Miles pleased says LSU addressed needs

Bolstered by a top prospect’s late-hour change-of-mind, LSU

assembled a 2013 recruiting class that addressed the loss of 10

regulars who left early for the NFL draft.

The biggest name on the list is Tashawn Bower, a 6-foot-5,

241-pound defensive end out of New Jersey. Bower was widely

believed to be leaning more toward Auburn and Florida, but instead

comes to Baton Rouge at a time when he’ll be expected to step in

right away to help fill the void left by the decision of juniors

ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo to turn pro, along with

the departure of senior Lavar Edwards.

”We really needed the same style of presence we’ve had there

and he gave us that,” LSU coach Les Miles said of Bower. ”He’s

that guy that potentially steps on the field very quickly. I

wouldn’t be surprised if he played in every game and at some point

in time, should he continue to improve, that he might start.

”I don’t know I would have felt as good about this class if we

had not gotten Tashawn.”

And it appears LSU nearly did not get him. Several websites

specializing in recruiting news reported early Wednesday that Bower

had changed his long held verbal commitment from Auburn to Florida.

But then he ended up making Miles’ day instead.

”There are things that happen in recruiting that are better

left unexplained,” Miles said. ”He ran into a very awkward

situation at best and he did the right thing. He stepped back. He

kind of reviewed it again. … Ultimately, it helped him make the

decision to come to LSU.”

LSU brought in 27 new players in all, with 12 from Louisiana’s

fertile recruiting grounds and the rest from out of state.

Another top recruit on the defensive side was 6-3, 225-pound

linebacker Kendell Beckwith, a Louisiana native who Miles expects

to grow into not just a great player but also a leadership

role.

”The leadership on this team generally comes from guys in

Louisiana that want to be a part of this school,” Miles said.

Eight of the recruits were not a surprise as they had already

enrolled in school for the spring semester, meaning they are

expected to be in spring practice that opens March 14th. They are

quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings; offensive linemen

Ethan Pocic and Fehoko Fanaika; tight end Logan Stokes; defensive

tackle Christian LaCouture; and receivers Avery Johnson and John

Diarse.

The two quarterbacks are among the highest rated recruits in the

new class.

Rettig, Miles said, is a ”gifted pocket passer” who will

”translate very comfortably” to the Tigers’ offensive approach.

Jennings was rated nationally among the top dual threat

quarterbacks coming out of high school.

”Really two different styles, but both very, very talented

guys,” Miles said.

The Tigers’ biggest needs were along the defensive line and at

tight end.

Three regular defensive tackles are gone, including seniors Josh

Downs and Chancey Aghayere, and junior Bennie Logan. Only three

defensive lineman remain who’ve had meaningful playing time:

defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, and defensive

end Jermauria Rasco.

That will give Bower and several other recruits to play right

away. Also in the mix are LaCouture; 6-4, 275-pound defensive

tackle Greg Gilmore; and 6-5, 245-pound end Frank Herron.

Miles also brought two tight ends including DeSean Smith, who

Miles predicted is ”going to be an immediate impact guy, a guy who

can catch the ball and give us a weapon at that spot.”

Although LSU had good depth on the offensive line, it did lose

four regulars from last season. Those holes could be filled in part

by Pocic, a 6-7, 285-pounder from Illinois, and Fanaika, who is

6-6, 340, along with Josh Boutte (6-4, 324), Andy Dodd ( 6-3, 330)

and K.J. Malone (6-3, 307), whose father is former NBA star and

Hall of Famer Karl Malone.

The top-rated receiver in the class is 6-4 Quantavius Leslie,

out of Hinds (Miss.) Community College. Miles said he would provide

a big target out wide that the offense wants.

LSU did not sign a running back, with Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue

and Kenny Hilliard all expected to return.

”Every class since I’ve been here has been designed to meet

what are very specific needs,” Miles said. ”This class … really

fits the needs this team has, and really, that’s the most important

piece.”

LSU was one of several Southeastern Conference schools with

recruiting classes widely rated in the top 10 in the nation, along

with Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas A&M. Several other

SEC schools weren’t far behind, and Miles figured there has to be a

connection to the fact that SEC teams have won the past seven

national championships.

”When a national champion is described and discussed, it is

generally the SEC that leads the discussion,” Miles said. ”When

we walk in, there’s some excitement. There’s a brand of young man

out there that says, `I want to be challenged by the best. I want

to play in the biggest conference. … I want to see how good I

am.’ And I think in this conference there’s a number of schools

that can present that to young people.”