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Defensive tackle, linebacker are priorities for LSU in 2016 class

2/5/2015
Play1:31
Les Miles Talks LSU's Best 2015 Signees

LSU coach Les Miles joins ESPN's Niki Noto to discuss the Tigers' top-10 class, including five-star cornerback Kevin Toliver and No. 6 defensive end Arden Key.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's coaching staff had not fully completed its 2015 signing class before 2016 was already front-and-center in the coaches' minds.

Only three days after national signing day, LSU will stage its "Boys From the Boot" recruiting weekend where it will host many of the state's up-and-coming prospects -- so getting the state's top talent on campus this weekend became an immediate top priority.

"We'll have guys from 2016, 2017 from the state of Louisiana here on our campus," LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said Wednesday afternoon, "and so we've got Thursday, Friday, we're fighting like hell to get those guys here on campus, and Saturday it's showtime."

This is a good time to make an impression on the prospects who visit Baton Rouge this weekend. Much like 2014, when in-state recruits like Leonard Fournette, Cameron Robinson, Speedy Noil, Malachi Dupre, Trey Quinn and Hootie Jones made Louisiana one of the most competitive recruiting battlegrounds in the country, 2016 is shaping up as another year where the state is loaded with high-end talent.

Five of the top 29 players in the ESPN Junior 300 -- defensive tackles Edwin Alexander, Rashard Lawrence, athlete Shyheim Carter, quarterback Shea Patterson and offensive tackle Willie Allen -- and 12 of the top 105 hail from the Tigers' home state.

Allen was among the players who received a scholarship offer from LSU at the event last year, and there will likely be a number of offers going out this weekend, as well.

"We've done all the communication by way of email, by way of correspondence and literature, camp brochures -- all the things that lead up to this point," Wilson said. "It would be the first time on campus that we describe to them the expectations from our staff, and what we expect from them to be recruitable athletes for us at LSU."

Two priority positions in the 2016 class will be linebacker and defensive tackle -- both spots where LSU did not sign a player in 2015. The Tigers would hit a home run at one of those positions -- defensive tackle -- just by taking care of business in state.

They already have a commitment from 6-foot-4, 349-pound Donavaughn Campbell, but tackles Alexander (No. 7 on ESPN 300 and No. 1 tackle) and Lawrence (No. 16 overall and No. 3 tackle) are the two most coveted prospects from within the state. ESPN's No. 13 defensive tackle Glen Logan also hails from Louisiana.

"You can probably imagine 2016 will be a big year for us defensively, as we return several guys this year and our numbers are probably minus-2 where we would like them to be, but we'll get it with no problem next year at the linebacker position, at the defensive tackle position," Wilson said. "As those guys -- [starting defensive tackles] Christian LaCouture, Davon Godchaux -- as they get older, we'll look to have some parity in the distinction between our sophomores and juniors and the freshman class that will come in.

"So I think we'll have a heavy emphasis on our defensive line, our linebacker position and kind of take the rest of them in stride based on graduation and guys that may opt to go the National Football League."

Junior LaCouture and sophomore Godchaux return as starters, and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will also have a number of third-year sophomores (Maquedius Bain, Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron) and redshirt freshmen (Travonte Valentine and Trey Lealaimatafao) at his disposal in 2015. Recruiting the 2016 tackle standouts will not only be about bolstering depth, but solidifying the interior line for several years to come.

"We're very deep, but we have some young players that played very well last year. We have some guys that we redshirted here that we think are going to be great players," Orgeron told ESPN's Niki Noto Palmer on Wednesday. "Obviously we always want to get the best defensive tackle in the country here at LSU. That wasn't available to us this year, but it's a great year for defensive tackles in the state of Louisiana and across the country and we look to sign a bunch next year."

LSU struck out with inside linebacker Leo Lewis on Wednesday, making the position even more of a concern for new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Steele over the next year. Only half of the six linebackers LSU signed in 2012 (Lamar Louis, Deion Jones and Ronnie Feist) remain on the roster, and the Tigers signed just two linebackers in 2013 (Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley) and 2014 (Clifton Garrett and Donnie Alexander) before landing none this year.

Noted recruiters Steele and Orgeron only joined Les Miles' coaching staff three weeks before signing day. That was certainly not enough time for them to make a huge impact in this recruiting cycle, although Wilson said "we couldn't have gotten" Arden Key (ESPN's No. 24 overall prospect and No. 6 defensive end for 2015) without the two new coaches.

However, just wait until this time next year, Miles said, once Steele and Orgeron have had adequate time to connect with recruits.

"In a year you're going to see how good they recruit because they will have relationships that they will carry over for a solid year and then they will have an opportunity to have those men sign with us, first and foremost," Miles said. "But both of those guys know the brand at LSU. Both of those guys played against us. Both of those guys had an opportunity to grow up around this program.

"Ed Orgeron is having a blast being an LSU Tiger and coaching for us and Kevin Steele is, as well. Really it was a natural fit in recruiting. Both guys are professional and know how to do it"