NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LSU’s trip to the Music City has been adventurous so far.
After a trip to Nashville’s honky-tonk-laden downtown strip, left guard Vadal Alexander can honestly say he’s never been in a town surrounded by so much country music.
The teams — Notre Dame and LSU — competed in a hot chicken-eating contest (Notre Dame won) while on the world’s largest non-paddle riverboat, and the Tigers are staying in a hotel so large that linebacker Kendell Beckwith missed Saturday night curfew because he got lost in the 2,800-room place.
It hasn’t stopped raining, temperatures have stayed mostly below 50 degrees and the sun hasn’t peeked from a gray sky.
Among all of this — including the game scheduled to be played Tuesday at LP Field between the Tigers (8-4) and Fighting Irish (7-5) — a different cloud looms over the LSU program: Who’s going pro?
“I haven’t made a decision yet,” said Alexander, a junior who echoed the most common answer among LSU’s top underclassmen.
“Several” LSU underclassmen who received their draft grades have told coach Les Miles that they’re returning next year, Miles said Sunday before LSU’s bowl practice at Vanderbilt’s indoor facility. He declined to name them but said no underclassmen have told the coach that they’re leaving.
Jalen Collins, Alexander and right tackle Jerald Hawkins, a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore, all confirmed Sunday they had received grades from the NFL draft advisory committee.
The committee hands out grades of “first round,” “second round” or “remain in school.” Collins and Alexander said they received a “stay in school” grade. The NFL, as of Sunday, had not approved LSU to request draft grades for more than five players, the league’s new limitation this year.
Hawkins would not reveal his draft grade. Linebacker Kwon Alexander, who also requested a grade, did not show for interviews Sunday. Defensive end Danielle Hunter, believed to have requested a grade, has declined to speak on the matter.
Alexander, Collins and Hawkins said they haven’t made decisions on their future. Junior safety Jalen Mills said the same Sunday. Mills didn’t request a grade “because it’s not a priority,” he said.
Collins said he’s “still on the fence about” staying or going.
There is no way of knowing for sure just yet. Look no further than last year: Running back Jeremy Hill told those around the program that he planned to stay. He left, was picked in the second round and this year was a standout starter for the Cincinnati Bengals.
LSU has had 17 players leave early for the NFL draft in the previous two seasons, the most of any team in college football.
“People do kind of get conditioned to that, set in their mind, three years and be done,” Collins said, “but everybody’s different.”
The Tigers’ 8-4 season was marked by early weaknesses at positions depleted by last year’s exodus of underclassmen, and Miles has preached for the past month that the Tigers can compete for championships if this year’s junior class returns.
“If everybody was to come back, I think it would be unreal,” Mills said. “I think we’ll probably be the team everybody will look at. Us being veteran guys knowing the ins and outs of the game … it’ll be nasty.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.