The football factory that is Louisiana rarely if ever slows production, though there are some years that stand out more than others.
The Class of 2001 has long been the standard by which other Louisiana recruiting classes are judged. Seven members of The Advocate’s Super Dozen that year went on to play in the NFL, among them Michael Clayton, Marcus Spears and Brandon Jacobs.
The Class of 2011 was mentioned in that same breath with players like Anthony “Freak” Johnson, La’El Collins, Jeremy Hill and Jarvis Landry.
For all the glitter and glory those classes produced, the Class of 2014 could outshine them all.
“There is a lot of elite talent in 2014,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports. “It could be the best class ever.”
The Class of 2013 was above average by Louisiana’s lofty standards, but the 2014 recruiting haul is expected to produce a bumper crop.
Fourteen Louisiana prospects are ranked on 24/7 Sports’ Top 247 for 2014, ESPN’s Watch List, Rivals’ Watch List or some combination of all three.
At the top is St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette (6-foot-1, 232 pounds), who’s ranked as the nation’s No. 1 running back and No. 2 overall prospect by 24/7 Sports and one of just nine five-star recruits on Rivals’ 2014 Watch List.
Fournette is the player LSU coach Les Miles spoke of without naming Wednesday during his National Signing Day news conference when he talked about the need to sign a great running back.
“I’m thinking of him right now,” said Miles, who is prohibited by NCAA rules from discussing potential recruits.
Fournette will be someone virtually every college football coach will be thinking of over the next year. Virtually every college football fan who follows recruiting, too.
“Everywhere I go, people see me and say, ‘Hey, what school are you going to?’ or ‘Man, commit to LSU or commit to Alabama or commit to Notre Dame,’ ” Fournette said Wednesday. “It’s every day, all day. It doesn’t bother me at all. I just tell them, ‘I don’t know yet’ and I thank them for being interested.”
Fournette is considered an early lean to LSU, but heavy hitters like Alabama, Florida and Florida State are in the mix.
Louisiana’s bounty for 2014 doesn’t stop at Fournette’s door. There’s West Monroe’s Cameron Robinson (6-6, 325), considered the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle prospect and No. 6 prospect overall per 24/7 Sports.
Not far down the road in Monroe is Neville’s Laurence Jones (6-2, 208), rated by 24/7 Sports as the No. 4 safety prospect for 2014 and No. 12 nationally.
Back in New Orleans, Karr defensive end Gerald Willis (6-3, 260) watched firsthand the recruiting overkill his brother, Dutchtown’s Landon Collins, got when he was Louisiana’s top prospect in 2012.
Willis is considering joining his brother at Alabama, though he is also considered a lean to LSU. Florida, Texas A&M, and Southern Cal are also in his mix. Willis is No. 71 on The 24/7 Sports Top 247.
Teammate Speedy Noil (5-10, 169) is another highly coveted prospect, ranking No. 55 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247. LSU, Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and Miami are among his top choices. Former Karr teammates Standish Dobard and Noel Ellis signed with Miami and A&M last week.
“Take it step by step and don’t rush anything,” Willis said Wednesday. “Colleges, you have to treat them all the same. You can’t pick one above the other, because they all offer you the same thing. You have to look at what you want to be in life and maintain that at the college you??re at.”
LSU has two in-state commitments for 2014, both of whom are on the early watch lists: Brother Martin offensive guard Williams Clapp (6-4, 270) and Westlake tight end Jacory Washington (6-5, 211).
Clapp, the son of former LSU football player Tommy Clapp, is No. 186 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247 and is on the ESPN and Rivals watch lists. Washington is on the ESPN and Rivals lists as well.
LSU also has commitments from two more watch-list recruits from out of state: Devin Voorhies (6-1, 185), an athlete from Woodville (Miss.) Wilkinson County and cornerback Chris Hardeman (5-9, 180) from Houston Alief Taylor.
Voorhies is considered the top prospect in Mississippi by 24/7 Sports, which rates him No. 52 nationally.
While the Class of 2014 is already causing recruiting followers to count the days until Feb. 5, the start of the 2014 signing period, Mike Scarborough, publisher of Rivals’ LSU site TigerBait.com, urges caution — if that’s possible.
“Look at (2014 and) it seems to be in that same line with 2001 and 2011,” he said. “We’ll see in 2018 or so how they’re actually compared.”
The Advocate’s Ted Lewis and Gary Estwick contributed to this report.