Collins staying at LSU

Offensive left tackle bucks trend of underclassmen leaving

“Definitely being around these guys, great coaches, great teammates, the bigger question is, ‘Why wouldn’t I come back?’” LA’EL COLLINS, LSU offensive left tackle

La’el Collins posed a question to himself when deciding to either return to LSU for his senior season or enter the NFL draft.

“Definitely being around these guys, great coaches, great teammates,” Collins said, “the bigger question is, ‘Why wouldn’t I come back?’”

Collins, LSU’s 315-pound left tackle and a former Redemptorist star, made his decision official Tuesday: He’ll return to LSU, going the opposite way of six other underclassmen who left early for the NFL draft.

The list includes running back Jeremy Hill, defensive tackles Anthony Jennings and Ego Ferguson, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and right guard Trai Turner.

Running back Alfred Blue, who was listed as a senior, bypassed on a fifth year of eligibility.

Collins is the lone holdout of the group and a big get for an LSU offense losing its starting quarterback, top two receivers, starting running back and starting fullback.

As Collins spoke at a news conference Tuesday announcing his decision, coach Les Miles smiled in the background — surely pleased at the thought of having a projected second-round NFL draft pick playing on a line that returns four starters in 2014.

“I think we’ll be a dominant offensive line without question,” Miles said.

Collins said he went “back and forth” with the decision over the past week, ultimately deciding to return for his senior year Monday.

Beckham said Monday that Collins is staying because he believes he can be a first-round pick next year.

Collins started all 13 games the past two seasons, switching from left guard to left tackle this past season.

“Feel like I’m prepared to play in the NFL,” Collins said. “Also, know in my heart that my time here at LSU is incomplete.”

Collins was the exception.

LSU had 10 underclassmen leave early last season, excluding dismissed safety Tyrann Mathieu, and six more this year, excluding Blue.

Miles was asked specifically about Hill’s decision to leave, a surprise to some around the program.

The coach said recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Frank Wilson, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and himself “weighed in, presented (facts) as effectively as we can” to Hill.

“We root for Jeremy Hill, simply put,” Miles said. “We gave him everything we could give him.

“If I was an NFL team, I would draft him.”

Miles insisted throughout the press conference that a first-round selection should be the goal for players.

Of LSU’s six underclassmen who left early, just one or two are projected for selection in the opening round of May’s draft.

“We try to tell them is this: Let’s not give the NFL a deal,” Miles said.

“If you’re a first-rounder, you’re guaranteed. There is no deal. The NFL’s going to have to pay for you.”

When referring to Collins and others who stayed, Miles said, “It’ll be my guess, that no matter where these guys are, they will have improved their (draft) position tremendously, and some maybe more than others.”