After LSU signed three quarterbacks - junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger, Alabama gunslinger Stephen Rivers and Florida prep star Jerrard Randall – in 2011, the class of 2012 remains without a passer just two months away from National Signing Day.
With 21 prospects already committed, the LSU staff remains in the hunt for a handful of top-ranked national prospects on both sides of the ball.
Here is a look at four quarterbacks that could be in play for the Tigers down the stretch:
Height/Weight/40 time: 6-4, 215, 4.65
Home: Columbus, Ind.
Ranking: 5-star, No. 1 QB
Pros: Kiel, a true pocket passer with great size, fits in perfectly with LSU’s pro-style attack. He can make most throws with ease and has excellent accuracy and field vision. It can be argued that this is a down year nationally at the quarterback spot, but Kiel is one of the elite passers.
Cons: LSU coach Les Miles likes his quarterbacks to have a little mobility – and if not, Miles will play a second quarterback who can create with his legs. Kiel has great feet in the pocket and can move when it breaks down, but he’s not going to be categorized as a dual-threat quarterback any time soon. And for a pocket passer, Kiel doesn’t have the same arm strength that many No. 1-ranked prospects have had in recent years.
Outlook: Kiel was committed to Indiana from July 27 to Oct. 21, but he won’t be going back to the Hoosiers – where big brother, Dusty, plays his college ball. It appears to be down to Notre Dame, LSU and Vanderbilt, and those close to Kiel’s recruitment say the home-state Irish are the team to beat. Kiel visited South Bend the weekend after he dropped Indiana, then visited Vanderbilt and LSU a month later. Kiel was in Baton Rouge for the Arkansas game and an official visit the next week – and his parents joined him both times. This weekend, Kiel and his family will return to the Notre Dame campus for his official visit. Kiel is an early-enrollee, so a decision will come during the month of December.
Height/Weight/40 time: 6-4, 190, 4.5
Home: Bessemer, Ala.
Ranking: 5-star, No. 2 QB
Pros: Winston, who stars on the football field and baseball diamond at Hueytown, is a born leader, and his coaches say all Winston’s teammates respond to him as such. With good size and quick feet, Winston is widely considered the top dual-threat quarterback in the country – followed by prospects like Cyler Miles, Matt Davis and Anthony Alford. Just don’t sleep on him as a passer. Winston has good arm strength, makes good decisions and has a better pocket presence than the traditional dual-threat passer.
Cons: While Winston can make a decision and get the ball out of his hands quickly, he’s not always the most accurate passer. That will need to improve if he takes his game to the college level – meaning if Winston passes up on the chance to jump into baseball when he is selected in June’s Major League Baseball Draft.
Outlook: There are a couple of battles LSU must fight here. First, Winston is one of the nation’s top baseball prospects, and there has always been chatter that the Alabama native would skip college altogether. Two, Winston has been committed to Florida State since Aug. 3. He has tripped to LSU (Oct. 21) and Alabama (Dec. 2) for official visits, and trips to Auburn, Ohio State, Stanford and Florida are still on tap. Unlike Kiel, Winston graduates in May, so he could take his decision down to the first Wednesday in February.
Height/Weight/40 time: 6-4, 260, 4.6
Home: Oxford, Miss.
Ranking: 3-star, No. 32 QB
Pros: Don’t be fooled by the fact that Liggins carries 260 pounds – and sometimes more. The big man is an excellent athlete who can both run over defenders and make them miss, and Lafayette High often runs the read-option because of it. When he stays in the pocket, Liggins sees the field well and makes quick decisions with the football, forcing defenses to stay honest against the pass even when Liggins is eating up yards on the ground.
Cons: Liggins is probably the least accurate passer among LSU’s top targets, and he doesn’t have the polished technique that many of the nation’s elite quarterbacks possess. At this summer’s LSU camp, Liggins was wildly inconsistent, leaving some analysts wondering if he belonged on the defensive line in college – especially if he continues to grow physically.
Outlook: Some schools like Liggins as their quarterback, while others want him on the defensive line. As far as LSU is concerned, Liggins is a passer - and can hopefully continue in the line of bigger quarterbacks like Rohan Davey and JaMarcus Russell who found success in purple-and-gold. Liggins didn’t make an LSU game in Baton Rouge, but did see the Tigers win in Starkville and Tuscaloosa. His most recent official visit was to Auburn on Nov. 26. In late October, Liggins told Scout.com’s Yancy Porter that the Tigers and Crimson Tide were his leaders, followed closely by Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Georgia. Expect official visits to come in January. Even more important might be how new Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze handles the recruitment of Liggins. If Freeze goes all in, it might be too much for the Tigers to pull Liggins out of Oxford.
Height/Weight/40 time: 6-1, 210, 4.5
Home: Petal, Miss.
Ranking: 4-star, No. 13 QB
Pros: Though he lacks the size of Winston and Liggins, Alford also fits into the mold of a dual-threat quarterback. Often the best athlete on the field, Alford is shifty with the ball in his hands and is always a threat to break a run for a touchdown. In the pocket, Alford flashes his baseball background with a strong arm and ability to connect on the deep ball.
Cons: Alford is more of an athlete than a quarterback, and that’s how LSU approached the Mississippi prospect with his scholarship offer. If he chooses to forgo professional baseball and play two sports in college, Alford will need to clean up his accuracy and technique if he hopes to stay at the quarterback position. If not, he could try out other positions like receiver or defensive back.
Outlook: Like Winston, Alford could well never step on a college football field thanks to the MLB Draft. But if Alford does head to college, there’s a good chance it will be LSU – which he has long called his childhood favorite and dream school, a place where he would have the opportunity to compete for championships immediately in both baseball and football. Alford has already visited Nebraska and LSU and has trips planned to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss. Next weekend he will be back in Baton Rouge on an official visit.