LSU Football: Power Ranking the Tigers' Best Classes of the BCS Era

Jake Martin@JakeMartinSECCorrespondent IIIJanuary 26, 2014

LSU Football: Power Ranking the Tigers' Best Classes of the BCS Era

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    The 2014 signing class is nearing completion for the LSU Tigers, and though it's one of the top classes in the nation, per 247 Sports, its potential as the greatest signing class in school history could be unrealistic.

    Right now, that spot is reserved for a class that consisted of first-round draft picks and champions in their own right.

    It just so happened that class was assembled during the BCS era, along with many other great classes. Yeah, you get where I'm going with this.

    Grab some coffee, call your friends and get ready to email your buddies. It's time to debate the newest power rankings involving LSU history.

    Quantified by individual awards, team accomplishments and combined collegiate careers, here are the best LSU signing classes of the BCS era.

10. 2008

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    Stars of the Class: Patrick Peterson, Brandon Taylor, Jordan Jefferson, Alex Hurst, P.J. Lonergan

    I have to admit that without PP7, this class would have surrendered its spot to the 2006 class with Kelvin Sheppard and Co. Patrick Peterson was the difference-maker, though, as he's been on the field for both LSU and now the Arizona Cardinals.

    Peterson, who was a shutdown cornerback and electric returner for the Tigers, was joined in the secondary by Brandon Taylor, who was largely undervalued. He became the quarterback on defense, exercising leadership skills at the safety position.

    Jordan Jefferson, who was adored by some and disliked by most, was also a notable name in the class. He finished his LSU career with 34 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

    Peterson's star power can only carry this class so much, and as a result, the 2008 class kicks off this list.

9. 1998

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    Stars of the Class: Howard Green, Josh Reed, Jeremy Lawrence, Damien James, Rob Sale

    Good ol' Gerry DiNardo had his fair share of criticism, but recruiting wasn't one of them.

    The four players listed above that DiNardo recruited were instrumental in the rebuilding process for Nick Saban in 2000.

    Josh Reed, aka one of the best receivers in school history (only receiver to record two 1,000-yard seasons), is the highlight of the class, along with Howard Green and Damien James.

    Green recorded 38 tackles, with nine of them being for a loss, his junior season. He was selected by the Houston Texans in the sixth round of the draft after he left as an underclassman. James, on the other hand, was one of LSU's most talented defensive backs (recorded nine interceptions in his career), but his career was cut short when he was dismissed from the team in 2002.

8. 2007

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    Stars of the Class: Demetrius Byrd, Chad Jones, Drake Nevis, Terrence Toliver, Will Blackwell

    I know what you're thinking—"No. 8?!"

    As it turns out, LSU's recruiting classes over the BCS era have been so impressive that the 2007 class is only eighth on the list.

    I mean, we're talking about stars like Chad Jones and Demetrius Byrd here, people—guys who made a living galvanizing the college football world.

    Jones did it with punt returns (93-yard touchdown return against Mississippi State), interceptions (two against UL-Lafayette) and hit sticks (hit on Arkansas' Joe Adams in the picture embedded). Byrd did it by catching touchdown passes (last second game-winner against Auburn, clutch touchdown receptions against Florida and Arkansas).

    Not to mention, an NFL offensive lineman (Will Blackwell), a defensive tackle who amassed 31.5 tackles for loss in a career (Drake Nevis) and a wide receiver who could turn a slant into a 50-yard reception in the blink of an eye (Terrence Toliver) all represent the 2007 class. That's good company.

7. 2011

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    Stars of the Class: Odell Beckham Jr., La’el Collins, Jarvis Landry, Zach Mettenberger, Trai Turner  

    This class will surely be missed.

    While most classes on this list are boasted mostly by defensive standouts, the 2011 class put offensive weapons in place for Cam Cameron to walk in the door and fabricate an offense that scored 35.8 points per game in 2013.

    Zach Mettenberger, a junior college grab, developed into one of the best passers in LSU history (he finished with 5,783 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes), while Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham became the best wide receiver duo in LSU history (they were the first tandem to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards each).

    Trai Turner and La'el Collins became great blockers for these offensive weapons as well.

6. 2000

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    Stars of the Class: Devery Henderson, Jack Hunt, Chad Lavalais, Stephen Peterman, Corey Webster  

    "Jack Hunt!"

    Sorry, Jim Hawthorne, I just couldn't resist.

    Devery Henderson, not Jack Hunt, would solidify his name in LSU lore by catching the Bluegrass Miracle, but all five stars listed above would become vital starters for the Tigers' 2003 national championship.

    DiNardo left Nick Saban some prized recruits, like Josh Reed and others, but Saban organized a strong class in his first season with the Tigers, with Henderson, Hunt, Corey Webster, Chad Lavalais and Stephen Peterman being his top guys.

    Hunt, like Brandon Taylor would become, was a conductor in the secondary, keeping everyone in line. Peterman became a first-team All-American offensive lineman, Lavalais was an All-American and was the heart of the defense at defensive tackle and Webster earned his All-American status by making big-time plays in big games. That's what the greats do.

5. 1999

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    Stars of the Class: Domanick Davis, Trev Faulk, Bradie James, Rodney Reed, LaBrandon Toefield 

    Has there ever been a better one-two punch than LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis at LSU?

    An even better question: Has there ever been a better linebacker than Bradie James? Walk around LSU's facilities and you might not think so.

    With entire walls devoted to James, his school-record 154 total tackles in a season are celebrated vividly. He and Trev Faulk formed one of the best linebacker duos in the nation, while Davis and Toefield scorched opponents on the ground. They combined for 4,205 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns from 2000-02.

    Oh, and that Rodney Reed guy would become an All-American on the offensive line. Reed was the only player of the five who stayed his senior season. He was rewarded with a national championship in 2003.

4. 2010

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    Stars of the Class: Alfred Blue, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon, Spencer Ware, Tyrann Mathieu  

    Ah, the class that brought DBU to LSU.

    What will surely go down as the best secondary LSU has ever possessed can be linked to one particular signing class.

    With Mo Claiborne coming one year earlier and Brandon Taylor being well-represented in the 2008 class, it was Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon who brought the play-making factor to the Tigers' defensive backfield.

    In 2011 alone, the three combined for 194 tackles, six interceptions (they each had two) and nine forced fumbles (Mathieu had six). As far as talent in the defensive backfield goes, it doesn't get a whole lot better than LSU's 2010 signing class.

3. 2004

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    Stars of the Class: Glenn Dorsey, Early Doucet, Jacob Hester, Tyson Jackson, Craig Steltz  

    If you're looking for a championship-caliber class, look no further.

    Glenn Dorsey, who anchored the Tigers on the defensive line, will go down as the best LSU player of the BCS era simply for the awards he received. He won the Lombardi, Outland, Nagurski and Lott trophies, becoming the first player in LSU history to win any of those awards.

    As for his "classmates," Jacob Hester would become one of the most beloved Tigers, rushing for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2007.

    Early Doucet was a sure-handed receiver with sly moves in the open field, Tyson Jackson was a bully at defensive end and Craig Steltz became a Thorpe Award finalist. What's best about this unit is they all stayed for their senior seasons. As far as combining leadership and athleticism goes, you can't do much better than these five.

2. 2009

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    Stars of the Class: Lamin Barrow, Mo Claiborne, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Rueben Randle, Craig Loston, Michael Brockers, Bennie Logan, Kevin Minter

    One word: depth. The 2009 signing class represented one of the best defensive lines in school history, as well as the deepest recruiting class ever assembled at LSU.

    Considering past defensive lines (all you have to do is look at previous slides), that's saying an awful lot.

    Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery were thunder and lightning at defensive end, collapsing pockets and suffocating quarterbacks, while Bennie Logan and Michael Brockers eliminated foes' running games.

    These players were just the surface of the 2009 class, though. Rueben Randle was 83 yards shy of becoming a 1,000-yard receiver his junior season, Mo Claiborne was a Thorpe Award recipient and Kevin Minter recorded 130 tackles in 2012. All three players would be selected in the top two rounds of the NFL draft (Claiborne was sixth overall in 2012).

    Add Barrow, Loston and Michael Ford to the list, and an argument can be made that this is the best recruiting class in school history.

    However, Russell Shepard's flop at quarterback left LSU with questions at the position for years to come. That ultimately is the deciding factor between first and second.

1. 2003

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    Stars of the Class: Dwayne Bowe, Matt Flynn, Buster Davis, LaRon Landry, JaMarcus Russell  

    Quality over quantity. How many recruiting classes can say they were represented by four first-round picks in the same draft?

    The top five stars of the 2003 class, excluding Jonathan Zenon and Kirstin Pittman, were all eventual draft picks, with JaMarcus Russell claiming the No. 1 spot in the 2007 NFL draft.

    Matt Flynn would go on to become a national champion in 2007, while Russell, Dwayne Bowe, Craig "Buster" Davis and LaRon Landry would all be first-round selections in the 2007 NFL draft.

    Russell finished his LSU career ranked among the top five of every major passing category in school history, Landry struck fear in opposing offensive coordinators with 315 career tackles, 12 interceptions and eight sacks. And Bowe and Davis combined for 4,150 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns (Bowe has school record with 26).

    In a debate of the best recruiting class in LSU lore, the depth of 2009's class trumps all in school history, but I simply hold up four fingers, repping the 2003 class that became the only signing class in LSU history to produce four first-round draft picks.