By Matt Smith
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Despite on-field success and relentless recruiters on their staffs, Auburn and LSU’s 2012 classes lack punch.
It would seem a foregone conclusion that the past two SEC champions would be near the top of every recruiting ranking you could find. That isn’t the case this National Signing Day. Despite finishing in the top 20, Auburn and LSU’s newest classes lack the sizzle of previous years.
The Bayou Bengals generally capitalize on being the only major program in the talent-rich state of Louisiana. Last year, they landed all three Rivals.com five-star recruits in the Pelican State. This year, the overall talent in Louisiana among high school seniors was down a notch or two from recent years. The only five-star player, safety Landon Collins, spurned the Tigers to sign with Alabama.
National Signing Day wasn’t a complete shutout for Les Miles, as they were able to sign linebacker Kwon Alexander to reach their current number of 22 signees. The class is heavy on the back seven, with five linebackers and five defensive backs set to don the purple and gold.
LSU’s biggest on-field weakness has been under center, and the Tigers thought they had their quarterback of the future in Gunner Kiel. After the Indiana native had a last minute change of heart and signed with Notre Dame, LSU offered and signed Oxford, Miss. quarterback Jeremy Liggins, a 270-pound dual-threat player.
Auburn’s class is relatively small at only 18 signees, and does not contain any five-star prospects. The SEC’s six consecutive national titles are due in large part to strong defensive line play, but Gene Chizik and staff only signed two defensive linemen this year.
The Tigers of the orange variety also get some good news on National Signing Day; however, as Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. offensive lineman Avery Young chose Auburn over Miami (FL), and the signing of Miami Beach, Fla. wide receiver Ricardo Louis ended a major back-and-forth battle with Florida State.
Coaching uncertainty was a contributing factor to the struggles Chizik faced, with defensive coordinator Ted Roof being let go and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn leaving for Arkansas State. With Chizik making the assistant hiring of the year in landing Brian Van Gorder to run the Auburn defense, expect this year’s dip to be an anomaly and the 2013 class to be back near the top of the rankings.
LSU and Auburn aren’t leaving the big stage anytime soon, but the momentum built in the programs over the past few seasons did not translate into the expected recruiting success. You can’t win all the battles, but expect these two powers to have won more than they’ve lost at this time next year.