Scouting the SEC: LSU

The Bayou Bengals took advantage of all the opportunities afforded them last year and stepped up when they had to win the big game. The recruiting talents of Nick Saban are starting to take shape as skilled college players are turning into early draft picks come April, a trend will only grow over the next few years.

LSU Tigers

There are several prospects on the offensive side of the ball that could be branded "special" over the next season or so, most all being underclassmen. We start with red-shirt sophomore Michael Clayton, a wide out with nice size that displays the ability to make the difficult catch in a crowd or on the sideline, showing outstanding body control and relatively soft hands. At the same time Clayton is deceptively fast and makes more than his fair share of receptions down the field. He is turning into an eye opener and with Josh Reed now in the NFL Clayton will be looked upon to be the "go-to guy" in the passing offense. If he responds to the call and improves his game Clayton is first round material when he enters the draft. (Note: our error as Clayton is a true sophomore and will not be eligible for the draft next April 8/26). Another sophomore we like a bunch, though we are the first to say its' only by glancing at him, is quarterback Matt Mauck, a nice sized pocket passer with a decent amount of upside if he learns to become a passer. Yet a third underclassmen that may be a high pick is running back LaBrandon Toefield, though there's an asterisk to this story. A big interior runner that moves the pile, Toefield does a fine job following his blocks at the line of scrimmage or down the field and is not a half bad receiver out of the backfield while also being effective blocking for the passing game. After a knee injury late last season we must now wait and see how he responds but if everything checks out Toefield will be highly ranked going into the 2004 draft. The final draft eligible underclassmen on offense we really like is tackle Rodney Reed, an impressive blind side protector that blocks with tremendous fundamentals (to the point where he reminds us of Alan Faneca) and an equal amount of intelligence. Though not the greatest athlete Reed displays a great feel for the position and is a terrific pass blocker. As he matures physically we'd expect his run blocking to improve and though not as tall as many would want in a left tackle, Reed should be able to handle those duties at the next level. The Tigers have several solid senior prospects on offense but none may be first day picks as of now. Thanks to the numbers in the LSU's running attack, Domanick Davis, an explosive, elusive tailback with size and some power may not see the field enough or get a large number of carries if Toefield is healthy. Besides the physical skills and ability to leave defenders grasping for air, Davis displays both instinct and vision carrying the ball. He could turn into a late round gem if he gets overlooked. Receiver Reggie Robinson displayed solid pass catching skills before being sidelined by a neck injury in 2001 and a good campaign this year could move him into the later frames. Receiver Jerel Myers is adequately sized with some quickness and one that breaks the big play on occasion but must really step up as a senior in '02 if he's to get any draft consideration. Rob Sale moves from center to guard as a senior and his versatility coupled with his work ethic should get him into a camp next summer.

The talent on defense it is not all spectacular and may possess only a single first day pick. Linebacker Bradie James made the right choice bypassing last April's draft for a final year of college ball and must now improve his game. James, a fluid and agile defender with a quick, smooth change of direction that makes plays in every angle of the field, displays a good head for the game, reading and anticipating the action but is a little hesitant when the ball is in the air, which concerns us. Though he'll see a lot of action in the middle this year James is better suited for the weak-side, assuming he irons out the rough edges of his pass defense skills. Senior defensive backs Damien James and Norman LeJeune, a corner and safety respectively, will get looks in the later frames (though we feel James stats from '01 exaggerate his abilities).  Junior Chad Lavalais could be a top defensive tackle prospect if he grows into his body and continues to progress. The Tigers have a trio of true sophomores that could turn into outstanding prospects if they develop into football players including center Ben Wilkerson, defensive ends Marcus Spears and Marquis Hill.




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