Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Recruiting Update

Even though we're in a "dead period" doesn't mean nothing is happening. There's still a lot of action on the recruiting front. It's just that the coaches can't really do anything about it because they can't do a lot of calling or visiting.

LSU sits with 21 commitments. It appears we'll probably sign about 27, expecting a couple not to qualify. On this Christmas Morning, it seems appropriate to put together a wish list of possible recruits who could sign with LSU:

Defensive Tackle

Moses McCray of Tampa, Florida is a 4-star projected defensive tackle. He is currently a commitment to Florida State, but the poor season in Tallahassee got him thinking about changing his plans. The massive cheating scandal, which looks like it could result in probation for FSU, got him to change up his MySpace page to deck it out in LSU colors. Word is that he hasn't given his commitment to the LSU coaches, but that he could do so soon. Incidentally, this young man clearly has his priorities in order, as he lists on his "Interests" the following items in the following order: church, money, girls, shoes, clothes, and sports.

I was thinking to myself yesterday before this broke that the one place this classes really needed another player in order to correct possible depth problems was at defensive tackle. We only have one defensive tackle committed to us right now, and he could be moved to offensive line. We lose Dorsey this year, and lose Charles Alexander and Marlon Favorite next year. We signed four defensive tackles last year, but one has already moved to the o-line (Joseph Barksdale). Another (Will Blackwell) could be moved to o-line or to defensive end, and another (Kentravis Aubrey) appears to be a tackle/end hybrid. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a little tackle depth would be appreciated.

Linebacker

4-star linebacker Larentee McCray is another guy in Seminole country who is looking elsewhere at the moment. In looking at his recruiting videos, which are all from his junior year, he seems to be quick, aggressive and a sure tackler. A lot of people think this class really needs a linebacker added to it, but I disagree. We have 3 good linebacker prospects in Ryan Baker, Kellen Theriot, and Kyle Prater. Adding another linebacker is a luxury, and we should only do it if the prospect is really good. McCray looks pretty good, kind of line a young Ali Highsmith, in that he appears to be a good athlete, a sure tackler, and perhaps a little smaller than is typical. If Mr. McCray doesn't want to be a Tiger, I don't see any need to push for another linebacker.

Defensive Back

This is 5-star cornerback Patrick Johnson of Pompano Beach, Florida. His recruitment has been an adventure. He's currently committed to Miami, but has told various recruiting services various things about the status of his commitment. A lot of people think he just tells whoever he's talking to what they want to hear, including coaches. Word was, a month or so ago, he was leaning towards coming to LSU, but maybe not anymore. A lot of people now think he's just playing games and that he'll end up at Miami when it's all said and done.

I've also been told that this kid is a great athlete and, above all, a natural leader. Other athletes gravitate towards his personality and he seems to own whatever room he's in or whatever practice field he is on. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on how he uses this skill. If he uses it to step on the toes of veterans when he gets to campus, it could be trouble. If he just tries to fit in and get along, he will probably ultimately be a team captain in a couple years.

Alternate: This is high-4-star corner T.J. Bryant of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida. Seminole CountryMany who've seen him play think he's just as good as Patrick Johnson, and we probably have a better shot at him than we have at Patrick Johnson, especially with the big scandal going on at FSU right now. You might start seeing some lifeboats paddling away from the S.S. Seminole. I liked our chances before all that, and I like our chances better now.

I don't think we really need a cornerback to fill out this class with Brandon Taylor and Derrick Bryant already aboard, and we probably only have room for one more. I say take whichever of the two wants to commit first and cut ties with the other.

Offensive Line

There are few positions less glamorous, but few more important, than offensive line. It's nice to have great running backs, or great wide receivers, but if you don't have a good offensive line, those backs and receivers won't do much good. If you have the offensive line, even average backs and receivers can be productive. This is Matt Patchan, one of the top rated offensive linemen in the country. He's a 5-star out of Miami, with family ties to the Miami program. He is currently uncommitted, but he's been Miami's to lose all along. There are rumors, however, that they just might have lost him, due to ongoing problems in their program.

I would love to have this kid. He made a splash when he attended Miami's last home game, the last game in the Orange Bowl. After Miami got waxed, Patchan called out the current players in the media, saying that they were not competitors, that they were more interested in where they were going out after the game than they were in the game itself, and that many of them were not the quality athletes Miami needed. The kid is obviously a big Miami fan, which has never been doubted, but he's also a big Miami criticizer, and one wonders if what he saw could make him turn his back on the Hurricanes. I'll believe it when I see it, but I'd take this kid in a heartbeat.

Alternate: This is Antoine McClain of Anniston, Alabama. He is a 4-star rated offensive tackle. His situation is kind of similar to Robby Green's from John Curtis Christian. He's highly rated, but his main home state school has backburnered him for one reason or another. The word from those with inside sources is that Miles and the rest of the coaches have ALWAYS been high on this kid, and consider him to be the best offensive lineman in Alabama, better than a guy currently rated as a 5-star, Tyler Love. I don't know why Bama has him on the back burner, but Auburn is going after him hard.

Quarterback

This is E.J. Manuel, a 5-star quarterback out of Virginia, who announced his commitment to Florida State over the summer. He said it came down to FSU and LSU, with FSU winning out simply because of Jimbo Fisher. With the cheating scandals at FSU and the prospect of probation in FSU's future, maybe he's open to changing his mind, particularly if the rumors of Jimbo Fisher leaving to go to West Virginia end up being true. Current rumors have him staying, however. I don't bet on him having second thoughts, but if he does, that would make our recruiting class. This kid is 6'5", 215# and reportedly runs a 4.6 in the 40 with a cannon arm. That's a prototype for the quarterback of the next 10 years. He's also reportedly a great kid, with a super character and great intelligence. He's the kind of person who would likely be a take even if he was 4 inches shorter and 2 tenths slower and you didn't think he could top out at anything higher than a backup.

Good quarterbacks are worth their weight in gold. No position is more valuable. If a guy like Manuel wants to join your team, you find a way to fit him.

Receivers

This is Tyler Edwards. He is probably the #1 recruit on our board, as a 4-star tight end. I don't think he's the #1 recruit on the board because he's the top prospect available, but rather because, as an undecided Louisiana kid who is seriously considering going to Bama, he would be the biggest loss if we didn't get him. His brother, Eric Edwards, played tight end at LSU, and as everyone points out, Nick Saban was his coach. That relationship apparently was positive, but his family is also very much pro-LSU. We very much want this kid, as he is a receiving tight end, the heir apparent to Richard Dickson, who will be a junior next year.

Rumors are swirling that this kid, 5-star wide receiver DeAngelo Benton, who committed to play for LSU last year but did not qualify academically, is already practicing with LSU. I doubt that is true, because I imagine the rules forbid it unless he has already been approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse, but there is no doubt this kid is coming to LSU once his grades and test scores are in order. Hopefully that will be in time for Spring Practice. Benton has almost the prototype wide receiver body at 6'3" and 210 pounds, which are numbers that are more reliable than usual because they're coming from Hargrave Military Academy rather than from high schools. His semester at prep school has upped his profile, and he ended up getting a 5th star, after being "merely" a high-4-star recruit last year. When he gets to LSU, he will be an ordinary freshman with 5 years to play 4 years of football, but I sincerely doubt he redshirts.

There has been a lot of noise lately that DeAndre Brown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi will probably stay in-state and go to Ole Miss rather than to LSU, where he had reportedly been leaning for quite a long time. There are also rumors that this is a result of shenanigans involving his grades and his prospects of qualifying to enter school as a freshman. Benton is a massive wide receiver, a Mike Williams type at 6'6" and 220 pounds. He's not a speed burner in the Chris Tolliver sense, but he is a pretty respectable runner who easily runs away from the Mississippi high school players, and with his size he'll be a matchup problem for any cornerback or safety. His recruiting videos show him to be a tremendous athlete for his size. He plays wide receiver, running back, defensive back, special teams, and occasionally lines up as quarterback. He takes a lot of screen passes and reverses in his videos and breaks tackles, so he's good with the ball in his hands. If we sign him to go along with our other receiver recruits, and if they all qualify, our receiver corps will be very strong for the next several years.

Ranking these guys is not really a very fruitful exercise in my opinion, because they are not really comparable players. We probably wouldn't take BOTH Patchan and McClain, but we'd probably take either one of them in a heartbeat. But, in the spirit of putting together a ranking, here is mine:
  1. Tyler Edwards: You gotta lock up in-state kids
  2. E.J. Manuel: Great QBs are worth their weights in gold, but he is probably a longshot
  3. Matt Patchan: Great offensive linemen are also worth their weight in gold, or at least they're worth a quarterback's weight in gold.
  4. DeAngelo Benton: A great complement to our current crop of speedy wide receivers, and more polished than is typical of an incoming true freshman because of his season playing for Hargrave Military Academy
  5. Patrick Johnson/T.J. Bryant
  6. Moses McCray
  7. DeAndre Brown
  8. Larentee McCray
LSU is looking at more guys than these, including a couple running backs, but I don't feel qualified at this point to evaluate them. You're stuck with this instead.

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