LSU did not manage to hold onto the No. 1 class ranking that it carried into national signing day, but Les Miles’ Tigers still walked away with ESPN’s No. 3 class. By tying a record for the most ESPN 300 signees in one class with 19, LSU’s 2016 signing class should yield promising results.
LSU’s position of strength: Although LSU added impressive talent at cornerback and wide receiver, the most gifted collection of players was probably on the defensive line. The Tigers signed five defensive linemen, all of whom were ESPN 300 honorees.
The Tigers’ need up front coincided with a particularly strong year for defensive linemen in Louisiana. All five signees are homegrown players: No. 12 overall prospect Rashard Lawrence, No. 74 Edwin Alexander, No. 209 Andre Anthony, No. 292 Glen Logan and No. 298 Caleb Roddy.
With starting tackles Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux returning along with ends Lewis Neal, Arden Key and Tashawn Bower, LSU does not have a major immediate need up front. However, expect some of the youngsters to play early to fill in the depth chart and prepare for big roles in 2017.
LSU’s biggest need heading in to NSD: The defensive front seven was a major need for this class. LSU addressed the line efficiently, but the Tigers’ haul took a hit when outside linebacker Erick Fowler defected from his longtime commitment to sign with hometown Texas.
The Tigers got a major lift at linebacker when Kendell Beckwith announced he would return for his senior season. He is the only player at the position with a wealth of experience, though. Early enrollee Michael Divinity seems like a safe bet to play scrimmage downs as a freshman, and fellow linebacker Rahssan Thornton might also need to be ready to go when he arrives this summer. Senior Duke Riley and junior Donnie Alexander return, as does converted safety Devin Voorhies, but LSU’s linebacking corps is neither deep nor particularly experienced.
It’s worth noting -- as Miles did last week -- that new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme will be flexible enough to allow players from other positions to function in linebacker roles at times.
How LSU did on NSD to address the need: Let’s be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with the talent LSU acquired at linebacker. It’s just that, after not signing enough linebackers and failing to retain some of the guys they did sign, the Tigers cannot afford to sustain injuries at the position this fall.
As for the players themselves, Divinity and Thornton are two of the headliners in the class. Divinity is ESPN’s No. 51 overall prospect and No. 6 outside linebacker. Miles described him as “very violent and very fast, very capable” and said there is “the opportunity for him to stand up and play very significant football as a true freshman.”
ESPN evaluated No. 61 overall prospect Thornton as a defensive end (No. 9 at the position), although LSU is shifting him to linebacker. Miles praised Thornton’s speed and quickness and his leadership skills on signing day.
Biggest remaining question mark: After losing ESPN 300 quarterback Feleipe' Franks late in the recruiting cycle, LSU struggled to find a quarterback to replace him in the class before finally offering a scholarship to Louisiana’s Mr. Football, Lindsey Scott Jr., just before signing day.
Scott posted huge numbers and led his team to a state championship as a senior, but he is a three-star prospect whose 5-foot-11 size creates plenty of skepticism about whether he can become an impact player in the SEC. But in addition to his dual-threat abilities, Scott seems to be highly intelligent and a hard worker. He will certainly be an intriguing player to watch over the next few years. It would be asking a lot to expect him to stabilize a position that has been problematic throughout the Miles era, though.