About 40 seconds into a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Kendell Beckwith changed the subject of the conversation.
The linebacker fielded a few questions about the decision looming for him and LSU’s other draft-eligible juniors — whether they’ll bolt for the NFL or stay in school — before bringing up Texas Tech’s high-powered offense.
“I heard Texas Tech is the second-best offense in the nation,” a smiling Beckwith said when asked a third time about the NFL.
Beckwith said he hasn’t given the stay-or-go decision much thought.
“It’s just something that I’ll have to worry about after we get done playing,” he said. “Just sit down with my family and figure out things from there.”
Beckwith is approaching the situation like the four other juniors made available to the media this week. Though all five players said they submitted a request for draft grades from the NFL College Advisory Committee, they don’t plan to make a decision about their futures until after No. 22 LSU (8-3) squares off with the Red Raiders (7-5) in the Texas Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 29 in Houston.
The five Tigers — Beckwith, center Ethan Pocic, left tackle Jerald Hawkins, defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and cornerback Tre’Davious White — put LSU at its limit of grade requests. Schools may request grades for more than five players, but coach Les Miles on Monday didn’t reveal if he had done so.
Receiver Travin Dural, the only other highly-rated draft-eligible LSU player, was not available to reporters this week as he’s injured. Dural underwent surgery about three weeks ago to repair a torn hamstring, something that could lead to his return. The three-month rehabilitation could overlap with the NFL combine.
The committee hands out one of three grades: first round, second round or stay in school. CBSSports.com currently projects Beckwith as a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Beckwith finished as the team’s second-leading tackler with 76 stops. He picked up six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one sack while playing nearly every defensive snap in 2015. Beckwith said he’s on track to graduate next December, a goal his parents are urging him to achieve.
The linebacker has said in the past that he didn’t watch much football until schools started heavily recruiting him, and he claimed he’s not as enamored with the allure of the NFL as other college players.
“Some guys, they come to school and they think like that,” Beckwith said. “For me, I didn’t come to school with that type of mind. I just came here to enjoy the process and try to become the best player I could be.”
Tickets to the Texas Bowl are going fast.
More than 64,000 tickets for the game have already been sold as of Wednesday, according to a news release from Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, the entity in charge of the bowl game.
NRG Stadium, which will host the clash between the Tigers and Red Raiders, seats 71,500. LSU announced Wednesday it sold out its allotment of 8,500 tickets, a day after Texas Tech announced its allotment of 10,500 tickets was sold out.
Hawkins and White are feeling just fine. The pair of juniors, who both missed one game this season and battled nagging injuries during LSU’s 1-3 November skid, said Tuesday they’re back to 100 percent health.
White missed the Western Kentucky game on Oct. 24 but played through a knee injury for the rest of the season, while Hawkins’ ankle injury kept him sidelined against Ole Miss on Nov. 21.
“I believe that’s at every position, you’re going to have that feeling,” Hawkins said of playing through pain. “You have to keep pushing through. Playing the game you love, you really don’t realize it until after the game, honestly.”
White relinquished punt-return duties in his first two games back against Alabama and Arkansas. He still served as the Tigers’ No. 1 cornerback when he returned from the injury, though he said he was “a step behind” in coverage.
“I had to be more fundamentally sound. More eye discipline,” White said. “I had to be hands-on every play and just try to be my best every play.”
John Ehret linebacker Michael Divinity de-committed from LSU on Wednesday night and said he’ll announce his final decision on Jan. 5 between LSU and Texas A&M.
The Tigers now have 16 commitments in the 2016 class and were ranked No. 1 before Divinity’s de-commitment.