Closing Strong in 2010

With 29 commitments on board – highlighted by a few final-minute additions – the LSU Tigers finished with the No. 7 ranked class in the country.

The LSU class for 2011 already holds pledges from seven prospects, all of them from Louisiana.

The 2010 class, which wrapped up with National Signing Day on Wednesday, saw a healthy blend of signees from across the map.

“Geographically, we recruited 13 young men out of our state, three out of Texas, three out of Georgia, two out of Florida, two out of Alabama, one from Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland and one from Ohio,” said LSU head coach Les Miles. “I believe our coaches are tireless workers. They are on the road, and they know what they’re looking for. They’re family men, and they represent our school very well.”

After the losses of one-time commitments Mike Davis and Justin Hunter, Miles found himself without any receivers on board – and the month of January was coming to a close.

Over the final two weeks, the LSU headman secured the pledges of in-state receivers Armand Williams and James Wright. Williams, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound prospect out of Slidell, La., flew under the radar through much of his recruitment before picking up a Tiger offer on the final weekend before signing day. Alabama, Tennessee and Texas Tech had recruited Wright, one of the state’s top prospects.

Then came a couple of signing day surprises. Jarrett Fobbs, a 6-foot, 185-pound receiver that had been committed to Texas A&M, became the third Louisiana talent to join the receiver board. Miles swayed the top-50 wide out to Baton Rouge after a late-January official visit.

The work from the coaches on the road, primarily newcomer Billy Gonzales, helped out with the final receiver. Miles and his staff convinced Ocala, Fla. standout Kadron Boone, once committed to Texas Tech, that LSU was the place for him to spend his college years. Once more, the commitment came after Miles brought the prospect in for a visit on the final weekend before signing day.

Boone said that after his visit, he was all-LSU

“I thought Billy really helped us identify the receiving corps very quickly that we could add to the board,” Miles said. “He went back in and went very hard, and I really think he made a difference there.

“In the wide receiver corps, we graduate four guys that were very consistently catching balls for us, and the need for not only a few good players but at least four was there,” he added.

In the backfield, the Tigers picked up three running backs and a fullback. Four-star Spencer Ware, ranked as one of the nation’s top-10 backs, joined the team from Cincinnati, Ohio. The elusive 5-foot-8, 175-pound Jakhari Gore was signed out of Miami, Fla., while Brandon Worle, the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder ranked as one of the top-five fullback prospects, comes on out of LaGrange, Ga. Hahnville High’s Alfred Blue, who was reclassified from the 2011 class into 2010, was the lone in-state name.

“We graduated our top three tailbacks in Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Trindon Holliday,” Miles said. “Ware, Gore and Blue certainly will come in and give us some immediate help right there.

“I think we have a fullback/tight end in Travis Dickson and then Worle, a big back that can easily be a 240-pound fullback. Both men have very good ball skills. They can catch it out of the backfield, and their physical presence will be felt.”

The gem of the group appears to be Ware, a high school quarterback that made a huge splash when he outperformed the running backs at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio this past January.

“[Offensive line coach] Greg Studrawa did a great job of identifying his skill and we invited him out, and it’s very difficult to see on high school film whether or not he could be a tailback,” Miles said. “We knew he could run, we knew he had speed and strength, but can he catch it and do a number of things? When he comes to our camp he does a great job and then goes to the All-Star game and proves that he’s a very valuable tailback.

After locking up Ware last summer, LSU held the four-star prospect until NSD

“So many times guys come to camp, and they do not want to compete,” he added. “Spencer came to that camp, ran every 40 [yard dash], was involved in every drill, competed extremely well and really showed his worth.”

Blocking for Ware in the future could be a number of names from the class, a group led by early enrollee Evan Washington.

“Washington is very talented and has great footwork; 300-pounder, very athletic guy,” Miles said. “In the spring he’s a guy that we’ll certainly have a great look at.

“We took a tight end out of Many, La., named Nic Jacobs, and he’s certainly a big, tall capable man,” Miles added. “He probably [already] has an NFL body. We signed three offensive linemen that are mobile and have size in Elliott Porter, Washington and Cameron Fordham.”

Quarterback Zach Lee, tabbed as one of the nation’s top high school pitchers, closed things out on the offensive side of the ball. Miles said that Lee is probably “the best passer since Matt Flynn” to suit up for LSU.

On the defensive side, the class finished strong on signing day with a pair of newcomers on the line: four-star prospect Ego Ferguson and three-star prospect J.C. Copeland.

Ferguson, who was uncommitted throughout the process, pointed to his relationship with [defensive line] coach [Brick] Haley and Miles as the final selling point. Copeland, a teammate of Worle’s at Troup County High in Georgia, decided on LSU over Tennessee after he visited Baton Rouge for the first time at the end of January.

Pulling J.C. Copeland on signing day helped Miles close the class with a bang

With the loss of four-star tackle Cassius Marsh to UCLA coupled with the preexisting depth issues, the surprise signings of Copeland and Ferguson helped ease the woes significantly.

“We lost three defensive linemen that started or were part-time starters at some point in time last year, and we added Copeland, a 290-pound inside guy, and three quality defensive end prospects in Ken Adams, who is already on campus, Jordan Allen from West Monroe and Ferguson.

“They are a very capable group,” he added. “They have pass rush, they have size and I think they are run defenders. There’s a legitimate chance that those defensive linemen could step on the field [next season].”

At linebacker, LSU picked up three names to help soften the blow of losing seniors Perry Riley, Harry Coleman and Jacob Cutrera.

“When you graduate three starters, you have to have a great class,” Miles said. “I think Justin Maclin from Memphis, Tenn., who is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds with great speed, is probably the best prospect there that gives an on-the-line presence. D.J. Welter, right here in Louisiana from Notre Dame [High School], is in my opinion a tremendous Mike backer, and Luke Muncie, who is 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds and runs a 4.5, is arguably one of the faster, more athletic linebackers we’ve signed.”

Among the defensive backs, a pair of New Orleans natives – cornerbacks Ronnie Vinson and Tyrann Mathieu – joins the Tigers in the first large group of prospects that LSU has pulled from the Big Easy since Hurricane Katrina.

“There seemed to be just a little bit better prospects there now than in the past,” Miles said. “The good news is that it appears there are some good, young prospects down in that city currently that we’ll recruit very hard and very sincerely. I can tell you that we’ll be in that city routinely.”

Reid, one of the best safety prospects in the country, should see action as early as his freshman season

At safety, LSU landed local four-star prospects Eric Reid and Tharold Simon as well as Prattville, Ala. athlete Sam Gibson.

While Reid is destined for defense, Simon and Gibson have shown the ability to play on either side of the ball. While Gibson’s future position appears to be safety, the debate with Simon at wide receiver or defensive back will play out through fall camp.

“We’ll start with him in the secondary,” Miles said. “His film showed that he was a very physical defender, could make tackles. He then split his time in our camp at corner and at receiver. He has great ball skills and great height, and it will be very interesting to see how he develops.”

On special teams, LSU coach Joe Robinson added a handful of names to his arsenal.

“We ran into an Australian punter right here at Parkview Baptist, and we sent coach Robinson over there to see him,” Miles said. “He hit a 70-yard punt that day, and it was a miserable, rainy day with difficult conditions. He had a 41-yard average and averaged about a five second hang time, so we’re improved certainly at that spot.

“And, we think that in this class we’ll replace the Trindon Holliday-Chad Jones return group with Gore, Fobbs and Vinson,” he added.

With 29 on board, one in the wings and a pair of names that could possibly count back, Miles said that he was more than pleased with where his football team stands after the past season on the recruiting trail.

While many wondered if LSU’s stumbles in 2009, primarily offensively, would hinder their chances at closing strong, Miles noted that his players helped ease any worries from prospects and their families.

“I was really concerned that [losing] would affect the momentum in recruiting,” Miles said. “I can tell you that our players really took that into their area of responsibility. They recognized that we’re very, very close to winning a lot of games. They represented that opportunity to these young men on campus. I think we finished well because our players have character, understand what we’re doing and are really proud of their experience.”

Prospects like Jarvis Landry, already a Tiger commitment, make the 2011 class in Louisiana a special one

While the Tigers recruited outside the Louisiana borders hard this past season, Miles – who already has his eyes on 2011 – said that the future would see LSU do their best to stay closer to home.

“It’s a real interesting group because in this state next year, there are probably 15 young juniors right now that we’ve identified that we would like to have already added to this class,” Miles said. “I certainly like the position we are in, in this state with those guys who want to stay and have an opportunity at a great education supported by a very loyal fan base, have their family and friends come see them and play for a national championship.

“I think we’ll always recruit the I-10 corridor from Florida to Houston and Alabama-Mississippi-Texas and into the [Florida] Panhandle,” Miles said. “But the leadership of the team will be those guys that say ‘I want to stay here and win yet another national championship at LSU. Join me.’ It will always be the case that the leadership of our team will be Louisiana-based.”

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