Grading the class: 2012

Shea Dixon gives his position-by-position grade of LSU's signing class.

Despite a down year talent-wise in Louisiana, LSU finished with the No. 7 signing class in the country - good for third in the SEC.

Here is a position-by-position breakdown on how things shook out in Baton Rouge.

Position: Quarterback

Grade: B

Signed: Jeremy Liggins (6-4, 280)

Analysis: There's no denying that keeping Gunner Kiel – the nation's No. 1-ranked quarterback prospect — would likely have provided a more significant cushion behind Zach Mettenberger, the presumed starter for the next two seasons.

But landing Liggins out of Oxford, Miss., is a nice coup for the staff, and he could bring a Rohan Davey-type approach to the position if things pan out as planned.

Still, questions remain whether the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder will stick at quarterback or move to the defensive line, where some analysts feel his athleticism will be best suited.

With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee gone from the program, and only Liggins, Mettenberger and redshirt freshmen Jerrard Randall and Stephen Rivers on scholarship, LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe will most likely go for one of the nation's top-ranked pocket passers in the 2013 class.

Position: Running back

Grade: A

Signed: Jeremy Hill (6-1, 230)

Analysis: LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson returns five running backs that all saw action in 2011, meaning it wasn't a priority to sign a tailback in the 2012 class.

But there's also no reason to turn away Jeremy Hill, a Baton Rouge native who missed out on signing with the Tigers in 2011 as a result of trouble off the field.

With his legal troubles settled, Hill got back into the picture with LSU, and he showed up for early enrollment in January at 6-1 and 230 pounds, which Hill called the best shape of his life.

Despite a crowded backfield, don't expect Wilson to put a redshirt on a four-star running back that has already been away from football for a season. Hill's future in purple-and-gold should begin next September.

Position: Wide receiver

Grade: B

Signed: Avery Johnson (6-2, 185), Travin Dural (6-2, 180), Kavahra Holmes (6-1, 175)

Analysis: The best way to describe this group is speed.

Holmes is the reigning state champion in the 400 meters, and his winning mark of 46.3 seconds was once good for best in the nation.

Dural, Holmes' high school teammate at Breaux Bridge, earned Class 4A All-State honors with 45 catches for 902 yards and 19 touchdowns, a breakout season that catapulted Dural to the front of the conversation of early playing time.

Johnson, an Under Armour All-American and the younger brother of former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, is the true possession receiver of the group.

While the staff hoped to soften the blow of Rueben Randle by going after a taller, deep-threat receiver like Hutchinson Community College five-star prospect Cordarrelle Patterson, landing Dural, Holmes and Johnson at least brings a different style of player than crop of wide receivers on the current roster.

Position: Offensive line and tight ends

Grade: B+

Signed: Derek Edinburgh (6-7, 320), Jerald Hawkins (6-6, 280), Vadal Alexander (6-6, 310), Dillon Gordon (6-2, 250)

Still waiting on: John Thomas (6-5, 245)

Analysis: In terms of addressing needs, LSU needed to stock up on offensive lineman and tight ends, and they did just that with the addition of four prospects – and the potential of a fifth signee.

Edinburgh and Hawkins represent Louisiana's top two offensive linemen for the 2012 class, and landing Alexander – a four-star and the nation's No. 11-ranked offensive guard – proved the staff could go into nearby states and pull away top-flight talent.

With Louisiana's top three tight end prospects for 2013 – Barbe's Desean Smith, Karr's Standish Dobard and Patterson's Deondre Skinner – all pass-catching prospects, the staff stocked up on heavier tight ends in 2012, grabbing a blocking tight end in Gordon and having the potential to add a heavier, dual-threat tight end in Thomas, who is expected to sign in April if his academics are in order.

Position: Defensive line

Grade: C

Signed: Danielle Hunter (6-4, 230)

Analysis: Hunter is one of the top prospects out of Texas, and his impact should be similar to that of Barkevious Mingo – an explosive pass rusher who will rely on speed to beat the opposition.

Despite graduating a starter in Ken Adams and losing a starter to the NFL Draft in Michael Brockers, the Tigers didn't sign another prospect on the defensive line, meaning this recruiting class – in a year when the Tigers will graduate three linemen and could lose Sam Montgomery to the NFL Draft – should be heavy on the big men in the trenches.

Three in-state 2013 prospects all hold scholarship offers from LSU: University High defensive end Tim Williams, East Feliciana defensive end Kendell Beckwith and Denham Spring defensive tackle Tevin Lawson.

Position: Linebacker

Grade: A+

Signed: Kwon Alexander (6-2, 210), Lorenzo Phillips (6-2, 210), Ronnie Feist (6-1, 210), Lamar Louis (6-0, 220), Deion Jones (6-2, 210), Trey Granier (6-1, 225)

Analysis: Linebacker is the jewel of the 2012 class.

Where to begin?

Six linebackers signed on with the Tigers, and two – Louis and Feist – are already enrolled at LSU and will participate in spring practice.

Alexander, Phillips and Jones, the three prospects with arguably the best chance of getting onto the field next fall, will arrive to campus and begin workouts in June.

Much like with the crop of wide receivers, the linebackers can best be defined by speed. On National Signing Day, Miles singled out Alexander and Phillips for their ability to fly to the ball, which Miles said should help push them to the field early.

With three senior linebackers gone from the 2011 team and a slew of unproven younger linebackers now in the fold, defensive coordinator John Chavis will likely give these six freshmen a chance to compete for playing time during camp next fall.

Position: Defensive backs

Grade: B+

Signed: Corey Thompson (6-2, 210), Jerqwinick Sandolph (6-1, 190), Derrick Raymond (6-0, 166), Dwayne Thomas (6-1, 175), Jalen Mills (6-0, 180)

Analysis: Again, this position is one the Tigers filled with speed, specifically at cornerback.

Raymond is the reigning 100- and 200-meter champion in Louisiana, and given he has played just one year of high school football, his ceiling is figured to be highest among all the incoming defensive backs.

Both Thomas and Mills also possess top-flight speed (4.5), but bring a more physical approach at the line than Raymond.

Given Landon Collins signed with Alabama, the addition of Thompson at safety was a pleasant 11th-hour surprise. One of the most physical signees in the class, Thompson is a strong safety who, because of size and abilities, could see the field as early as next fall.

Position: Special teams

Grade: A+

Signed: Reid Ferguson (6-2, 235)

Analysis: For three seasons, Joey Crappell gave the Tigers a reliable long snapper without having to spend a scholarship.

Now LSU will invest in the position, and the staff went out and landed Ferguson, Alexander's teammate at Buford High.

Ferguson, the No. 2-ranked long snapper prospect, enrolled in January and will begin preparation this spring for a starting job.

In the return game, keep an eye on Dural, who could emerge from the wide receivers and defensive backs as the go-to return specialist from the 2012 class.

Overall grade: B+

Analysis: The Tigers addressed needs on both sides of the ball, and were able to enroll five prospects in time for the spring semester.

The staff finished with 10 signees from the Scout 300, and LSU coach Les Miles kept 14 of Louisiana's top prospects in state.

At the same time, losing the state's top two prospects - Landon Collins and Torshiro Davis - leaves a sting. Same goes for Kiel, and in turn one-time commitment Patrick Miller.

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