The state of Louisiana always produces a ton of "athletes" that are worthy of playing college football at the BCS conference level. By "athlete", I'm talking about the guys with clear skills that translate to the next level but without a clearly defined position. They usually project in the secondary or as receivers. And for the Class of 2013, it seems the state has an abundance of such players. LSU has a few of them committed and is evaluating a host of others. Who are they? And how do you evaluate them? How do you know which ones will become Odell Beckham or Ron Brooks and which ones will become John Williams or Drayton Calhoun? Sometimes, it can be a razor thin line between the two and LSU's staff will earn their money when evaluating this year's crop. For many of these players, height is seemingly the only strike against them.
Starting with the obvious talents that are as "can't miss" as any:
Neville's John Diarse recently committed to LSU and is widely considered one of the top three prospects in the state of Louisiana. Even though Diarse does not have blazing speed, all you have to do is watch him play to understand why he is so highly regarded. The kid has the "it" factor and is a natural play maker. At 6'0" 200 pounds, size is not an issue for him. The only real question mark is whether his lack of speed will catch up with him at the SEC level. Diarse plays quarterback, receiver, and safety for Neville but looks like he'll start his career at receiver for the Tigers.
Loranger athlete Jeryl Brazil has a ton of natural ability. He lacks ideal height at just 5'10", but he is well put together and has absolutely blazing speed. Brazil has put together some of the best indoor sprint times in the nation this year and has the kind of breakaway speed that is on par with Trindon Holliday and Skyler Green. It looks like Brazil will start out at cornerback; although, it has to be tempting to want to put the ball in his hands on offense. He's also a candidate to return kicks at the next level. In addition to LSU, Brazil has offers from Arkansas, Florida State, and Ole Miss among others.
Glen Oaks all purpose guy Tredavious White is another LSU commitment who could end up at either receiver or cornerback. Most seem to think he'll be a corner, but he definitely shows some skills with the ball in his hands. He also shows great speed. White checks in at either 5'10" or 5'11" depending on which recruiting service you use, so his height is better suited for corner. He is another guy that could make some noise as a kick returner. White stands out when compared to the rest of this group of athletes, but not by much.
Destrehan's Rickey Jefferson should also be included in this top group. Jefferson has proven himself as an elite play maker on offense, and he has all of the tangibles you could want when projecting him at cornerback. A knee injury wiped out most of his junior season so even though he has a huge offer list, he still has something to prove as a senior. Jefferson checks in at 6'0" 180 and could play on either side though seems to favor playing corner at this point. Jefferson has offers from LSU, Florida State, Tennessee, USC and many others.
The three LSU commitments, along with Jefferson, look like the only sure "takes" for the Tigers at this point. A host of others are competing for only a couple of spots at either corner or receiver. If LSU locks up Jefferson, as I expect they will, they may be done at corner. Perhaps, they'll take one more. . LSU is drawing interest from a host of big-time out of state athletes, so the in-state guys will likely need a very strong camp performance in order to earn an offer. It's more likely that LSU would wait for the out of state guys while continuing to recruit the in state guys. If Jefferson does not pull the trigger, then that presents more opportunity for the rest of the Louisiana guys.
West Jefferson's Ronald Lewis projects as a receiver, though many schools are recruiting him with the "athlete" label. Most consider Lewis one of the Top 15 players in the state this year; however, he is just starting to see the offers roll in. Texas A&M, Nebraska, TCU, and Arizona State are just some of the schools to offer thus far. At 6'0" 185 pounds, Lewis has OK size. He shows superior after the catch ability and a second gear that most players don't have. He makes a lot of plays at the high school level but for now, it seems that LSU is content to chase some bigger fish before they get a closer look at Lewis at LSU's camp.
Walker's Carlton Perkins was one of the state's top running backs in 2011 but most think he's better suited as a safety in college. At 5'11" 180, he does not have the ideal size for a SEC running back. Perkins shows off very good burst and change of direction skills, but does he have the physicality to play safety at the next level? From the few clips I have seen of him on defense, I think he does. But with limited time playing defense, schools want to see him work out in person before considering an offer. Thus far, Perkins only has an offer from North Texas though I suspect that will change once schools see him perform on defense.
Karr's Noel Ellis projects purely as a corner but certainly belongs in this discussion since he's competing with these guys for offers, not only at LSU but at other nearby schools as well. Ellis lacks ideal height at just 5'9" or 5'10". And he doesn't have great speed. But the kid can flat out cover. He makes plays on the field and is always a standout at camp events. So while his lack of measurables are a concern, you easily forget about those things when Ellis makes play after play on the field. Can he get away with that at the college level? Regardless, most agree that Ellis is a Top 20 player in the state, and he holds offers from Auburn, Colorado, Arizona, Cal and others. Ellis seems a bit turned off by the fact that LSU has not yet offered. It will be interesting to see whether he decides to camp at LSU and compete for that offer or whether he has totally moved on.
Like Ellis, West Monroe's Xavier Woods looks like a corner only at the college level although he does play some receiver for the Rebels. Listed at either 5'11" or 6'0" and 180 pounds, Woods has a good frame for a college corner. Woods makes a ton of plays as expected, but also shows off some pretty impressive physicality. Woods is definitely a guy who needs to impress at camp. Currently, he holds no offers, which is surprising.
Jermaine Antoine of Loreauville is a tremendous overall athlete. He goes 5'10" 185 and is well put together. Antoine burst onto the recruiting scene after winning the overall athlete MVP at the U.S. Army National Combine in January. While not a blazer like Brazil, Antoine has plenty of speed, consistently clocking in the 4.5 range. Antoine is a guy whose height hurts him a bit. His skills translate well to wide receiver but at 5'10", he lacks ideal height for the position. And I've already discussed how limited spots are for LSU at cornerback. Antoine reportedly has some work to do academically which could prevent an offer anytime soon. He does hold an offer from Texas A&M, along with some smaller schools.
West St. Mary's Tre'Vell Dixon has good size at 6'1" 190, but opinions of him vary. Dixon is currently committed to Nebraska, but a big reason he committed there was the presence of Corey Raymond as defensive backs coach. Raymond is now at LSU, which fueled speculation that Dixon could make the switch. However, LSU has yet to offer. Dixon plays quarterback in high school but projects best at safety in college even though he carries the "athlete" label. Dixon may have to camp at LSU if he wants to earn an offer from the Tigers. With just one safety on board right now, Dixon could be an option for LSU if they strike out on some out of state national prospects.
Redemptorist athlete Donald Gage is a guy that I really like, and I'm surprised he has not received more attention thus far. Gage has good size at 6'0" 175 pounds and consistently runs in the 4.4 or 4.5 range. So he has the measurables. He looks like a play maker on his film, and he has excelled in camp settings, earning co-MVP (with John Diarse) for wide receivers at the National Underclassmen camp in Baton Rouge in 2011. He's also a state champion in the long jump. Most recruiting services have Gage listed as a receiver, but I think he could make a hell of a corner at the next level. Currently, he only has an offer from North Texas.
A few more players such as Bastrop's Jetavious Wilson, Carver's Raheem Falkins, Dutchtown's Shelby Christy, and Shaw's Kent Shelby project as receivers only but deserve a mention here. Falkins is a commitment to Alabama.
It has become common that at least one player will surprise and earn an offer at LSU's camp. Jalen Collins and Kavahra Holmes are two more recent examples. Will one of the above players do the same in a few months?