Year in and year out the LSU Tigers pull in some of the best high school talent in the nation on National Signing Day. However, with the dismissal of head coach Les Miles four games into the 2016 season, Bayou Bengal fans were concerned how recruiting would be impacted with Ed Orgeron making the final pitches. A sigh of relief could be heard in Baton Rouge, throughout Louisiana and Tiger Nation on Feb. 1 when Orgeron put the finishing touches on a consensus top-10 recruiting class.
Miles’ final class, the 2016 haul, was ranked No. 5 in the nation by Rivals with 15 four-star players and seven three-star talents among the 24 total commits. Rivals rated Orgeron’s first class, which also consisted of 24 players, eighth in the country but it represented a big difference favoring the new director of the football program. Orgeron signed three five-star players, 12 four-star standouts, and nine three-star prospects only trailing Alabama (7) in the SEC in the number of five-star prospects.
With so much highly regarded talent coming in, here are five that could have an immediate impact for LSU in 2017.
JaCoby Stevens, SS, True Freshman
When All-America safety Jamal Adams declared early for the NFL Draft on Jan. 6, a big hole in LSU’s secondary opened up. The Tigers lay claim to the moniker “DBU” (Defensive Back University) thus there is already top talent on the roster, but Stevens has a chance to contend for immediate playing time. Stevens was a dynamic player on both sides of the ball for Oakland High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., during his senior season but truly shinned on defense with 64 reported tackles and nine interceptions. Helping Stevens’ case, he was an early enrollee and already possesses good size (6-1, 200).
Tyler Shelvin, DT, True Freshman
Another big hole on LSU’s defense due to early draft departures is at tackle with Davon Godchaux off to the NFL. The Tigers’ 3-4 base defense is predicated on having a gap-plugging nose guard to eat up the center and guards, which is where Shelvin comes in. The mammoth (6-3, 360) Under Armour All-American is an in-state product from Notre Dame High School in Crowley where he was coached by former LSU linebacker Trev Faulk and helped the Patriots go 14-1 in 2016.
K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, True Freshman
Starting defensive end Lewis Neal is among the key departures from the 2016 defense, so coordinator Dave Aranda will need another pass-rushing presence to pair with Arden Key. Chaisson had a huge junior season with 84 total tackles and 21 sacks for North Shore in Houston, earning first-team 6A Texas All-State honors. Even though he missed four games due to injury last season, Chaisson still earned first-team All-State honors again and also was named the 21-6A Defensive MVP of the Year.
Mannie Netherly, WR, True Freshman
Netherly is a dynamic athlete that played quarterback for Crosby (Texas) High School in 2016. And he was more than just a Wildcat quarterback, completing 96 of 159 passes for 1,634 yards and 19 touchdowns. His athleticism as a runner also showed, averaging 9.1 yards per carry for a total of 612 yards and nine scores. He’s raw when it comes to route running, but his experience as a quarterback could help him carve out a role early in LSU’s passing attack. Being an early enrollee also should assist Netherly’s transition.
Jacob Phillips, LB, True Freshman
The Tigers will need to replace All-SEC middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith in 2017; and Phillips may end up being the guy. Phillips led his East Nashville (Tenn.) Magnet squad with 123 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and three interceptions as a senior. The challenge for the U.S. Army All-American is the big step up from Tennessee 3A competition to life in the SEC where seemingly every player was one of the top recruits in their respective class.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.
(Ed Orgeron photo by Chris Parent, courtesy of LSUsports.net)