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Tuesday, July 2, 2013
LSU recruiting: Positions of need

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU is targeting many of the top athletes in the ESPN 300, some because the Tigers' strong brand name makes it an attractive option and others because the fertile Louisiana recruiting base is strong this year, even by the state's lofty standards.

Leonard Fournette
LSU has its eyes on top recruit Leonard Fournette.
But what needs is LSU trying to meet?

That's a little trickier to figure out at LSU than many other schools because the frequency of underclassmen departures. But we can take a guess based on likely attrition.

1. Running back: This is true not only because LSU's top target is the nation's No. 1 player, Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), the strong-as-a-bull, yet quick-as-a-cat, 232-pound running back. LSU neglected to land a running back in the 2013 class so LSU needs not only Fournette, but more running backs for depth.

Alfred Blue is a senior and even if Jeremy Hill comes away unscathed from his legal troubles off the field, if he has a good season, he's also draft eligible. That would leave LSU with just two scholarship running backs -- and this assumes that neither Kenny Hilliard nor Terrance Magee have breakthrough years that make them draft prospects.

Given that, look for the Tigers to target at least one more running back besides Fournette. ESPN 300 prospect Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) is a primary option and LSU could push for commitments from an in-state prospect like Darrel Williams (Marrero, La./John Ehret) and Sione Palelei (Gonzales, La./East Ascension).

2. Safety: Part of the problem with being "DBU" is you lose so many defensive backs early to the NFL, it's hard to keep the pantry fully stocked.

The early departure of Eric Reid left the Tigers about six deep at the position, and that is if you include Rickey Jefferson, who was recruited as a cornerback, as a safety. LSU missed out on safeties in the 2013 class and will likely move Jefferson inside.

So LSU needs numbers at the position, along with landing a big name like ESPN 300 safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones. LSU already has a commitment from ESPN 300 athlete Devin Voorhies (Woodville, Miss./Woodville) and ESPN 300 safety Edward Paris Jr. (Arlington, Texas/Mansfield Timberview) along with three-star prospect John Battle IV (Hallandale, Fla./Hallandale), but look for the Tigers to land at least one more.

3. Wide receiver: At first glance, LSU is 11 deep in scholarship receivers, and that may seem like plenty.

But both Kadron Boone and James Wright are seniors and either Odell Beckham, Jr. or Jarvis Landry could bolt for the NFL if they have strong junior seasons. The Tigers could take four or five receivers in a year where the Louisiana recruiting class is strong.

ESPN 300 picks Tony Upchurch (Pearland, Texas/Dawson) and D.J. Chark (Alexandria, La./Alexandria) are already in the class and in-state prospects Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) and Trey Quinn (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) are two of the nation's top three receiving prospects in LSU's backyard. Another local, No. 1 athlete Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Karr) projects by most to play receiver.

4. Linebacker: There are 11 scholarship linebackers on the roster, which might seem like plenty.

But two of the starters, Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones, are seniors, and linebacker is a position that usually supplies quality athletes to special teams, meaning it's hard to stock too many.

ESPN 300 outside linebackers Donnie Alexander (New Orleans/Karr) and Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central) are already committed to the Tigers, though Rhaheed's commitment is looking a bit shaky. Look for the Tigers to try to land a couple of physical inside linebackers, like ESPN 300 pick Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainvfield South) or four-star Louisiana prospect Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis).

5. Fullback: When one envisions LSU's offense, the thought of the I-formation with power running plays with tailbacks following the fullback into the hole come to mind.

After this season, the Tigers will lose their senior fullback J.C. Copeland and will be left with Connor Neighbors as the only experience player at the position. LSU could address the position by moving a player from another position (Copeland came to LSU as a defensive tackle) or the Tigers might take a high school prospect, like Raekwon McLellan (Biloxi, Miss./Biloxi) or Jaevon Walton (New Orleans/Karr).