LSU football: How we’ll remember the 2020 recruiting class
LSU has lost a lot of players from its national championship team.
Seven key players ran out of eligibility and another 9 bypassed their remaining eligibility to head to the NFL.
But championship programs are built with the expectations that departures such as those will happen and the more success you have the bigger the number will get.
There can be no offseasons in recruiting. Every year is an opportunity to replenish the talent pool with elite players who are ready to contribute right away, quickly become impact players and perhaps head to the NFL early themselves.
The Tigers’ 2020 recruiting class is ranked No. 4 in the country and it will ultimately be remembered for how close it is able to keep LSU to the standard set by the 2019 team. Wednesday, they’ll attempt to add a few more key pieces. Could it include flipping 5-star DL Jordan Burch?
We’ll know soon enough. Until then, here’s how we’ll remember the 2020 recruiting class.
Lots of linebackers
The Tigers’ top 4 linebackers from 2019 are gone. Michael Divinity Jr. used up his eligibility, and K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen all left early for the NFL.
There are youngsters ready to take on bigger roles, but newcomers will have to be ready to contribute.
Three 4-star recruits are on their way to help – Josh White and Antoine Sampah on the inside and Phillip Webb on the outside.
LSU traditionally plays a lot of nickel defense because of its depth in the secondary and the same figures to be true next season.
Plus, with former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda having gone to Baylor as head coach and Bo Pelini returning to coordinate the Tigers again, there will be more 4-3 than 3-4 next season.
All of that means the linebacking positions are in transition, but if LSU is going to stay on top it will have to play top-flight defense, which requires outstanding linebacking play, which will fall partly on the shoulders of the newcomers.
Defensive line depth
Speaking of Pelini and his scheme, simple math says the Tigers will need more defensive linemen going forward.
Of course edge rushers are often hybrids who might be called ends or linebackers, who might put their hand on the ground or remain standing.
LSU is adding two defensive ends – B.J. Ojulari (4 stars) and Ali Gaye (3 stars) — and four tackles – Jacquelin Roy (4), Jacobian Guillory (4), Eric Taylor (4) and CamRon Jackson (3) – so there’s lots of needed help on the way.
Burch, a 5-star from Columbia, S.C., is the biggest unsigned prize. Most expect him to stick with his South Carolina commitment, but he did visit LSU.
Momentum at wide receiver
The most recent Tigers team transformed the perception of the program’s offense thanks to its record-setting passing game.
Suddenly LSU is a popular destination for top-flight wide receivers. Justin Jefferson is off to the NFL, but Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. are coming back and a trio of newcomers – Kayshon Boutte (5 stars), Koy Moore (4) and Alex Adams (3) – have an opportunity help show that the 2019 LSU offense was the beginning of a new era and not an aberration.
The Tigers’ secondary will look a bit different next year, too. Attrition is expected at the position.
LSU added 3 of the country’s top 28 cornerbacks — led by 5-star Elias Ricks — and the No. 5 safety (Jordan Toles).
One important running back
As productive as the Tigers’ passing game was, it’s doubtful they would have had the success they had without the running-game complement provided by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who’s on his way to the NFL.
LSU has good young backs ready to move up, but head coach Ed Orgeron was determined to add a top prospect at running back.
They went hard after the top prospect in the country, but when Zach Evans cooled toward them, they landed Kevontre Bradford (4 stars) instead.
It’s difficult to predict how much of an impact Bradford will have as a freshman, but if he has a 3-year career comparable to Edwards-Helaire’s, he’ll be remembered as a key member of this class.