LSU’s primary recruiting target this summer hasn’t necessarily been a 2017 prospect.
It’s been one for 2016.
Travonte Valentine, the 345-pound former Tigers defensive tackle, visited campus and met with coaches Friday, multiple sources confirmed to The Advocate. The meeting comes three weeks before LSU begins preseason camp — another sign that the Miami native is on track to rejoin his former team.
The Advocate reported in May that LSU received assurances from the Southeastern Conference that Valentine would be eligible this season if he did in fact rejoin the program. LSU requested a ruling from the league on the Valentine, a highly ranked high school star who was dismissed from LSU last summer.
Valentine continues to work toward qualifying academically, taking classes this summer at Mississippi Coast Community College. The semester ends the first week of August. LSU begins preseason camp Aug. 4.
Les Miles is not allowed to speak about Valentine because he’s considered a recruit. Coaches are prohibited from speaking about recruits, according to NCAA rules. Valentine did not return a message for comment.
Valentine, 247Sports’ top-ranked junior college defensive tackle, has spent the past year at two junior colleges — Arizona Western and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Mississippi. Valentine has remained in contact with LSU’s staff and visited the program multiple times over the spring, he told The Advocate during an interview in May.
Valentine said then he had a “50 percent chance” to return to the program.
Valentine spent his freshman season at LSU before the team dismissed him for “not following team rules,” he said. The 6-foot-3 player said he also has offers from Auburn and Mississippi State, but he would not be eligible to play at another Division I school this fall, aside from his original school, LSU.
Valentine, who would have three years of eligibility remaining, could be an immediate help at nose tackle in new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense. It is something of an unstable position.
Christian LaCouture, at 307 pounds, started at nose tackle at the beginning of spring practice before the staff moved Davon Godchaux, at 293 pounds, into that role with two weeks left in spring.
Valentine’s football career has been rocky since he left Champagnat Catholic in Hialeah, Florida, as the third-ranked defensive tackle prospect in the 2014 class.
The Southeastern Conference never ruled him eligible during his true freshman season at LSU, even though the NCAA granting him eligibility. Miles suspended him for spring practice in 2015 in what the coach suggested was academic in nature. Miles then dismissed him in the summer.
Valentine is at his third school in the past year. Following his departure from LSU, he spent the fall semester at Arizona Western College, a powerhouse junior college in Yuma, Arizona. He was dismissed from there and enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast in January.
Valentine played in Arizona Western’s first six games last season, getting 11 tackles and two sacks, before an arrest resulted in a dismissal from the school.
On Oct. 15, 2015, Valentine was arrested and charged with a disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, according to court records obtained by The Advocate. The court dismissed the charge a month later. The arrest stemmed from a physical altercation.