LSU running back Spencer Ware. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, January 04, 2013 7:46 PM
Half of LSU’s starting secondary joined the early parade to the NFL draft on Friday, while the offense lost junior running back Spencer Ware and punter Brad Wing announced he won’t back either.
All-American safety Eric Reid’s departure was expected, as he is projected by most services to be a late first- or early second-round pick in April. But cornerback Tharold Simon’s status is not as clear as he’s not listed among the prospects on most of the draft’s various website rankings.
They joined defensive MVP Kevin Minter, fresh off a 19-tackle game in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, who announced Thursday that, having already graduated, he will forgo his senior year of eligibility.
None of the departures, except maybe Simon, were unexpected, but the five thus far are the most juniors LSU has ever had declare for early entry.
And it’s probably not over.
Neither of LSU’s junior starting defensive ends — Sam Montgomery nor Barkevious “KeKe” Mingo — made an announcement, but both are expected to leave early as they’re projected to be drafted in the top half of the first round.
Defensive tackle Josh Downs also has a decision to make and there were reports Friday that Leesville running back Michael Ford is also mulling his options.
LSU is almost certain to lose as many seven juniors and possibly as many as nine players to the draft.
Mingo is the highest ranked of the Tigers, even though he is projected to move to outside linebacker in the pros. He is listed as the No. 5 overall pick by EPSN.com and the No. 7 overall choice by CBSsports.com.
Montgomery, who will likely remain at defensive end, is projected as the No. 18 overall pick by both services.
All of the Tigers who left early, either in official statements through the school or via their Twitter accounts, had praise for LSU fans and coaches and thanked them for their experiences as a Tiger.
Typical was Reid, who tweeted, “I appreciate all the love and support y’all have given me. I will always be a Tiger. Forever LSU.”
Ware didn’t put up big numbers this season, just 365 yards on 95 carries. But he is a prototypical NFL power back with good hands who figures to grade well in the combine, Feb. 23-26 in Indianapolis. Stuck in a crowded backfield that includes freshman starter Jeremy Hill, he wasn’t like to improve his stock by staying another year.
Wing became a cult figure as LSU’s Australian punter, but his early departure seemed imminent even before he was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, reportedly for failing a drug test.
The Tigers have another Aussie, Jamie Keehn, waiting in the wings after averaging 44.6 yards on nine punts in Monday’s bowl game.
Reid, a born playmaker who was also tough against the run, will likely be the toughest to replace in the secondary.
The heir apparent is junior-to-be Ron Martin, who had two interceptions in limited playing time this season.
LSU alternated two freshmen at the cornerback spot opposite Simon this season, and Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins figure to be on the inside track to get the two spots next year.