LSU center Ethan Pocic and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture plan to return for their senior seasons.
Pocic, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound draft-eligible junior, flirted with leaving school early but has decided to pass on entering the NFL draft and remain at LSU, he told The Advocate on Friday afternoon.
LaCouture posted a message on Twitter on Friday night announcing his return - an expected move. The junior from Nebraska fractured his forearm late in LSU’s win over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl.
Pocic’s return is a big boost. The Illinois native was named to the All-Southeastern Conference second team after helping lead the way last season for running back Leonard Fournette. He received a second-round grade from the NFL College Advisory Committee, multiple sources close to the player said. He’s projected as the second-best center in the 2017 draft class, according to CBSSports.com.
LaCouture’s grade from the committee was not known. He’s started the last two seasons at defensive tackle and is ranked as the 13th-best DT in the 2017 draft rankings, according to CBSSports.com.
Pocic’s position in 2016 is uncertain after manning the center spot last year. He’s capable of playing any position on the line, players and coaches have said, and many expect him to finish his career at tackle. He has started 24 games at either guard or center since arriving in January 2013 as a consensus four-star prospect.
LSU will lose both of its tackles from last season’s team. Left tackle Jerald Hawkins declared for the NFL draft Wednesday, becoming the first of the draft-eligible juniors to announce his decision. Right tackle Vadal Alexander was a senior last year.
Pocic and LaCouture became the second and third juniors to announce their intentions.
At least three more juniors said they requested a grade from the advisory committee: linebacker Kendell Beckwith, defensive end Lewis Neal and cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Underclassmen must declare by Jan. 18.
LSU coaches began their re-recruiting efforts Dec. 30, the day after the Texas Bowl win, with a meeting with Pocic and his parents at the team hotel in Houston.
The Tigers have had 23 players leave early for the draft in the past four years. That’s believed to be the most of any university.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.