Catch up on the other editions of "Positions of Need" at the links below:
PART 1: Wide Receivers
Today's edition will focus on the defensive ends, a position LSU has had to primarily turn out-of-state on the recruiting trail.
Returning in 2015: Danielle Hunter (Sr./Draft-Eligible), Tashawn Bower (Jr.), Lewis Neal (Jr.), Michael Patterson (R-So.), Sione Teuhema (R-Fr./So.), Deondre Clark (R-Fr./So.)
Committed: Isaiah Washington
Top Remaining Targets: Austin Bryant, Kyle Phillips, Rasool Clemons, Keisean Lucier-South, Jonathan Calvin
The spotlight will likely turn to the recruits of 2013 and 2014 at defensive end for the 2015 season. Danielle Hunter (a 2012 signee) would be the most veteran of the group should he return for his fourth season of eligibility, but heading into this season, he's probably one of the more legitimate draft risks on the squad. NFL teams will fall in love with his physical ability should his production match up, and considering he's poised to be LSU's top pass rusher, he'll certainly have the opportunities to impress.
That leaves the focus on guys like Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal, both of which saw playing time as freshmen. Bower especially stood out this past spring, emerging as one of the top DEs behind the two projected starters — Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. But they're both still relatively unproven, as is MJ Patterson, who redshirted in 2013. LSU will expect big jumps from all three of those 2013 signees to see if they're up to the task of carrying the torch by 2015.
Both of the 2014 signees — Sione Teuhema and Deondre Clark — have loads of potential, particularly for their speed off the edge. But they'll likely need some time to grow into the physical demands of the position, meaning a redshirt seems likely this season. Should that be the case, they'll be entering 2015 with their first chances of garnering significant playing time with spots throughout the two-deep up for grabs.
So there could be some serious question marks at DE this time next summer, which makes the Class of 2015 extremely important for the Tigers. They have at least stuck a toe in the JUCO waters, offering Copiah-Lincoln's Johnathan Calvin. He visited LSU in the spring but has since narrowed down his focus to only Auburn and Mississippi State with a decision expected soon.
That turns the attention to the high school ranks, where DL coach Brick Haley has cast a very wide net, targeting top prospects from across the country.
LSU has only offered one Louisiana defensive lineman in the 2015 class, and the Tigers quickly locked him up. Edna Karr's Isaiah Washington committed to LSU back in February, though he continues to say he's still exploring all options. LSU doesn't expect to lose Washington, but they're doing their part to ensure he doesn't search elsewhere for greener pastures.
Coach Haley has turned a lot of his attention out-of-state when it comes to recruiting defensive ends. He has a knack for leaving strong impressions in the little bit of contact he's granted with those kids outside Louisiana, and that typically pays off late in the cycle as LSU always seems to be at least a finalist for those big names.
But LSU's already off to an encouraging start with at least three big-time defensive ends that have already visited Baton Rouge. We'll start with two that visited a few weeks back for the Bayou Picnic.
Headlining that group is Austin Bryant, the No. 28 DE in the country. He made the trip to LSU with his family, and the whole clan came away very impressed with what the Tigers can offer. The LSU side felt equally encouraged with that visit, as Coach Haley spent the majority of that time courting this top prospect from the state of Georgia.
Bryant has mostly kept his recruitment close to the vest, not naming any official leaders or plans to make a commitment. He's said it could really come at any time, and he isn't locked into the notion of waiting to take his officials. So LSU will hope their visit carries a lot of weight as Bryant continues into the recruiting process, and the Tigers certainly have to be considered one of the top teams in contention at this point.
Nashville native Kyle Phillips — the nation's No. 17 DE — also visited for the Bayou Picnic, and he too came away impressed with LSU. He hopes to return for another visit this summer with his family, an encouraging sign for the Tigers. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has been the lead here, and like Haley did with Bryant, he made sure to take full advantage of the personal time he got to spend with Phillips during his visit.
He hasn't narrowed down his recruitment since releasing a Top 10 in April that included LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, Stanford, Florida State and Florida. Phillips has spent a lot of time in Knoxville, and the Vols seem to be an early favorite along with Ole Miss, whom he visited following that trip to Baton Rouge. Phillips does plan to take some officials before deciding, so LSU still has plenty of time to secure their positioning, and they enter the summer feeling confident with where things stand.
Four-star DE Kyle Phillips
Another DE to keep an eye on is three-star Rasool Clemons, who visited for the Spring Game. Ever since the Tigers offered, he's called LSU one of his dream schools growing up, and following that trip in April, he listed the Tigers as his leader. LSU's still high on his list more than two months later, with schools like Florida State, Tennessee and Clemson also in the mix. But that Spring Game visit made a big impression on this 6-foot-6 pass-rusher, so look for the Tigers to be heavily in the mix as he continues through the process.
The biggest goal for LSU moving forward is to get more of these top defensive ends to campus in the coming months. One candidate to do so is California native Keisean Lucier-South, a five-star prospect ranked No. 22 overall. Last week he included the Tigers in his Top 11, along with Oregon, Notre Dame, Florida State, Florida, USC, UCLA, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma.
LSU will also continue to work on prospects like D'Andre Walker, Terry Beckner, Byron Cowart, CeCe Jefferson, Darian Roseboro and Josh Sweat. Some new prospects will certainly emerge as well. Look for in-state names to pop up at July's camp, with Louisiana DEs like Jalen Bates, Joe Anderson and Reggie Walker on the Tigers' radar.
LSU's reputation for producing NFL defensive linemen always seems to get the Tigers' in the door for top prospects. That seems to be the case once again in 2015, but the Tigers will need a big summer and fall to secure another elite class. The opportunities will be there for players to play early, and LSU's hopeful they find the right kind of recruits to do so.