Two New Orleans recruits to join Tigers
None of coach Les Miles’ nine full signing classes at LSU have finished ranked outside of the top 10 in Scout.com’s national rankings.
Despite a host of commitment snubs a month ago and a less than fulfilling in-state haul, that won’t change.
LSU’s 2014 signing class is the coach’s best — even with those road bumps.
As of Wednesday night, the 23-member class was ranked as the second-best nationally at each of the four major services: Rivals.com, Scout.com, 24/7 Sports and ESPN.
That’s never happened under Miles and it’s been more than a decade since the Tigers have reeled in such a highly ranked haul.
The group includes 11 offensive players, 11 defensive players and a kicker — many of them touted talents from in-state and out.
Miles called the class “a must” for a program that has lost a host of seniors and a whopping 16 juniors to the NFL draft over the previous two years.
“This class is a mix of speed, size and strength,” the coach said. “It’s an opportunity to replace guys that have graduated from college and replace those juniors that in three years have gone on to the NFL.”
The Tigers signed four players rated the maximum five stars — the most of any team aside from top-ranked Alabama’s six. A dozen more signees were four stars.
They signed seven players ranked No. 3 or better nationally at their positions, according to 24/7 Sports’ composite rankings, which pool other rankings.
LSU also received four signatures from formally uncommitted recruits, including highly ranked John Curtis receiver Malachi Dupre.
“Huge sigh of relief,” LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said. “Hard work vindicated.”
The expected big fish who signed binding National Letters of Intent were St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Texas safety Jamal Adams and Illinois linebacker Clifton Garrett. They were players who had been committed for weeks.
There were signing day surprises, too. Four players chose LSU on Wednesday over other schools.
A pair of defensive tackles picked the Tigers: Texas three-star Trey Lealaimatafao, who had Oregon as the other finalist, and Florida four-star Travonte Valentine.
Also, three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema, a former Texas commit, chose the Tigers.
Dupre was the last of that group to announce his decision.
In front of a packed gymnasium of high school classmates, Dupre chose LSU over Florida State, Alabama, UCLA and Ole Miss live on ESPNU.
The LSU coaching staff, all huddled in a meeting room watching the broadcast, erupted in celebration.
It capped a furious day and gave LSU something it desperately needed — another big in-state get to go with Fournette.
“It’s a spectacular class,” said Scott Kennedy, national scouting director for Scout.com. “Recruiting fans, though, seem to concentrate on the ones that got away.”
This recruiting season has been somewhat of a bumpy ride.
Louisiana had its best talent this year, arguably, in the state’s history.
Nine Louisianians were ranked among the nation’s top 100 prospects, according to Rivals.com.
LSU got four of the nine: Dupre, Fournette, receiver Trey Quinn and quarterback Brandon Harris, an early enrollee who will compete for the starting job in the spring.
Alabama took two — offensive lineman Cameron Robinson, rated the best tackle in the nation, and safety Hootie Jones.
Florida, UCLA and Texas A&M each signed one.
“It’s tough when it happens to us, from our state,” Wilson said. “For the most part, year in and year out we’ve done a great job of wrapping our arms around players from the state of Louisiana.”
The class, though, is still no slouch. And it washes away some of the bitter taste from what happened a month ago at the Under Armour All-American Game.
LSU entered the game with five targets announcing their decisions live on ESPN.
Just two committed.
In-state players Gerald Willis and Devante “Speedy” Noil, both of Edna Karr, snubbed LSU and so did Texas cornerback Tony Brown.
Brown picked Bama; Noil, Texas A&M; and Willis, Florida.
It was a bitter pill for a recruiting hungry fanbase. And coaches took it hard, too.
Miles admitted Wednesday that his staff “coveted” two in-state recruits who went elsewhere.
“There are some people that we lost and some people that we didn’t,” Miles said. “I think that there’s some people that we really wish we would have gotten. But I have to be honest with you, I think we were in position to have this kind of year, period.”
It was a good one.
The Tigers went out of state to replace the in-state guys they failed to get.
In some cases, the out-of-staters — there were 11 — were even more highly touted.
That list includes four-star Oklahoma defensive end Deondre Clark. The school did not officially announce Clark as part of the class, but they had received his signed National Letter of Intent.
Clark was another big out-of-state grab. Many felt like he’d flip Oklahoma.
Instead of getting John Curtis linebacker Kenny Young — he signed with UCLA — LSU brought in Garrett. The Tigers missed out on Jones but replaced him with Adams.
“I think LSU is becoming and has always been, but is becoming more marketable (nationally),” Miles said.
LSU’s class certainly had the country’s attention.
A USA Today reporter and ESPN broadcaster were embedded in the coaches’ offices as National Letters of Intent rolled off fax machines beginning around 7 a.m.
LSU received chunks of time during ESPNU’s day-long signing day coverage, and analysts from around the country were touting LSU’s list of signees.
The coach was all smiles at his news conference Wednesday speaking about the class.
After all, it was his best.
“I think you’ll like this group,” he said.