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February 5, 2014
Business as usual for Miles
For just the second time in coach Les Miles' ten years of recruiting for LSU, his signing class finished among the top five in the country.
The Tigers' 2014 class was rated No. 2 in the nation behind Alabama. LSU's only other top-five recruiting class under Miles was also No. 2 in the country behind Alabama - back in 2009.
However, there was no celebration from Miles at his signing day press conference Wednesday afternoon. Miles displayed a very business-like demeanor. He acted like the head coach of a program which is supposed to bring in highly-rated players every February.
"Our recruiting always starts with our needs," Miles said. "We want to replace our needs with elite players. We did that. If you look at this group as I do, these guys can compete for a national title."
There are four position areas on the 2014 Tigers team which could use immediate help - wide receiver, quarterback, running back and defensive tackle. LSU signed eight top-100 players with five of them slotting into of those areas.
Travin Dural is the only wide receiver on the roster with a career pass reception. Wide receiver signees Malachi Dupre from River Ridge (La.) Curtis and Trey Quinn from Lake Charles (La.) Barbe are the No. 15 and No. 73-ranked players in the country.
Quarterback Brandon Harris from Bossier City (La.) Parkway, the No. 99-rated player, has already enrolled in school. Harris will have the opportunity to challenge sophomore Anthony Jennings for the starting quarterback job.
The Tigers saw two of their top three leading rushers - Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue - give up the remainder of their eligibility for the NFL. Running back Leonard Fournette from New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine is the No. 4 player in the nation and the jewel of this signing class.
LSU wins close battle for 5-star WR Malachi Dupre
Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, last season's starting defensive tackles, departed the program for the NFL. Only sophomore Christian LaCouture and junior Quentin Thomas have meaningful playing time. Defensive tackle Travonte Valentine from Hialeah (Fla.) Champagnat Catholic is the No. 59-ranked player.
"This class was a must," Miles said. "We had the opportunity to replace guys who graduated or juniors who left for the NFL. We do a tremendous job evaluating prospects. We determine the guys we want to consider - high-character guys. These guys are then evaluated by our coaches and fill our needs."
LSU entered Wednesday with six available scholarships. The Tigers filled four of those spots with Dupre, Valentine, defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao and defensive end Sione Teuhema. All 19 of the Tigers' previous commitments signed although LSU's official list did not include Deondre Clark.
The Tigers bounced back from a disappointing day in early January at the UnderArmour game when they were finalists for five players and only received two commitments - from defensive back Jamal Adams from Lewisville (Tex.) Hebron and Fournette.
Rivals100 DT Travonte Valentine discusses why he chose LSU
"Some people we lost and some we didn't lose (that day)," Miles said. "There were some we really wished we would have gotten. But, we were still in position to have this type of class. We weren't motivated by losing some players."
LSU finished No. 2 in the country despite losing four of Louisiana's top ten players - wide receiver Speedy Noil of New Orleans Karr to Texas A&M, offensive tackle Cameron Robinson of West Monroe to Alabama, defensive tackle Gerald Willis of Karr to Florida and linebacker Kenny Young of Curtis to UCLA.
A dozen of the Tigers' signees came from Louisiana high schools. Five of the 12 played at New Orleans area schools - Dupre, Fournette, linebacker Donnie Alexander of Karr, offensive lineman William Clapp of Brother Martin and running back Darrel Williams of Ehret.
"There were two players in state we coveted," Miles said. "Guys usually want to stay. Occasionally, some guys have to get away. I don't agree with that, but they make that decision. Is LSU attractive to people in every state? Absolutely, that's very true. The LSU brand is becoming more marketable."
Analysis: What Malachi Dupre means to LSU
There is one area on the roster which was not strengthened with this signing class - offensive line. Clapp and Garrett Brumfield from Baton Rouge University are the only offensive linemen. Miles recognized that shortage considering the Tigers will lose at least two starting offensive linemen after 2014.
"We have to have a good offensive line class next year," Miles said. "If there are any good offensive linemen within the sound of my voice, I hope they hear this. Usually when we have a need at a position, we answer it very effectively."