There is excitement brewing again in Baton Rouge after head coach Ed Orgeron lit the switch of enthusiasm for the LSU faithful in 2018 finishing with a 10-3 (5-3 SEC) record that culminated with an AP No. 6 ranking. The Tigers return top talent across the board and could be in the running as a dark-horse candidate for an SEC West title, which could mean a shot at making the College Football Playoff, but must manage one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. For a run to be had at a trophy, some incoming recruits may be needed early as impact players.
Since the Les Miles days (2005-16), LSU has been among the best in the nation at attracting top talent to their program — the 2019 haul lived up to the heavy expectations. Per 247Sports, the Tigers’ class ranked fifth in the nation, fourth in the SEC behind Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M. The signed group of 25 players included three five-stars, 11 four-stars, and 10 three-star talents, a big improvement over the 2018 class that was ranked 15th nationally.
If the rankings mean anything, the Tigers filled needs across the board with high-quality talent and even signed the top-rated long snapper in the country (per Chris Rubio) in Georgia’s Quentin Skinner and the second-rated kicker (Kohl’s) in Cade York coming out of Texas. With a big season ahead, which newcomers are the ones to watch in 2019?
John Emery Jr., RB
What LSU did not have in the backfield a year ago, Emery brings for the new season. The five-star in-state product is big (5-11, 206), fast, elusive, and can score from anywhere on the field with a crease provided. The LSU fan base is well aware of Emery and his abilities. His Destrehan High School squad made a 5A state semifinal run in 2018 colliding with Zachary in an epic 67-57 showdown. Emery bounced back from a season-ending knee injury in 2017 for 1,693 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior. Expect Emery to challenge for a starting position in fall camp.
Emery wowed spectators at the Nike Opening Finals posting a laser timed 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. There was some doubt LSU was going to land him after a July 29, 2018, verbal commitment to Georgia. LSU stayed on him and their patience paid off, as Emery decommited from the Bulldogs on Oct. 25 and commited to the Tigers on Nov. 13.
Tyrion Davis, RB
What the Tigers needed badly was versatile talent and depth in the backfield, and now they have it. Davis is the thunder to Emery’s lightning going across town as the “big” LSU back. Coming in at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, the former Southern University Lab talent is a between-the-tackles runner with quickness in space. He also can catch passes out of the backfield giving the offense options when he is on the field.
Davis had 25 reported offers to choose from and flirted with Penn State, Louisville, and Florida State before signing during the early period in December.
Derek Stingley, CB
For LSU to keep the DBU (Defensive Back University) label away from the Florida Gators, landing amazing talents like Stingley is a must. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defender is a true cover corner with gifted athletic talents. He earned Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year honors during his senior campaign after pulling in 24 passes for 678 yards with eight scores, rushing for 192 yards with four more scores, and picking off four passes, one that he returned for a touchdown. At Dunham High School, Stingley was utilized across the secondary as a playmaker so opposing 2A Louisiana teams could not avoid his side of the field. At LSU, Stingley is expected to be a lockdown defender that will allow the guys in the box time to get to the quarterback.
Stingley was a prized recruit not only for LSU but also for Texas and Florida after showcasing his 4.3 speed at the Nike Opening Finals. The Tigers landed Stingley’s verbal on June 20, signed the All-American on Dec. 19, and saw him enroll early in January. Expect Stingley to compete for a starting job during spring practices.
Marcel Brooks, OLB
The signing of Brooks was a big steal for the Tigers out of Texas. Brooks flashed his overall athleticism during his senior run with 598 receiving yards and five touchdowns to go along with 173 rushing yards and two more scores. But where he captured the attention of college coaches and recruiters was on defense. Brooks is the hybrid defender needed in 3-4 alignments against the spread attack who can stuff the run, be an edge pass rusher from time to time, and cover the pass.
The high-four-star recruit was a borderline five-star after being ranked the nation’s second-best outside linebacker and 32nd overall in his class. Brooks shut down his recruiting early, committing to LSU on April 29, 2018 and making it official during the early signing period this past December.
T.K. McLendon, TE
McLendon may not come with the same hype of some of his peers in this class but his potential impact on offense cannot be underestimated. With the graduation of tight end Foster Moreau, McLendon is expected to step in as an immediate impact player. The former Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College three-star recruit is capable of putting his hand down on the ground, is a big (6-5, 240) target in the passing game, and also can line up as an H-back in coordinator Steve Ensminger’s offense to help open running lanes for the talented tailbacks.
The former Treutlen (Ga.) High School product was rated the third-best junior college tight end in his class after pulling in five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore. McLendon committed in late June 2018 to the Tigers and signed during the early period in December. He is an early enrollee giving him extra time to acclimate to the offense before the 2019 season begins.
— 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 and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.