The powers-that-be at LSU, particularly those who genuinely wanted head coach Les Miles fired at the end of the 2015 season, better brace for the coming days.
A torrential Miles lovefest, perhaps matching the strength of a standard-fare tropical storm in the South, will be hitting Baton Rouge, La., in the next 72 hours.
According to 247Sports.com, the Tigers currently have the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2016, headlined by at least six Top 100 signees/hard commitments. A lot can change in the next 24 hours, but the last time the program earned this distinction in 2009, LSU enjoyed a subsequent four-year run of one SEC championship, three 10-win campaigns and 43 overall victories.
Throw in the fact that, citing the last eight recruiting seasons (including 2016), LSU boasts seven top-8 national classes (see below) … and it’s easy to see how Miles (one national championship, two SEC crowns, three SEC West titles, 112-32 record since 2005) has few peers among active college coaches — outside of Alabama’s Nick Saban (four national titles with the Crimson Tide, one with LSU) and Urban Meyer (three national championships — two with Florida, one with Ohio State).
LSU NATIONAL RECRUITING RANKINGS SINCE 2009 (247Sports)
2009 — 1st
2010 — 8th
2011 — 8th
2012 — 14th
2013 — 6th
2014 — 2nd
2015 — 6th
2016 — 1st (current ranking)
On the flip side, including the aforementioned Saban’s time running the Tigers program (2000-04), LSU hasn’t endured three straight seasons of nine or fewer wins. But that could all change in the next 10 months, if Miles (17-8 since 2014) fails to reach double-digit victories in 2016.
But don’t expect this to happen. In fact, go ahead and bet the mortgage against such an occurrence: LSU has everything in its favor this fall, suggesting that a 12- or 13-win season is far more likely than nine or 10 victories.
In no particular order …
**LSU tailback Leonard Fournette (1,953 rushing yards, 23 total TDs in 2015) will be a preseason front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, along with Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
**As mentioned above, LSU could own the nation’s top recruiting class.
**LSU will be loaded with talent, depth and size along the defensive line — not unlike Alabama from 2015 (national champions).
**The Tigers lost only two underclassmen to the upcoming NFL draft — cornerback Rashard Robinson and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins.
**The 2016 road slate (including a trip to iconic Lambeau Field) of Wisconsin, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas can be construed as tough, but fair.
**LSU draws Alabama at home, a major advantage for the Tigers since the well-heeled Crimson Tide (minimal early-entry draft losses) could easily carry a No. 1 ranking into November.
**The Tigers have a wealth of experience (and raw talent) at quarterback, with Brandon Harris (2,165 yards passing, 17 total TDs, 54-percent passer in 2015) and Anthony Jennings both garnering playing time in recent years; and if that plan should fall through, LSU can rely on freshmen passers Justin McMillan and/or Lindsey Scott.
Of course, in the Miles tenure (2005-present), only two quarterbacks have reached the attainable seasonal mark of 2,500 yards passing (JaMarcus Russell, Zach Mettenberger); so perhaps we should assume LSU will average 30 points once again (five times since 2010 when rounding up) with or without any developmental breakthrough at the quarterbacking spot.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.