Coach Les Miles, left, congratulates MVP Jeremy Hill after LSU defeated Iowa 21-14 in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day in Tampa, Fla. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 11:19 AMIn the end it was the big tease for LSU, too good to be true.
Jeremy Hill declared himself a “Tiger for life” on Monday, but added that he’s played his last game in an LSU uniform after also declaring himself eligible for the upcoming NFL draft.
The announcement came after multiple reports late last week that Hill was leaning toward returning for his junior season.
He is eligible now because he sat out his true freshman season while dealing with legal issues.
“I will forever be grateful to my LSU fans, friends, coaches and family,” Hill said via his Twitter account. “This decision has been very difficult for me. With all of that being said, I have decided to forego my junior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.”
LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette, who said he was under the impression that Hill was coming back, confirmed the change of heart.
“I was convinced after meeting with him last week that he was committed to stay,” Bonnette said.
Also on Monday, LSU offensive guard Trai Turner confirmed through his agent that he planned to make the early jump.
And LSU officials said that running back Alfred Blue, who was granted an fifth year of eligibility due to past medical issues, will not use it and instead take his chances with the draft.
But LSU did keep one player when running back Kenny Hilliard, who was reportedly contemplating leaving, said he will be back for his senior season.
With word that the latest trio won’t be returning, LSU now has seven players with eligibility remaining who won’t be back. Those three join defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson, along with 1,000-yard wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham.
Although widely assumed, Landry and Beckham hadn’t made it official until Monday when Bonnette confirmed the duo wouldn’t be back.
Offensive tackle La’el Collins is also reportedly considering the leap.
LSU lost 11 juniors to the draft last season.
Respected analyst Gil Brandt, the former director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, said on the NFL.com web site that he now ranks Hill as the best running back available for this year’s draft.
NFL teams have shied away from taking running backs early in the draft in recent years and many scouting services rank Hill as third-round selection, possibly second.
No running backs were taken in the first round last season.
But Brandt wrote that Hill may break that trend.
“I think Hill will be a first-round pick,” Brandt said on the web site, adding that before Hill’s announcement he didn’t think there would be a running back taken in this year’s first round.
Hill emerged as the feature back from a deep stable at LSU. His 1,410 yards rushing last season were second in school history only to Charles Alexander (1,686) in 1978 and LSU discovered Monday that he actually set an SEC single-season record this year by averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
He capped his career by being named MVP in the recent Outback Bowl with two touchdowns and a career-high 216 yards rushing.
Hilliard said his decision to stick around was made because he was too close to graduating.
“The NFL can wait,” he said on his Twitter account.
Hilliard came on strong late in freshman season of 2011 with eight rushing touchdowns, but didn’t get as many carries the last two years with the emergence of Hill.
LSU also returns second-leading rusher Terrence Magee and also has a verbal commitment from the nation’s top-rated recruit, running back Leonard Fournette of St. Augustine in New Orleans.