Options are limitless: LSU’s latest signing class exciting to watch for coach Brian Kelly

Second-year coach welcomes 27 newcomers on first day of early signing period

Lafayette Chistian's Ju'Juan Johnson signed with LSU on Wednesday where the state's career leader in total yards and touchdowns scored is projected to play cornerback. PHOTO COURTESY: Lafayette Christian Academy

LSU made record-breaking quarterback Ju’Juan Johnson of Lafayette Christian part of its 27-member Class of 2024 signing class that was released Wednesday.

Johnson led the Knights to four consecutive state championship appearances, winning the Division III title in 2020, and broke two of the state’s career records for total yards and total touchdowns.

The more highlights LSU football Brian Kelly watched of Johnson’s sterling career, the more options he’s envisioned for the 6-foot, 194-pounder.

“You watch him and you go, ‘Wow, he’s going to play this position’, and then you watch him again, you go, ‘Well, maybe he can play this position,” Kelly said during a signing day press conference Wednesday. “Then you watch them again and go no, ‘He can play this position.

“He’s remarkable as a player and he’s been fun to watch,” Kelly said. “And there’s a lot of guys (signees) like that. But you know, he’s done some things here that historically have never been done in the state of Louisiana. It’s kind of been fun to watch.”

Johnson, the MaxPrep.com’s Player of the Year for Louisiana, was among a group of 27 signees that included 26 high school players and one junior college prospect. Johnson wound with state records for career total yards (14,451) and total touchdowns (171).

Kelly’s third signing class has 11 players on offense, 15 on defense and one specialist in Aeron Burrell of Parkway High in Bossier City. He said he plans to announce any additions from the NCAA transfer portal on Friday.

LSU signed the Mississippi Player of the Year in cornerback PJ Woodland of Oak Grove in Hattiesburg and Johnson was the Louisiana Player of the Year and a finalist for the nation’s top player that’s was announced by MaxPreps.com this week.

Moreover, the Tigers’ class has 12 players that won state championships, 12 that were two-way starters and 10 that were invited to play in All-America All-Star games.

“From a position breakdown, we’ve got great balance on offense defense and special teams,” Kelly said. “I think that when we talk about recruiting, where’s your focus? Our focus is on the state of Louisiana, our focus is on freshmen and our focus is on a well-rounded student athlete that recognizes the value of a degree from LSU and wants to play for championships. That will be reflected in this class.”

Kelly accentuated the positives of a class with 16 home-grown players from Louisiana and four others that were born in the state before moving elsewhere. He also said 14 of those players are mid-term graduates and will enroll at LSU in January.

“There is a loyalty and a sense of growing up and wanting to play for LSU,” Kelly said. “I really believe there’s that passion and I think that it’s clearly here in the state of Louisiana. That the young boys grow up to young men, they want to play for LSU. So, I think that’s real.”

LSU, which didn’t have a signee make any official visits to other schools on the final official visit weekend, ranked as high as 10th nationally by On3 Sports. The Tigers were No. 11 in the 247Sports’ ranking and No. 13 by Rivals.

The Tigers loaded up with six cornerbacks/safeties led by DaShawn McBryde of Denham Springs, the nation’s No. 4 safety and state’s No. 3 player per On3. The Tigers are projecting both Johnson and West Feliciana’s Joel Rogers, a pair of high school quarterbacks, to transition to cornerback and safety, respectively.

“Playing for LSU is just a blessing for my family,” McBryde told On3.

Kelly noted McBryde’s obvious length on his 6-foot-3, 192-pound frame that enabled him to make a school-record 10 interceptions in 2022.

“He’s the first student-athlete that played football that is graduating from Denham Springs early, so he’s a terrific student, high character,” he said. “He has all the traits that we’re looking for. So, not only does he have length, he really brings the kind of safety presence that we’re looking for in terms of being able to cover a No. 2 receiver, but also a great tackler, a great student and a great young man.”

Kelly was pleased with coach Brad Davis’ haul of five offensive lineman that will enable the Tigers to field strong units for the foreseeable future.

Weston Davis, the nation’s No. 3 offensive tackle per On3 at 6-6, 282 pounds, is the headliner in the group from Beaumont, Texas along with Ethan Calloway (6-7, 325) of Mooresville, North Carolina and Ory Williams (6-8, 297) of San Marcos, Texas.

LSU’s defense added four defensive tackles/edge rushers and four linebackers to match their six-player haul in the secondary.

Defensive tackle Gabriel Reliford (6-3, 262) of Evangel Christian was a recent Texas A&M commitment who gives the Tigers the No. 7 player at his position according to On3. Edge rusher CJ Jackson (6-4, 214) is another player who changed schools during the recruiting process when he decommitted from Georgia Tech and picked LSU.

LSU reached into the junior college ranks for one player – former Tiger commitment and Georgia signee – Shone Washington of East Mississippi Community College.

Many’s Tylen Singleton (6-1, 208) is LSU’s highest-rated linebacker, rated as high as No. 10 by Rivals, and with Destrehan’s Kolaj Cobbins (6-3, 215) – ranked No. 7 by Rivals – former Jonesboro Hodge linebacker Xavier Atkins (6-0, 194) of Summer Creek High in Houston and Davhon Keys (6-0, 219) of Aledo, Texas, Kelly believes that unit became more athletic.

LSU also hit on some of the nation’s top skill players in No. 1 tight end Trey’Dez Green of Zachary (6-7, 226), No. 8 running back Caden Durham (5-9, 195) of Duncanville, Texas and No. 14 quarterback Colin Hurley of Jacksonville, Florida (6-1, 217).

“When you look at what LSU’s doing at TE under Kelly,” Green told On3, “you can look in a couple years and they have the most talented TE room in the country.”

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William Weathers

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