Tigers Blessed With Deep Pool Of Talent
Most teams would not be able to cope with the mass exodus of talent that LSU endured last season. Then again, most teams are not LSU. The Tigers had an astounding 10 underclassmen declare for the draft, 11 if you count cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed prior to the 2012 season. That’s one-third of all SEC underclassmen who declared for the 2013 NFL draft. LSU set a new school record with nine players selected in April’s draft, tied for second-most in the nation behind Florida State’s 11. Eight of those nine players were underclassmen.
Fortunately for LSU and its passionate fan base, Les Miles has continually hauled in top-10 recruiting classes. According to the ESPN recruiting gurus, LSU signed the top-ranked recruiting class of 2009. The 2010 class was ranked eighth, followed by rankings of 10th, 14th, and seventh (2011-13). That has translated into 26 players selected in the last four drafts, including five first-round draft picks. Since Les Miles took over as head coach in Baton Rouge after the 2004 season, LSU has produced at least five draft selections every year.
While some might be expecting the Tigers to have a down year and struggle in the rugged SEC due to all their personnel losses, Miles and his staff have done a remarkable job of not only recruiting top-tier talent, but developing those players as well. After April’s draft and subsequent signing of undrafted free agents, LSU has 56 players on NFL rosters. That’s more than any other university in the country. An active NFL roster contains 53 players during the regular season. Therefore, you could form an entire NFL team out of LSU’s 56 players.
The Tigers’ defense especially was hit hard by the unusual number of defections to the NFL. Among the players that departed the program were star defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, fellow defensive lineman Bennie Logan, linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid. These players weren’t just productive; they provided much-needed leadership on defense. Returning to help the defense and coordinator John Chavis are defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, senior linebacker Lamin Barrow and senior safety Craig Loston, as well as cornerback Jalen Mills. Barrow, Loston, and Mills were starters last season and Johnson saw significant playing time.
Two of LSU’s headline recruits are on the defensive side of the ball and expected to make an immediate impact. Defensive end Frank Herron from Memphis and cornerback Tre-Davious White from Shreveport should see playing time as true freshmen. Herron has the ability to rush the passer off the edge and hold his own in the middle of the line if needed. White hopes to become the next elite LSU cornerback just like Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson. Overall, Miles and his staff signed 14 defensive players, seven on the line, three at linebacker and four in the secondary.
If there’s one thing to learn from the success Miles has had on the recruiting trail and in the draft, it's that there is plenty of available talent to fill needs created by the departed players. Depth might be the only real issue facing this LSU defense.