signing Ryan Perrilloux.
2006 – Miles proved to be quite recruiter himself reeling in a diverse yet talented group of recruits in 2006. The running back trio of Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy headlined the class, but the classes biggest sleeper turned out to be the star – speedster Trindon Holliday.
2007 – The Class of 2007 featured the top player in the nation at two positions including safety Chadd Jones and wide receiver Terrance Toliver. Miles also proved he could recruit even in the great north reeling in Joe Barksdale, the top player in the state of Michigan.
2008 – It just goes to show recruiting rankings aren’t all that. Struggling from major quarterback deficiencies, true freshman Jordan Jefferson led the Tigers to a Chick-Fil-A Bowl rout of Georgia Tech. Jefferson was a three-star recruit coming out of Destrehan.