Beyond all the spin, LSU’s mass exodus of underclassmen hurts program
By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
BATON ROUGE - No matter how you look at the early departure of 10 underclassmen from the 2012 LSU football team, particularly the five not expected to go until the third round or later, it is not good news.
Yes, underclassmen not expected to get selected until the third round or later from all schools are going more and more because of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement that was enacted before the 2012 draft. And it is a sign of just how well LSU coach Les Miles has consistently recruited extremely well.
But there has been so much positive spin from Miles as well as from his many defenders and apologists that it often sounds like that it was a good and sensible thing for all of them to leave. Such a good thing that I’m surprised more of LSU’s juniors like Zach Mettenberger and Alfred Blue and Lamin Barrow and Craig Loston and Tahj Jones and Kadron Boone and James
Wright did not leave, too.
Some of the players left early because they need the money. Some of the players who stayed also need the money. If they’re that good, the money will be there next year. I understand Chris Faulk’s concern about a second injury. He has the best argument of the LSU juniors not expected to go in the first two rounds. But if everyone used that argument, no one would stay in college.
I wonder if the agents had enough time to get to LSU’s juniors who stayed. The reasons for those to leave would have made no less sense than they did for Faulk and Michael Ford and Spencer Ware and Tharold Simon and Brad Wing. Those are the five not expected to go until the third round at the most likely earliest and probably more like the fifth for Ford and Wing.
No, the sky has not fallen, but at the same time the sun is also not as bright for the LSU program as it could have been had some of these players stayed.
I recently read how the 10 departures - 11 if you count Tyrann Mathieu (which I don’t because he never played in the 2012 season) - was not such a bad thing because when those players were recruited and signed they were considered probabilities to enter the NFL Draft a year early. True, but if every junior that was capable of getting drafted in rounds three through seven left, then there would barely any juniors in all of college football.
Just because you can does not mean you should. Sometimes better things come to those who wait and get better and get smarter. Ford, Simon and Faulk clearly had room to improve before entering the NFL. Ford could have gotten more playing time in the 2013 season with Ware gone. Simon possibly could have learned how to cover better and not have his last game be that How Not-To-Cover guide he displayed against Clemson. Faulk needed to show in pre-NFL games that he is healthy again and put forth some game film from something beyond 2011.
Ware and Simon, by the way, could also clean their spotty disciplinary records with another year of good behavior.
In addition, there is no guarantee Ford, Simon and Faulk will not get cut, regardless of what their agent may have said. NFL front offices lose far less sweat over cutting guys picked in the last five rounds than the first two.
Some of these middle-to-late-round-projected LSU guys are leaving partly because they hate school. NFL GMs, coaches and personnel gurus have been frowning on this in recent decades and years more than ever. If you don’t want to learn, are too lazy to try to learn or have other issues learning, you’re in trouble in today’s NFL. College is the best place to find the answers to those issues.
Any underclassmen anywhere who struggle in school for whatever reason need to hang up with their agent and watch the Jimmy Johnson episode of “A Football Life” on the NFL Network. In it, Johnson and New England coach Bill Belichick are fishing off the Florida coast when Johnson explains his No. 1factor in drafting a player.
“Hit me in the head with a hammer the next time I take a dumb guy,” Johnson said.
“Yeah,” Belichick says. “You taught me that well. You can’t fix that.”
I also read recently that LSU fans should not be upset about the 10 early departures because another group of great players is due in on signing day on Feb. 6. This is true, too, but it is also true when a program does not lose nearly a dozen underclassmen to the draft. Uh, I’m not a mathematician, but with new and talented players coming in, your team would be that much better if some more of the underclassmen stayed. Right?
Regardless of how anyone spins it, the fact is the LSU program is a victim of the largest mass exodus of underclassmen from one school in college football history. And it will not help the team. The team may still be very good in 2013, but it will not be as good as it could have been. It may just be missing a “player here and there” from this group, but look at the 2012 season. It missed the BCS title game by a “play here and there.”
Had Faulk returned to LSU in full health, it would have meant the Tigers would have returned one of the better offensive lines in the SEC. Now it will not. Had either Ware or Ford returned, it would mean LSU would once again have the deepest and most versatile tailback unit in the nation. That unit will still be very good, and Jeremy Hill was going to be the main man anyway. But it will not be as good as it could have been.
Had Simon returned and learned how to cover better, he could be one of the few voices of experience in the secondary.
But maybe all these guys are replaceable. Maybe LSU will have better players in the place of the five projected to go from the third to later rounds. But even if that does happen, it still makes one wonder where the word “team” came into play in the plans of Faulk, Ware, Simon, Ford and Wing and their agents.
Sounds like they each were just looking out for themselves.
Where is LSU’s Barrett Jones?
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU athletics for the Gannett News Service. He attended LSU before graduating from Missouri Journalism. Reach him at email@example.com.