For LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, the good news began at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
In the middle of the night leading up to National Signing Day, Wilson learned that Toby Weathersby, an uncommitted four star offensive tackle from Texas, had chosen to ink with the Tigers over Arkansas.
Everyone else had to wait a few hours to start the celebration.
Weathersby’s signing – his was the first to pop out of the fax machine at 7:30 a.m. – kick started this program’s National Signing Day and sent a message about what this 2015 class would be all about: the big boys.
LSU signed five offensive linemen, including the top two in the state of Texas, and the Tigers capped a late recruiting surge in January with an expected and mostly drama-less day.
“We’re awfully pleased were we finished,” Wilson said. “Pretty soon they’ll be calling us O-line U.”
The Tigers filled their biggest need with the big uglies, flipped two players from other Southeastern Conference schools and eked into the top five in at least one recruiting service’s team rankings.
All of their previous commitments during a pledge-heavy month of January signed – no one flipped – and coach Les Miles reeled in seven of the state’s top 10 prospects and three of the top five.
The bad? The 25-man class did not include any linebackers. They signed just two defensive linemen and received signatures from only two of six targets who were making their commitment decision on signing day.
Even Miles admitted LSU’s miss on Mississippi linebacker Leo Lewis, who late Tuesday night chose Mississippi Sate over the Tigers.
“Certainly, we missed on a linebacker we thought we had,” Miles said. “Next year’s class will have to be a very, very heavy linebacker class.”
Both defensive linemen and linebackers, Wilson said, will be the focus for a 2016 crew that stands at five commits for now.
But Wednesday was about 2015 – a skill and speed-heavy group that kept a streak alive. None of Miles’ last 10 signing classes has finished outside of the top 10 in both of the major recruiting services, Scout.com and Rivals.com, and just once (2012) have they not been a unanimous top-10 group.
The class includes five players rated five stars by at least one of the three services: early enrollee cornerback Kevin Toliver II, Warren Easton receiver and the state’s No. 1 player Tyron Johnson, Catholic running back Derrius Guice, athlete/cornerback Donte Jackson out of Riverdale and offensive tackle Chidi Valentine-Okeke.
Many of those players were part of the Tigers’ late push – a run that began Jan. 2 with Johnson’s commitment and ended Wednesday with the Tigers flipping two in-state products from Florida (receiver Derrick Dillon) and Missouri (receiver Brandon Martin).
LSU’s class had 16 members and was No. 15 in composite rankings before Johnson’s commitment.
Jackson joined Johnson as a commit a few weeks later, and Valentine-Okeke, a native Nigerian who lives in Georgia, surprised most with his commitment last week.
Four star defensive end Arden Key pledged with the Tigers on Monday, and Leonard Fournette’s brother, Lanard, joined the rush too last month.
Weathersby, who Miles compared to former left tackle La’el Collins, is part of the group, too, giving LSU another big body to replace a slew of guys.
LSU lost three starting linemen from last year: left tackle La’el Collins, center Elliott Porter and guard Evan Washington. The team expects to lose draft-eligible junior tackle Jerald Hawkins after this season, and guard Vadal Alexander is a senior.
“The past month (recruiting) has given us a real strength in the offensive line,” Miles said. “Allows us to develop those young guys behind them, behind what would be Hawkins and Alexander.”
Wilson called the offensive line “a great emphasis” for LSU this signing period, and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes drew praise from both Wilson and Miles. Grimes was “the point man” on all five offensive line signees, Miles said.
LSU’s new coaches – defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron – helped “tremendously,” Wilson said, specifically with Key. The former South Carolina commit is the fourth-best weak-side defensive end in the nation.
“They helped us sign what we figured was the best defensive end in the nation,” Wilson said.
The Tigers entered signing day in the running for a half-dozen prospects’ commitments.
They got two signatures (Weathersby and Dillon) and lost on the other four. Lewis went with Mississippi State and quarterback Torrance Gibson stuck his Ohio State commitment. Daylon Charlot, a receiver from Patterson ranked as the state’s fourth-best player, committed to Alabama over the Tigers, and Geismar safety Justin Reid picked Stanford.
At the Bayou Bash at L’Auberge on Wednesday evening, Miles had some words for those Louisiana natives who left the state.
“If he doesn’t want to stay home, hell with him,” the coach said according to video via Tiger Rag Magazine. A ballroom of LSU fans burst into laughter and applause.
The dejections made room for the unexpected signings of Jesuit tight end Foster Moreau and Martin, a receiver originally from Monroe who attends school in Dallas.
In all, LSU signed 15 players from Louisiana.
For the sixth time in Miles last 10 signing class, the Tigers reeled in seven of the top 10. They’ve never signed less than five of the top 10 in the state and got the top three this year in Johnson, Guice and Jackson.
This group might have paled in comparison to a 2014 class that ranked No. 2 nationally, but the Tigers got what they needed and kept a host of highly touted skill guys home.
How good is it exactly? Only time will tell.
“Really won’t know about this class for a year or two, but its got balance of speed and size and it’s a class where character and quality people, as well as talent, are throughout,” Miles said. “This is a class that in my mind can help us compete for championships and certainly for the College (Football) Playoffs.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.