It's a fire sale! Everything must go! Or so it seems with LSU as a total of 8 juniors have announced that they are leaving school early to enter the NFL draft. It's an unprecedented amount of early departures for LSU, a team that has seen it's share of juniors leaving early but never in this much bulk before. LB Kevin Minter, S Eric Reid, P Brad Wing, RB Spencer Ware, CB Tharold Simon, DE Sam Montgomery, DE Barkevious Mingo, and DT Bennie Logan represent the eight players leaving LSU early.
It was almost guaranteed that Mingo and Montgomery would leave. Those two dynamic defensive ends have been projected top 15 picks since the beginning of the season. Wing's recently troubles almost assuredly guaranteed that he would declare as well. The short shelf life of NFL running back's and his time to shine being dwindled by the emerging Jeremy Hill likely prompted Spencer Ware to declare and the amazing season Kevin Minter had likely encouraged him to declare as well. However, the three most questionable announcements came from S Eric Reid, CB Tharold Simon, and DT Bennie Logan.
Reid (6'2”, 212lbs) started the season as the lone returning starter in the secondary from last year's BCS national title appearing team. He finished the season as a member of the 2012 All-SEC team, a consensus All-American, and racked up 91 tackles with 2 interceptions. His career stats include 29 games started, 39 played, 194 tackles and six interceptions.
Tharold Simon (6'3”, 193lbs) excelled as a nickel corner last year playing behind Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu and expectation were high when he was inserted into the starting line-up this year. Those expectations, though, were not quite lived up to. He finished the season with 45 tackles and 4 interceptions and was roasted by Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl.
Bennie Logan (6'3”, 295lbs) continued the LSU tradition of big-bodied defensive lineman that can eat up blocks and clog the middle and that was his bread and butter. Not a natural pass-rusher by an means, and not as athletic as Michael Brockers last year, Logan is still a load in the middle. He finished the season with 45 tackles and 2 sacks.
Couple the aforementioned eight with the graduating seniors – the versatile WR Russell Shepard, the steady K Drew Alleman, the reliable C P.J. Lonergan, the devoted OG Josh Dworacyzk, the substitute DT Josh Downs, back-up DE Chancey Aghayere, the underutilized TE Chase Clement, reserve DE Lavar Edwards, and not to mention the enigmatic OT Alex Hurst who left the team for personal issues – and LSU will look much, MUCH different, almost unrecognizable, especially on defense.
The sheer amount of juniors departing does raise some questions about the overall health of the LSU program. Are the juniors leaving early because they want to get paid or are they clashing with the coaches and see this as their ticket to leave the program?
The rookie wage scale does limit the amount of money rookie players can make although any money made is more than they are making currently being student-athletes. Each player is different, just as each player's individual situation is different, so who's to say what exactly led each of them to leave early. However, the amount of players leaving early is curious.
The impact of these player's departures will be felt almost immediately. According to Bryan Fischer of the Pac-12 Digital Network, LSU is losing 42% of its total tackle producers and 53% of its sack producers on defense. That's significant, to say the least.
The loss of Minter, Simon, Reid, Mingo, Montgomery, and Logan and who will replace them couldn't come at a worse time as LSU's schedule next year is brutal. A season-opener against TCU in Dallas, having to play Georgia and Florida out of the East, as well as division opponents Alabama, Texas A&M, and an improving Ole Miss team could mean a possibility of LSU losing 5 games next season. That's almost unthinkable after the wave of success LSU has experienced so far under Miles.
Let's just say that LSU will earn his paycheck this upcoming season and if changes aren't made on the offensive side of the ball, namely with the offensive play-calling, then fans of the Tigers could be in for a long season.
You can argue both ways as to why the mass exodus. I personally feel it is a little of both, talent leaving for the NFL because it is deserved and the lack of believe that the individuals in charge can lead them to the stated goals of winning championships. You can speculate all day long as to the reasons but only the players truly know. It is very curious though that individuals like Simon leave when they truly could vault up the board with a stellar year next year, which in all likelihood he would have. We are talking 1st or 2nd round material. I think with the juniors that are in the rounds of 4 on down "Simon, Ware, Ford etc...." in all likelihood they have lost confidence in their dreams of winning championships so it makes their decisions a little easier. Why take the chance of getting hurt and if my stock of rising in the draft is not going to go up because of playing time and they have lost faith in the coaches ability to get them their, the decision is actually pretty easy.