Addressing needs

LSU coach Les Miles and his coaching staff hauled in one of the best recruiting classes in college football on Wednesday as the Tigers signed 25 players in what could be considered one of the strongest groups in school history.

Of LSU’s 25 signees, eight members were on the 100, five were named to the prestigious Parade Magazine All-America squad, while six were named All-Americans by USA Today.


LSU’s class is currently ranked No. 2 in the Team Rankings and if Janzen Jackson signs with the Tigers today at 9 a.m. at Barbe High School, there is a good chance LSU will finish No. 1 in the country.


“I think that this class answered our needs,” Miles said. “It’s nice to be complimented by being ranked number one in the country. Certainly we see this class as a class that we must develop; that we must improve; that we must challenge; we must make it bigger, faster, stronger and more technically competent.


“I’m probably most excited about the character of these men. I don’t really look at how the rankings fare because I feel like the old cliché is two or three years from now you’ll find out how good they were or were not. I see them as guys that will do very well in the classroom and guys that will represent this school very well off the field.”


Six members of the 2009 signing class have already enrolled at LSU, a group that includes all-everything quarterback Russell Shepard. Shepard is concerned the top dual-threat quarterback prospect in this year’s class. He finished his high school career with more than 8,000 yards of total offense and 98 touchdowns. He accounted for nearly 4,000 yards and 48 TDs as a senior.


Miles added a perfect complement to Shepard in one of the top dropback passers in the South in Chris Garrett, and University High product Barrett Bailey may also join the mix as a walk-on.


“At quarterback, it’s well documented that we needed to have a great quarterback class and that certainly will be a need filled,” Miles said.


Other early enrollees for the Tigers include running back Drayton Calhoun, quarterback Chris Garrett, linebacker Kevin Minter, defensive back Rockey Duplessis and junior college punter Derek Helton.


Other highlights of the class include Bastrop High School wide receiver Rueben Randle, who is widely considered the nation’s top prospect at his position. Randle, who played quarterback as a senior in 2008, recorded 2,461 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air, while rushing for 683 yards and 12 scores. He is considered the top prospect in Louisiana.


Michael Ford, a running back from Leesville, La., comes to LSU after rushing for 2,953 yards and 29 TDs as senior. Ford, who earned both Parade and USA Today All-America honors in 2008, had nine games of 200-yards or better in 2008, including a career-high 443 yards and six TDs in a win over Tioga.


On defense, safety Craig Loston, defensive end Sam Montgomery and defensive tackle Chris Davenport highlighted that group. Loston is considered the nation’s No. 1 safety prospect. He was named to the Parade and USA Today All-America teams.


Montgomery, rated as the No. 7 defensive end prospect by, had 11 sacks as a senior for Greenwood High School. Davenport, a five-star defensive tackle, earned USA Today All-America honors despite playing in just four games as a senior due to an injury. In four games, he still recorded 45 tackles and nine sacks for Mansfield High School.


"We had real needs in the defensive line,” said Miles. “If you look at the number of defensive ends that we graduate, we graduated our top three defensive ends, so we had to replace a position that was key to us to have great defense. We really think we did that.


LSU’s class included 13 players from the state of Louisiana, four from Texas, two from Georgia and one each from Alabama, California, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.


“We do what we can to control this state and we’ve done so very effectively during our tenure here,” Miles said of recruiting Louisiana. “It’s always been our view that ‘in-state first’, but we offer national credentials with our academics; our school is well respected throughout the country, so we have great attraction to those surrounding states and those people that have proximity.”


There were a few players that LSU fans expected to be in this class that signed with other schools on the final day including Kenny Bell, who signed with Alabama, and DeAngelo Benton, who signed with Auburn.


There were some surprises, a shocker, and a couple of disappointment on signing day, but all in all this is the type of class that Miles and his staff feels everone should be excited about.


“Potentially, this is the style of class that competes for championships year after year and people will be attracted to the style of men that we recruited this year,” Miles said. “There will be people that come on our campus and be hosted by them and say, ‘Wow, I want to be around these guys.’ So I’m excited. This is a very good class and one that we’ll look forward to following for years.”


LSU will now turn its attention to spring practice, which starts on March 12. The annual LSU Spring Game is scheduled for April 18 in Tiger Stadium.

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