Christian LaCouture is coming back.
LSU's senior defensive lineman is returning for a fifth year of eligibility, he announced Thursday in a brief news conference with Ed Orgeron, pushing aside his NFL plans for at least one more year.
"I'm really excited for this opportunity," LaCouture said. "I really feel like we're going to have a special team next year."
LaCouture missed the 2016 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first week of preseason camp in August. The senior had decided to turn professional before Orgeron was named permanent coach on Nov. 26.
Orgeron and defensive line coach Pete Jenkins spent the last several weeks re-recruiting LaCouture to return. He did not use a redshirt as a freshman and will now use 2016 as a redshirt season. The NCAA allows players to play four seasons over five years.
"It wasn't easy," Orgeron said of convincing LaCouture to return. "He was gone. Pete Jenkins had a lot to do with it. ... Once I began (permanent) head coach, he started listening."
LSU's first bowl practice included a trio of new faces and at least one missing player.
LaCouture participated in LSU's first bowl practice Thursday, returning to drills for the first time since he injured the knee on the fourth day of camp. He wore a brace on his right knee, but that was not mandated by doctors.
"I’m only wearing a brace because my mom told me. She’s a little nervous," LaCouture said. "(Team trainer) Jack (Marucci) told us that we were good to go. I didn’t need one. But my mom said I need to wear one otherwise I would get a chewing at home."
LaCouture said his knee felt "good" during drills.
LaCouture entered preseason camp as a projected starter at defensive end in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's new 3-4 scheme. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder has started 23 games at LSU.
LaCouture was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a senior all-star game played yearly in Carson, California, but he will not play in the game now that he's returning to school.
LaCouture's return is a boon for a program that might lose as many as 11 starters, including six on defense. Safety Jamal Adams, projected as a first-round draft pick, is expected to leave early for the NFL. Linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, defensive lineman Lewis Neal and cornerback Tre'Davious White are seniors. Defensive lineman Davon Godchaux is a draft-eligible junior.
"I think a lot of guys are really considering coming back because you see what’s going on," LaCouture said. "When Coach O got the job, we progressed, week in and week out, and it was really exciting to watch."
Dave Aranda can finally hang his television on his wall.
LaCouture said last week on ESPN 104.5 FM that he was, at one point this season, "95-5" in leaving for the NFL. He even participated in a senior day ceremony ahead of LSU's game against Florida.
"Honestly, I thought, at one point, I was really going to leave," he said. "Talking to Coach O and listening to him and being the leader that he is, it was something that I sat back and listened to him, especially when he got the permanent job. I was really ecstatic. My family was as well, and we wanted to sit down and talk with him."