Early Signing Period primer: LSU needs this No. 4 recruiting class to live up to billing
LSU’s list of recruiting needs has been expanding ever since the Tigers won the national championship 11 months ago.
Now, after early entries into the NFL Draft, opt-outs and transfers the list pretty much includes every position on the team.
LSU doesn’t have enough scholarships to fill all the holes, so it has had to prioritize.
The problem is positions such as wide receiver and tight end have become bigger areas of need in the final weeks and even days leading up to signing day because of late departures by Terrace Marshall Jr. and Arik Gilbert.
The Tigers have a well-regarded group of commitments, but no matter how good this class winds up being, it’s just the first class in a multi-year rebuilding project for the former champions.
Here’s a look at the class ahead of Wednesday’s Early Signing Period, understanding that commitments aren’t official until scholarships are signed.
By the numbers
- Overall rank: No. 4
- SEC rank: No. 3
- 5-stars: 1
- 4-stars: 13
- 3-stars: 5
LSU has just 1 5-star recruit, but it’s No. 4 overall ranking matches that of last year’s class.
Equally important is the consistency that head coach Ed Orgeron and his staff are showing. Orgeron’s first class in 2018 was ranked No. 15, but his class jumped to No. 5 before the back-to-back No. 4s.
Rebuilding from the attrition of 2020 and the challenge of being a perennial contender for SEC and national championships will require annual elite classes and Orgeron is on his way to doing just that.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2021 signing class:
Top player: S, Sage Ryan 5 stars
Ryan will make a big leap from the smallest private-school classifications in Louisiana to the SEC, but he has helped Lafayette Christian be the most successful program in Division IV during his tenure. At 5-11, 195 pounds and very athletic, he can be a versatile defender for the Tigers, whose secondary has played poorly this season.
He can handle safety and corner as well as play in pass coverage and perhaps blitz. He’ll give the Tigers a variety of options as they try to upgrade Bo Pelini’s defense.
Class strength: Wide receiver
LSU had the most productive receiving corps in school history in 2019.
Then Justin Jefferson left early for the NFL. Ja’Marr Chase, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, opted out during the summer. Terrace Marshall Jr., this year’s leading receiver, opted out late last month.
That left the cupboard pretty bare at wide receiver.
The Tigers have commitments from 4 wide receivers – 3 4-star players who each rank among the top 11 WRs in the country, and 1 3-star player.
They need them all.
Class weakness: Offensive line
LSU’s line has been inconsistent this season, and it has been bad more than it has been good. LSU needs help on the line and it needs to drive up its numbers.
It has a commitment from 1 4-star tackle. That’s not enough, not when Alabama has commitments from the No. 1 and No. 2 tackles in the country.
The Tigers have a handful of scholarships left. A few of them need to go to offensive linemen.
Grading the QB class
LSU has a commitment from 4-star quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, son of former NFL quarterback, ex-Alabama offensive coordinator and current Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier.
The Tigers’ quarterback situation is jumbled. Myles Brennan finally got his opportunity this season and played well, matching if not exceeding expectations before sustaining a season-ending injury in the 3rd game of the season.
He has 2 more years of eligibility if he wants it.
In his absence, a couple of former 4-star recruits – TJ Finley and Max Johnson – have played as freshmen. Neither has shown he is ready to be the starter, but neither has shown he is unworthy of significant expectations.
Nussmeier will arrive as No. 4 on the depth chart but could be a factor by the time next fall arrives.
Did they close the borders?
Orgeron has made this a priority and LSU appears headed toward landing the top 4 recruits in Louisiana, and 5 of the top 6.
The Tigers might get just 3 more among the top 20, but they haven’t been beaten for anyone they were determined to get.
Final thought …
LSU needs to do a lot of very good recruiting before it can think about having another season that approaches what 2019 was.
This class represents a very good first step as the wide receivers, defensive backs and linebackers/defensive ends should provide an immediate upgrade.
It appears capable of providing a foundation for the Tigers’ rebuilding project.