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DandyDon.com Asks NFL Draft Expert Mike Detillier About LSUâ€™s Early Departures
Scott: Mike, most LSU fans are surprised at just how many juniors have come out early. Listening to you on the radio and television and reading your columns you predicted this would happen. Is it just a matter of talent or is there something else about this that is more troubling?
Mike: Scott, It is all about talent and a moment in time. There is a lot of money to made in the NFL and when you consider the fact that Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Eric Reid, Bennie Logan and Kevin Minter will be either 1st or early 2nd round picks you can't pass that opportunity up.
In regards to Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, they are playing in a platoon system and Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard return so it is not like they will be showcased and they both saw that Stevan Ridley, who was really not what you consider a â€śbellcowâ€ť runner for any stretch of time at LSU, has turned into a really good back in the NFL and he got selected in Round 3. Brad Wing is the best punter in this draft class and he will be a late 4th or early 5th round pick. Tharold Simon is a big cornerback and while he had some inconsistent moments he will be a top 100 pick. There was no way Les Miles was going to let Tyrann Mathieu back on this team and he needed to be somewhere away from people that surrounded him that did not have his best interests at heart. Tyrann is the only guy that can fix Tyrann, but he is a tremendous football player, from a pro standpoint because of his punt return skills, he was looked at by his teammates as a real leader and a motivator by his actions on the field and him pumping up the guys in the lockerroom and he will fit in well as a nickel/dime cover cornerback in all these three wide receiver sets you see in the NFL.
On Chris Faulk, his concern was that if he gets hurt again next year, then he is labeled injury prone. Conserve right now he is a 3rd round pick. If he works out at LSUâ€™s Pro Day, and works out well, he goes in Round 2. If not, then he drops to the 3rd or 4th round. Itâ€™s risky either way. But it was a business decision. He started the season as the 3rd best left tackle in college football behind Texas A&Mâ€™s Luke Joeckel and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. His draft stock will be determined later on, as we see about how healthy he is.
Middle round picks get paid a lot in the NFL too. And how many jobs can you walk out of college and make $350,000 to $450,000 in a season when you include signing bonuses? You don't see many business majors, dentists, lawyers, engineers or people in the computer field making that right out of college. The reality is that many of these young men brought up that they had to help take care of their families in difficult economic times and the other reality check is that many of these young men go to school to get their PHD in football and try and cash in at the NFL level.
Many say come back to school and raise your drat stock some. In theory that may be correct, but just ask Matt Barkley from USC how much his draft stock got raised by coming back to school in 2012. He would have been the third quarterback selected if he had come out early last April and now he is in a free-fall draft wise and he will drop to the bottom part of Round 1.
There is also the risk of injury, so it was no surprise and you could see this coming and it was just a moment in time that we have never seen before at LSU and maybe not to this extent of 10 players coming out early, but USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) have went through like back-to-back years losing 5 to 6 players to the NFL. The most LSU, junior wise, has lost to the NFL has been three in a year.
Scott: You have talked about LSU being the new "U", the new Miami (Fla.). Your thoughts on that?
Mike: In the late 1990's and early 2000's Miami (Fla.) was able to land most of the top talent in South Florida and also reach out and grab players from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas and California. And many of those ended up in the pros and in particular along the defensive front seven. Just look at LSU. They are the only team to have a defensive lineman selected in the past 9 drafts. No school in America can say that. They are losing 3 seniors and 3 juniors to the NFL, but not only have they secured top defensive line and linebackers in Louisiana, but they reached out and get defensive linemen from Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Florida. They picked up quarterbacks from California and Georgia. They picked up a terrific left tackle prospect from Illinois and a center prospect from Georgia too. You also get a really top prospect at cornerback from Florida. Many people say that there is maybe some dissent on this team and that led to all the juniors leaving, but if was this case how are you attracting all these top recruits from all over the country. The kids talk to the players on the team when they visit and they would have that feeling something was up.
Listen, one can be critical of Les Miles' gameday management, his late game playcalling at times and the Tigers inability to develop a strong passing game, but he has been a terrific recruiter winning the tough battles in state most of the time, and he is winning battles for some of the top players in the nation with no ties to LSU. Les has done a very good job building on what Nick Saban had done before him and that is to build that tall levee around the state and keep most of the top talent instate and at LSU. They are on the verge of one of the most impressive recruiting classes ever at LSU.
These young recruits watch television and see the atmosphere of Tiger Stadium, they see all these players headed to the pros and in the SEC you are playing with and against the best college talent. Miles has done a great job selling LSU and even the young men who pass on them for whatever reasons praise the recruiting exploits of Miles, his assistants and just the atmosphere of Tiger Stadium and LSU. For a lot of good and maybe even a little because of this teamsâ€™ edginess, they have become the new â€śUâ€ť.
Scott: What's the key for LSU in 2013 to get back to the top of the SEC?
Mike: Scott, they will be a good football team and they have tremendous talent along the offensive line, at linebacker and they have pretty good depth at halfback and in the secondary. The key is to develop Zach Mettenberger into a more consistent downfield passer, have better pocket presence and upgrade the passing attack. They just don't use their backs and tight end enough in their passing offense and the same issues that plagued Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are now coming into play with Mettenberger.
There needs to be a change in this offense from a coaching standpoint and from a scheme standpoint. They will always be a good running team, but they need to fully develop Zach's overall skills as a passer and be better at using all the weapons, especially the backs and tight ends, in their passing attack.
On defense, it has not happened in the Saban/Miles time in LSU's hard run since 2000, but it is time to rebuild their defensive line, and fast. You are going to have to play freshman, redshirt freshman and start players that havenâ€™t been in that spot before. The rotation of 8 to 9 defensive linemen, like they like to do, will mean they play a lot of young men with great talent, but little to no experience and hardly nothing on the resume. That hasnâ€™t happened to this extent over the past 10 to 12 years. The only player upfront with starting experience is Anthony Johnson.
Scott: You do a lot of scouting of the high school ranks for the college ranks. Who are the guys you think are the best players they are bringing in for this 2013 class?
Mike: Tight End DeSean Smith is one of the most impressive prep tight ends from a receiving standpoint I have seen in quite some time from this area. He has the skills to be an All-SEC performer. I feel the same about Kendell Beckwith. He has a very quick initial burst up the field and he is a natural at rushing the quarterback. I also really like defensive tackle Greg Gilmore from North Carolina. He is a big man, who can run the field well and he is a good inside pass rusher. Gilmore reminds me a lot of Darnell Dockett when he came to Florida State and he has been a terrific pro player with the Arizona Cardinals.
I also really like offensive tackle Ethan Pocic from Illinois and defensive end Frank Herron from Tennessee. The two prospects instate that are really interesting are Melvin Jones from Lake Charles and Rickey Jefferson from Destrehan. Jones is a big inside linebacker and he could well end up at defensive end. I like his speed and quick instincts to find the ball and he could be a very good edge pass rusher. Rickey Jefferson is someone I saw a lot of, but mostly as an offensive player. I see he can help LSU immediately as a punt/kickoff return man and I want to see how well he adjust to the cornerback slot. He is a tremendous athlete, football smart and he plays the ball like a receiver in flight.
Scott: Thank you, Mike. I'm sure my readers will appreciate your insight.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier's NFL Draft Report. He's also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. His website is mikedetillier.com.
This web site is not officially affiliated with Louisiana State University. Opinions expressed herein are the property of Donald Long, Scott Long and friends, not Louisiana State University.