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Q&A with Mike Detillier on LSU’s 2018 Signing Class, Part 1 of 2
Scott: In my opinion, there’s a lot to like in this LSU recruiting class. Nation’s best receiving corps, a ton of beef for the trenches, solid linebackers, an experienced kicker, etc. But there were also some misses which made for an anti-climatic ending. What are your thoughts on Patrick Surtain, Jr. turning to Alabama in the final hour and leaving LSU without a cornerback in the class?
Mike: I agree that it was a good class. But like the season’s loss to Notre Dame, it ended on a sour note. Losing Surtain hurt, and Goodrich too, no doubt, but LSU should have never put itself in this spot with just one cornerback. I said this here a year ago, that in every recruiting class you have to land a quarterback, a halfback, a left tackle, a center, a big man inside on defense, an edge rusher, and two cornerbacks. That leaves plenty of fill in, but cornerback, like quarterback, is a high area of attrition. LSU signed two last year but lost two to the NFL early and Xavier Lewis left to go to Southeastern Louisiana. LSU should never be in this spot to not sign cornerbacks. DBU and LSU has produced eight cornerback prospects that have been drafted into the pros since 2010. You have to rethink the best man on the board theory. In the NFL, you have other means to restock your roster either through free agency or a trade. In college football, for the present, you only can get a college graduate transfer for 2018. This is a miscalculation at a very critical spot. Orgeron had to offer Mario Goodrich earlier in the process. It’s not a "want" spot, but a "need" spot. Surtain was the best cornerback prospect as a prepster and would have helped immediately. LSU spent a lot of time and resources to land him and then Nick Saban grabs him late, but he has that national championship hardware to flash, and until you beat them, he will continue to use that.
Scott: I said that Surtain’s change of heart left LSU without a cornerback, but that’s not entirely accurate. Kelvin Joseph is a big-time defensive back, and Coach O has said he will be used as a corner. Your thoughts on that?
Mike: Kelvin is a tremendous free safety prospect and one of the best in the country. His greatest value is at safety, but we will see how well he fares in man to man coverage in college. He’s a "big man DB" and very physical. It’s not an easy spot to walk into and play. At this stage, I would do the same and play him at cornerback. It’s his best chance to see extensive playing time as a freshman. He’s gifted, but safety and cornerback are two totally different spots. We will have to see how well he can handle the cornerback spot at the college level.
Scott: If I remember right, in each of the last two seasons you’ve stated your biggest concern on defense was with the secondary. How concerned are you about LSU’s secondary in 2018 with the departures of Toliver and Jackson and the signing of only one DB?
Mike: LSU is deep and talented at safety. But again, my main concern is at cornerback. Today you play four cornerbacks in a game. Its nickel and dime sets and you have to match up downfield. It’s a major concern short term and long term for me. It was last year and it is again today. If you have two match-up cornerbacks, Dave Aranda can do a lot on defense. I thought the play other than Greedy Williams was erratic at cornerback. At times, it looked really good and other times, other than Greedy, you gave up some big plays and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down.
Scott: In my opinion, the only other area of LSU’s signing class that might not have met team needs is at quarterback. Then again, LSU signed two big-time QBs last year and added preferred walk-on Jordan Loving in this class – a kid I know you’re high on. How concerned are you that LSU didn’t land a scholarship QB in this class?
Mike: Like cornerback, you have to sign a quarterback each year. Losing James Foster hurts. Whoever loses the quarterback battle this year – either Myles or Lowell – will most likely leave in 2019 to try and start somewhere else. It’s part of the college football world. Losing Foster to an SEC team hurts also. But you can understand his thoughts on this. Jimbo Fisher at FSU has recruited and developed three first-round pick QBs at FSU with Winston, Ponder and E.J. Manuel. LSU has one guy who went drafted in Zach Mettenberger and he went in the 6th round. Until you get the first one to excel, you will have this issue with top QBs. I like Jordan Loving. He’s a developmental guy, but he’s a gifted passer. He can sling it. I still don’t understand some of these schools in Louisiana who didn’t offer him. But losing Foster, like Surtain, hurts short-term and long-term.
Scott: One thing is for sure. Whether it be Brennan or Narcisse, LSU’s starting quarterback will have a ton of wide receiver talent to work with. Man, did LSU hit it out of the park with this receiver haul or what?
Mike: Loaded at that spot! Myles and Lowell have an overload of talent to throw to. Terrace Marshall and JaMarr Chase are big-time players and add the transfer in Jonathan Giles from Texas Tech and you are in very good shape. Throw in two other really talented WRs in Kenyan Jones and Jaray Jenkins and that’s as good a group of newcomers as you will find in college football. Louisiana is becoming a state that produces a ton of good prospects at the wide receiver spot and LSU has taken full advantage of that.
Scott: Steve Ensminger said that LSU’s wide receiver corps was the team’s strength on offense, and that was before even landing this year’s exceptional haul. But as impressive as LSU’s receiving corps is, there’s no doubt LSU will still have to be a physical team that runs the ball well. What do you think of LSU’s two running back signees, and LSU’s returning group of backs, in general?
Mike: The position is one I think they may look to land a graduate transfer at. There is no "guy in waiting" but you landed two good prospects in Tae Provens and Chris Curry who I think could be a major factor this season at halfback. This is Nick Brossette’s chance to step up. You worry about the injury factor here and so I think if someone shakes loose, Coach O will make a play for a grad transfer. Ed wants to be a physical running football team. You can still do that and have a 3-wide receiver feature set. I know where O came from and what he has said and LSU will still want to run the ball. Who becomes the lead-dog back is in question. I want to see how fast Curry picks things up. Halfback is a spot a freshman can come in and make a quick impact.
Scott: I’m excited about the possibility of David Ducré moving from fullback to halfback. As we’ve discussed, Ducré was grouped with the RBs and not the FBs on Tommy Moffitt’s Weight Lifter board. How likely do you think it is that we see him make that move this spring, and what do think of that possibility?
Mike: I see the Tigers giving David that chance to be the next Darrel Williams. He’s a big back and he can catch the ball well. I want that big man in there in short yardage and red-zone spots. I see LSU giving him every chance at halfback.
Scott: Ok, now let’s talk about an area where I think Ed Orgeron really did well in this recruiting cycle: fortifying the trenches. In past years, many of LSU’s more highly rated classes lacked the beef of this class. How significant is it that Orgeron made the lines a priority this year and what do you think of the big uglies he landed, starting with the OL?
Mike: Every year you need to land a center and a left tackle. You got two left tackles in JUCO transfer Badara Traore and a talented young left tackle in Cameron Ware. I’m also a big fan of Cole Smith. He has a shot to play early as a center. He’s smart, technically sound, a good pass blocker, and while he needs to get stronger to go up against the brutes of the SEC, he can handle the spot mentally. You rarely see centers start in college football as freshmen because of the mental part of making the calls, judging the inside blitzes, and handling the physical brand of football, but Cole has a real shot here. Damien Lewis is a big man, very physical and a very strong run blocker. He needs some work with his pass blocking techniques and playing on balance better, but he’s a huge road-grader. You have to land four offensive linemen virtually every year and LSU did that. I really like this group, and they are a host of super-talented prospects in the state of Louisiana for 2019.
Stay tuned for Mike’s thoughts on LSU’s D-line haul, favirite signees, and much more in Part 2 of this Q&A...
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier’s NFL Draft Report. He’s also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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