National Signing Day is upon us, and most recruiting services agree that LSU was a huge winner in the class of 2016.
That’s awesome. There’s absolutely no doubt that recruiting is the lifeblood of college football – the single most important part of the game.
However, as we open the gates to Baton Rouge and welcome these men into the football program for the next handful of years, let us all, please, keep an open mind and remember a few recruiting history lessons from our past.
For starters, please don’t freak out or overhype anyone the Tigers just signed. Sure, the five-star distinctions that guys like Erick Fowler and Savion Smith have earned are incredible, but for every Leonard Fournette that is signed each year, there is an equal number of guys like Xavier Carter, Russell Shepard or Ryan Perrilloux who ink with big-time programs as well but never pan out.
All three of the latter names were five-star signees who never sniffed an ounce of the superstardom that each was forecasted to have when they enrolled at LSU. Of the three, only one actually finished out his eligibility at the school.
So the message today is this: Relax, Tiger Nation. Let these men all find their footing without added and undue pressure. Football camps and scouting services are very good, but they’re not perfect. The reason they’re not perfect is because the folks they’re observing are teenagers.
On the same foot, history has shown LSU fans to never underestimate Les Miles’ eye for talent evaluation. Miles has a reputation for molding unknown, unwanted commodities into big-time players.
In 2004, Nick Saban rolled the dice on Jacob Hester – a tough, gutsy two-star tailback out of Shreveport. Hester had the size, but lacked the quickness, scouts said.
Under Miles, he outshined just about every player in the class of 2004, and helped lead the Tigers to a BCS National Championship season in 2007. The scouting services list Hester’s measurables, but there is no tangible way to measure heart and toughness, which are Hester’s biggest assets. He started as a two-star on paper, but ended as a five-star in LSU history.
What about Danny McCray, Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard, Lamin Barrow, Morris Claiborne, Bennie Logan, Alfred Blue, Jalen Mills or even Delvin Breaux? What does every one of those guys have in common? They were all three-star recruits according to Rivals.com, and each is either in the NFL or will be in the coming months once the NFL Draft rolls around.
So celebrate, LSU fans. Rejoice. There’s no doubt that Miles and his staff have put together an unbelievable recruiting class – a full slate of players that looks like it fits every one of the team’s needs.
Signing these talented teenagers is only the beginning. The challenge now is to develop them all and turn them into champions.
That process always is a crap shoot – one where some of the expected diamonds crack, and where the Cinderella stories emerge through the rubble and find a way to become that next great LSU football player.
Follow Casey Gisclair on Twitter @Casey_Gisclair.
Photo courtesy of LSU Sports Information.