Closing The Book On The Class of 2006

RECRUITING

First, a few recruiting notes…

In a bit of great news, junior college quarterback Zach Mettenberger faxed in his letter of intent to LSU on Wednesday.  So his decision to attend LSU is now official.   While it was originally believed that Zach would be able to practice with LSU during their bowl practices, it does not look like that is going to happen.  He’ll be ready to go in the spring though.  

A new name that is now squarely on the radar screen is Acadiana defensive back Micah Eugene.  Eugene has always been a solid prospect but recently put on a show during the 5A state playoffs.  It was believed that Eugene had no chance to qualify academically, but it now looks like he’s on track or at least within striking distance.  Ignoring grades for a second, Eugene is a legitimate SEC prospect.  Many people who attended teh state championships last weekend said that Eugene was the most impressive player at the Superdome.  That would put him ahead of guys like Jermauria Rasco, Paul Turner, Ronald Martin, and Terrance Magree.  Needless to say, that is lofty praise.  Once word spread of his academic progress, coaches from LSU, Alabama and USC have all been in touch with him trying to set up a visit.  If LSU offers and pushes for him, it’s tough for me to see him going elsewhere.  With space at a premium in this class, especially at defensive back, it will be interesting to see how things shake out between Eugene and Byron Moore.  

All of a sudden, it appears that Miami quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s relationship with LSU is just about over.  The one time Miami commitment seemed high on LSU a few weeks back.  Then all of a sudden, LSU cooled on Bridgewater and favored Dak Prescott.  Once Prescott reaffirmed his commitment to Mississippi State, most assumed they would get back on Bridgewater.  It was even reported that he would visit LSU this weekend.   But now, those plans appear to be squashed and as of now, it looks like LSU will stand pat with Mettenberger and Stephen Rivers as the two quarterbacks in this class.   That is as of now and this situation is obviously fluid.  

CLASS OF 2006 FINAL LOOK

It has been five years since the Class of 2006 put pen to paper and signed with LSU.  This was Les Miles’ first full class as LSU’s head coach and now that all players have all exhausted their eligibility, it’s time to take a final look at their performance. 

Overall, history will judge this class as being OK.  It was not stellar.  But it was not a total failure either.  Many of these guys contributed to a national championship.  

At some positions, like linebacker and running back, the class proved to be quite strong.   At others, such as offensive line, it was a total disaster.  Let’s take a look at each player, going position by position.  

QB
LSU did not sign a quarterback in the Class of 2006, and that ultimately haunted the LSU program.  It was tough to sign a good quarterback in 2006 because LSU signed the #1 QB in the nation a year earlier in Ryan Perriloux.  So most big-time quarterbacks were not looking at LSU.   The Tigers did have a commitment from Utah prospect, Alex Cate, who later de-committed and signed with Oklahoma State where his career did not work out.  Once Perriloux was dismissed from LSU’s team, LSU did not have a veteran quarterback for the 2008 season.  It’s easy to say that LSU should have signed someone in this class, but Perriloux’s presence combined with Cate’s late de-commitment made that difficult to do. 

RB
LSU signed three running backs in this class, who all played key roles for LSU’s program.  

Charles Scott – Scott earned playing time as a true freshman before really contributing as a sophomore as LSU won the national title.  As a junior, he took over the lead spot in LSU’s running game and rushed for over 1,000 yards, earning First Team All-SEC honors.  He struggled his senior year behind a woeful offensive line, and I don’t really put that blame on him.  Scott was rated as a four star prospect and a National Top 100 player, and he certainly lived up to that billing. 

Keiland Williams – Williams played extensively in all four seasons at LSU.  He earned the starting tailback spot at the end of his true freshman season in 2006.  Most expected a breakout year in 2007, but the steady Jacob Hester won the job ahead of Williams.  Williams again was a back up in 2008 and 2009 to Charles Scott.  At the end of his career, Williams had amassed around 1,700 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.  But since he was a five star prospect, many feel he did not fulfill his promise.  In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with being a backup to All-SEC performers such as Jacob Hester and Charles Scott. 

Richard Murphy – Murphy was always “the third guy” when talking about this running back class.  He never had the build of a traditional SEC running back and was always considered a speed guy or a change of pace guy.  A knee injury sidelined his junior season, and he could not earn his way onto the field consistently as a senior.   My personal thought is that Murphy should have been moved to wide receiver at some point during his career.   Murphy endured a lot during his time at LSU, and he’s a great Tiger.  He was a good role player but never developed into a star.   And that’s OK. 

Missed OnIt’s tough to say LSU missed by signing the three guys above.  But the same year, Chris Brown out of Alexandria signed with Oklahoma and had a great career there.  He finished with nearly 3,000 career rushing yards and 45 touchdowns.  Many can look at that and easily say that perhaps he should have been taken over Murphy.  But it would be hard to find a guy to represent LSU any better than Richard Murphy.   

WR
LSU signed three wide receivers, none of which made a big impact on the program. 

Jared Mitchell – Mitchell played a couple of seasons of football before deciding to focus his attention solely on baseball, where he was the MVP of the College World Series and a first round draft pick.  So that was probably a good move on his part.  After playing sparingly as a freshman, he was called upon to step up as a sophomore after Early Doucet was injured.  He had mixed reviews.  He caught six balls in his first game filling in for Doucet, but struggled a bit after that.  Perhaps Mitchell would have continued to develop and would have made a big impact on the program had he played as a junior and senior, but we’ll never know.  So as a guy who was on some National Top 100 lists, LSU did not get the appropriate level of production from Mitchell.  But LSU fans are not upset about that and were glad to use the football scholarship on him since he gave us so many great memories at Alex Box and Rosenblatt.

Chris Mitchell – Chris Mitchell was a solid program player for LSU and was the third or fourth receiver on the field as a junior and senior.  He proved to be a decent deep threat, and his big touchdown catch at Auburn in 2008 proved to be the turning point in LSU’s big win.  Otherwise, Mitchell did not do too much outside of special teams.  Rated as a three star prospect by some and a four star by others, Mitchell had an OK career. 

Ricky Dixon – Dixon never made an impact, playing sparingly and only in garbage time.  He transferred after a couple of seasons at LSU.

Missed On – Nobody really.  It was a poor year for receivers both in the state of Louisiana and nationally.  LSU was hot after Olive Branch, MS prospect Markeith Summers who had a nice career at Ole Miss (and helped LSU this year by flipping into the end zone, earning an unsportsman like conduct penalty, and giving LSU good field position for the game winning drive).   

TE
LSU signed a pair of tight-ends, one of which was fantastic.  The other did not work out. 

Richard Dickson – Dickson made a huge impact on LSU’s program, finishing his career as LSU’s all time receiving leader from the tight-end position.  Dickson played as a true freshman in 2006 and followed that up with a great 2007 campaign.  His highlight may have been catching two touchdowns in the BCS Championship Game against Ohio State.  As a team leader in 2008 and 2009, Dickson was a solid receiving option and was very underrated as a blocker in the run game.

J.D. Lott – Lott was not a highly rated recruit, and he had very few offers.  But LSU offered him based on a camp performance, and it proved to be a poor decision.  Lott never contributed on the field and ultimately trasnferred.

Missed On –  Nobody  

OL
This OL class was a disaster.  LSU signed five players, none of which ever played a meaningful snap.   The failure of this offensive line class is the biggest reason why LSU struggled on offense in 2009 and 2010.  

Mark Snyder – A late addition to the class out of West Monroe, Snyder was taken mostly on potential.  He was considered a “project”, but an injury shortened his career and we’ll never know if he would have panned out.  

Phil Loadholt – Loadholt was recruited out of junior college.  Due to the SEC’s academic requirements for JUCO players, Loadholt was not eligible to play at LSU in 2006.  Rather than re-take a class and join LSU the following year, Loadholt decided to play at Oklahoma where he was eligible right away.  He started for them, became an All-American and a high draft pick.  He now starts at right tackle for the Minnesota Vikings.  

Steven Singleton – Singleton was a solid prospect out of Georgia that signed with LSU.  I heard very good things about him from the practice fields and most figured he’d eventually start at guard for the Tigers.  After a year and a half, Singleton left LSU’s team because he was homesick.  He bounced around a bit but ultimately landed at South Carolina for the 2010 season where he was a backup.  

Zhamal Thomas – Thomas signed with LSU out New Iberia as a four star prospect.  After a redshirt year, he was dismissed from LSU’s team for disciplinary issues.  He did not play a down for LSU.  He landed at a junior college before signing back with Arkansas where he was a backup for two seasons. 

Matt Allen – Allen was perhaps the most promising prospect LSU signed in 2006.  He was highly rated by most scouting services and rated a four star.  He redshirted in 2006 and was a backup in 2007.  After one year with new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, Allen transferred to Texas A&M.  He apparently did not fit with what Studrawa was looking for.  At A&M, Allen started six games in 2009 and has been a full time starter at center in 2010. 

Missed On – LSU really made a mistake by not offering Houston area prospect Russell Okung.  He was practically begging for an LSU offer, but the Tigers decided against it.  He signed with Oklahoma State and was a high first round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.   LSU also missed on Trent Williams.   The Tigers recruited him hard and just missed on getting his signature.  He signed with Oklahoma and was also a very high first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.  As bad as this class was at OL, it was almost really good. 

DT
LSU signed three guys at DT in this class.  Two of them were solid program players while the other never showed up. 

Al Woods – Woods had an OK career at LSU.  He was a contributor as a backup for two seasons.  Then, he was a part time starter for one season and a full time starter as a senior.  The problem is that Woods had a very unique combination of size, strength, and agility.  He was a five star prospect and many expected big, big things from him.  He never lived up to that billing and never really developed into a big play maker.  But he was OK and at least proved he belonged on the football field in the SEC.  Even after his college career was over, NFL scouts were still enamored with his physical skills.  The Saints traded up to take Woods in the fourth round of the NFL draft.  However, he just was not an exceptional football player.  Woods did not make the Saints’ roster.  

Pep Levingston – Levingston’s career was similar to Woods, probably even a little better.  Pep was a guy that always worked hard and took advantage of his opportunities. He redshirted and then played sparingly for a couple of seasons.  He had a very nice performance against Georgia Tech in the 2008 Chick-Fil-A bowl.  He was called upon to start at defensive end in 2009 and was rather pedestrian.   He was solid in run support but did not make many plays.  He moved back inside to defensive tackle, and the results were similar.  Solid, but unspectacular.  But Pep is a guy that you want on your team.  As a three star prospect, he probably exceeded expectations.   

Charles Deas – Deas never qualified academically and never made it to LSU’s campus.  He was a talented player and worth taking a chance on.  He just could not get it together in the classroom. 

Missed On – Nobody.  LSU thought they were getting a great haul with Woods and Deas, two of the nation’s top prospects at the position.   

DE
LSU did not sign a true DE in this class, which was a mistake.  Levingston started his career at DE but was always more comfortable playing inside at tackle. 

Missed On – Kentrell Lockett from Hahnville High School signed with Ole Miss and had an All-SEC career.  His 2010 senior season was cut short by an injury, but Lockett was a hell of a pass rusher and he produced big plays.   LSU overlooked Lockett due to some academic concerns.  LSU had a commitment for a long time from Mississippi prospect Marcus Tillman.  Surrounded by stories of some shady recruiting practices by Ed Orgeron and staff, Tillman ended up leaving LSU and signing with Ole Miss where he was a three year starter and solid player. 

LB
This group can be considered nothing but a huge success.

Perry Riley – Riley was a three star prospect out of Stone Mountain, GA that was passed on by Georgia and most other SEC schools.  LSU assistant Bradley Dale Peveto liked what he saw of Riley and his teammate (below) and pushed to offer the pair.  It worked out well.  Riley played sparingly as a true freshman in 2006 and then on special teams in 2007.  He took over a starting position in 2008 and 2009 at weakside linebacker and performed very well.  He was solid and had a knack for making plays behind the line.   He was very underrated around the conference and did not garner much attention, but he was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round.  He was the first LSU linebacker selected in the draft since Bradie James in 2003 and only the second since 1991.  

Kelvin Sheppard – Sheppard was Riley’s high school teammate.  And like Riley, Georgia did not offer him and many others passed on him.  Early in his career, it looked as if Sheppard may not be cut out for the SEC.  He started in 2008 as a redshirt sophmore with mixed results.  The arrival of defensive coordinator John Chavis jump started his career.  Chavis got the most out of Sheppard, and he produced All-SEC results in 2009.  As a senior, Sheppard proved to be the leader of the defense and the entire team.  He led the way for one of the nation’s top defenses and again landed on every All-SEC team and even some All-American teams.   

Jacob Cutrera – Cutrera was also a three star prospect.  Like Sheppard, the arrival of Chavis really helped his career.  He played mostly special teams and as a backup until his senior season.  In 2009, Cutrera did not start but was the fourth linebacker on a unit that rotated quite a bit.  He was the definition of solid, but he made a huge play by returning an interception for a touchdown against Washington.  He has landed a roster spot with the Jaguars in the NFL as an undrafted free agent.  

Derrick Odom – Oddly enough, Odom was the highest rated of all the linebackers in this class but he did not work out.  Odom had numerous off the field incidents that eventually got him tossed from the team.  But for being such a badass off the field, Odom sure played like a pansy on it.  Fans kept waiting to see him break out, but it never transpired.  

Missed On – LSU briefly had a commitment from Maryland linebacker Bani Gbadyu who ultimately switched and signed with Penn State.  He had a decent, though not stellar, career at Penn State with 116 total tackles.  Looking back, he of course would have been a better option than Odom, but that’s easy to say now.   

CB
LSU signed a pair of cornerbacks in this class, only one of which showed up to campus.  

Jai Eugene – Eugene signed with LSU as one of the nation’s top cornerback prospects.  He failed to live up to those expectations, but he had a very nice career as a Tiger.  Eugene saw action in certain spots as a redshirt freshman in 2007, and he mostly played like a freshman.   As a sophomore, Eugene was a full-time starter until giving way to super freshman Patrick Peterson late in the year.   In 2009, Jai was the third cornerback behind Chris Hawkins and Peterson.  Then when it finally looked like he would settle into a starter’s role as a senior, sophomore Morris Claiborne beat Eugene for a spot.  Eugene slid over to safety and contributed.  Throughout his career, he was a contributor on special teams.  So did he turn into an All-American like many thought he would coming out of high school?  No.  But he made solid contributions to the program.   

Jason Teague – Teague did not qualify academically out of high school and never showed up to LSU.  

Missed On – The biggest miss was Texas prospect Perrish Cox, who was a long time LSU verbal commitment but switched to Oklahoma State on Signing Day.  Cox went on to be an All-American and was a semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award.  He was also one of the top kick returners in the nation.  

S
LSU signed three safeties in 2006, but only one completed their eligibility at LSU.  

Danny McCray – McCray was awfully impressive as a true freshman, earning playing time both in the secondary and on special teams.  But in 2007, the staff played McCray as the nickel back in efforts to get his talents onto the field.  That put McCray into positions where he was forced into man coverage, often against the team’s slot receiver.  That was not his strength, and other teams took advantage of this.  He stayed in this role in 2008 before finally moving back to a full-time safety in 2009 where he was much more comfortable.  McCray played a lot of football for LSU but was, in my opinion, mis-utilized for the bulk of his career.  He has caught on in the NFL and earned a roster spot with the Dallas Cowboys. 

Troy Giddens – Giddens was signed out of Hammond as a four star safety prospect.  He unfortunately suffered the same fate as Zhamal Thomas and was dismissed from LSU’s team before really making an impact.  

Shomari Clemons – Clemons was signed as a raw but promising big hitting safety prospect out of West Monroe.  Clemons was moved to outside linebacker and was starting to get into the mix before leaving the school in May of 2009.  Clemons suffered through some injuries and also had an arrest.  He left LSU looking for a fresh start.  

Missed On – Georgia’s Reshad Jones favored LSU throughout the recruiting process, and the Tigers seemed to have the inside track on him.  As late as the last week in January, Jones claimed LSU as his leader.  But the home town Bulldogs proved to be too much in the end.  Jones had a solid career in Athens, not quite living up to his five star billing.  But he was a multi-year starter in the SEC and certainly a guy that LSU could have benefited from.  

Most recruiting classes are considered a success if half of the players sign work out and make contributions to the program, with a few of them turning into stars and big time players.  Here’s how I would judge the 25 players in the 2006 class:

BIG TIME PLAYERS (3)
Charles Scott – NFL draft pick
Kelvin Sheppard – NFL draft pick (projection)
Richard Dickson

SOLID CONTRIBUTORS (9)
Keiland Williams
Richard Murphy
Chris Mitchell
Al Woods – NFL draft pick
Pep Levingston
Perry Riley – NFL draft pick
Jacob Cutrera
Danny McCray
Jai Eugene

MISSES (13)
J.D. Lott
Mark Snyder
Matt Allen
Steven Singleton
Phil Loadholt
Zhamal Thomas
Jared Mitchell
Ricky Dixon
Charles Deas
Derrick Odom
Jason Teague
Troy Giddens
Shomari Clemons 

So just under 50% of the class contributed to the program.  And only four guys were drafted by the NFL (projecting the guys who still have to go through the process).  When you consider that the big-name guys in the class such as Al Woods and Jai Eugene did not totally live up to their billing, the class feels like a bit of a disappointment overall.  When you factor in the disaster at offensive line and the negative impact that had on the program, it definitely feels like a disappointment.   All in all, I think this was the worst class that Les Miles has signed while at LSU.  His classes seem to have improved each year he has  been in Baton Rouge.  

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