Six players with Crescent City prep roots projected to start
BATON ROUGE - The New Orleans metropolitan area has always been a hot bed for football talent, churning out countless stars who began their historic football careers playing high school football in the Big Easy.
In the past LSU had a solid record of landing some of top blue-chip recruits from the Crescent City, but a few prospects each year opted to play away from their home state.
Recently the LSU football program, under the leadership of recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Frank Wilson, has put a stranglehold on the talent pool in the New Orleans area.
Twenty-four of the Tigers' players on their 105-man roster hail from the New Orleans metro area, including six projected starters for the 2012 season.
"To have the very best of the best in the city of New Orleans in the state of Louisiana is certainly gratifying," Wilson said.
Wilson, an alumnus of St. Augustine High School and former head coach at O.P. Walker High School, leads the recruiting charge for the Tigers. His connections to the New Orleans area has proven valuable since he joined the LSU staff after the 2009 season.
"For so many years [New Orleans area high school players] went other places," Wilson said. "Now to tamper that down and wrap our arms around them and let them know you don't have to go anywhere else to fulfill your dreams academically or athletically. You can get all of those things here at LSU."
LSU will begin two-a-days Aug. 8 with its first scrimmage set for Aug. 11 in preparation for the 2012 season opener against North Texas on Sept. 1 in Tiger Stadium.
Four projected offensive starters entering the 2012 season lined up under the Friday night lights in the New Orleans area — senior center P.J. Lonergan (Archbishop Rummel High School), junior left tackle Chris Faulk (Northshore High School), and sophomore wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (Isidore Newman High School) and Jarvis Landry (Lutcher High School).
Junior cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (St. Augustine High School) and sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (O.P. Walker High School) are projected starters on the defensive unit.
Faulk will be given the burden of protecting LSU's most valuable asset this season — junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
The left tackle from Slidell, La., started all 13 games last season, posting 73.5 knockdowns on 768 snaps.
Lonergan, the most experienced of the New Orleans area players, enters his third season as the full-time starter at center and has become a leader on the line.
"He gives us the ability to get out of the huddle quicker and sometimes go no huddle," said offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa. "P.J.'s the field general out there. He makes the calls. He makes the protection checks. Having him and his knowledge is invaluable."
The 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound center was a member of the Class 5A All-State and All-Metro teams as a senior at Rummel and hopes to achieve similar honors in his final season in Baton Rouge.
Lonergan begins in the 2012 season on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is given to the nation's top center.
"Anytime your name goes up for an award, it's a great honor, and if I can get that, along with a national championship, that would be an incredible season," Lonergan said.
A guy who earned a lot of hardware in his own right last season — Tyrann Mathieu — is eager to add to the countless honors he earned as a sophomore.
Mathieu took the nation by storm last season with his larger-than-life charismatic persona off the field and knack for the big play on the field. He earned the nickname "The Honey Badger" after forcing six fumbles and recovering five of them during LSU's run to the national championship game.
The Heisman Trophy Finalist and winner of the Bednarik Award came from humble beginnings in New Orleans. He was overlooked for his lack of size at St. Augustine and received scholarships from smaller programs such as Southern Miss, Tulane and Florida International.
Mathieu said his past has kept him grounded through all the media scrutiny during his rise to fame.
"Coming from St. Augustine, family and team were pretty important," Mathieu said. "It wasn't that big of an adjustment coming to LSU."
Another New Orleans native, Anthony Johnson, is hoping for a breakout season similar to the one Mathieu enjoyed in his sophomore campaign.
Johnson, like the Honey Badger, also has a nickname.
During his high school days at O.P. Walker, Johnson was known as "The Freak" for his immense stature compared to the rest of the high school players on the field. He also looks up to former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman and sack monster Jevon Kearse, who was also called "The Freak."
Johnson broke the Louisiana sack record with 67.5 sacks during his four-year career at O.P. Walker, and aims to create more havoc in opponents' backfield this season. To gain some quickness in the trenches, the defensive tackle shedded a few pounds this offseason.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound sophomore hopes to build on his freshman season in which he had no starts but played in all 14 games.
"Anthony is probably in the best condition he has ever been in," said defensive coordinator John Chavis. "He is playing harder right now than he has ever played."
Two more sophomores from the Crescent City area are primed to step into the spotlight during their second season. Sophomore wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. lead the receiving corps after the departure of No. 1 wideout Rueben Randle in the offseason to the New York Giants.
Beckham Jr. didn't have a problem transitioning Newman, a school with less than 1,000 students, to LSU, a large University with more than 25,000 students.
The wide receiver earned Freshman All-SEC honors after grabbing 41 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns during his first season.
"It was a shock at first coming from Newman," Beckham Jr. said. "I've never seen a team this big or a school this big. The community spreads around the area and really across the nation. You just have to get used to it at first. I feel comfortable now."
Beckham Jr. said the advice of his father, Odell Beckham Sr., who played running back for LSU from 1989-1992 and mother, Heather Van Norman, an All-American track runner at LSU from 1991-93, helped the wide receiver grasp expectations entering his first season.
A stress fracture early in fall camp last year hindered Landry from putting up the numbers of Beckham Jr., but he is 100 percent healthy entering the 2012 season. The duo of Landry and Beckham Jr. are expected to catch the lion's share of the passes from Mettenberger this season.
The next big star to burst onto the college football scene at LSU from the New Orleans area looks to be freshman Deion Jones out of Jesuit High School.
Three months ago Jones was a high school senior at the age of 17, towering over his classmates at the height of 6-foot-2 and weight of 200 pounds, but once Jones walked into the LSU football facilities this summer, he quickly noticed he was no longer the big man on campus.
"I kind of realized that when I got here," Jones said. "I asked a bunch of guys how old they were and when their birthday was, and I was the last one with Nov. 4. I'm definitely the baby of the team."
But Jones, the youngest player on LSU's roster, has still impressed coaches and fellow teammates during workouts. When the team split up into two sessions to begin camp, one designated for veterans and one for new players, Jones was placed in the morning practice with the veterans.
"He is still a puppy, still 17 years old, " Chavis said. "That's very, very young."
Here are some other players from the New Orleans metro area listed on LSU's 2012 roster:
Year/Position/Name, Hometown (High School)
- Senior DE Lavar Edwards, Gretna, La. (Desire Street Academy)
- Junior RB Alfred Blue, Boutte, La. (Hahnville)
- Junior LB Lamin Barrow, Marrero, La. (John Ehret)
- Junior WR James Wright, Belle Chasse, La. (Belle Chasse)
- Junior S Rockey Duplessis, Belle Chasse, La. (Belle Chasse)
- Sophomore WR Armand Williams, Slidell, La. (Slidell)
- Sophomore C Elliot Porter, Westwego, La. (Archbishop Shaw)
- Sophomore TE Allen Buniger, New Orleans, La. (West Jefferson)
- Redshirt Freshman OL Trai Turner, New Orleans, La. (St. Augustine)
- Redshirt Freshman OL Jonah Austin, New Orleans, La. (St. Augustine)
- Redshirt Freshman DT Mickey Johnson, Covington, La. (St. Paul's)
- Freshman OL Derek Edinburgh Jr., New Orleans, La. (Edna Karr)
- Freshman TE Dillon Gordon, River Ridge, La. (John Curtis)
- Freshman S Jerqwinick Sandolph, Boutte, La. (Hahnville)
- Freshman LB Ronnie Feist, Edgard, La. (West St. John)
- Freshman CB Derrick Raymond, Metairie, La. (East Jefferson)
- Freshman CB Dwayne Thomas, New Orleans, La. (O. Perry Walker)
|< Prev||Next >|