The early hours of National Signing Day didn't go the way LSU fans had hoped.
Moments before No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche announced his long-expected signing with Ole Miss, rumblings started to emerge that LSU's other uncommitted target had decided to go elsewhere. Reports started to leak out before 6:30 a.m. that Tashawn Bower had already sent a National Letter of Intent to Florida, despite his scheduled announcement time two hours later.
Bower quickly dispelled those rumors on Twitter, though most considered he was only trying to preserve the suspense of his decision. But as the hours passed and no official word had been made from any of the parties involved, some started to speculate that surefire signing wasn't so certain after all.
Then came the rumors that Bower would sign with LSU instead. More time passed before a picture emerged on Twitter of Bower donning a purple and gold hat at his high school ceremony.
A short while later, the announcement was made official — LSU had flipped Bower.
"I think that at the end of the day, this whole thing is about relationships and I think that's what I have," Bower told Scout's Brian Dohn. "I think it's a great opportunity to compete and play early. I thought I could be successful there, and that was really the hardest thing, deciding which was best. Florida and LSU was neck-and-neck with that.
"I can't really say what a deciding factor was, other than when you know, you know."
What exactly led Bower to spurn Florida for LSU will likely be a topic debated for years to come. Only he knows the full story behind it, but either way you slice it, Les Miles couldn't have been more excited by the late addition to his 2013 class that finished the day ranked sixth in the nation.
"There are things that happen in recruiting that are better left unexplained," Miles said. "He ran into a very awkward situation at best. He did the right thing, and he stepped back to give it a little more thought...The final piece was another example that LSU is going to be there for him."
Once the initial shock wore off a bit, fans were able to realize where Bower fit into an already stellar defensive line class. LSU signed seven defensive linemen on Wednesday, a necessary number as the Tigers lost six members of that unit from last year's team.
Even though that group already had four-star prospects like Frank Herron and Christian Lacouture, and a five-star recruit in Greg Gilmore, Miles didn't hesitate to heap the praise on Bower.
"It was a tremendous get," Miles said. "I don't know that I would have felt as good about this class had we not gotten Tashawn."
All the fireworks that surrounded Bower's signing appeared to be the exception though, as the rest of LSU's signing day went off without a hitch. The Tigers received National Letters of Intent from every commit expected to sign, and the final class was completed before noon.
Fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief as two prospects that took official visits to other programs the final weekend before NSD — Herron and Josh Boutte — were some of the first to fax in their NLI.
The rest of the class addressed about every need LSU had. Miles later mentioned the importance of adding players to both the offensive and defensive lines, a group he hailed as one of the best he's ever reeled in at LSU.
Next came wide receiver, where LSU added four players all taller than six-feet, a group that has the potential to contribute immediately to a passing game that desperately needed tall receivers in 2012. LSU also brought more talent into the secondary, with players like Tre'Davious White that could see the field next season.
The Tigers even signed a pair of quarterbacks that have already enrolled on campus, two players that should give fans an optimistic outlook at the future of that position.
"This is a highly ranked class, but more importantly it's one that meets our needs." Miles said. "I think it has quality and players with good character and integrity. The quality of people [in this class] are such that they will want to compete for championships. I would say that this is as strong of a class that we've signed."
Some will hope the recruiting class isn't finished. Priest Willis did not sign a NLI on Wednesday, as expected, giving LSU fans hope the staff can pull off another late flip. But Willis did tell Fox Sports Arizona he still plans to sign with UCLA once his mother returns home. The recruitniks will still continue to speculate until his signature hits the page.
But if that doesn't happen, LSU fans can still take solace in the quality of the 2013 class.
"We had a very quality recruiting season and it ended with a great signing day," Miles said. "Any time that you are successful in recruiting, it's because of the efforts of many people… That is the reason that this recruiting class has assembled a quality group of men."
LSU signs No. 6 class in the nation
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