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From LSU Sports
BATON ROUGE – LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins announced on Tuesday that he will put off the NFL for another year and will return to school for his senior season.
Collins was one of six LSU juniors who announced that they will be returning to school for their final year in 2014. Joining Collins were center Elliott Porter, running backs Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, and defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen.
Collins, a second team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2013, started 12 games for the Tigers this past season, helping LSU to a 10-3 overall mark and a final national ranking of No. 14. LSU set offensive school records for rushing touchdowns (37) and total yards per game (453.3) in 2013.
"When we recruit these guys, we tell them that the goals are your degree, that you play for a championship and that you put yourself in the best position to be drafted to go to the NFL," LSU coach Les Miles said. "It is very much a personal decision. Everyone makes this decision in a way that promotes their view of those three things: education, play for a championship and enter the NFL.
"To me, these guys really have exhibited quality decision-making and really the future path for young men in this program. This decision in my mind gives them a long-term view of who they are. They are all in a position of promoting education, and they want to enter the NFL at the highest possible position."
Collins, who will be in his third season as a starter next year, will anchor an offensive line that returns four starters from LSU's 10-3 team in 2013. Collins also said that one factor in his decision was that he's on pace to graduate next year.
"For me, it's always been a dream to play in the NFL and I feel like I'm prepared to play in the NFL," Collins said. "I also know in my heart that my time here at LSU isn't complete. I came here to compete and build great relationships with the guys here that I call my teammates and my brothers and also earn a degree. This 2014 LSU team has a lot to look forward to and a lot to accomplish, and I look forward to being a part of that.
"I definitely look forward to being around these guys, great coaches and great teammates. The bigger question is, why wouldn't I come back? You're going to be around an atmosphere of guys that you enjoy going out to games and practice with day to day. I'm coming back to finish and get my degree and to have a shot at a national championship next year."
Joining Collins and Porter as returning starters on the offensive line include guard Vadal Alexander and tackle Jerald Hawkins.
Rasco and Allen are expected to be two of the leaders on the defensive line next year. Rasco goes into his senior season with 83 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks, while Allen has accumulated 16 tackles and 2.0 sacks during his time with the Tigers.
Offensively, Hilliard and Magee return as the only tailbacks on the LSU roster with game experience. Hilliard 1,110 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in his career with the Tigers, while Magee has 759 yards and eight touchdowns for his credit. Magee ranked second on the team a year ago in rushing yards (626) and rushing TDs (8).
Full transcript from today's press conference:
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES
Opening statement … "When we recruit these guys, we tell them that the goals are your degree, that you play for a championship and that you put yourself in the best position to be drafted to go to the NFL. It is very much a personal decision. Everyone makes this decision in a way that promotes their view of those three things: education, play for a championship and enter the NFL. To me, these guys really have exhibited quality decision-making and really the future path for young men in this program. The decision in my mind gives them a long-term view of who they are. They are all in a position promoting education, and they want to enter the NFL at the highest possible position. The degree that the increased NFL position and to play for a championship while with the Tigers is the choice that they made. I'd like to introduce these guys all singularly first of all. Jermauria Rasco, Kenny Hilliard, Jordan Allen, Elliott Porter and La'el Collins. I would encourage them not to describe what would be their advice from the NFL. All guys have different draft ratings and all guys have different positions in the draft that they want to accomplish as they go forward. Each and all, they made a decision that weighed an NFL career vs. playing another year, getting a degree, and playing for the Tigers. I'd like to say a couple of things about these guys. This will be the leadership of our team, these will be the guys that really kind of point in the right direction. If I had to say, those young people that are paying attention that are not in this building, that are in this state, that they are making a statement for education. It's something that they will always have, their degree. I'd like to bring up two guys that really will represent the group. First, I'd like to bring up our starting center who really has always been an academic, always been capable, and someone who's really played extremely well for us at center, Elliott Porter."
CENTER ELLIOTT PORTER
Opening statement … "Staying here for the next season in 2014 was probably the best decision I ever made. Academically, I graduate in May, and I'm trying to get my second degree in business the coming fall. This has been a big decision for me, and I'm glad to be a Tiger for this last year, my senior year, and I'm glad to be a leader on this team who is going to lead this team to a national championship."
HEAD COACH LES MILES
"La'el Collins certainly is the highest potential draft pick on this group of men. They're all personal decisions, and they're all decisions that weigh education in a very significant piece in making it. I can tell you that when it came to making his decision, he gave great presence and value in having the degree from LSU."
OFFENSIVE TACKLE LA'EL COLLINS
Opening statement … "For me, it's always been a dream to play in the NFL. I feel like I'm prepared to play in the NFL. I also know in my heart that my time here at LSU isn't complete. I came here to compete and build great relationships with the guys here that I call my teammates and my brothers and also earn a degree. This 2014 LSU team has a lot to look forward to and a lot to accomplish, and I look forward to being a part of that."
HEAD COACH LES MILES
"This does not undermine or in any way diminish decisions by other guys to leave. I think it's probable that we should include Jarvis Landry, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham, Jr., Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Trai Turner. They went through the same process, made different decisions, but in fact, we support them. We enjoy them, we wish the best for them. They certainly are teammates, and we'll follow them fully. All of which we would have loved to have them here today, with the exception of that group are out of town and are pursuing getting in shape in preparation for the NFL Combine."
On the offensive line … "I think we'll be a dominant offensive line without question. There are a number of guys really in the backdrop there that will stay forward and have an opportunity to be very significant. I think La'el returning will bolster that group. I see Vadal Alexander, whose left guard, what you would call a proverbial wing man. I know that there's a great feeling for putting the group on the field. There's a dominant offensive line yet again."
On helping student-athletes in whether or not to enter the draft …
"I have to be honest with you, we give them the best information that we can. We try to dispel what would be false information as best we can, but it really is their decision. What we've got to tell them is this, let's not give the NFL a deal. There's no reason for it. The guaranteed money, the best position to go into the draft is the first round. What we want to encourage is to really view your decision in relationship to where you can be and where you are. These guys, they make great decisions."
On the possibility of La'el in first round next year … "I think that it's an interesting thing. I think La'el will want to improve. The guys that say I'm coming back for a reason, it's a self-thing. They're not only saying not only am I a good player now, but that I legitimately can improve my stock. That self-perception will allow him to work and improve, and I don't think there's any question that he has the potential to be a very early draft pick at the left tackle. The decision almost promotes it first and foremost in his mind. We'll assist him. I think his want to be great will stand forward."
On what he is looking for in an O-line coach … "We have a number of guys that we're looking at, and it really is not the time to talk about the line coach. I can tell you this, it's got to be a guy that can show us that he can improve what is already a really pretty good line. He's going to have to have run and pass technical expertise, he has to have guys he's put into the league. Coaching in the league is a thought, not necessarily a consideration. I don't want to talk about it any further."
On an early identity for the 2014 offense … "I think what Coach (Cam) Cameron's always done is he's always seen the playmakers and he's wanted to have the ball in the playmakers' hands. I think that will always involve the run and the pass, I think it will always involve a dominant offensive line and an ability to throw in every distance. I don't think those things will change. The year that Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan, he saw so many touches on the offensive side based on what Cam Cameron saw as a need for us to improve."
On losing 16 players early to NFL in two years … "We've always counted on guys that have shown up in this room to play big. In other words, really for years, we've said that young guys that come into this program are expected not to be young guys. They're expected to take their roles and play big roles in this program. That being said, we recruit to that. We recruit to those guys that see they stepping in and making big plays and playing a part. I guess what I'm saying is I can't ask Keke (Mingo) to be here today. I think it's time for him to go. I think it's wonderful that a guy like La'el Collins focuses on education, degree, championship football and the ability for me to be drafted in a better position. Those guys, that's why it's a personal decision. How it affects the program, it will only be said. It appears to me that we've won a lot of games year after year after year, and I think that will continue."
On recruiting … "I think we're doing a great job in recruiting. I think Frank Wilson's spectacular, and I think our staff does an excellent job of recruiting quality players. Thank goodness the NFL's here. We see these eventualities just like we said when we recruit. One: you're going to get your degree. Two: you're going to play championship football. Three: you're going to enter the NFL at the highest position possible."
On having Kenny Hilliard back … "If you remember Kenny Hilliard in a Florida game not long ago, he pounded off for about 100 plus. At any point in time where you turn to a guy that's as veteran as Kenny Hilliard, you know you're going to get quality play. We're fortunate that this year's team has very quality guys returning."
On entering the draft … "I think this thing will evolve such that it's a where I'm at to get my degree, what I have left to accomplish here, and am I entering the NFL draft at the highest possible position. The deal is anything less than the first round. If you are a first-rounder, you're guaranteed. There is no deal, the NFL's going to have to pay for you. Anything short of the first round is, if you leave early, a deal. I just want you to know, I was not drafted. I went the full four years at Michigan, but the point is that I tapped out. Guys that have not really exceeded their abilities, they'll have an opportunity to be drafted at the best possible position. Consider this: 32 guys in the first round are gone this year. Thirty-two great players from college football are gone. The second round, there are another 32 gone. It would be my guess that no matter where these guys are, they will have improved their position tremendously, and some maybe more than others."
On discussions with Jeremy Hill … "I think Frank (Wilson), Cam (Cameron) and myself, we all kind of weighed in and presented as effectively as we can, and we route for Jeremy Hill. Simply put. We gave him everything we could give him in a knowledge base. Frankly, I think he's a good player. If I was an NFL team, I would draft him."
OFFENSIVE TACKLE LA'EL COLLINS
On making his decision to return for his senior season… "I definitely look forward to being around these guys, great coaches and great teammates. The bigger question is why wouldn't I come back. You're going to be around an atmosphere of guys that you enjoy going out to games and practice day to day. I'm coming back to finish and get my degree and to have a shot at a national championship next year."
On the difficulty of making a decision… "It has been a long process. I have been back and forth trying to make a decision. I had some time to sit down with my mother and go over everything, because it is not decision that is going to affect you right now. It is a decision that is going to affect the rest of your life. After going over everything, I feel like I made the right decision."
On the impact of Jeremy Hill's decision… "Every guy has their own way to go. For me, this was the best decision for myself. For him, he made the best decision for him. I respect him and his decision, and I wish the best for him."
On which position the NFL prefers him to play… "I got mixed emotions from them. A lot of teams like me at the tackle and a lot of teams like me at guard. Right now, I am the tackle and I'm going to play tackle for LSU."
On improving for next season… "There a lot of things I can improve on. For me, I feel like I have more potential and room to grow. That is why making this decision wasn't really that hard because I wasn't able to max out my potential this year. Being able to come back and work on those things with Coach (Les) Miles and whoever we bring in is going to be a big deal for me. I get a chance to really focus on everything I need to work on."
On taking on a senior leadership role… "I can get advice from those guys. We have guys like Zach (Mettenberger) and Lamin (Barrow). You can always call up those guys and get information from them. I look at everything they did while they were here and pick up from there."
On the potential of LSU's offensive line next season… "I feel like this offensive line is going to be a real great offensive line this year. Last year was really our first year playing together as a whole. I think that with another year under our belt it is going to be a great season. To me, I think the game is learned in the trenches. Being able to come out and do the things we are capable of doing, I think we will have a great season."
On the steps he has taken since high school football… "I look back at my old pictures and high school tape, and it has been a long ride. It went by so fast. I believe I've come a long way with the help of great teammates and great coaches. I couldn't have done it by myself."