Built right here in Louisiana, LSU football’s 2016 recruiting class is primed to be the nation’s best _lowres

LSU coach Les Miles. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Hank Tierney remembers the photo on the front page of the newspaper.

Nine Archbishop Shaw High School senior football players were pictured in that 1991 photograph. All of them signed letters of intent with Division I schools, and many of them were among the nation’s best talents.

“None of them signed with LSU,” said Tierney, the former longtime Shaw coach now at Ponchatoula.

Tierney chuckled.

“You think things have changed?” he asked with a laugh.

The answer, of course, is yes. That’s especially true this year, when one of the state’s most abundant talent-producing years in football happens to coincide with LSU’s highest-ranked recruiting class in, maybe, program history.

It’s no coincidence.

The Tigers’ current top-ranked recruiting class was built right here in Louisiana — just like it has been for decades. LSU has commitments from eight of the top 10 players in the state, the most among Louisiana’s top 10 in coach Les Miles’ 11 years. And many expect a ninth, Rummel’s Kristian Fulton, to sign with LSU on Wednesday, national signing day.

In all, 14 of the 22 commitments in the class are from the state. Six of the eight others are come from Texas (four) and Florida (two) — talent-rich states that have regularly supplied the program with players for the past 25 years.

“This class is heavy in-state, which it should be,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s director of scouting. “It’s hit other marquee players out of other states, which is important. Like a Rahssan Thornton out of Texas, Saivion Smith out of Florida.”

Louisiana’s banner recruiting year — 21 four- and five-star players, the most in at least a decade — has pushed the Tigers’ 2016 haul into uncharted territory.

LSU’s current group is ranked No. 1 by three of the four major recruiting outlets: Scout.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com. The Tigers are No. 2 in Rivals.com’s team rankings.

LSU has finished No. 1 in three recruiting outlets since the rankings began in 2002: 2009 (247Sports and ESPN) and 2003 (Rivals.com). The school has never been the consensus No. 1 team.

The Tigers are heading for that mark — and it’s all because of that Louisiana talent.

Five of LSU’s 14 Louisiana commitments hail from New Orleans, a recruiting hotbed that LSU didn’t exploit, many say, until Nick Saban took over in 2000.

Three more are from the River Parishes, and two are from the North Shore. There’s one from the Baton Rouge area and three from north Louisiana.

Six of those 14 Louisiana-based commitments are ranked in the top 10 at their position nationally, and just one of them isn’t in the top 20 at his position, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

“This class is so deep (that) you can kind of throw these names in a hat and pick out five, and any five could be the real stars in this group,” said Barton Simmons, 247Sports.com’s national director of scouting.

But Louisiana’s star-filled 2016 group of prospects isn’t the only reason the Tigers sit on the doorstep of claiming the mythical recruiting national championship, said Sonny Shipp, Louisiana recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com.

“You have to look at the recruiting staff they have,” he said. “They get a lot of pub and press for how good they are as recruiters, and I think you see that playing out. I think a lot of it has to do with planning and getting to these kids early and staying on them at that time.”

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, secondary coach Corey Raymond and special teams coordinator/linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto are known nationally as aggressive and successful recruiters.

They’ve each reeled in highly rated prospects in their assigned recruiting territories.

What are recruiting territories? Most college football assistants are designated to recruit a certain area of the state and the nation.

At LSU, this is true.

Orgeron, a south Louisiana native, recruits the North Shore and Atlanta. He seems to be a strong candidate to replace Frank Wilson as the Tigers’ primary recruiter in New Orleans.

Peveto handles Monroe and northeast Louisiana. He takes care of east Texas as well, having roots in that area from his days as an assistant at Oklahoma State and from a family foundation started with his father, Ed, a legendary coach at Orangefield (Texas) High. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger recruits northwest Louisiana, and receivers coach Tony Ball hits Lake Charles and some of east Texas as well.

Austin Thomas, director of player personnel and ex-coach Wilson’s right-hand man in recruiting, has ties in Tennessee and New Orleans. Thomas is the “unsung hero” behind LSU’s recruiting efforts, Shipp said. He organizes weekend visits, coaching recruiting trips and more.

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has the Alexandria area, up the east coast and Texas, familiar areas for the former Virginia Tech assistant and Texas native.

Cam Cameron is in charge of recruiting quarterbacks — state-wide and nationally. Raymond recruits the New Iberia area and, most importantly, Florida, where he has recruited for years, going back to his days at Nebraska, Utah State and Indiana.

The staff’s territories paint a picture of how Miles recruits: Louisiana, Louisiana, Louisiana and Florida and Texas.

The Tigers have signed at least one player from Florida in 14 of the past 16 years — a run that began when Saban took hold of the program. The program has a history of recruiting Texas. LSU has signed at least three players from the state in 22 of the past 25 years.

Raymond and Peveto have led the charge in the two talent-rich states.

“You could make a case those guys have had as much success in those states than in-state schools,” Shipp said. “It’s almost like politics in a way. You say the name over there (Peveto and Raymond) and it rings a bell with high school coaches.”

This year’s class includes Smith, the nation’s fifth-best cornerback and Florida’s seventh-ranked player in the 2016 class. Raymond is listed as his primary recruiter.

The Tigers have two of Texas’ top-12 players committed: defensive end/outside linebacker Erick Fowler and linebacker Eric Monroe. Thornton, a linebacker commit, is Texas’ 31st-best player, but he’s the country’s No. 13 linebacker, according to 247Sports.

Peveto is listed as the primary recruiter on all three of those Texas players.

In-state, the Tigers have managed to mostly ward off out-of-state programs descending on the nation’s leader, per capita, in highly rated prospects.

“I think they’ve really done a good job,” said Mike Scarborough, publisher of TigerBait.com, the Rivals.com affiliate covering LSU.

“That’s the value of a state like Louisiana,” Luginbill said. “It’s the blessing and the curse. You’re going to be able to build your whole program with one state, but you’re also going to have to fight off all of the border states that are going to come in and try to mine for talent.

“That’s where LSU has done a good of a job as anybody in college football in recruiting — keeping guys at home.”

The Tigers beat out Texas A&M for John Ehret linebacker Michael Divinity, Ohio State for Neville defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence and TCU for Donaldsonville receiver Stephen Sullivan.

The Tigers are seen as the clear leader for Fulton, the state’s top-ranked prospect. He holds offers from Arkansas, Florida, Alabama and Miami, to name a few.

LSU is a finalist, too, for a host of uncommitted out-of-state prospects, including Florida defensive back Trayvon Mullen, Texas safety Deontay Anderson and Mississippi tackle Scott Lashley.

Said Luginbill: “I don’t think they’re done yet.”


Top Ten (with help from Texas and in Florida)

LSU has commits from eight of the top 10 players in Louisiana.

Rank

Name

Commit

National position rank

1

CB Kristian Fulton

None

2

2

DT Rashard Lawrence

LSU

5

3

OLB Michael Divinity*

LSU

5

4

DT Edwin Alexander

LSU

8

5

CB Shyheim Carter

None

9

6

WR Stephen Sullivan*

LSU

21

7

ATH Devin White*

LSU

5

8

OG Donavaughn Campbell

LSU

6

9

DT Glen Logan

LSU

17

10

OT Willie Allen

LSU

16

Used 247Sports’ composite rankings.

* Enrolled at LSU


We break down how LSU has faired when it comes to signing the top 10 and top 5 players in the state each year under Les Miles. The Tigers currently have eight of the top 10 in the state committed and three of the top five.

Year

Top 10 Signed

Top 5 signed

Others in top 10 signed with…

2015

7

3

Alabama (1) Notre Dame (1) Oregon (1)

2014

5

2

Alabama (3) Texas A&M (1) Florida (1)

2013

7

4

Alabama (1) Miami (1) DNS (1)

2012

6^

2

Alabama (2) Arkansas (1) Texas (1)

2011

7

4

Alabama (1) Auburn (1) DNS (1)

2010

7*

4

Texas A&M (1) TCU (1) Auburn (1)

2009

6*

4

Alabama (2) Mississippi State (1) UT (1)

2008

7*

4#

Alabama (1) Arkansas (1) Penn State (1)

2007

5*

3

UT (2) Alabama (1) USC (1) DNS (1)

2006

7^

5

Alabama (1) Ole Miss (1) American International College (1)

^Didn’t offer one of the top-10 who signed elsewhere.

*Didn’t offer two of the top-10 who signed elsewhere.

#Didn’t offer one of the top-5 who signed elsewhere.

2005 is not listed because Les Miles was hired just a few weeks before signing day.

Used 247Sports’ composite rankings.

MORE LSU FOOTBALL COVERAGE

-- ‘I’m here’: LSU DB Jalen Mills, through broken leg, arrest and all, ready to showcase NFL talent at Senior Bowl

-- Zachary QB Lindsey Scott narrows finalists to four ahead of LSU visit

-- A roaring start? LSU could kick off ESPN’s signing day coverage with four-star commitment

Beyond The Border

The Tigers have historically relied upon Texas and Florida when it comes to signing non-Louisiana prospects. That’s been never more true this year, when six of eight out-of-state commitments are from those states.

Year

Out of state signees

Texas signees

Florida signees

2016

8*

4*

2*

2015

10

5

1

2014

14

7

2

2013

15

0

3

2012

9

3

1

2011

7

3

0

2010

13

3

2

2009

12

4

0

2008

11

4

4

2007

15

5

3

2006

12

3

1

2005

5

4

1

2004

12

4

3

2003

12

4

2

2002

7

1

4

2001

13

4

5

2000

6

3

0

1999

8

4

0

1998

5

3

0

1997

10

5

3

1996

10

2

2

1995

6

1

0

1994

5

1

1

1993

9

4

4

1992

12

3

0

*Of the 22 commitments