BATON ROUGE, La. — No two recruiting classes are the same, but LSU can learn a lot from the past when looking at its 2018 recruiting class.
The Tigers signed 22 recruits between the early signing period in December and National Signing Day last Wednesday, slotting in with the No. 15 class in the nation and the No. 5 group in the SEC. What the class might be lacking in notoriety it makes up for in girth; LSU signed five defensive tackles and four offensive linemen in this class, fortifying the Tigers on both sides of the trenches.
LSU also did a strong job of recruiting receivers, signing four long pass-catchers including 5-star Terrace Marshall Jr. and 4-star JaMarr Chase, both of whom rank in the top 15 nationally among incoming receivers.
That said, there were also shortcomings. LSU didn’t sign a quarterback and only brought in one defensive back for 2018, thinning the team in those key areas.
Let’s take a look at these trends by the numbers and see if we can’t put into context what these strengths and weaknesses might mean for the LSU football team moving forward.
The last time LSU signed 4-plus wide receivers
LSU coach Ed Orgeron instinctively compared Marshall and Chase to Class of 2011 standouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. on National Signing Day. But the more apt comparison might be a pair of 2014 recruits.
Back in 2014, LSU signed four receivers in a class headlined by 5-star receiver Malachi Dupre and 4-star receiver Trey Quinn. Like Marshall and Chase, both Dupre and Quinn were top-15 prospects from Louisiana, one a 5-star and the other a 4-star. And also like Marshall and Chase, Dupre and Quinn overshadowed a receiving class that also brought in two other bodies. In 2014, those were Tony Upchurch and future LSU star DJ Chark. In 2018, those names are Kenan Jones, a 4-star prospect from Berwick, La., and Jaray Jenkins, a 3-star recruit from Jena, La.
If Jones or Jenkins can blossom into the type of player Chark was while Marshall and Chase earn those Landry and Beckham comparisons, this class of receivers could be outstanding.
The last time LSU signed 5-plus defensive tackles
To find the last time LSU signed five or more defensive tackles in a single signing class, you have to go back to the Gerry DiNardo era. DiNardo brought in five defensive tackles in 1998: Kenderick Allen, Byron Dawson, Howard Green, Chad Lavalais and Shaun Wynn. Of that group, Lavalais went on to earn All-America honors in 2003 while Green went on to play nine seasons in the NFL with nine different teams.
LSU’s 2018 haul of Davin Cotton, Chasen Hines, Dare Rosenthal, Nelson Jenkins and Dominic Livingston might not survive this way for long. Chances are one or two of these players will move to defensive end before his career is over. But for now, the search for the next Lavalais is on.
The last time LSU signed a tackle, guard and center the same year
In 2018, LSU signed two tackles, a guard and a center. Les Miles brought in the same configuration of offensive linemen in 2013, the last time the Tigers signed offensive linemen from all three positions in the same class.
Here’s where things get a little fuzzy. The top tackle in the Class of 2013? That was Ethan Pocic, who went on to be an All-America center in 2016. The center in the Class of 2013? That was K.J. Malone, who started at left tackle in 2016-17.
It doesn’t appear as if junior college tackle Badara Traore and freshman center Cole Smith are going to emulate Pocic and Malone in their position swap. But if they do, that’s a mighty strong precedent to be following.
The last time LSU didn’t sign a quarterback
You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time an LSU recruiting class didn’t include a quarterback. The Tigers’ 2012 class included future standouts such as linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive end Danielle Hunter, running back Jeremy Hill and safety Jalen Mills. But no signal caller.
So who did the Tigers whiff on? Well, no one really. The top in-state quarterbacks in 2012 were Justice Jones and D’Shaie Landor. Who, if you’ve heard of them, congratulations on being from the same hometown as a 3-star quarterback recruit from six years ago. And its not as if the rest of the SEC fared much better. The best SEC quarterback to come out of the Class of 2012 was Missouri’s Maty Mauk, who got benched midway through his junior year and was dismissed before his senior season.
If there was ever a year to miss, that was the year.
The last time LSU only signed one defensive back
You don’t earn the moniker “DBU” without some strong defensive back recruiting classes. Which is why you have to go back to 2005 to find the last time LSU recruited a crop of defensive backs as sparse as its 2018 haul.
The only defensive back the Tigers signed in 2005, Miles’ first season as head coach, was safety Chris Hawkins. Hawkins moved to corner, where he started his junior and senior seasons and made 5 interceptions. Though Hawkins was largely overshadowed in ’09 by superstar teammate Patrick Peterson, they both finished the year with 2 interceptions.
Here’s the eerie similarity: Just like Hawkins, 4-star recruit Kelvin Joseph was recruited as a safety but will move to cornerback upon arriving at LSU. Joseph has about half-an-inch and 10 pounds on Hawkins, but if you’re looking for a comparison, it’s staring you right in the face.