by Scott Rabalais
There was no reason for signing day sulking Wednesday at LSU. No reason to question anyone’s chest. Only one reason, within reason, for gray clouds to slide across the Baton Rouge sky and spit rain down on the Bayou Bash Recruiting Party, and even that disappointment was a bit like worrying about the taxes when holding a $30 million lottery ticket.
What a difference a year makes in recruiting. You have to look no farther than Ole Miss to know that. Of course, the amount of bounceback in the Rebels’ rubber band allowed a lot more room for travel than LSU.
Maybe it would be better to wonder what a difference recruiting can make in a year. Because the kind of recruiting class LSU captured Wednesday could be the cool front that finally blows away the clouds that was LSU football circa 2012.
The entire year was a dull, gray downer, the kind of year that makes people question LSU’s worth as a national player. Wednesday, LSU pulled in the kind of class that gives you a chance to be that, or certainly to earn a spot in the four-team playoff that’s now less than two years from launch.
It won’t be easy. Not in the Southeastern Conference. All four major recruiting services had some combination of six — SIX — SEC teams in its roll call of top-10 recruiting classes. All 14 SEC teams shoehorned their way into the final ESPN top 40.
This year, it’s the addition of Texas A&M and the sudden, somewhat dubious rise of Ole Miss with the kind of talent haul — at least for a year — that the LSUs and Alabamas are used to.
Alabama was the constant, ranked No. 1 according to ESPN, Rivals and 24/7. Ole Miss was the fashion. LSU? The Tigers brought a grinding relentlessness to the class and came away with a list of 27 names that ranks fifth, sixth, sixth and seventh.
True, the Tigers lost out to Ole Miss for the nation’s No. 1, Robert Nkemdiche. But it wasn’t because LSU didn’t do a good job of recruiting Robert. It just didn’t have the foresight to recruit his older brother, Denzel, a linebacker of considerably more modest talents.
But LSU pried away another prized defensive lineman, Tashawn Bower, from Auburn and Florida on a final day of recruiting gymnastics. Bower is no Nkemdiche, but like virtually all of LSU’s class he’s a solid, talented, across-the-board four star who helps fill an urgent — shall we say desperate? — need at defensive end.
LSU filled all of its needs Wednesday, save a true safety. LSU has long tried to convert Tempe, Ariz., safety Priest Willis to the religion of Tiger football, but he appears UCLA bound. LSU was probably done for this recruiting cycle.
Despite questions at home of LSU’s continued standing as a football Goliath, it’s a class that is a prime example of LSU’s continued nationwide brand, according to ESPN recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree.
“You’re talking Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU,” Crabtree said. “You can count them on one hand, the programs that truly have that national recruiting lure.”
LSU dangled that lure over and over again this recruiting season and got plenty of top notch recruits to bite.
It could be a portent of a better year to come.