LSU Arkanasas Football

LSU linebacker Jabril Cox returns an interception against Arkansas.

LSU linebacker Jabril Cox has officially declared he will enter the NFL draft.

The 6-foot-4, 231-pound senior was eligible to return for another season, due to an NCAA waiver amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Cox will instead enter the draft, where he is expected to be drafted in the early rounds.

"First and foremost I would like to thank LSU for giving me the opportunity to play for one of the top programs in the nation," Cox said in a written statement posted on Twitter Sunday. "My time in Baton Rouge has truly been a blessing."

Less than a year ago, Cox arrived in Baton Rouge as a graduate transfer from North Dakota State. He was seeking a new challenge after winning three straight FCS national championships, a chance to boost his draft stock by showing he can compete at the NCAA's highest level.

Cox was a top playmaker for LSU's defense in his one season with the Tigers. He was the team's third-leading tackler with 58 tackles, adding 6½ tackles for loss and a sack. Cox also had three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown in his debut against Mississippi State in the season opener.

While LSU's defense struggled, Cox's disruptive plays were among the few bright spots, and he consistently was chosen to speak to the media throughout the season.

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He told reporters he would make his decision after the season was over, and, after LSU's 53-48 win over Ole Miss in the season finale, he stopped just short of saying it was his last game while saying the game was "one that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."

The departure was an expected one, and LSU will have to replace one of its most consistent defenders.

Juniors Damone Clark and Micah Baskerville are both set to return, but Baskerville replaced Clark as LSU's starter in seven games while Clark struggled.

Josh White and Antoine Sampah saw minimal time during their first season on campus, while fellow true freshman Phillip Webb did not appear in any games in 2020.

But it's also likely that junior college transfer Navonteque Strong, who signed with LSU in December, may compete for playing time early next season. LSU also signed Greg Penn III, the nation's No. 11 inside linebacker recruit of the 2021 class, according to 247Sports.

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.