‘Needs at home’ also cited for Outback absence
“It’s more of a family decision than anything else. It’s what they thought was best at the time as far as projections. From all the people they talked to, they decided to go.” JIMMY WARD, Ferguson’s high school coach, on Ferguson’s decision to declare for the NFL draft
As LSU continues to await decisions from its NFL draft-eligible players, Ego Ferguson’s absence from the Outback Bowl has become more clear.
Ferguson decided not to play in the bowl game because of a banged-up knee and other “needs back home,” said Jimmy Ward, Ferguson’s high school coach.
Ferguson, who declared for the draft Friday, did not travel with the team to Florida for a weeklong stay ahead of the Outback Bowl against Iowa, a game LSU won 21-14.
After the game, coach Les Miles said Ferguson had “medical issues” and “was not allowed to be with the team.”
The coach would not expound.
Reached Saturday, Ward said the medical issue was a knee injury.
“He decided not to play,” said Ward, who coached Ferguson for two seasons at St. John’s-Catholic Prep in Maryland.
Asked further about Ferguson’s decision, Ward said, “Just the knee injury and things like that, being injured and other needs to care of back home.”
Ward did not know details of the knee injury but said he believes it happened this season.
Ferguson started every regular season game this year alongside fellow tackle Anthony Johnson. Many scouts feel he out-shined Johnson, the former No. 1 defensive tackle prospect out of high school in 2011.
Ferguson finished fifth on the team with 58 tackles. Johnson was 12th with 35 tackles and first in tackles for loss with nine.
Ferguson and Johnson are the only two LSU players who have officially declared for the NFL draft. Ferguson is projected as a second-round selection and is ranked as the No. 5 defensive tackle in this year’s draft, according to CBSSports.com. Johnson is the 10th-best defensive -tackle in the draft and is predicted to go in the third round.
Rob Rang, a draft analyst for CBSSports.com, said Johnson and Ferguson are “deserving” of second-round selections.
“I see both in the mix for that first- or second-round mix,” he said Saturday.
With help from his father, Ego Ferguson Sr., Ferguson made the decision to go pro this week, Ward said.
“It’s more of a family decision than anything else,” Ward said. “It’s what they thought was best at the time as far as projections. From all the people they talked to, they decided to go.”
Six draft-eligible LSU players are projected to be selected in the top three-to-four rounds of the draft. Others include receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, running back Jeremy Hill and left tackle La’el Collins.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare.
On Friday, Athletes’ Performance, a company that helps players train for the NFL Combine, announced that Ferguson and right guard Trai Turner had joined.
Turner, who like Hill did not play his true freshman season and thus is eligible, was not in the group of players thought to make the early leap.
Turner is not listed in CBSSports.com’s list of top 56 offensive guards in this year’s draft.
The NFL Combine, invitation-only, is set for Feb. 22-25. Seniors are currently receiving invitations.
LSU fullback J.C. Copeland tweeted his combine invitation Friday.
Underclassmen will receive invitations later.
Team spokesman Michael Bonnette on Friday could not confirm if Turner had declared for the draft.
Rang said Turner was not on many radars because he was a sophomore, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be passed over in the seven-round draft in May.
“I know that he’s a good football player,” Rang said. “He made some key blocks against Iowa. LSU’s ability to churn out talent is impressive, so if he’s looking to come out I’ve got to watch him a little bit more.”
Meanwhile, LSU waits for others to make their decisions, specifically its receiving duo of Landry and Beckham.
The pair of receivers are “strong second-round caliber” players, Rang said.
Beckham is the fifth-best receiver in the draft, and Landry is the ninth, according to CBSSports.com. Both are projected to go in the first or second round, but that could change come draft day, Rang said.
This year’s draft crop of receivers is “stacked,” Rang said. That may keep one or both from declaring.
“I don’t know if that will change Jarvis or Odell’s decision, but it’s something to consider,” Rang said.
“Some of the second-round guys are going to fall into the third round. If they interview poorly or run poor (at the combine) they could slip.”