Extended reach: 11 players from outside Louisiana to impact LSU
Few teams in the Power 5 conferences of college football are as local as the LSU Tigers, who benefit from being the only major program in a talent-rich state.
Why wander too far looking for players when there are so many good ones at home?
But with its annual rankings among the nation’s top teams, LSU also has a wide recruiting reach under Les Miles, and the Tigers will occasionally branch out to find players.
And by branch out, we aren’t talking about the SEC footprint. Yes, LSU does recruit other SEC states well, like neighboring Texas and Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. But the Tigers will also reach out beyond SEC territory to find players who can help the program.
On Tuesday, we looked at players from Louisiana who escaped LSU’s grasp. Now, here are 11 from outside of SEC country who have made an impact as starters for the Tigers during the Miles era:
DT Christian LaCouture (Lincoln, Neb., 2013-): LaCouture moved from Odessa, Texas to Nebraska in high school, so this one almost deserves an asterisk. LaCouture will enter his third season as a starter on the Tigers’ defensive line and will likely head to the NFL.
C Ethan Pocic (Lemont, Ill., 2013-): If there’s one area where Louisiana doesn’t consistently provide blue chip prospects, it’s the offensive line. So it was no surprise that LSU worked hard to land Pocic, one of the top offensive linemen in the 2013 recruiting class. He’s started the last two seasons and enters his senior year as one of the nation’s top centers.
DE Lewis Neal (Wilson, N.C., 2013-): It’s not often that LSU goes to the South Atlantic region to find players, but LSU did just that to find Neal. It paid off last season when, in his first year as a starter, he led the team with eight quarterback sacks.
P Brad Wing and Jamie Keehn (Australia, 2011-15): LSU has scoured not only the country, but the world to find punters under Miles. Wing, who came to Baton Rouge as an exchange student in high school, became something of a cult hero in an All-American freshman season, then departed for the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season. Keehn replaced him as the starter to mixed results.
RB Spencer Ware (Cincinnati, 2010-12): LSU can credit its powerhouse baseball program for an assist with Ware, who was a two-way star coming out of high school. He had his moments on the baseball diamond for the Tigers but wound up concentrating on football, where he rushed for 1,249 yards in three seasons before moving on to the NFL.
P Derek Helton (Hoyt, Kan., 2009-10): LSU always seems to be reaching out to find punters, and in the case of Helton, Miles and his staff went the junior college route to find the two-year starter, who averaged a whopping 45.7 yards per punt his senior year, the second-best average in school history.
OT Joe Barksdale (Detroit, 2007-10): Another example of LSU reaching up north to find an offensive lineman was the signing of Barksdale, one of the nation’s top prep defensive lineman, who LSU converted to offense. The conversion has worked out well. Barksdale was a three-year starter on the offensive line for LSU and is headed for his sixth NFL season.
P Patrick Fisher (Hyattsville, Md., 2004-07): Fisher didn’t start until his senior season, but he made the most of it, earning First-Team All-SEC honors after averaging 44.5 yards per punt.
OT Peter Dyakowski (Vancouver, B.C., 2003-06): Another offensive lineman LSU reached outside of its recruiting wheelhouse to find. Patience paid off for the Canadian, who became the Tigers’ starting right tackle his senior season.
TE David Jones (Silver Springs, Md.. 2002-05): A holdover from the Nick Saban era who played for Miles as a senior, Jones was a starter on LSU’s 2003 national championship team. He also caught 12 passes for Miles’ 2005 team.
More to come?
Senior Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J.) has a good chance at starting at outside linebacker this year for the Tigers. Watch out for redshirt freshman Josh Growden to continue LSU’s Australian pipeline at punter. True freshman Connor Culp (Phoenix, Ariz.) has a chance to be LSU’s kicker of the future.