Rabalais: Sifting through LSU’s star-studded class

They called the 1915 graduating class at West Point “The class the stars fell on” because of all the generals it produced. Fully one-third of that year’s cadets wound up with stars on their shoulders, among them Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley.

A century later, people may one day be saying the same thing in football terms about this year’s LSU recruiting class.

The stars aligned Wednesday, with LSU signing the nation’s top prospect in St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette, the top receiver in John Curtis’ Malachi Dupre and five-star prospects like linebacker Clifton Garrett from Illinois and safety Jamal Adams from Texas.

It’s the consensus No. 2 class in the country, long on talent and signing day drama as it took until Wednesday before the Tigers wrapped up Dupre and defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao and were sure they kept Plaquemine defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and Oklahoma City defensive end Deondre Clark in the fold.

“It’s just what we needed,” a clearly pleased Les Miles said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s the style of day that fuels our future.”

That’s Miles-speak for it being the kind of class, the quality of class, that will allow LSU to continue to compete for Southeastern Conference and now College Football Playoff national championships.

Some stories, thoughts and observations from National Signing Day 2014:

The notion of putting up walls around states when it comes to recruiting is a grand but increasingly outdated ideal. LSU signed only five players off The Advocate’s Super Dozen, its fewest in years, but dipped into Texas for superstar recruits like Adams and Ed Paris, went into Illinois for that state’s top player in Garrett, went to Florida and got Travonte Valentine and into Oklahoma to keep Clark.

As John Curtis safety Mattrell McGraw said when announcing his decision to sign with Oregon, he realized during the recruiting process that they have airliners, and they can take him and his family between New Orleans and Eugene in mere hours.

“I think the country gets smaller,” Miles said. “It gets smaller with technology. It gets smaller with iPads and TV and phones that are computer-driven.”

That makes it harder for LSU to keep all the best players in state. But LSU’s football brand, its success at supplying players to the NFL and its winning on the field makes it easy for LSU to fill any holes it might have in state with players from outside Louisiana.

In the end, the only player LSU wasn’t adequately able to replace was Monroe offensive tackle Cam Robinson (Alabama).

“I think LSU has always been, but is becoming more marketable, if you will,” Miles said.

It’s all a sign that recruiting is just going to get wilder in the years to come.


There’s no LSU signee I’m happier for than Russell Gage of Redemptorist. This is a guy who LSU, quite frankly, put on the back burner as it pursued other big-name prospects. It happens. But Gage was patient and waited for an offer.

“It really is a dream come true for me,” Gage said when he committed. “I guess I started following LSU when I was 9. I’ve always wanted to wear the purple and gold and run out of the tunnel for a game. It can’t get any better than that.”

You need guys like Fournette and Paris and Valentine to contend for championships. But you also need guys like Gage for whom playing for LSU will be an honor, devotion likely to be reflected in their play.

So many interesting stories in this recruiting class, like every year.

There’s Barbe wide receiver Trey Quinn. Wednesday was a big day in his life, but so was the day in 2008 when he threw a no-hitter in the Little League World Series.

There’s Travonte Valentine, who proved Wednesday the fourth time is indeed the charm. After committing and decommitting from a string of schools across the south — Louisville, Florida and Miami — he made his LSU decision binding with Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent.

And there’s Lealaimatafao, who was drawn to LSU in part because his sister Leilani is a middle blocker on Southern’s volleyball team.

According to Southern sports information director and recruiting phonetics consultant Chris Jones, their last name is pronounced “Lay-uh-Ah-lee-mah-TA-fow.”

I think Miles has the right idea: It’s Trey L. until further notice.

LSU apparently executed the recruiting version of a twin killing Wednesday by signing Keller, Texas, defensive end Sione Teuhema and receiving a commitment from his younger brother Maea. Notice I didn’t write “little” brother as Sione is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and Maea’s tale of the tape is 6-5, 348.

Maea Teuhema gives LSU its second five-star commitment for the Class of 2015 to go along with Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian cornerback Kevin Toliver II. There’s a family tie with Toliver as well, as his cousins Terance and Chris Toliver are both former Tigers.

According to 24/7 Sports, which ranks Toliver the nation’s No. 1 prospect for 2015, LSU is the first school with two five-star commitments for next year.

Ah, the recruiting wheel never stops spinning, does it?