Keeping ‘Em Home: Louisiana football recruiting hits and misses for LSU (Part 2)
Some eras of LSU football where the winning did not come easy can be, in part, explained by the great players who left Louisiana for college ball. In part one of this retrospective, we looked mostly at the big recruiting classes who led the Tigers to glory along with top quarterbacks produced in the state in one particularly impressive stretch of years.
Quite a few high profile college and future NFL players have slipped through the cracks and took their talents outside the state. Some left because they wanted to experience life elsewhere, still others were simply misdiagnosed by the Tiger staff. Here is a sampling…
In 1987, LSU coach Mike Archer secured quarterback Chris Moock from Baker High in Greenwell Springs, La. He proved to be more valuable in baseball where was later drafted by the MLB. A pair of locals that Archer couldn’t secure for LSU would enjoy success in college.
John “Bucky” Richardson from Broadmoor in Baton Rouge opted for Jackie Sherrill and Texas A&M, where he was 24-6-1 as a starter. Bucky came off the bench in the third week of the ’87 campaign as a true freshman to lead the Aggies to a 27-14 win over Brett Favre and Southern Miss at Veterans Stadium in Jackson, Miss. Richardson played five years in the NFL.
The ’87 class also a player that nearly everyone misdiagnosed, a dual threat quarterback from Plaquemine named Brian Mitchell. He became the first college signal caller to throw for 5,447 yards and run for 3,355 yards during his career at USL (now ULL) as a four-year starter. He played 14 seasons in the NFL where he set an all-time recordwith 14,014 kick return yards, 4,999 punt return yards and 23,330 all-purpose yards.
In 1990, the Tigers signed highly recruited Germaine Williams from Ascension Catholic but missed on St. Augustine’s Sean Jackson who signed with Fla. State before going to NFL. Shaw quarterback Vance Joseph left to run the option offense at Colorado and has returned to that state as Denver Broncos’ head coach.
Ruston safety Rodney Young was the key member of the 1991 class for LSU but teammate Roymon Malcolm was highly coveted before deciding on Auburn until that never materialized.
Curley Hallman’s first recruiting class that year included a miss on Shaw running back Kendall Bussey, who was headed to LSU prior to the coaching change. He went to Colorado instead.
Shaw defensive tackle Pat Riley took his talents to Miami (and later the NFL) where he helped the ‘Canes win a national title.
Despite being named the Metro MVP, John Ehret QB Kordell Stewart considered a late offer from LSU before continuing the West Bank exodus to Boulder, Colorado.
The biggest miss in the ’91 class involved a versatile talent who was offered to play defensive back by LSU, Nebraska and Florida. Yet it was San Diego State recruiter Curtis Johnson, the former Tulane head coach now in his second stint as receivers coach with the Saints, who promised the Carver High star a chance to play running back for the Aztecs. Marshall Faulk jumped on the offer and ran to Canton.
LSU did sign quarterback Ryan Huffman from Houston, Texas in the 1991 class, but he never contributed much on the gridiron.
The ’92 LSU class had quarterback Jamie Howard in the fold so they passed on a lightly regarded player from Teurlings Catholic who had earned all-state as a safety by the name of Jake Delhomme.
Hallman signed a pair of wide receivers from out of state in the ’94 class. Chris Cummings from Dothan, Ala. and and Eric Smith out of Vero Beach, Fla. did not make much of a splash although Cummings moved to the defensive side of the ball.
There was a 5-foot-10 receiver from Huntington High (Shreveport) who mulled over limited offers at the time though. In the end, Troy Edwards signed with Louisiana Tech where he finished with 280 catches for 4,252 yards and 50 touchdowns. Those efforts helped Edwards become the 13th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ’99 NFL Draft.
In 1997, Tigers head coach Gerry DINardo signed Shaw safety Ryan Clark, Vidalia’s Prentis Jenkins and a pair of Texas imports – Lloyd Jones and Terrence Bryant. LSU missed on Destrehan’s Ed Reed, a legendary safety who starred at Miami (FL) and with the Baltimore Ravens.
Running back Lavar Johnson (Galena Park, Texas) was the lone back LSU inked in ’97, but Catholic-Baton Rouge’s Travis Minor (Fla. State) and Winnfield’s Anthony “A Train” Thomas (Michigan) were better players at the position. Fullback Tommy Banks from West Monroe was a hit for LSU in the ’97 class though.
It wasn’t always a case of just misses since the Tigers have enjoyed success in most cases. There is always one diamond in the rough that gets overlooked, the overachiever Rocky Balboa-type of story.
In the 1984 signing class, there was an after thought recruit who was lightly regarded out of Shreveport’s Fair Park High. He received offers from Northeast La. (now ULM), Northwestern State, Grambling and USL. Fortunately, Jerry Stovall extended an offer prior to his dismissal as LSU’s head coach and Bill Arnsparger decided to honor the commitment.
With a tireless work ethic and a great deal of personal attention from receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, the player left LSU as one of the most prolific Tigers in school history. Setting a then-record SEC mark of 2,708 career yards, Wendell Davis was a two-time All American and then a first round draft choice of the Chicago Bears in 1988.
It’s not always how the path begins, it’s more about how it finishes.
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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…