Jerald Hawkins sat in his living room and had déjà vu.
LSU coach Les Miles was in his house pitching to him all of the great things about LSU. The coach was trying to woo him to Baton Rouge from the same exact position – the couch, maybe, or a chair – that he sat three years ago.
Yes, indeed, he had seen this before.
“I felt like I was getting recruited again,” said Hawkins, the Tigers’ draft-eligible sophomore tackle. “Was just another recruiting visit for me.”
One difference: Miles was trying to convince Hawkins to remain in – not come to – school.
The coach is 2 for 2 with the guy they call “Hawk.”
Hawkins, fellow offensive lineman Vadal Alexander and defensive back Jalen Mills announced during a news conference Friday that they’re remaining in school. Linebacker Lamar Louis, at one point leaning strongly toward leaving, also said Friday that he will stay.
Tight end Dillon Gordon, a junior, and draft-eligible redshirt sophomore Travin Dural also attended the news conference.
The players are bypassing the NFL draft, a positive stroke for a team that’s lost more underclassmen recently than any other college program.
“They wanted to be a Tiger another year,” Miles said. “It’s damn special.”
The Tigers lost three this season, the lowest figure since three left after the 2011 season. Linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive back Jalen Collins and defensive end Danielle Hunter declared, forgoing their senior years. All are projected for selection in the second-to-third round range, said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
Miles couldn’t convince everyone to remain in school during this re-recruiting process. He met with the three who left, he said, as well as with four of the six who stayed – not Dural or Gordon.
So what about the guys who left?
“It’s a tough decision,” Miles said. “Was pretty simple to me, but it was a very tough decision for them. At some point in time, I have to honor their decision.”
This re-recruiting season began days after the Music City Bowl and ended days before players had to declare, which was Thursday. Miles said he’s done this the last few years – visited the homes of those players pondering the early leap to the NFL.
Miles re-recruited “a little bit better” this year, he said. LSU lost seven players last year and 10 the year before.
The ones who stayed are big - literally. Returning Alexander and Hawkins means LSU loses just two - and not four - offensive line starters from last season.
Hawkins said he expects to move from right tackle to left tackle, replacing the departed La’el Collins. Alexander, Miles suggested, may move to right tackle.
“This is a great reason to believe we’ll have a very, very talented team this year,” Miles said. “This team is as talented and capable as any that we’ve fielded.”
Said Louis: “We’re going to fight for a national championship this year.”
Louis, Vadal Alexander and Mills seemed to be the closest to leaving. Louis, even, admitted that he began “looking forward to pro day,” Alexander said he was “back and forth,” and Mills told reporters that Miles’ meeting with him and his mother secured his decision to return.
“He made my final decision,” Mills said of the re-recruiting meeting. “I called him and I told him, ‘Coach, I’m going to come back for you.”
Hawkins had been leaning to remain in school, but his final decision didn’t come until the meeting with Miles. During the meeting, Louis said Miles provided salary figures, as it pertains to NFL picks.
Miles has said in the past that he suggests players return if they’re not projected in the first round. Of the 17 players who have left the team early over the previous two years, just three were first-round selections.
“He threw the numbers out there, showed me what I can do,” Louis said. “Everything was just positive on coming back and staying.”
“They postponed wealth,” Miles said. “What they said is there’s more to accomplish: Get a degree, play for a championship, raise their draft status.”
Most of the players who remained in school were not projected as first or, even, second-round picks.
Mills was rated as the fifth-best cornerback, according to rankings from ESPN analyst Todd McShay. ESPN’s Mel Kiper pegged Mills as the second-best safety in the draft in ranking released a month ago.
Vadal Alexander was listed among the top 5 guards in the draft in a mid-season projection last year by Kiper, but his status during an injury-plagued year seemed to have dropped.
There’s more to it than that, though, he said.
“Only get one chance to play in Tiger Stadium. I just needed another year of that,” Alexander said. “I feel like it would be premature to leave without a national championship and (without) getting my degree.”
Early departures at LSU last 11 years:
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.