The 2019 signing class is one Ed Orgeron hopes can vault LSU back into the national title discussion. While the 2018 class was about rebuilding the team's depth, this year's class was about signing elite talent and day-one contributors.
LSU filled the remaining six spots in its class on Wednesday after 19 players signed during the early period in December. Many were expecting defensive back Maurice Hampton (Memphis, Tennessee) and wide receiver Devonta Lee (Amite, Louisiana) to sign with the Tigers, but the remaining four spots were all up in the air.
Junior college defensive lineman Soni Fonua announced his decision to come to LSU early in the week leaving three spots up for grabs. Offensive tackle/tight end Ray Parker (Ruston, Louisiana), an LSU commitment, was cleared to sign after some uncertainty about his academic standing, then cornerback Jay Ward (Moultrie, Georgia) and pass rusher Desmond Little (Mobile, Alabama) were the final two pieces for the 2019 class.
"It was a good day, a strong finish, and an outstanding class," said Orgeron of the No. 5 overall class, according to 247sports.com.
Hampton, Lee and Parker bring elite talent to LSU
The three biggest gets for LSU on Wednesday were clearly signing two commitments in Hampton and Parker — who were both close to not being a part of the class for different reasons — and Lee announcing his pledge to the Tigers.
All three are ranked in the top-175 of 247sports' composite rankings, and Hampton is the top player from Tennessee while Lee and Parker are both top-10 prospects from Louisiana, nine of which LSU landed.
"We watched the tape, we watched the state game — we felt Devonta was the best player on the field," Orgeron said. "We watched him play basketball. I want to commend [Wide Receivers Coach] Mickey Joseph for an outstanding job."
Lee had 22 touchdowns on offense and seven interceptions on defense as a senior, and he becomes the first player to sign with LSU out of Amite High School since 2002.
Parker is going to come in as a tight end, but at 6-foot-4, 252-pounds, has the ability to grow into an offensive tackle for LSU.
Orgeron says the staff views Hampton as someone who can come in and play right away at cornerback, nickel back or safety. Keeping Hampton, an elite baseball player, on campus may be an issue, however, if the MLB Draft comes calling in June.
Joining Hampton in the secondary is Ward, who Orgeron remarked probably could've started for LSU in the Fiesta Bowl against UCF when the Tigers were down to three scholarship cornerbacks at one point.
The staff hoped Ward would sign in December, but he did not feel fully comfortable with his decision at the time. Orgeron maintained contact with the defensive back, and when a spot opened up this week Ward jumped at it.
Orgeron doesn't care about recruits who committed to other schools
The chances to land top-100 defensive linemen Ishmael Sopsher (Amite, Louisiana), Charles Moore (Louisville, Mississippi) and Nathan Pickering (Seminary, Mississippi) were a big talking point for LSU going into signing day. However, the Tigers struck out on all three.
It was a bit of a black eye for Orgeron to lose another high-end Louisiana prospect like Sopsher to Alabama, especially after his comments following the team's 29-0 loss to the Tide in November when he somewhat criticized current defensive players and emphasized the need for bigger and faster lineman, which appeared to be a direct appeal to Sopsher.
Orgeron, however, was not concerned about the potential Tigers who didn't pan out.
"I really don't care," Orgeron said. "We got the guys we want. I don't worry about the guys we didn't get. I do believe we gave it all we had on all the guys, we did it the right way, we went as hard as we possibly we could. We have a great product here at LSU. As soon as recruiting is over, I'm concerned with the guys we signed. The guys we didn't sign, it's over."
Orgeron believes in the impact of Fonua and Little
Orgeron spoke highly of both players on Wednesday. He compared Fonua to former Tiger Lewis Neal (2013-2016), and Little to former elite pass rushers like Barkevious Mingo (2009-2012) and Arden Key (2015-20117).
Little was someone off the radar to the public and became the 25th member of LSU's signing class soon after Sopsher announced he was headed to Alabama, but Orgeron says Little had been silently committed to LSU for quite a while.
"He's a guy we always thought would come to LSU, and we gave him a scholarship and we're happy we have him," Orgeron said.
Orgeron says the staff viewed LSU's exterior pass rush as a weakness and feels both Fonua and Little can have an impact there in the upcoming season.