So with that in mind, let’s go back in time and examine LSU’s 2012 signing class. The Tigers signed 24 players that year, with a dozen four-star prospects but only one player ranked in the Top 100. LSU’s class that year finished sixth in the national team rankings, third in the SEC behind No. 2 Alabama and No. 5 Florida.
From that class, three players are either already in the NFL or will be taken in the upcoming draft. 10 players started at least one game for the Tigers this past season. But not all was positive with this class. Seven high school signees in 2012 either never made it to LSU or have since left the program.
So let’s look back at each 2012 signee, detail their career and evaluate how they lived up to their recruiting rankings.
OFF TO THE NFL
Jeremy Hill (4-star, No. 11 RB - 2011) – Hill was first a member of the 2011 class but had to delay his enrollment to 2012 because of legal woes. He only spent two years with the Tigers, but he left as one of the top RBs in school history. He finished with 2,156 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns, both marks put him in the Top 11 of the program record book. He left for the NFL with two seasons of eligibility and was one of the top running backs in the league this past season.
Danielle Hunter (4-star, No. 14 DE) – Hunter played in all but one game through three seasons before opting to head for the NFL. He started 23 games in 2013 and 2014, including all 13 last season. He tied for third on the team in 2014 with 73 total tackles and he finished with 4.5 sacks in his three-year career.
Kwon Alexander (4-star, No. 3 OLB) – Alexander entered the starting lineup as a freshman, making a pair of starts before suffering a season-ending injury. He was a steady presence in LSU’s defense the rest of his career, starting all but one game this past season — his last one with LSU. He led the team with 90 total tackles in 2014, and he tied for second with 7.5 tackles for loss. He finished his career with 156 total tackles.
Vadal Alexander (4-star, No. 11 OG) – Alexander’s been a regular fixture on LSU’s offensive through all three years of his career. He’s played in all but one game with 34 starts, beginning his career as a right tackle before spending the last two years as a left guard. Alexander will have a chance to move back to RT for 2015 as he looks to position himself as a high draft pick next year.
Jerald Hawkins (3-star, No. 38 OT) – After a redshirt year in 2012, Hawkins has started all 26 games at right tackle the last two seasons. He’s the first in line to replace La’El Collins at left tackle in 2015, and like Vadal Alexander, is hoping to boost his draft stock after opting to return for another year.
Jalen Mills (3-star, No. 34 CB) – Mills has exceeded his three-star rating, starting all 39 games of his LSU career. He began as a corner but moved to safety last season, where he’ll likely finish his career in 2015. Mills has six career interceptions and 188 total tackles.
Travin Dural (3-star, No. 99 WR) – Dural came in with a relatively low rating but was highly regarded by the coaches entering 2012. A preseason injury left him sidelined for his entire freshman year, and he only caught seven passes in 2013 behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. He took advantage of a bigger role in 2014, hauling in 37 passes for 758 yards and seven touchdowns. He’ll be the No. 1 receiver once again heading into 2015.
Dwayne Thomas (4-star, No. 23 CB) – Thomas doesn’t have any career starts, but he has played a key role in LSU’s defense. He emerged in the last two seasons as an electric corner in nickel and dime packages, often tasked with getting to the offensive backfield. He has 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks the last two seasons. He has had trouble staying healthy though, suffering season-ending injuries in both 2012 and 2014.
Lamar Louis (3-star, No. 36 OLB) – Louis was pressed into the starting lineup as a freshman, stepping in for injured linebackers ahead of him on the depth chart. He moved to the middle in 2013, serving as a backup to D.J. Welter, then returned to the outside in 2014. He started 10 games last season, but didn’t log a ton of playing time as he was often replace in favor of an extra defensive back.
Dillon Gordon (3-star, No. 15 TE) – Gordon has essentially grown into an extra lineman for the Tigers. He’s started 26 games the last two seasons as a blocking tight end. He did have six catches in 2013, but he didn’t record a reception last year. He played 2014 at 295 pounds, and he’ll figure to resume that blocking role as a senior.
Reid Ferguson (2-star, No. 2 LS) – Ferguson has handled snapping duties through all three years of his LSU career. He’s only registered one bad snap, and that came on his very first one as a Tiger.
Jamie Keehn (Not ranked) – Keehn’s been somewhat inconsistent through his two years as LSU’s punter. But when he’s on, he sure can boot it. He set the school mark in 2014 with an average punt of 44.9 yards. He showed much more consistency toward the end of 2014, so he’s poised for a big 2015.
JURY’S STILL OUT
Deion Jones (3-star, No. 84 OLB) – Jones has had a decent career to this point as a special teamer and reserve linebacker. He has 56 total tackles and a chance to really exceed his recruiting rankings in 2015. He’s the first in line to replace Kwon Alexander in the starting lineup.
Corey Thompson (4-star, No. 15 OLB) – Thompson was seen as the guy that would make up for LSU missing on Landon Collins. He entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, but a knee injury sidelined him late in the season. That injury left him out for all of 2014 as well, so he’ll have to work his way back in the mix in 2015, facing a crowded depth chart at safety.
Avery Peterson (4-star, No. 40 WR) – Peterson signed in 2012 but had to go to a prep school before joining LSU in 2013. An injury held him out for his entire true freshman season, and he only appeared in one game last year. LSU continues to add talented receivers, so Peterson has his work cut out if he wants to work his way onto the field.
Ronnie Feist (4-star, No. 25 OLB) – Feist has only appeared in nine games through his three seasons, most coming on special teams or in garbage time. He has seven total tackles in his career, and seems to be the last in line for the linebacker competition.
NO LONGER ON THE TEAM
Fehoko Fanaika (2-star, JUCO OG) – Fanaika doesn’t necessarily belong with the other players in this category, but his college career has ended after two seasons with the Tigers. He came in as a junior college transfer and was mostly a reserve linemen, though he did get three starts in 2014 before being replaced for Ethan Pocic.
Lorenzo Philips (4-star, No. 24 OLB) – Phillips appeared in nine games in 2013 after redshirting as a freshman. He was one of the headliners for LSU’s loaded class of linebackers, but he left after 2013 because of academic reasons. He transferred to East Mississippi CC and signed with Florida State in the 2015 class.
Trey Granier (3-star, No. 22 MLB) – Granier redshirted in his only season with LSU. Looking at a loaded depth chart at linebacker, Granier opted to transfer to Louisiana-Lafayette, where he made one tackle this past season.
Kavahra Holmes (3-star, No. 105 WR) – The speedy Holmes moved to corner once he got to LSU, redshirted in 2012 and appeared in only game in 2013. He decided to transfer before the 2014 season and ended up at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Jerqwinick Sandolph (3-star, No. 58 S) – Sandolph appeared in 12 games through two seasons with LSU, mostly in a reserve role and on special teams. He decided to transfer to Southeastern Louisiana before the 2014 season.
Derek Edinburgh (4-star, No. 29 OT) – Edinburgh never appeared in a game with LSU. He transferred to Louisiana Tech after two seasons in Baton Rouge.
Derrick Raymond (4-star, No. 13 CB) – Raymond did not see any game action during two seasons with LSU. He transferred to Southeastern Louisiana for 2014.
Jeremy Liggins (3-star, No. 19 QB) – Liggins never made it to LSU, having to go to junior college first. He ended up with Ole Miss, where the 300-pounder played wildcat quarterback and tight end. He’s now set to play offensive tackle for the Rebels in 2015.