As expected, LSU led the way with 11 players among the record 73 underclassmen granted special eligibility for the 2013 NFL draft.
The NFL released the list Saturday. The number of underclassmen surpassed last season’s record of 65.
Each of the former Tigers — tackle Chris Faulk, running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon, defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Eric Reid and punter Brad Wing — had made their intentions known previously.
Wing, who was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson, reportedly for failing a drug test, and Mathieu, who was kicked off the team during preseason practice for a failed drug test, had two years of eligibility remaining. The other nine each had one year.
Although LSU is supplying more than 10 percent of the draft’s early entrants, the departures aren’t devastating to the program.
Most of them were anticipated, and coach Les Miles told The Advocate last week that LSU has recruited in anticipation of early departures. The Tigers are expected to land one of the top classes in the country when high school players sign beginning Feb. 6.
Still, the Tigers will be counting on an inordinate number of inexperienced players to start next season, especially on defense.
Mingo and Montgomery were expected to be first-round prospects before this past season, and they remain such. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. recently rated Mingo the No. 6 overall prospect and Montgomery at No. 21.
Faulk was considered a potential first- or second-round pick before he missed nearly all of the season with a knee injury suffered in the opener against North Texas. Reid, Logan and Minter could be high-round picks.
Ford and Ware don’t figure to be high-round picks, but they were unlikely to increase their NFL stock as seniors because of LSU’s depth at running back.
Mathieu is difficult to project because of concerns about his drug use and arrest during the season for simple possession of marijuana. Simon and Wing aren’t likely to be high-round picks.
Former Dutchtown High School running back Eddie Lacy was one of two early entrants from national champion Alabama, joining All-America cornerback Dee Milliner.
After LSU, fellow Southeastern Conference members Florida and Tennessee as well as Florida State tied for the next-most early departures with four each.
The Gators lost All-America safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jelani Jenkins and tight end Jordan Reed. The Volunteers lost quarterback Tyler Bray, wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and defensive tackle Darrington Sentimore.
SEC East champion Georgia lost nose tackle, Kwame Geathers and linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree.
Texas A&M, Arkansas and South Carolina each lost two. The Aggies departing early are tackle Luke Joeckel, who could be the first player drafted, and defensive end Damontre Moore. The Razorbacks lost guard Alvin Bailey and running back Knile Davis, and the Gamecocks lost running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Ace Sanders.
Auburn lost defensive end Corey Lemonier, and Missouri lost defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
The first round of the draft is Thursday, April 25. The second and third rounds are April 26, and rounds four through seven are April 27.