Grading the 2013 defensive class

With LSU bringing in 14 new defensive players on National Signing Day, how do the positions grade out for John Chavis? And which players have a chance to make an immediate impact for the Tigers?

LSU's Class of 2013, finalized yesterday, brings with it to Baton Rouge another elite crop of defenders. Fourteen of the 25 players who signed National Letters of Intent are slated to play on that side of the ball, with half of that number projected to end up on the defensive line.

Today TSD will grade out the defensive class of '13, tabbing those players who have a chance to see the field right away and examining where the Tigers got strongest with the latest recruiting haul.

Defensive End
Added: Tashawn Bower, Frank Herron, Lewis Neal, Michael Patterson

If the Class of 2012 will go down as the year of the speedy linebacker for LSU, the follow-up act is shaping up as the year Brick Haley restocked his front four. Nowhere was that more evident than at defensive end, where the Tigers bring in four talented players with size and quickness to backfill for the losses of Lavar Edwards, KeKe Mingo and Sam Montgomery.

Bower and Herron bring the most potential of the four incoming ends, but Neal has long been one of the truly underrated players in this class. The fact remains that after Jermauria Rasco, Danielle Hunter and Jordan Allen (assuming Allen gets back to full strength), there's going to be a true freshman who breaks into the rotation at defensive end. Should an injury strike or Allen struggle to come back from his knee injury, there may be two.

None of these guys will be on campus as an early enrollee, but it's a safe bet that they'll all be thrown into the mix quickly during Fall Camp and learning curves will have to be thrown aside. LSU needed its next batch of pass rushers in this class, and the Tigers got them. And, with the possibility for Kendell Beckwith to end up with a hand on the ground before it's all said and done, this could eventually be viewed as LSU's best DE coup since the vaunted 2001 superclass.

Grade: A

Defensive Tackle
Added: Maquedius Bain, Greg Gilmore, Christian Lacouture

The immediate need at defensive tackle isn't quite as obvious as it is at end for LSU in 2013, but it's pretty darn close. With Bennie Logan, Josh Downs and versatile backup Chancey Aghayere gone, the Tigers had to add talented bodies. They did. The trio of Bain, Gilmore and LaCouture gives LSU three out-of-state stud DTs all ranked four stars or higher by Scout.

Gilmore enters as the headliner, bumped up to a fifth star after a tremendous showing during Under Armour week, but Bain and LaCouture each have considerable size and accolades of their own. All three players stand around 6-4 or 6-5 and come in adding to those frames by weighing between 275 and 290 pounds. And LaCouture is the only defensive player in this class who's already on campus as an early enrollee. Look for he or Gilmore to join the two-deep once Fall Camp begins.

There may only be three players at tackle, instead of four at end, but the average quality of the trio is too high to ignore. For my money, this is where LSU improved the most right away and into the future of any position on either side of the ball.

Grade: A+

Outside Linebacker
Added: Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley

When you follow a class that features six signed linebackers, it goes without saying there will be at least a mild drop-off the following year at the position. It's just not as much of a need. But, in Beckwith (who might just be the best player in the state) and Riley, John Chavis did add quality to the mix, not just more bodies. Oh, and speed, too.

In fact, that's one of the most interesting things about this duo of signees. It's easy to see Riley, with his speed, having a shot at playing safety before his LSU career's done. Les Miles even hinted as much at his press conference yesterday. Then there's Beckwith, who would seem a perfect fit as a rush end for the Tigers.

So, while neither player may end up where LSU recruited them to play originally, both players are very talented and bring more speed to Chavis' system, which is predicated on it as a means of wreaking havoc.

Grade: B-

Middle Linebacker
Added: Melvin Jones

That same '12 class of linebackers that was so stout is also proving to be more versatile than many thought. Of the six recruited players, five were seen as outside ‘backer types, with Trey Granier being the only exception. Well, fast-forward a year, and already there's talk of Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis cross-training on the inside to help backfill for the loss of All-SEC performer Kevin Minter.

That would make the necessity to get another run-clogging Mike linebacker in 2013 a little less urgent. And the staff's approach to recruiting that position reflected as much. Only one player, Jones, was brought in, and even that guy could end up on the D-Line if he doesn't scale back the pound-padding (Jones is currently listed at 245 pounds by LSU).

Jones has drawn comparisons from some to former South Carolina defender Melvin Ingram, a player able to line up at middle linebacker and also along the Gamecocks' line. He is a nice talent, to be certain, but there is still an element of uncertainty as to where he'll fit in for LSU.

Grade: C

Added: Jeryl Brazil, Rickey Jefferson, Rashard Robinson, Tre'Davious White

The Tigers were able to scoop up an incredible amount of athleticism with this year's signees at cornerback. Many will point to the defensive line as the hallmark of the 2013 class, and with good reason, but there's a legitimate chance these guys could be as much or more celebrated by the time their stay in TigerTown is done.

White is the leader of the pack and already being penciled in as the team's third corner in 2013 long before he even steps on campus. The comparisons to Mo Claiborne are endless. White, for me, is also the biggest challenger to Beckwith for the title of Louisiana's top prospect this year. Then there's Brazil, an absolute burner who will have an immediate chance to play on special teams.

Jefferson, a multi-talented player who Miles indicated could try his hand at some safety too, was once seen as the top in-state receiver in 2013. And Robinson, at 6-2, gives the LSU secondary its next tall corner, something the Tigers have flourished with in recent years.

The future is very bright at corner for LSU.

Grade: A

Added: None

The last line of defense didn't technically add anybody in 2013 despite the loss of three-year player Eric Reid and the impending loss of Craig Loston next offseason. It wasn't for lack of trying. The Tigers did secure a commitment from Jeremy Cutrer, but the Sumner athlete looks destined for JuCo with an ACT score that just doesn't align with being able to sign at LSU.

Now, the possibility does exist that a guy like Riley or Jefferson could end up here, but for now, the grade and prognosis at safety can only be seen as incomplete.

Grade: Incomplete

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