‘We expect that from him’: LSU’s Lewis Neal among the nation’s sack leaders _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive end Lewis Neal (92) celebrates a sack in the first half of the LSU-Florida game in Baton Rouge Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015.

HOUSTON — Defensive end Lewis Neal is finally healthy, and he’s uncertain about his future at LSU.

Neal requested an evaluation grade from the NFL College Advisory Committee, he said Sunday, and he has not decided on whether he’ll enter the draft or return for his senior season.

No. 22 LSU (8-3) meets Texas Tech (7-5) in the Texas Bowl at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a healthy Neal for the first time in nearly two months. Neal revealed Sunday that he played with a sprained ankle for the last four games of the season. He sprained the ankle on the first defensive play in the loss at Alabama on Nov. 7.

Neal rolled up seven sacks in the first six games before going sackless in three straight — all LSU losses. Neal began to get healthy in the regular-season finale against Texas A&M, he said, and he picked up his eighth sack of the season.

“I played with a sprained ankle. People don’t know those things; I keep that stuff to myself,” he said. “Those are things that people don’t know, and they aren’t supposed to know.

“Those are the type of things you just have to play through, regardless of the results. You just have to play through them because you’ve got to do it for your teammates.”

Neal, a junior from North Carolina, is the sixth Tigers player to have requested an evaluation grade from the committee, joining linebacker Kendell Beckwith, center Ethan Pocic, left tackle Jerald Hawkins, cornerback Tre’Davious White and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture.

The Advocate reported Sunday that Hawkins was the most likely of any draft-eligible underclassmen to skip his senior season, and many on the coaching staff expect him to do so. Hawkins has not announced a decision — nor has any other underclassmen.

All of them say they’ll wait until after the bowl game to make a decision. The deadline to declare is Jan. 18. Neal, Hawkins and LaCouture said they have received their draft grade, but only LaCouture said he has read it.

LaCouture described the grade Sunday as “good.” The committee gives three grades: first round, second round or remain in school.

The Tigers have had 23 players leave early for the draft in the past three years.

“I think it’s very specific to each specific guy,” coach Les Miles said when asked about the decisions from underclassmen. “They make decisions on their draft (grades). I think our guys are making smarter and smarter, more informed decisions each year. I think this will hopefully be a similar year.”

Brossette to miss spring

Former University High star and current LSU freshman Nick Brossette will miss spring practice after surgery to repair a knee injury, Miles said.

Brossette suffered an ACL injury during the loss at Ole Miss. He finished his rookie season with 65 yards on 12 carries. He was the No. 4 running back behind Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams.

Brossette and the other four injured players traveled with the team to Houston, including tight end Dillon Gordon (Achilles), fullback J.D. Moore (knee) and receiver Travin Dural (hamstring). All four players needed surgery to repair injuries and will miss the Texas Bowl.

Moore, who suffered a knee injury against Alabama, appears farther along in recovery than the others. He jogged around the field Saturday during practice. Gordon, who is petitioning the NCAA for a medical redshirt, is off crutches.

Dural and Brossette both continue to use crutches.

Lagniappe

About 1,500 tickets of 70,000 remain to the Texas Bowl, said David Fletcher, the bowl’s executive director. … This will be the Tigers’ first appearance in the Texas Bowl but third bowl game all-time in Houston after two trips to the now defunct Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl and Bluebonnet Bowl in 1963 and 1972. … The Tigers have been designated as the visiting team. LSU is expected to wear its traditional white jerseys, gold pants and gold helmets.