Greatness begins here? Les Miles seems to think so
BATON ROUGE - LSU football Head Coach Les Miles took to the mic at the end of what many consider to be one of the most fruitful recruiting seasons of all time for Tiger football with nothing but good things to say about his crop of fresh recruits.
“The key piece of this signing class is you answer needs,” Coach Miles said. “I like this class very much.”
Among the many records set by the 2016 recruiting class, Miles said LSU tied the record for signing ESPN 300 prospects with 19. Miles went on to say the program picked up the top defensive line, defensive back and wide receiver groups in the country. The bottom line from Miles?
"I think this group will be very special. It's certainly a class you can compete for a national championship with," said Miles, summing up his press conference with words every fan from Tigerland wants to hear.
There were a total of 23 2016 football signees. Along with the standout ESPN 300 ranking, LSU smashed into the top overall rankings among popular college football web publications. They are No. 1 overall on ESPN.com, No. 2 overall on 247sports.com, No. 3 on Scout.com and No. 6 on Rivals.com. Miles would also note following the press conference that 70 percent of this particular recruiting class came from within the state boundaries.
Below is the full transcript from the Les Miles press conference:
“Any time that you have a recruiting effort that is widespread as this, there's a lot of people that have done great jobs to produce a class that's No. 1 ranked or No. 3, depending on when you left the room, but it takes effort and energy of many, coaches and their families, the administrators in our building, the administrators in this building, professors that donate afternoons that show the school off, take them to their office, that take interest in our student-athletes. To all of those people that represent LSU and LSU very well, I'd like to say thank you. It's a collective effort, and it takes us all.
The signing class, again, whether it's No. 1 or No. 3, when I left the room it was No. 1, the key piece is that you answer needs. 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.
But I like this class very much. We tied the record for signing ESPN 300 prospects in one class with 19. The class consisted of three five-stars, 16 four-stars, and various sites. Signed the top player in the state of Louisiana for the third straight year, Leonard Fournette, Donte Jackson and Rashard Lawrence up north. Enjoyed the fact that we went up north and got some key participants in the class, signed nine of the top 10 in the state of Louisiana, and you know, for those young men that are looking for an opportunity to continue their football career in this state, it tells them they can stay home.
We had five mid-year enrollees, wide receiver Dee Anderson will immediately work into some of the business that offensively. Linebacker Michael Divinity, very, very talented guy from the city (New Orleans). Saivion Smith from Florida, again, a very, very talented defensive back. Stephen Sullivan, a 6'6" wide receiver, and Devin White, a 250-pound, very fast tailback. Those five guys will start practice with us in the spring and start our coaching sessions and be involved.
The class consists of 23 prospects from five different states; 16 in Louisiana, three in Texas, two in Florida, one in Arizona, one in Alabama. 70 percent of this class is from Louisiana. 46 of 79 scholarship players in Louisiana roughly. 60 percent of our team is from Louisiana.
Goals of this class certainly were to meet specific needs. We needed a great defensive line class, we needed a great wide receiver class, we needed also to have linebackers and offensive line, defensive backs and quarterback. But we had probably the best class nationally in the defensive line and wide receivers.
The defensive line had five signees, Rashard Lawrence, the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana; Edwin Alexander, again, a big, strong inside guy and a four-star athlete right out of Louisiana; defensive end Glen Logan, the No. 2 player in the state of Louisiana; Andre Anthony, a defensive end from the city of -- fast, great speed, rusher; Caleb Roddy, again, another defensive end, can come off the edge, is 6'5" and has length, talented guy.
And again, the five-star would be Rashard Lawrence. Four stars would be the rest of those men.
That would be the top defensive line class in the country.
Linebackers, again, a key to this class. We signed five-star prospect Michael Divinity; also signed a four-star and great leader in Rahssan Thornton from Texas, and we put some guys around them that will have the flexibility to play nickel and dime and have the ability to, with the new Okie defense, step in and play some linebacker, as well.
The wide receivers, we took three. Again, it was the top wide receiver class in the nation in Dee Anderson and Stephen Sullivan and Drake Davis. All have great height and length at the position, big guys with ball skills, guys that can go up and get the ball, and the style of player that we really needed to add to the team.
Defensive backs, another key. Opinion, this is the best collection of defensive backs maybe in college football history on paper, a great collection of young men that are able to play multiple spots in our secondary. Five-star Kristian Fulton from Louisiana, really a true corner, the ability to really move his feet, very smart guy, make a lot of adjustments and play at a bunch of positions in the secondary.
Saivion Smith from Florida, again, a tall, 6'2", very talented, great skill, great ball skill style of corner. And four-star Eric Monroe, Greedy Williams and Cam Lewis. Both Greedy Williams from Shreveport and Cam Louis from Monroe up north. Really nice to add those. Greedy will be a natural corner, as well, so this will give us a lot of flexibility with how to play our safeties, considering that we can step corners on the field that can really shut down some passing.
Offensive line, signs the top two guys in the state of Louisiana with Willie Allen from John Curtis in New Orleans, and Donavaughn Campbell from Ponchatoula, and again, two very, very talented guys.
We added Lloyd Cushenberry, again, from Dutchtown, very athletic guy, a 6'3", 330-pounder that really is flexible, can move his feet, and will give us a center guard style of player.
Went to Mobile and got Jakori Savage, a guy that showed up good in our camp, and will need some certain work. He's a little thin right now, but he's the kind of guy that has real mobility and will grow into his body.
Willie Allen is certainly one of the top targets of the class. We needed to keep our best players in Louisiana at home. He was certainly one.
Donavaughn Campbell, again, was the top inside prospect in the state.
We had to have a quarterback. You know, we need to continue to compete at that spot, and Lindsey Scott gave us a great opportunity. We lost on a guy that decided to stay close to home about the time that Lindsey Scott opened his recruitment; it really was perfect timing. We think he'll be a guy that can throw it, run it, and extend plays, and yet really give you a very bright leader on the field.
So we're looking forward to seeing how he competes.
The signing class overview, looking at these guys singularly, Saivion Smith is from IMG, an elite shut-down corner with exceptional closing speed.
Andraez Williams, 6'2", 165, again, from Shreveport, Louisiana, four-star corner, great length, big frame, going to be a real elite player.
Cameron Lewis, really played quarterback for Wossman High School but had great speed in our camp, and looks to me that he'll be a physical safety prospect and a nice addition to our team.
Eric Monroe is an elite corner -- excuse me, an elite safety, one of the top prospects in the 2016 class, has great closing speed, is very physical, great coverage skills.
Kristian Fulton, a five-star corner out of Rummel, coached by Jay Roth, a superb ball-skill man and a guy that has great speed, and just really exactly what we needed. Putting him in that spot will give flexibility to a lot of guys around him.
Edwin Alexander, another defensive lineman, 6'2", 333, four-star, again, one of best defensive tackles in high school this year.
Rashard Lawrence, the No. 1 player in our state, five-star, from Neville. Again, we're doing much better in the northern part of the state and putting us in a position to kind of go back up there and have our presence felt. But this Lawrence has a nonstop motor for a big man.
Caleb Roddy from Denham Springs High School, a four-star defensive end, long, agile, very capable.
And again, Andre Anthony, 6'4", 219, reminds you of a Keke Mingo, has really elite speed and can rush the passer.
Glen Logan, again, a four-star, the second player in the state of Louisiana, 6'4", 284, from Destrehan High School, a tremendous big, physical man.
Again, Michael Divinity, a 6'2", 218, from Marrero, Louisiana, John Ehret High School; very violent and very fast, very capable, really going to be a guy that fits into this Okie defense and the opportunity for him to stand up and play very significant football as a true freshman.
Rahssan Thornton, a 6'2", 211 from Shoemaker High School, four-star; and again, he was a defensive end that we're moving to linebacker, and gives us great speed, very quick.
The wide receivers, again, we think are the best group, this threesome, Dee Anderson is 6'5", 200 pounds out of DeSoto High School; rangy, great ball range and great ball skills. A guy that has great height, can go get it.
Stephen Sullivan, wide receiver, again, 6'5", 230, freshman, Donaldsonville High School. Again, very, very talented player.
And we took Drake Davis out of IMG Academy. He runs a 10 300 meters. He plays soccer, football, basketball, and it would be my guess he can swing a bat and play baseball. Certainly the best wide receiver class possibly in the country.
The offensive line class gives you Jakori Savage at 6'5", 289. Will develop, get stronger, and certainly needs some time, maybe a redshirt candidate, but very mobile.
Lloyd Cushenberry, 6'4", 320, from Dutchtown, very mobile. Bennie Saia coaches him there.
And the most explosive guard prospect in the state, Donavaughn Campbell, a 6'5", 350-pounder that when you watch his film, it's pretty exciting to watch those guys back up.
Running back Devin White, a six-foot 250-pounder, remarkably fast for as big as he is and a guy that you'll enjoy watching run the ball for the Tigers.
And Jamal Pettigrew is a 6'6", 218-pounder is a guy that has really great ball skills, gives us great range for a tight end, but also will give you impact in the running game, as well. So he's a guy that we would expect to see immediate playing time and play quickly.
The specialists, Connor Culp, kicker, 5'10", 195 pounds, but is the fourth-best kicker in the country and a guy that can give you range. His big leg was at our camp.
If you look at some of the statistics I was reading when it came to height and range and those things, what we've done more of this year is we've taken guys that were bigger and stronger and taller and had length for an attribute, a characteristic, long arms, big hands and strength, and we did it really across the board at a number of positions, and it's one of the reasons why this class is so highly ranked.
But 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. There is a nice hard work -- we do hard things at LSU culture in that build being, 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.
You know, I like to look at how this veteran team that we've left intact, will return 18 starters, and when you look at a class that is this talented as this class come alongside a veteran team, we like our chances. We certainly like our expectations, and we'll look to play to them.
Q. Brandon Harris made the effort to go to Lindsey Scott's signing today. Lindsey said he's already been like a big brother to him. Can you talk about the relationship those two have, and Brandon doing that today?
LES MILES: Yeah, in my opinion that's our guys. I think Leonard Fournette is also a guy that has reached out to several of his teammates, new teammates, and has had an impact already.
Q. You kind of just touched on it, but does this class almost get you back on track? You have such a veteran group coming back. Does this really address the needs and maybe put you kind of in a stockpile situation moving forward, where you've been depleted by the draft in so many years past?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think that this is a class that by defensive line, you can put big, strong, tall men to the line of scrimmage and take on tackles and be a real force inside. I think our secondary is a secondary now that really you can put shut-down corners out there and keep them fresh and do the things that we did with Pat and Tyron and Mo, and it's going to be exciting with that, that style of secondary.
The linebackers, returning some of the guys that we have, but when we -- the two that we add, Michael Divinity is going to be a special player. He's got great speed. He's physical. He's long. I mean, it's a -- we will become more a dominant team more by the nature of our player than by the nature of the call.
Q. How big of a selling point for some of these defensive guys, especially the guys on the line, was the new defense?
LES MILES: Well, I think Dave Aranda has been taken to by our players. I think he's not had a lot of exposure, but all the guys that have run across him have enjoyed their time, and I think that he's a deliberate communicator. I think he's a guy that will teach well. But I think the flexibility of Dave's defense is what our guys are looking forward to. In other words, you can line up in five defensive fronts and do so in a very quick, efficient manner and really give a defense a lot of advantages with scheme, and I think you'll really enjoy how that defense will be played.
Q. You mentioned the team rankings, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3. Is there any disappointment at not finishing No. 1?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think more than anything, it has to be guided with the idea that you're answering needs and not necessarily getting rankings, and there's some guys on that board that I certainly recognize as great players, and some guys that I recognize as guys that we did not go after.
Q. You had a linebacker committed for a while. How tough is that when you lose someone so late like that?
LES MILES: Yeah, it's never fun. What we are, certainly, are men of our words, and we have a scholarship for you, and we are not recruiting to your scholarship, and this is a -- it's what we do, okay. We're going to do what we say. And at times, many times, the prospect is not necessarily held to that same level.
But again, for me, it always seems to be the guys that were meant to be here are here, and we'll really look forward to coaching them, and we'll just go down the road.
Q. You touched on it when you thanked everybody involved in the process, but losing Frank, having Kevin depart, and Dave, adding him right away, are you surprised at all about how well you all were still able to maintain the recruits you had?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think -- I think there's a great cooperative spirit there. I think the staff understood what needed to be done, and I think Austin Thomas did a great job in helping direct and put guys so that we didn't go by a home visit that needed to be made. I think we were really pretty good there.
And yet we can improve.
Q. Can you put a finger on why y'all did so well in Louisiana this year, despite a lot of things going on, Frank leaving, you got nine of the top 10, 17 total from Louisiana?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think our guys in this state recognize the great opportunity of the university here. I think they enjoy walking into that stadium and playing. I think the credential of choice, once you graduate, is an LSU credential. I think the way our alumni carry stories of their time here just permeates through this state.
I think that people want to be close to their friends and family, and I think there was a group of men in this class that want to win another National Championship right here in the state of Louisiana for friends and family, and I think that that is a significant piece that LSU will always have.
Q. Are you guys still working on a new contract for Cam Cameron, and do you expect him back?
LES MILES: I asked Cam today, I said, "Fill me in." He says, "There's no validity to any of that crud." I said, "Okay, great." It really didn't take much. I'm certain that there's probably a contract being worked on, not by the necessity of this report, but by the necessity of what's right.
Q. Of course a lot of the talking heads out there will question the quarterback in this class. What is it about recruiting quarterbacks here that maybe has been a challenge and that you guys haven't necessarily always been able to land your first choice?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think Brandon Harris was absolutely a first choice. I think there were several first choices that we took, and we understood that.
I think many times there's the opportunity given to a bright, athletic, throw and run quarterback, a dual threat. I think that those guys have the opportunity to do things that are pretty special, and so we're going to look at Lindsey Scott and look at that. He looks pretty tall to me.
Q. Two questions: Running back coach, what's the timeline for that, and where do you stand?
LES MILES: We're going to operate after recruiting. Recruiting has just ended, I think, and we'll turn to him immediately.
Q. You have a chance to pick up another kid, though, right? You're looking at signing more in this class?
LES MILES: I didn't say that.
Q. But you can, right?
LES MILES: I could say that, but I didn't.
Q. It wouldn't be signing day without the proverbial, "who's going to make the biggest impact first" question, so there it is. Who do you think is going to get to the field the quickest out of this class?
LES MILES: Culp could be a serious contribution, the kicker. I think the corners can be a shut-down group of corners that can have impact and give us a lot of flexibility with where we move people. I think Rashard Lawrence inside could be a step in and knock it down and be pretty special there.
I don't know. This Devin White, we're going to have to find something to do with that guy. As fast as he is, he's 250 pounds, I mean, six foot -- just under 6'2", and probably runs under 4.4. This is a very large, very fast man. We're going to have to develop an opportunity for him.
Q. I guess just like in your mind or in the war room, what's the difference for you between waiting on a kid like Kristian Fulton to announce and hearing him say "LSU" and the feeling you get when the fax comes in? Like when you actually have to wait out and hear the decision, even if he's already told y'all yes or no.
LES MILES: I like getting the information on camera because then the fax is coming, or you sell them on signing day, make a -- you misspeak, and if you make the announcement, then you can, rest assured, even though you haven't received that fax, that fax is coming. Those guys, that never bothers me either way. Receiving the fax or making the announcement.
It's not receiving the fax and not making the announcement, those are the ones that bother me most.
Q. You talked a little bit about it earlier, but two linebackers listed here, but there's some other guys that could move to that position. Could you name some of the guys you think might be able to slide into that linebacker spot?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think there's a number of guys that by the nature of the defense can play a nickel or a dime, and I think there are a number of guys that can line up on the edge and give pass rush or drop.
I think I could exhaust a good segment of the meeting to come up with those names. But I just think that what we are is we're very athletic, we're long, we're tall, and we have flexibility now.
Q. You've got two guys from IMG Academy. What is that place starting to become, almost like a recruiting factory down there? Why is it so popular for college coaches and college players, too, obviously?
LES MILES: Well, the college coach goes there because of the athlete that's there, and it's a -- and generally speaking, there's some very, very talented guys there. And I recognize that it's a school and they're doing a good job educationally, and it is also an athletic forum. There's a number of sports played there. The day that I was there, the Chinese track team walked across the track. And I can see that there are a lot of experiences, international students, that somebody that would go to IMG would have over what would be an experience that I had in my simple high school.
Q. What is this day like for you? For fans it's exciting, they're ready to see the class, but for you, is it the start of next year's class, the end of this --
LES MILES: This right here is resolution, okay. I see who we have, and okay, I like the position that we're in. It's time to pause, take a deep breath, maybe take a nap, and then you're really into what is the next recruiting class. That's just the nature of the business.
In the last week, like for instance, when I was at IMG, I saw at least two or three guys there that we will eventually recruit. It's just an ongoing cycle that really shouldn't end.
Q. Drake Davis mentioned on a website that he visited here, that you hugged him, and friends said he was just going to get a handshake from you but you hugged him. And how much do you feel the personal touch from you, the head coach, the interaction you have with recruits, helps you land a class like this?
LES MILES: Yeah, it's interesting, I have never read an essay that somebody wrote on signing day. I mean, absolutely. Somebody directed it at me. First of all, I thought it was well done. If I was an English teacher, I would have given him a good grade. I felt like it was pretty stylistic and had some stuff to it.
I like the parallel that he drew between family and team, and you don't shake hands with family, you hug. I think that was a good piece.
I didn't know if that was going on at the time. In fact, if I had known that there was a $10 bet on this deal, I would have somehow made $5, somehow.