LSU Tigers keep Loston, lose Ford

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIGLSU running back Michael Ford runs for a first down as Clemson safety Jonathan Meeks (5) looks to make the stop in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve. Ford said Monday that he plans to enter the NFL Draft rather than play his senior season at LSU.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIGLSU running back Michael Ford runs for a first down as Clemson safety Jonathan Meeks (5) looks to make the stop in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve. Ford said Monday that he plans to enter the NFL Draft rather than play his senior season at LSU.

LSU’s string of juniors announcing their early departures for the NFL draft was interrupted briefly Monday when safety Craig Loston announced that he would return for his senior season.

But later in the day, running back Michael Ford decided that he would forgo his senior season, bringing the number of Tigers declaring early to 10, which is believed to be the most ever from one school in one season.

That number includes former All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was kicked off the team in August, and punter Brad Wing, who was suspended for LSU’s Chick-fil-A bowl game last month.

The other early entrants are linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon, defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and running back Spencer Ware.

“We are fortunate at LSU to be able to recruit the style of high school player that can develop very quickly into an NFL-caliber athlete,” LSU coach Les Miles said in a statement released by the school. “The good fortune is that we invest in them, coach them and prepare them for the next step of their career. Generally speaking, every one of these guys is in position to return to school (during the offseason) to get their degree, and one (Minter) has already graduated.”

Miles said he met with each player and provided them with information on the NFL’s evaluation of them.

“We recruit very talented players with the understanding that there’s a choice that they may have to make following their junior year,” Miles said. “It’s an individual decision and one that has to do with them and their family. … We wish these guys great fortune as they pursue this next step.”

Loston was the first LSU underclassman to seriously consider turning pro and choose to stay.

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger said before the Chick-fil-A Bowl that he would return for his senior season, but he never seriously considered leaving.

The return of Loston provides much-needed experience to a secondary that leaned heavily on freshmen Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins after Mathieu’s dismissal and has been depleted by Reid’s and Simon’s departures.

Loston was plagued by injury much of his first two seasons but started all 12 games in which he played this season. He was fifth on the team with 55 tackles and was second with three interceptions.

His announcement came in the form of this tweet: “I will be a Tiger for the 2013-2014 season. I look forward to coming back and getting better as a person and teammate. Lets rock out.”

Later in the day, Loston tweeted, “Working on becoming All-American and getting First Team next season.”

Ford, like Ware, found his playing time limited by the Tigers’ depth at running back the past two seasons, something that wasn’t likely to change if they played as seniors.

Freshman Jeremy Hill emerged as the starting running back during the second half of the season, Alfred Blue, who was the starter until suffering a knee injury, is expected to return to form.

And Kenny Hilliard, who stood out as a freshman in 2011, is also returning.

Terrence Magee, who saw limited playing time as a running back as a freshman in 2011 and as a running back and wide receiver this season, might get a greater opportunity.

Ford, the Tigers’ leading rusher in 2011, finished third on the team this season with 392 yards and three touchdowns. He finished his career with 1,394 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

He caught eight passes for 69 yards and a score and returned 20 kickoffs for an average of 27.5 yards.