Linebackers headline 2012 class

An NSD pledge from Kwon Alexander gave LSU a 6th LB signee for the 2012 class.

When LSU coach Les Miles addressed the media and then fans at the Baton Rouge River Center on National Signing Day, his summary of LSU's 2012 class was similar.

He focused on addressing needs, and how the Tigers coaches had done that successfully.

With a quick glance at LSU's 22 signees, the addition of six linebackers tells the tale of what position the staff wanted to add depth at the most.

"We have recruited linebackers, but we really have not had a banner crop of linebackers," Miles said. "We graduated three guys (Ryan Baker, Karnell Hatcher, Stefoin Francois) that played a majority of our snaps."

The Tigers signed Trevon Randle in 2011, but the former four-star prospect has since transferred to Houston. In 2010, LSU signed three outside linebacker prospects in Luke Muncie, D.J. Welter and Justin Maclin, and Maclin has since been moved to defensive end.

That means the brunt of the responsibility will be on either the 2009 class or this new crop of incoming Tigers.

In 2009, the Tigers signed four linebacker prospects: Kevin Minter, Lamin Barrow, Tahj Jones and Barkevious Mingo – who, like Maclin, dropped to defensive end shortly after arriving to campus. Minter, Barrow and Jones are arguably the three most likely candidates for the starting linebacker spots.

But before attempting to predict their roles down the road, how much impact can the six linebacker signees from 2012 have next fall?

"These are guys that will play special teams and have great speed on the field, and frankly, will be the youth as we go to replenish that linebacker corps," Miles said.

When asked which linebacker signees he figured to step in and help immediately on defense, Miles singled out 6-foot-2, 210-pounder Kwon Alexander and 6-2, 215-pounder Lorenzo Phillips.

"I think Kwon Alexander has great speed and Lorenzo Phillips has the ability to do that as well," Miles said. "(Alexander) was one of the fastest, most athletic men that we saw on film. We were really happy he joined.

"(Phillips) is a very talented guy from right here in Louisiana who uses his hands extremely well."

Though a National Signing Day shocker sent longtime LSU commitment and Shreveport native Torshiro Davis from the Tigers to the Texas Longhorns, the blow was softened through the addition of Alexander – the nation's No. 3-ranked outside linebacker prospect. The Oxford, Ala., native committed to the Tigers on national television shortly before Davis announced his decision to sign with Texas.

Though Miles is a big fan, Alexander's chances of playing early largely hinge on his health. In late September, Alexander had season-ending surgery for a torn ACL, and he hasn't seen contact since.

The injury caused Alabama to move beyond Alexander, though other SEC programs, Auburn and LSU included, continued to press Alexander - who entered the 2011 season as the No. 1-ranked outside linebacker prospect in the country. In the end, Alexander said the LSU staff's interest seemed most sincere, which helped push the Alabama star outside the state for college.

The same fate found fellow signee Trey Granier.

Granier suffered a grade two MCL sprain on Sep. 27 that sidelined him for all of Thibodaux's season, meaning a likely redshirt before a future competing for reps on the inside.

"Trey is a prototype (middle) linebacker," Miles said.

Jesuit linebacker Deion Jones took quite the opposite route to signing with LSU.

Once committed to Nebraska, Jones shot to the forefront of the conversation with a breakout senior season, helping lead Jesuit to the 5A quarterfinals. Miles offered Jones a scholarship on Nov. 20, and by Dec. 2 Jones was committed to the Tigers.

"Deion has great speed to the ball and is a very, very physical linebacker," Miles said.

The aforementioned signees don't have the same luxury as Breaux Bridge's Lamar Louis and West St. John's Ronnie Feist. Both enrolled in January, which equates to a five-month head start on the other signees in the 2012 class.

Miles praised both Feist and Louis for their speed, a common theme from the head man when discussing a position that ultimately came to represent 27% of LSU's signing class.

"(Louis) played tailback and has great speed," Miles said. "That answers a real question (at linebacker). I think this class of linebackers are talented and have great foot speed.

"I think that's an advantage for us going forward."

In a state that, prior to this year, hadn't produced a top-10 linebacker prospect since Penn State signee Michael Mauti in 2008, Miles and Co. were able to strike rich on five Louisiana linebackers with multiple SEC offers, which then allowed a concerted effort on just one out-of-state prospect in Alexander.

"Year in and year out in this state, this is the best linebacker class that I have seen," Miles said. "The opportunity to recruit a great class there is just what this football team needed."

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