Some people watch birds.
Some like to spot trains.
If you cover LSU football these days, you watch for players flying off the football roster, perhaps by hopping a freight that rumbles down the railroad tracks next to the LSU football complex.
There has been a disquieting stream of players departing the program for various reasons over the past 12 months, a stream running into a torrent. Monday we realized senior offensive guard Jonah Austin was not on the preseason roster released by LSU, the eighth scholarship player to depart in the last year.
Some left because they couldn’t play. Some left because they couldn’t play well with others. Only Rashard Robinson and Melvin Jones ever rose to become starters.
A drum roll, please, for LSU’s eight men out:
Austin: A career backup, sports information director Michael Bonnette said Austin graduated this summer and wanted to go transfer somewhere he could play.
Maquedius Bain: A curious case, Bain was charged along with quarterback Anthony Jennings and defensive back Dwayne Thomas for unlawfully entering an apartment in June. When charges were dropped against the trio last week, LSU announced all three had been reinstated to the team. However, Bain announced Monday he was transferring to Pearl River (Mississippi) Community College. On Wednesday, Les Miles said he never reinstated Bain, which is a pretty good indication a transfer is in your future.
Clifton Garrett: The nation’s No. 1 middle linebacker prospect out of Illinois was a fish out of water on the bayou. He played in three games last year, didn’t record a tackle, and announced in June he was headed to Arizona Western, a junior college.
Jones: The heir apparent to Connor Neighbors at fullback apparently couldn’t cut it academically.
Trey Lealaimatafao: In just over a year on campus, he punched a plate glass window in the LSU weight room, stole a bike, rifled through the pockets of an unconscious man during a bar fight then reportedly punched a woman during said fight. Why was this guy ever at LSU in the first place? Now also at Arizona Western.
Avery Peterson: Often injured, never played, the younger brother of LSU great Patrick Peterson will try to play wide receiver at Cincinnati.
Robinson: Off the team late last year for academic reasons, Robinson’s name resurfaced after being arrested for an unauthorized entry into Jennings’ apartment, which apparently has something to do with Jennings going with Bain and Thomas to retrieve some items he reported stolen that were sitting in another apartment. Anyway, Robinson won’t resurface at LSU again.
Trevonte Valentine: A prep All-American, Valentine was never cleared to play at LSU and apparently never overcame academic issues once in school. Also now at Arizona Western, which we understand will be renamed LSU Western at a ceremony Friday.
Miles certainly wasn’t happy to see all eight go, but to some of the more troublesome ex-Tigers on Wednesday he basically said, “good riddance.”
“Certain behaviors are not acceptable to the team,” he said. “It’s not what we wanted, but it will improve us.”
No pads this early in preseason practice.
No gloves, either.
Miles has never been shy about sharing his feelings about certain players who didn’t measure up for whatever reason. We remember the lack of “chest” that quarterback Gunner Kiel had after he switched his commitment from LSU to Notre Dame. Kiel is also now at Cincinnati.
Now you can buy Miles’ argument that LSU will be improved without certain bad apples potentially spoiling the bunch, but what happens when you start to run short of apples? The loss of Bain, Lealaimatafao and Valentine has cut LSU’s defensive line depth like Bobby Jindal hacking away at LSU’s academic funding. Jones’ departure leaves the Tigers to probably start converted tight end John David Moore at fullback, though it wouldn’t be a shock to see tailback Darrel Williams there.
Miles, as is his want, struck an optimistic tone. For now.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect us this year,” he said. “I think we’re in a good position to man those (affected) spots. But going forward we have to recruit to some spots to play significant roles in future years.”
You can attribute LSU’s attrition to bad luck or bad apples. Certainly the staff Miles has assembled is superb at attracting highly rated talent, but are they vetting the character of their recruits well enough?
It’s a matter that bears watching, just like LSU’s roster.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.