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LSU proven stepping stone to NFL

Last Modified: Friday, February 07, 2014 2:26 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Les Miles has a short memory, apparently never quite learns.

There’s no stopping him.

Does he not remember just about a month ago when he stood there like a lonely parent watching his offense and half his defensive line disappear before his very eyes. Did he not see them run away from school, lured away from the home and hearth of the Tiger family by the lure of the NFL carpetbaggers?

Does he not remember the pain of watching them leave with full-blown eligibility remaining?

No, he just reloads, with glee — with that short memory flying off the handle.

Miles appeared to be doing some soul-searching last month after losing 18 players to the draft early in the last two years. That’s the most any school has ever lost in a that span.

But Wednesday was another day, a glorious day to welcome in another crop of ridiculous talent in the second-best recruiting class in the nation (behind Alabama, of course), according to ESPN’s ranking. If you listen to the hype — it’s hard to escape and who are we to doubt it? — most of them are pretty close to being NFL-ready before attending their senior prom.

And Miles did nothing to squash that kind of talk.

A lot of factors went into those 17-year-olds’ college decisions, Miles said, and he mentioned the old reliables of the tradition, the “LSU family,” the way veteran players embrace the youngsters, the Taj Mahal facilities, the nutty fans and, of course, the lure of and support from the often-overlooked LSU academic community.

But he almost always came back to a central theme when explaining what makes LSU such an alluring place to play college football.

It’s the lure of NFL football.

Miles said recruits say to themselves that, “They play a style of football over there at LSU that sends guys to the NFL. It just happens.”

He bragged that, for an elite program, he can routinely offer honest playing time for true freshmen, mostly because the joint has become a three-year finishing school for the NFL.

“We send juniors to the NFL,” Miles said. “We sent 11 last year. We sent seven this year. Last nine years … we’ve had 12 first-rounders. Beginning of last year we had 41 Tigers that were on NFL rosters, that left college.”

Hush, Les, just hush.

But he couldn’t stop himself, pointing out that this was such an important class because they had to replace the early departures, all the while recruiting them with the implied promise that this was the place to get to the NFL early.

So maybe he doesn’t get to complain a few years down the road when half of them get on the three-year plan.

I’m half-kidding, of course.

All’s fair in recruiting.

You get them there anyway you can, then worry about how to keep them around for more than a college toe-tap.

The first order of business, of course, is de-programming the recruiting process out of them.

In other words, getting them away from the self-adulation and the announcement hat-trick gyrations and back to being a reliable teammate.

It usually happens.

LSU’s top recruit, running back Leonard Fournette, is by all accounts a very humble young man who is mature beyond his years, and yet he announced his decision to attend LSU with the stated goal of winning the Heisman Trophy (as a freshman) and helping the Tigers win a national championship or three.

Nice to aim high, you suppose.

And Miles certainly wouldn’t discourage him.

Caught up in the excitement of the day, Miles said nothing that would temper fans’ expectations.

He said the limitation with most freshman backs are that “If he’s got great speed, he’s not very big. If he’s very big, he doesn’t have great speed. You take the big back and trim him down and get (more) speed (or) you take the small back and build him up and hopefully you don’t make him slower.

“But with Fournette it’s size and speed and ball skills and great vision. He’s a guy that will step in and play.”

But forget Fournette.

The recruit who ought to have everybody excited is this four-star defensive tackle, a five-star tongue-twister named Trey Lealaimatafao from San Antonio.

Whatever damage he does in opposing backfields figures to pale next to the carnage he leaves behind while crashing and burning every spell check program in Louisiana.

But mostly we can only imagine the family fun and high entertainment in watching Miles Sumo wrestle with the pronunciation for three or four years.

“For right now I’m going to call him ‘Trey-L,’” Miles admitted.

But won’t that create mass confusion with La’El Collins around?

“I believe it is ‘Lealaimatafao.’ Until I get that right, and I’m going to try for a couple of years, you (media) guys will have that one to throw at me at just about any point you wish to.”

Maybe he makes a deal with Lealaima-I-give-up.

He can’t head for the NFL until Miles learns how to pronounce his name.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSUathletics. Email him at

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