BATON ROUGE - The signing of two of the nation's top high school linemen in defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and offensive tackle La'el Collins highlighted LSU's 2011 signing class, which featured a total of 22 players, including 17 from the state of Louisiana.
Johnson, who has already enrolled at LSU and will take part in spring practice, was ranked as the nation's second-best player overall by ESPN.com, while Collins was ranked as high as the No. 3 overall prospect by Sporting News. Johnson, from O.P. Walker in New Orleans, and Collins, from Redemptorist in Baton Rouge, were both named to the prestigious Parade All-America team as well as being selected as a first-team All-America by USA Today.
"When you look at this class, it really answers our needs," head coach Les Miles said. "It has a nice balance of speed, ball skills, strength and size. I'm not sure of where it's ranked but it really fits what we need. We won't know for some time how good a class this really is, but coming in behind last year's class and really fitting the needs that this team has, we think that this will allow us to compete for conference honors. And certainly if we are fortunate to win our conference, it will be an opportunity to compete for national honors as well.
"I like the class. I like the position we're in, and it sure is fun to recruit at LSU. It's a place that makes a strong impression on a young man when he comes to visit."
Rivals.com rated LSU's 2011 class No. 6 in the nation, while Scout.com had LSU at No. 9 and ESPN.com ranked the Tigers No. 11.
One of the other big names on the list of signees for LSU has already enrolled in school and that's junior college quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger tossed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns in leading his junior college to a national runner-up finish in 2010. He was rated as the top junior college quarterback in 2010.
LSU's class featured eight linemen - four offense and four defense, four defensive backs, three wide receivers, two quarterbacks, two running backs and one linebacker, plackekicker and athlete. In addition to the 17 players that LSU signed from Louisiana, the Tigers landed two from Texas and one each from Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.
"I'm very fortunate to represent some great experiences here at LSU," Miles said. "This is a great school with a great education to go along with a team that is fortunate enough to year-in and year-out have an opportunity to play for championships.
"Our coaching staff did a great job. Our players are having quality experiences. When our recruits come on campus and they meet our players and those players say, 'It's wonderful to go to school here. I'm encouraged. It's challenging, but it's exactly what I want from college.' It speaks volumes to these players who visit when a professor takes time out of his or her busy schedule to talk about curriculum and sit down and again, visit about the school. It gives the view to our guys that we're recruiting that LSU has everything in place, and we should have a great class."
In addition to Anthony Johnson and Collins, LSU landed three other players on the ESPN.com 150 list, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry (No. 37), running back Kenny Hilliard (No. 120) and defensive tackle Mickey Johnson (No. 121). Landry was named his team's most valuable player at the Under Armour All-America game a few weeks ago, while Hilliard, the nephew of former LSU standout Dalton Hilliard, rushed for a Louisiana record 8,603 yards during his prep career.
Other offensive standouts in the class include running back Terrence Magee, who helped lead Franklinton to the 4A state title in 2010; wide receiver Odell Beckham, who was rated by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 43 overall prospect; and athlete Paul Turner, who as an option quarterback was named the 2010 5A offensive player of the year in Louisiana in helping West Monroe to a state runner-up finish.
Defensively, Evangel's Jermauria Rasco is a four-star signee who was rated as high as No. 14 overall by Sporting News and No. 40 by Scout.com. Rasco had 92 tackles and 21 sacks as a senior for Evangel.
Other defensive standouts in the class include cornerback David Jenkins, who was rated No. 128 overall by Scout.com; Micah Eugene from Acadian High School who helped the Rams to the 5A state title this year; and cornerback Jalen Collins from Mississippi who earned four-star recognition from Rivals.com.
Players listed in the...
LSU COACH LES MILES TRANSCRIPT FROM NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
"I'm very fortunate to represent some great experiences here at LSU. This is a great school with a great education to go along with a team that is fortunate enough to year-in and year-out have an opportunity to play for championships. Our coaching staff did a great job. Our players are having quality experiences. When our recruits come on campus and they meet our players and those players say, 'It's wonderful to go to school here. I'm encouraged. It's challenging, but it's exactly what I want from college.' It speaks volumes to these players who visit when a professor takes time out of his or her busy schedule to talk about curriculum and sit down and again, visit about the school. It gives the view to our guys that we're recruiting that LSU has everything in place, and we should have a great class."
"We are going to graduate two senior quarterbacks. Really, we had two quarterbacks on campus last fall on scholarship. We are fortunate to encourage Zach Mettenberger, the No. 1 throwing quarterback in Junior College. I think Stephen Rivers is going to come in a develop and be a 6-foot-7, 210 pound quarterback with a strong arm, and I think both of those men can really throw it. There will be other people that will compete for that job, and again, I cannot speak on those men (walk-ons). There will be others that will accompany those men into this class. In the offensive line, we graduate on into the NFL Joe Barksdale, the left tackle, and it was important that we get a guy there that steps in and has the ability to compete to play, if not compete to start. We signed the No. 1 offensive tackle at the position; the No. 1 prospect in our state is La'el Collins right here from Redemptorist, an All-American. He really fits a need for us. We had a number of other guys in that class in the offensive line. We're going to graduate four seniors next year, and it's imperative that this class steps in and competes to play. I think Trai Turner, a four-star guy out of St. Augustine, is a very dominant, physical player. Corey White from Capitol is No. 11 at the position in the nation and No. 10 in our state. He's a very mobile athlete. Jonah Austin is a 6-foot-5 guy with a high motor from our state that we feel like will really develop into a very fine prospect and college player.
"Staying on the offensive side at wide receiver, we're going to graduate Terrence Toliver, who was certainly a big-play receiver for us, and we needed to add some guys who had real sure hands and could go in and expect to step onto the field and play with not only their athleticism, but their confidence and ball skills. Jarvis Landry was 18th nationally, No. 4 at the position and the No. 3 prospect in our state. He was the MVP of the Under-Armour Game. We expect that he will come in and again, compete to play, if not start. I'm really very pleased with Odell Beckham from Isidore Newman, the No. 4 prospect in the state and No. 6 at the position, 43rd nationally and a guy who has real ball skills and quickness and comes from a very athletic family and an LSU family. Paul Turner from West Monroe, the 5-A Player of the Year, was the quarterback there on teams that had great success. We really feel like that receiving crew will give us ball skills, quickness and the ability to step onto the field and compete to play.
"At running back, the 4A Offensive Player of the Year Terrence Magee played quarterback at Franklinton here in Louisiana, a state championship team and in my opinion, the most valuable offensive player in the state in all classes. He's going to get a great opportunity, in my opinion, to play at running back, if not some 'Wildcat' quarterback. Kenny Hilliard, another four-star and the No. 9 running back in the country, had 8,600 yards in his career here in this state. In this state, that's a lot of yards, and football is awfully important in this state. We just feel like Kenny Hilliard will be a guy that will step onto the field. We'll lose (Stevan) Ridley as a big back, and we'll look to find a guy who can do some of those things, and Kenny Hilliard may well predict to be that.
"We lose both our punter and our kicker, and we added James Hairston to this class from Dallas Jesuit, and he will compete at both. We had him at our camp, and in my opinion, we'll be fine there. Defensively, we lost several interior defensive linemen. We added the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 2 prospect in the state, Anthony Johnson from O.P. Walker in New Orleans. He was really a leader in many ways in this class. He was one of the first to commit. He's very strong academically. He has great character, and the reality is besides being a five-star and an All-American, he can sing. We'll enjoy his abilities especially around Christmas time. Mickey Johnson from St. Paul's is a very strong power lifter, a guy from in this state that will step in and also compete there and a guy who has some real versatility. Quentin Thomas from Breaux Bridge will probably play a three-technique or defensive end. We really feel like the big guys inside are served there. We really took one defensive end, but it was a good one, five-star Jermauria Rasco, a 6-foot-4, 250 pound guy out of Evangel. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2A and has the kind of athletic ability that will get him to the field in his freshman year, so we are really excited about the addition of him to this class.
"We recruited several linebackers. The one that elected to be with us was Trevon Randle from Clear Springs High School. He was the No. 20 linebacker in the country and a four-star guy. He really gives us the athleticism we need to step in and play in our conference and really has good size. In the secondary, we're really kind of proud of our two corners, David Jenkins from Hebron High School in Texas, a 6-foot-1 guy who is really physical and a track guy with really good speed. He was with us in camp, and we just feel like he will be a guy who steps to the field quickly as well as Jalen Collins, another 6-foot-1 cornerback from Olive Branch High School in Mississippi. I don't know where those guys rank, but we would like to compare those guys with Tharold Simon and Tyrann Mathieu, who we felt like when we had in camp, we had a good view of their athleticism. We feel the same way about those guys.
"In this kind of big safety-style bodies, Alonzo Lewis at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds can play safety or play wide receiver. He's from St. James. Again, I think that he's going to give us the kind of physical play and the size that we need. Ronald Martin, a 6-foot-1 quarterback from White Castle, was also all-state in football and basketball. He's a very talented athlete with ball skills, and we feel like he will give us a real opportunity probably in the secondary and if not in the secondary, the wide receiver spot and a very talented player. Micah Eugene joins us from Acadiana. He was a state champion and was the Most Valuable Player in the state championship game. Frankly, we just had to have him.
"These three guys are already enrolled. They will compete in spring ball. Zach Mettenberger comes in and gets an opportunity to start quickly, Anthony Johnson, replacing Pep Levingston and Drake Nevis, and Kenny Hilliard certainly at the running back spot. Nineteen of 22 guys that we signed attended our camp, so we had a really good feel for who they were and how they worked. Seventeen guys from the state of Louisiana, our first priority, two guys from Texas, one from Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. The class has two Parade All-Americans, 10 in the top 250 (Rivals.com), seven in the top 200 (Scout.com), five in the top 150 (ESPNU) and five in the top 100 (Sporting News). If I looked at this class, it really did answer the needs that we had. It has a nice balance of speed, ball skills, strength and size. It's ranked in the top 10. I don't really care if it's ranked in the top 10 or not; it really just kind of fits what we need, and you won't know for some time how good a class this really is, but coming in behind last year's class and really fitting the needs that this team has, we think that this will allow us to compete for conference honors and certainly if we are fortunate to win our conference, it will be an opportunity to compete for national honors as well. I like the class. I like the position we're in, and it sure is fun to recruit at LSU. It's a place that makes a strong impression on a young man when he comes to visit."
On Recruiting Coordinator Frank Wilson...
"I think that Frank has a wonderful view of the recruiting coordinator's position. He understands the responsibilities and gives us a great overview. I think he is a tremendous judge of talent. He also has great experience in inter-personal skills and gives our coaches a great resource in how to approach our better prospects. I thought he did a great job in his first year, and it will only get better."
On the recruits referring to themselves as the 'fam' and the role of camps...
"We've always considered the strength of our team certainly comes from a core group that has developed in that camp. They may meet sometimes from out of state and sometimes from the state of Louisiana. There is a real comfortable foundation of getting to know your teammates. The want to pull a cohesive group, a group that knows each other, comfortably roots for each other and enjoys each other's company, that is how the 'fame' came to be. It took shape. Anthony Johnson was certainly a rallying call. He said early on, "I'm going to play my college ball and I'd love for you to join me to see if we can win another title at LSU." I think the 'fame' took shape. I think the guys like Anthony Johnson, La'el Collins and really a number of guys were committed to being here, and I think it encouraged a number to join them."
On guys who played hurt in high school...
"Those guys that are competitive when injured really speak to a different style of players. Those guys that are hurt, then play and play poorly, that is not what you want either. Those guys that cannot play to the level that they play at before they are hurt, really need not go on the field. It's those guys, that in spite of injury found ways to excel and play well, really speaks to a different style of player. Ronald Martin and Kenny Hilliard are great examples of that, and that certainly caught our attention."
On 17 of 22 recruits being from Louisiana...
"Our view is that in reality our guys coming to our camp gives us a chance to look out them. That allows us to evaluate them effectively. We'll recruit everyone that we can from the state. This is a state where football is important. The players that come out of this state have been trained. Coaches in this state have coached them extremely well. They are very competitive on friday nights. It makes for their high school programs to be of quality. Therefore I expect even if they are not highly ranked guys, they've been trained and understands the way of discipline. Recruiting this state for us is imperative. If you look at the great teams that we've had, the leadership has always come from this state."
On the lack of signing day surprises...
"The good news is that there was no defections. So then basically good news is that the people that were committed, stayed committed. That was a surprise in some ways."
On early playing time...
"I liked our class. I think again, it really answered some of the needs our team has. I think rankings are sometimes wonderful if they benefit you. We felt like we knew our guys a year ago. I'll give you an example. I normally say, "give me two or three years and I'll tell you how good the class is." Well, last year's freshman class in the secondary, I didn't have to wait two or three years. I can tell you right now, they're pretty good. Let's hope we can add some of the same experiences to the next fall and see if some of these freshman can come in and contribute. If that's the case, we'll like this class and they'll be productive just like we want them too."
On the new linemen...
"Not every year has there been a number of defensive or offensive linemen in the state. It is nice that both exist in the state this year because this is really the two (La'el Collins and Anthony Johnson) highest ranked prospects on the offensive and defensive line. Behind those guys are a number of highly ranked guys that are capable who are in our class. I especially like the big men in this class. Offensive line wise, I really like Corey White. I think his mobility will give him an opportunity to step in and play. I like those guys from St. Augustine (Trai Turner and Jonah Austin), two strong guys and guys that are 300 plus and mobile. I like that. In our defensive line with Anthony Johnson, Mickey Johnson and Quentin Thomas, that crew, that is a great group now. If you want to put Jermauria Rasco in that group, than that's another athletic big man and a guy who can come off the edge. I don't think that this year is typical in the big men that we recruited in the state. We were very fortunate because our need was a big-man need."