Keeping ‘Em Home: Louisiana football recruiting hits and misses for LSU (Part 1)
The recruiting process has taken some interesting twists and turns for LSU over the years. Of course, there have been some hits and some misses.
Many variables contribute to the success or failure of the recruit. There was a time when the Tiger staff didn’t feel compelled to throw a proverbial rope around the state to defend their turf against outsiders. Other schools reeled in some top talent that was, often times, underappreciated inside Louisiana.
The 1969 recruiting class was a unique group in the Pelican state, boasting four quarterbacks who would all go onto national prominence. Three later continued their careers in the NFL.
Terry Davis was a running QB from Bogalusa who inked with Bear Bryant and the University of Alabama. All the 6-foot, 179 pounder did was lead the Crimson Tide to consecutive SEC titles in 1971 and ’72, culminating with a fifth place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Woodlawn’s Joe Ferguson was the crown jewel of the ’69 class. He threw for over 6,700 yards and 86 touchdowns his final two seasons in high school, tossing nearly 34 passes per game at a time when high-octane passing games were not common. He picked Arkansas, eventually going on to play 18 seasons in the NFL.
Ruston’s Bert Jones waited to see where Ferguson was going before deciding on his destination. The”Ruston Rifle” headed south to LSU, where coach Charlie McClendon ran a two quarterback system. Jones the passer and Paul Lyons the runner made for a good combination. Jones later went to a fine NFL career and was named league MVP in 1976.
Chalmette’s Norris Weese was perhaps the best athlete of the ’69 group. He lost head-to-head to Joe Ferguson in the ’68 state semifinals when Woodlawn edged the Chalmette Owls. Weese picked Ole Miss where he followed Archie Manning.
Moving ahead to 1977 for the story of another quarterback, the Tigers were trying to secure the state’s Player of the Year, Shaw’s John Fourcade. After Coach Charlie Mac informed Fourcade he’d have to bide his time before seeing the field for LSU, the future New Orleans Saints signal caller signed with coach Steve Sloan and Ole Miss. Alabama was the other finalist.
In 2001 and ’04, the state possessed a plethora of talent. The Tigers took advantage.
The ’01 class produced wide receiver Michael Clayton (Christian Life), tackle Andrew Whitworth (West Monroe), defensive end Marcus Spears (Southern Lab), lineman Rudy Niswanger (Ouachita Christian), end Marquise Hill (De La Salle) and cornerback Ronnie Prude (Fair Park).
Spears, who also held a basketball offer from Duke for a time, could have played tight end but starred at defensive end on the way to NFL to play for the Dallas Cowboys. Niswanger started on the offensive line and won the Campbell Academic Heisman award. The others listed all played in the NFL.
In 2004, there was another motherlode of talent in Louisiana. LSU reeled in defensive tackle Charles Alexander (Breaux Bridge), defensive line man Glenn Dorsey (East Ascension), wideout Early Doucet (St. Martinville), defensive tackle Marlon Favorite (West Jeff), defensive end Tyson Jackson (West St. John), linebacker Luke Sanders (West Monroe) and safety Craig Steltz (Rummel).
Out of the group of future pros, Dorsey has the most decorated college career. He won the Outland Trophy, Lott Award and Nagurski Award.
You’ll notice that the ’01 class contributed heavily to LSU capturing the 2003 BCS title while the ’04 group helped LSU walk away with the crystal trophy in 2007. No question that the teams usually at the very top in recruiting can expect to be in the national title picture the following two, three or four years.
Securing a Louisiana bred QB has been an Achilles heel for the Tigers, even when they were available. Strangely, the signal callers on the ’03 and ’07 national championship squads were both imports. In 2003, transfer Matt Mauck from Jasper, Indiana led the offense. Tyler, Texas native Matt Flynn started in 2007.
Ryan Perrilloux, signed in 2005 out of East St. John, was supposed to be a star, but things didn’t work for him off the field. However, he did win the SEC title game in place of an injured Flynn to help the Tigers reach the national championship.
Of the starting 22 on LSU’s 2003 team, 18 hailed from Louisiana. In 2007, 15 of the 22 starters called ‘the Boot’ home.
Next time, we’ll look at the recruiting misses which led to darker Tiger times while other schools elsewhere shined with the aid of Louisiana talent.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to play football at LSU, developing a passion for the game in even greater fashion while in…