BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — For Les Miles, who has become accustomed to bringing LSU highly-rated recruiting classes year after year, it was tough to ignore the fact that some coveted prospects got away this time.
First, safety Landon Collins, arguably the top prospect in Louisiana, chose Alabama over the Tigers. Then quarterback Gunner Kiel of Columbus, Ind., backed away from his verbal commitment to LSU and instead enrolled in January at Notre Dame.
Yet another disappointment came on Wednesday, when defensive end Torshiro Davis, another top Louisiana prospect and seemingly solid Tigers commitment, changed his mind and signed with Texas.
LSU ended up signing 22 players on national signing day — three short of the limit. Still, Miles asserted his staff accomplished much of what it wanted with its newest group of players.
"Any time you are involved in recruiting, you must answer the needs your team has," Miles said. "We did that. Our philosophy is to get every in-state guy we want. We identified the best players in-state and went after them hard. We gathered a great majority of them."
Of the Tigers' signees, all but seven played their high school football in Louisiana. Some of their top-rated Louisiana signees are cornerback Dwayne Thomas from New Orleans and linebacker Lorenzo Phillips from Patterson.
Thomas was one of four defensive backs signed by LSU. The other three are safety Corey Thompson from Missouri City, Texas, and two other New Orleans-area players — Derrick Raymond and Jerqwinick Sandolph. The Tigers lost three of their top six defensive backs from their 2011 team.
"I grew up as an LSU fan," Thomas said. "I was happy that they came and offered me. This is a personal decision. I love the team and I love the coaches. My parents also can come to my games.
"It may sound a little arrogant, but I'm going to work hard and do what I have to do in the film room. I'm going to work my way up to the top and work my way on the field."
Phillips is one of six linebackers who signed with the Tigers. Four other linebackers also stayed home — Ronnie Feist from Edgard, Trey Granier from Thibodaux, Deion Jones from New Orleans and Lamar Louis from Breaux Bridge. The one out-of-state linebacker signee is Kwon Alexander from Oxford, Ala.
"We have always recruited linebackers, but there has been no banner crop in Louisiana like this year," Miles said. "There was a great class of linebackers this year in Louisiana. We got just what we needed. These guys have great speed on the field and they may help out on special teams right away."
With both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee completing their eligibility, LSU needed a quarterback. The Tigers signed Jeremy Liggins, 6-foot-3, 280-pounder from Oxford, Miss.
"We were looking for a tough guy who can handle the (quarterback) position," Miles said. "We stayed on Jeremy all the way. He was a priority for us. He can throw the football and move his feet. He might be a little lighter the next time he takes the field."
For the first time in four years, LSU does not have a recruiting class ranked in the top ten in the country by many of the outlets that specialize in recruiting analysis. But Miles is certain this group of players will enable the Tigers to contend for Southeastern Conference titles in coming seasons.
"It is not what you see in a 40-yard run," Miles said. "It is also about character, integrity, toughness and how ambitious a player is. Recruiting was a little unusual this year. ... Lessons were learned as to how we will go forward. We intend to compete in recruiting and will do so."