THREE-AND-OUT: LSU keeps thriving despite early departures

THREE-AND-OUT: LSU keeps thriving despite early departures

July 17th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU Coach Les Miles speaks to media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Hoover, Ala.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

HOOVER, Ala. - If Kentucky coach John Calipari is the master of the one-and-done in college basketball, meet LSU's Les Miles.

Miles has a firm grasp on college football's three-and-out.

LSU has lost a staggering 17 underclassmen to NFL aspirations the past two seasons, which is the most any program ever has endured in such a short stint. Not every Tigers player to depart was drafted, and the total does include former cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from the program before the 2012 season.

Not that losing 16 underclassmen sounds any less brutal, but Miles and his Tigers continue to assemble 10-win seasons in Baton Rouge.

"We do lead college football in three-and-outs," Miles said Wednesday afternoon during day three of the Southeastern Conference media days. "We would like to have those guys back. I keep approaching the NFL on an opportunity for us to draft back some of our players that they take. We would love to have Patrick Peterson back, but there is a responsibility that the coaching staff has to see a void that will potentially occur, and we have to recruit to that void.

"We have to make sure that our style of recruiting is the style that we get an athlete that has a want to be something special and then steps in there as a true freshman. Although not optimal, it's something we've done."

Among the early departures following last season were tailback Jeremy Hill and the receiving tandem of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The Tigers may have countered those losses in February, signing top national tailback Leonard Fournette and the promising receiver punch of Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn.

Six starters return offensively, including the tackle tandem of La'el Collins and Jerald Hawkins, and seven return on defense, including the end tandem of Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter.

"The people who leave early make the best decision for them, and as far as us, we can't complain," linebacker D.J. Welter said. "We would love to have them back, but we have to take what we have and go out and compete. We have a lot of guys who have waited their turn and are playing earlier than they thought, so they've got to be ready to play."

Said Collins: "I think it's always going to be hard for our program to keep guys all four years because so many are ready after three."

Miles went 34-6 in his first three seasons with the Tigers, winning the national championship in 2007. LSU then had a slight two-year dip before regrouping to go 44-9 the past four seasons.

A quarterback battle between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris is expected to be the dominant storyline in preseason camp, but Miles has comfort in the experience offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has in developing players at that position.

"Certainly we have, in my opinion, the style of team that can win championships," Miles said. "If we continue to do the things we've done in the past, then we'll earn our way. I like us, and I like us in every game."

LSU will play seven of its games, including a Nov. 8 showdown against Alabama, in a Tiger Stadium that now seats 102,000.

"If you thought we were loud before," Miles said, "we just got louder."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.