Defensive front seven signees highlight LSU's well-rounded recruiting class

BATON ROUGE, La. -- What LSU's national signing day lacked in last-minute fireworks, it more than made up for in overall effectiveness.

The Tigers added just two new players to their class on Wednesday -- No. 27 overall prospect and No. 3 cornerback Kristian Fulton and three-star offensive guard Lloyd Cushenberry -- and lost ESPN 300 outside linebacker Erick Fowler to Texas. But because of the class' top-to-bottom quality -- 19 of the 23 signees are ESPN 300 honorees, tying two Alabama classes for the most ever -- Les Miles' staff clearly filled the holes in LSU's roster.

“The key piece is that you answer needs,” Miles said. “You get the guys that you need to fill the holes that you need, and you do so with great players as best you can.”

Where the Tigers' defensive front seven is concerned, LSU managed to stockpile high-end prospects. Fowler's defection was unquestionably painful since LSU's linebacker depth is not ideal, but the Tigers' collection of defensive line signees appears to be well-rounded enough that losing Fowler was not devastating.

There are the traditional defensive tackle prospects -- 333-pound Edwin Alexander, 310-pound Rashard Lawrence and 284-pound Glen Logan -- who could also play nose in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's new scheme. And then there are ends Andre Anthony and Caleb Roddy who are athletic enough to play multiple roles off the edge.

“That would be the top defensive line class in the country,” Miles said.

That was a common refrain from Miles as he addressed his signing class with reporters on Wednesday. At three different position groups -- defensive line, wide receiver and defensive back -- he said LSU signed the best collection of talent in the country. Actually of the defensive backs he said “this is the best collection of defensive backs maybe in college football history on paper.”

Was that some Grade A national signing day braggadocio? Of course it was. But LSU's coach has every reason to be pleased at the quality of his newest recruiting class.

The immediate question will be where the Tigers go at linebacker after the departures of seniors Deion Jones and Lamar Louis, following years of attrition at the position. That makes No. 51 overall prospect Michael Divinity's status as an early enrollee all the more important, as the explosive outside linebacker will get an early start on digesting Aranda's defense this spring.

In fact, Divinity said on the signing day special on LSU's website that familiarizing himself with Aranda's system is his No. 1 goal for the spring.

“We've got a new defensive coordinator and we're going to learn a new scheme and just can't wait to get on the field and spend time with Coach Miles and the whole coaching staff and building that brotherly relationship with teammates,” Divinity said.

Aranda is known for his scheme flexibility, so traditional linebackers will not always have to fill the linebacker roles. Miles pointed that out on Wednesday, noting that “there are a number of guys that can line up on the edge and give pass rush or drop. … I just think that what we are is we're very athletic, we're long, we're tall, and we have flexibility now.”

They also have a defense stocked with eight returning starters and experienced reserves -- five senior backups have considerable on-field experience -- around to help the freshmen adapt once they arrive on campus. In yet another recent plus for Miles, every draft-eligible underclassman on LSU's defense opted to return for another season in college. They realize part of their responsibility now is to function as mentors for new teammates.

"A lot of years past, a lot of guys have left early and now we have a senior-dominant team," defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said recently. "You can expect those guys to depend on those seniors and look for leadership, take those guys under your wing. That's something you look at and make sure that you're a true leader and when they look to you, you want to make sure you're doing the right thing so they can know what's going on so when they get to be a sophomore, junior, senior, they do the same thing for those younger guys."

With the collection of talent soon to be at his disposal and the veterans still around to lead them, Miles' optimism is understandable.

“We'll really find out about this class in time -- after they get in the weight room, they work on their speed, they take coaching, they accept the culture here at LSU,” Miles said. “We do hard things at LSU … and once they accept that, I think that this group will be very special. It's certainly a class that you can compete for a national championship with.”