First thing's first, I think I did a pretty thorough job, but if you think any of my numbers need to be corrected, just say so in the comments. This can be a group effort.
One of the most common objections heard from Michigan fans with respect to the potential hiring of Les Miles is that he's demonstrated a penchant for oversigning. ESPN's Outside the Lines produced a segment about a month ago widely linked to on this board highlighting LSU's use of this practice under Miles. If it matters to you my take is that it's abhorrent that a head coach making a multimillion dollar salary and with tremendous institutional backing could go into some poor kid's home and sell the promise of a college degree and then spit the kid out when he becomes expendable. I would hate seeing someone who'd do that become the head coach at my alma mater both for the sake of the kids he'd recruit and for the fact that he'd be the most public face of my school. Game theory be damned.
I got into an argument with psychomatt earlier about whether LSU was set to oversign again this year. I cited http://www.oversigning.com which says LSU currently has 8 more commits than it will have a place for. Psychomatt disputed these numbers. So, fair enough. Let's take a closer look.
As chronicled by the OTL report LSU trimmed down right before fall camp to get down to 85 scholarship players to start the year. Since, one player was dismissed from the team and none have transferred. The player dismissed was fullback Dominique Allen. He had a scholarship, was dismissed for an undisclosed violation of team rules, and Miles noted interestingly at the press conference that walk on James Stampley was clearly the number 1 fullback anyway.
That gets us down to 84.
Now, to the roster analysis:
There are 9 outgoing scholarship seniors. They are: Terrence Tolliver, Lezerius Levingston, Josh Jasper, Derek Helton, Richard Murphy, Jai Eugene, Joseph Barksdale, Kelvin Sheppard and Drake Nevis.
All other seniors on LSUs website are either expressly denoted as walk ons or have completely blank bio pages and no varsity letters. Exception: Dan Graff, listed as a player-coach (?!) who joined the team as a sophomore walk on. I'm confident in counting on him still being a walk on.
Potential 5th year candidates
Josh Dworaczyk- has started every game for them at left guard this year. Will almost certainly return.
Will Blackwell- was the starter at the beginning of the year at right guard before injuring his ankle. He recovered to play in the final 3 games. Probably back.
T-Bob Hebert- took over Blackwell's starting job when he went down and spent the previous year starting at center. As a multi year starter he'll be welcomed back.
Stevan Ridley- LSU's top back this year getting 249 carries and 1,147 yards. If he wants to come back he can. And he probably will come back at least according to where he's currently projected to go in the draft and to general message board scuttlebutt.
Stefoin Francois- Started every game at linebacker, will be welcomed back. Not thought to be a draft risk.
Ron Brooks- backup cornerback/strong safety and contributor on special teams. Played all 12 games, but started none. Put up decent numbers, though, 28 tackles 5 tfls and 3 PBUs. With Peterson leaving on the one hand and the number crunch on the other let's give him a 50-50 chance of being back.
Jarrett Lee- 2nd string qb. It might be conceivable they'd let him go, but because Miles in his infinite wisdom, put Russell Shepard at wide receiver (seriously if he comes RIP Dilithium), their current 3rd string option is a freshman walk on. Zac Mettenberger (highly touted Georgia castoff) is about to come aboard though. But still, who likes having a redshirt freshman walk on as your 3rd string? Lee's getting invited back.
Jordan Jefferson- Starting qb. He's welcome back.
Patrick Peterson- Thorpe winner. All world cb. NFL. Gone.
Alex Russian- Cone like tight end turned backup snapper. It's a wonder he isn't gone already.
Mitch Joseph- in LSU's 3 man tight end rotation. Started 4 games this year. Let's say it's 50-50.
Only case with any ambiguity is Dennis Johnson, but after going through message board stuff I'm 90% sure he's a walk on.
So giving Les more wiggle room than he probably deserves let's count the maybes as both out. So in total we'll say that's 4 RS juniors not coming back. Obviously that +9 seniors +1 free schollie = 14.
Potential 3rd year draft entrants
I couldn't find any 3rd year guys LSU fans seem worried about losing early to the draft. Correct me if I'm wrong.
As Brian explained here , outside Alabama, medical hardships aren't very common. In fact, between 2008 and 2010 SEC schools that don't love houndstooth on average gave out slightly more than one each.
Recruits who fail to enroll
LSU currently has 21 commitments and is still in on some prospects. Let's hypothesize they don't gain or lose any commits between now and signing day, although it's probably more likely they gain. From 2005-2010 (Les' tenure) LSU has signed 144 players of whom 135 qualified academically and enrolled.* That makes for a 93.75% matriculation rate. Obviously using this rate to project into the future has its limitations, Miles might have changed his recruiting philosophy and taken on more high risk kids this year, but given how much he oversigned by last year and that 28 of the 29 in that class enrolled, I doubt a huge variation is likely this year. Anyway, using that figure we can project that 1 player not qualifying is the most likely outcome, having 2 not qualify is the second most likely outcome and having none fail to qualify the 3rd most likely outcome. Let's go with taking one out since it's the most likely statistically and they might end up with more commitments anyway.
You don't really need me for this, it's simple math. But giving Les more wiggle room than he probably deserves this is what we get 84 - 9 - 4 + 20 = 91. Miles is looking at being 6 above the limit right now.
Is this really a big deal?
I can hear people say it now: But, but, that's not accounting for players who choose to transfer voluntarily or make boneheaded decisions in the offseason and get kicked out justifiably!
To reply: Yes
Any oversigning analysis shouldn't account for that. For a coach to take a kid's signature, or even a commitment, when he doesn't have a spot for him is fundamentally wrong. Even if he thinks it's more likely than not that the spot he needs will free up in time, he promised a player much younger than him, usually much poorer and less powerful the opportunity to get a degree and play the sport he loves and by accepting that signature or commitment he doesn't have a spot for he's putting that at risk. It's grossly reckless and highly irresponsible. No institution of higher learning should be associated with it. And really, if a football program ends up a few scholarship players short is it the worst thing in the world? Those scholarships would instead go to deserving walk ons. And what's wrong with that?