BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU signed a handful of prospects who are capable of making an immediate difference. Edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson would fit that bill, as would one of the early enrollees at safety, JaCoby Stevens or Grant Delpit.
However, the Tigers' biggest area of need in this class was middle linebacker. Tigers coach Ed Orgeron cracked to the audience at LSU’s "Bayou Bash" signing-day celebration that the Tigers entered the recruiting period with more kickers on scholarship than middle linebackers, which was a problem his staff had worked to fix. For that reason, it would hardly be a surprise to see some combination of Jacob Phillips, Tyler Taylor and Patrick Queen making an impact at the position this fall.
We’ll single out Phillips (ESPN’s No. 141 overall prospect and No. 3 inside linebacker) today since Orgeron described the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Tennesseean as "the best middle linebacker in the country" on signing day. He might be a bit raw, but his combination of size and speed and his ability to flow downhill and deliver a hit should give Phillips a chance to contribute as a freshman.
Even with senior Donnie Alexander and sophomore Devin White returning next season, the Tigers faced a depth shortage at linebacker after starters Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley completed their eligibility in 2016. Although LSU has consistently churned out quality linebackers to the NFL, the depth at the position simply was not good enough after years of mediocre recruiting and retention, dating to John Chavis' tenure as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator.
This class was a huge step in the right direction, with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda adding a trio of four-star prospects -- Phillips, Taylor and Queen -- two of whom (Phillips and Taylor) joined the class in the final days of the recruiting cycle. Once they arrive on campus this summer, Orgeron said one of Aranda's top priorities will be to get the group ready to contribute quickly.
"No question we’re going to have to have guys that come in and play early," Orgeron said. "All these guys will be with us in June. Dave is going to put them in football school very early in June. Those guys will be studying their playbook, getting in good shape and we think that they physically will be ready to go. We have to get them mentally ready to go."