Last season LSU took a huge hit on the defensive side of the ball due to junior defections.
Defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, middle linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and free safety Eric Reid all left early for the NFL.
Throw in cornerback/return man Tyrann Mathieu, who was kicked off the LSU football team in the summer of 2012, and the Tigers lost seven key players from the team that played for the BCS National Championship in 2011.
Now the Tigers will lose several impact players on the offensive side of the ball.
Gone are the best wide receiver tandem in college football in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Running backs Jeremy Hill and former Hahnville High School standout Alfred Blue have declared for the draft early along with offensive guard Trai Turner.
On defense, tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson have decided to go pro, meaning LSU will again lose seven key players early to the NFL.
Get used to it.
Due to the new NFL collective bargaining agreement, which took away the huge signing bonuses given to early NFL draft choices, the number of college juniors coming out will be around or more than 100 each season.
Former Miami (Fla.) and Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson told me this a few years ago and it is true today. “When you are a top-flight college team two things are certain,” the current Fox Sports analyst said. “First, you will attract players that would have never given your school a first much less a second look, and secondly you will lose juniors early to the NFL.”
Highly-ranked juniors will not stay for another season of college football because today they want to get paid to play. It also gets them one year closer to possibly winning the NFL version of the “Powerball” in unrestricted free agency.
Teams like LSU, Alabama, USC, Florida State, South Carolina, Stanford, Oregon, Auburn, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Notre Dame have to plan like they do in college basketball. For many of the top programs in basketball, they recruit players who will leave after only one season.
In college football, it is three seasons and gone in many cases.
This is why you have to quickly develop freshmen players today. In 2013, middle linebacker/defensive end Kendell Beckwith, former Destrehan High School star safety Rickey Jefferson, cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White, fullback /tight end Melvin Jones, defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, offensive center Ethan Pocic and quarterback Anthony Jennings all saw playing time as freshmen for the Tigers.
Because of defections early to the NFL, freshmen today have to play and play early. Coaches know they will not have those top players for four season.
It is why it is so important to win the recruiting battles in the winter and quickly develop those players in the summer. Tiger head coach Les Miles knows that upcoming freshmen like halfback Leonard Fournette, wide receiver Trey Quinn, quarterback Brandon Harris, defensive end Deondre Clark, middle linebacker Clifton Garrett and defensive backs Ed Paris and Jamal Adams will have to play in 2014 for the Tigers.
Getting them ready to play is the key.
Just look at the recent Heisman Trophy winners in quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, who both won the award as redshirt freshmen.
College football is changing.
Many people in this business don’t pay a lot of attention to the recruiting wars.
Well, you better.
Because you will not have many of these top players stay for their senior seasons, the freshmen will get on the field even quicker.
College football’s elite teams have to adjust, and do so quickly, to the changing world of the “junior” defections. If not, you won’t stay an elite team for long.