BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Bolstered by a top prospect's late-hour change-of-mind, LSU assembled a 2013 recruiting class that addressed the loss of 10 regulars who left early for the NFL draft.
The biggest name on the list is Tashawn Bower, a 6-foot-5, 241-pound defensive end out of New Jersey. Bower was widely believed to be leaning more toward Auburn and Florida, but instead comes to Baton Rouge at a time when he'll be expected to step in right away to help fill the void left by the decision of juniors ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo to turn pro, along with the departure of senior Lavar Edwards.
"We really needed the same style of presence we've had there and he gave us that," LSU coach Les Miles said of Bower. "He's that guy that potentially steps on the field very quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if he played in every game and at some point in time, should he continue to improve, that he might start.
"I don't know I would have felt as good about this class if we had not gotten Tashawn."
And it appears LSU nearly did not get him. Several websites specializing in recruiting news reported early Wednesday that Bower had changed his long held verbal commitment from Auburn to Florida. But then he ended up making Miles' day instead.
"There are things that happen in recruiting that are better left unexplained," Miles said. "He ran into a very awkward situation at best and he did the right thing. He stepped back. He kind of reviewed it again. ... Ultimately, it helped him make the decision to come to LSU."
LSU brought in 27 new players in all, with 12 from Louisiana's fertile recruiting grounds and the rest from out of state.
Another top recruit on the defensive side was 6-3, 225-pound linebacker Kendell Beckwith, a Louisiana native who Miles expects to grow into not just a great player but also a leadership role.
"The leadership on this team generally comes from guys in Louisiana that want to be a part of this school," Miles said.
Eight of the recruits were not a surprise as they had already enrolled in school for the spring semester, meaning they are expected to be in spring practice that opens March 14th. They are quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings; offensive linemen Ethan Pocic and Fehoko Fanaika; tight end Logan Stokes; defensive tackle Christian LaCouture; and receivers Avery Johnson and John Diarse.
The two quarterbacks are among the highest rated recruits in the new class.
Rettig, Miles said, is a "gifted pocket passer" who will "translate very comfortably" to the Tigers' offensive approach. Jennings was rated nationally among the top dual threat quarterbacks coming out of high school.
"Really two different styles, but both very, very talented guys," Miles said.
The Tigers' biggest needs were along the defensive line and at tight end.
Three regular defensive tackles are gone, including seniors Josh Downs and Chancey Aghayere, and junior Bennie Logan. Only three defensive lineman remain who've had meaningful playing time: defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, and defensive end Jermauria Rasco.
That will give Bower and several other recruits to play right away. Also in the mix are LaCouture; 6-4, 275-pound defensive tackle Greg Gilmore; and 6-5, 245-pound end Frank Herron.
Miles also brought two tight ends including DeSean Smith, who Miles predicted is "going to be an immediate impact guy, a guy who can catch the ball and give us a weapon at that spot."
Although LSU had good depth on the offensive line, it did lose four regulars from last season. Those holes could be filled in part by Pocic, a 6-7, 285-pounder from Illinois, and Fanaika, who is 6-6, 340, along with Josh Boutte (6-4, 324), Andy Dodd ( 6-3, 330) and K.J. Malone (6-3, 307), whose father is former NBA star and Hall of Famer Karl Malone.
The top-rated receiver in the class is 6-4 Quantavius Leslie, out of Hinds (Miss.) Community College. Miles said he would provide a big target out wide that the offense wants.
LSU did not sign a running back, with Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard all expected to return.
"Every class since I've been here has been designed to meet what are very specific needs," Miles said. "This class ... really fits the needs this team has, and really, that's the most important piece."
LSU was one of several Southeastern Conference schools with recruiting classes widely rated in the top 10 in the nation, along with Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas A&M. Several other SEC schools weren't far behind, and Miles figured there has to be a connection to the fact that SEC teams have won the past seven national championships.
"When a national champion is described and discussed, it is generally the SEC that leads the discussion," Miles said. "When we walk in, there's some excitement. There's a brand of young man out there that says, 'I want to be challenged by the best. I want to play in the biggest conference. ... I want to see how good I am.' And I think in this conference there's a number of schools that can present that to young people."