Louisiana talent blossoms in 2013 recruiting class

After what was by most accounts a thin year in Louisiana recruiting in 2012, perhaps the best example of the depth of the 2013 class is the number of players crowded near the top.

In the Class of 2012, Dutchdown’s Landon Collins, believed to be the first Class 5A All-State selection on offense and defense in the same year, was the state’s top prospect — hands down.

This year, no fewer than four players can make an argument for that intangible yet meaningful distinction.

There is cornerback Tre’Davious White of Green Oaks, tabbed by Rivals, Scout and 24/7 Sports as the state’s best blue chipper. Defensive end Tim Williams of University High gets the nod from ESPN.

Kendell Beckwith, who like Collins last year starred prominently on both sides of the ball at East Feliciana, is ranked No. 2 statewide across the board, making him the most consistently high-ranked player.

And not to be forgotten is Neville’s John Diarse, Louisiana’s Mr. Football for 2012.

They’re all stars vying for top billing on The Advocate’s 29th annual Super Dozen.

“It’s a strong class,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. “You have more skill athletes than interior guys, which is a little unique (for Louisiana). You have Tre’Davious White and Kendell Beckwith, but you don’t have the Anthony Johnsons of the world, which oftentimes you get out of that state.

“But there are a lot of what we call athletes, who depending on who recruits them could determine what positions they will play.”

Beckwith, Diarse, White, Loranger’s Jeryl Brazil, Destrehan’s Rickey Jefferson and Washington-Marion’s Melvin Jones are just a few of the players who have demonstrated exceptional ability to play multiple positions, adding to the quality of this class.

“It’s a lot better than last year, and next year will be a step further,” said Mike Scarborough, publisher of Rivals website TigerBait.com.

To Scarborough, the ultimate test of this year’s class will be players like Jewel Sumner safety Jeremy Cutrer — those who may be short on sudden impact but are stacked with potential.

“I can’t wait to see what he looks like in a year or two – What’s he going to look like even after a summer with (LSU strength coach) Tommy Moffitt,” Scarborough said. “He’s someone to watch out for as a real sleeper guy.”

The Class of 2013 may also be remembered as the year LSU began to reassert itself after what was mostly a frustrating year in 2012.

After LSU’s 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Tigers went on to recruiting season and watched the Crimson Tide cart off Collins despite LSU’s intense efforts to keep him at home.

Any optimism for a last-minute splash on Signing Day — like landing Sam Montgomery in 2009 — was dimmed by the 11th-hour defection of Super Dozen prospect Torshiro Davis, a highly prized defensive end out of Shreveport Woodlawn, to Texas. In all, LSU signed just six members of The Advocate’s Super Dozen, one of its smallest hauls ever.

As the recruiting season enters the stretch run, LSU has locked up commitments from nine players on this year’s Super Dozen: Beckwith, Westgate’s Josh Boutte, Brazil, Cutrer, Diarse, Jefferson, Jones, Barbe’s DeSean Smith and White.

Only Edna Karr’s Standish Dobard (Miami), teammate Noel Ellis (Texas A&M) and Williams (Alabama) have said they’ll take their talents elsewhere.

LSU also has three commitments off The Advocate Second Dozen — Denham Springs’ Tevin Lawson, Cedar Creek’s K.J. Malone and Winnfield’s Michael Patterson — and is pursuing a fourth, linebacker Duke Riley of John Curtis. He’s at LSU this weekend for an official visit.

“In terms of major priorities, they locked up everybody,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports website Geaux24/7. “Tim Williams is going out of state, but it seems that at some point LSU cooled on him.”

Going into the recruiting season’s penultimate weekend, LSU was poised to bring in a near-consensus top-five class. The Tigers, with 26 commitments and one junior college signee, were ranked No. 4 nationally in recruiting by 24/7 Sports, No. 5 by Rivals and Scout and No. 7 by ESPN.

“It seems, on their whole board, everyone they wanted they kept at home,” Dixon said.

When LSU needed quarterbacks, though, coach Les Miles’ staff had to look beyond the state borders and search coast to coast, coming back with Hayden Retting of Los Angeles Cathedral and Anthony Jennings of Marietta, Ga.

Both players were among eight early enrollees for LSU this year, allowing them to take part in spring football practice when it begins in March.

“There hasn’t been a top-flight quarterback in Louisiana since Ryan Perrilloux (in 2005) or Jordan Jefferson (in ’08),” Scarborough said. “There’s not one for next year, either.”

This year’s recruiting class also is marked by some of the most familiar names in Louisiana sports: Rickey Jefferson is the younger brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, and K.J. Malone is the son of basketball Hall of Famer and former Louisiana Tech star Karl Malone.

The national signing period begins Feb. 6.