Cam Cameron walked down a dimly lit hallway in the bowels of Houston’s NRG Stadium.
The Tigers’ romping win over Texas Tech just 40 minutes old, Cameron was all smiles. LSU’s offensive coordinator gestured for a reporter to walk with him down the bustling hallway and towards the team busses, flashing a large grin.
After all, the Tigers had won 56-27, scoring the most points in a bowl game in the history of the school and setting a season high in offensive yards.
It all came against the 127th-ranked defense in the nation, but that didn’t stop Cameron from enjoying the moment and praising his players. It didn’t stop him from quickly looking toward next season, either.
Yes, Cameron indicated, he expects to be here.
“A lot of that stuff is going to play itself out,” he said when asked if he had discussed his contract with head coach Les Miles and athletic director Joe Alleva by then. “I’m thrilled LSU would have me and my family here. Glad we beat Texas Tech, finish on a high note. Now, we’ve got to get all of these guys who are draft-eligible to come back and springboard us into next year.”
Cameron points to one of the critical issues in what’s expected to be a busy January and February for the LSU football team: retaining several draft-eligible junior starters.
Cameron’s strut down that halfway marked the start of LSU’s offseason, and he represents one of the biggest affairs during this so-called downtime.
The 54-year-old Cameron is in the final year of his contract with the program, and the Tigers, after Kevin Steele’s abrupt departure for Auburn, are now also searching for a defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson is in charge of holding together LSU’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class — a highly rated group of 17 commitments — with Feb. 3 National Signing Day approaching.
This surely helps: the rout of the Red Raiders and feel-good two-game win streak to cap a wacky 9-3 season.
“It’s awesome,” Wilson said Tuesday night. “When you talk about going out in January, leading into spring recruiting, all of the way into fall camp, it’s just something to be proud of, to finish the season like this. To not finish second does well for the entire university, for our state and for these kids individually.”
Re-recruiting is just as important as recruiting. It’s something Miles and his staff began doing last season. The process started Wednesday, a day after LSU’s bowl win.
Center Ethan Pocic, his parents and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes met with Miles on Wednesday morning in the team’s hotel in downtown Houston. Pocic is one of several draft-eligible juniors debating whether to skip his senior season to enter the draft. He said after the meeting he had not made a decision.
Linebacker Kendell Beckwith and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins were both expected to meet with coaches soon, if they haven’t already. Beckwith on Tuesday night said he had not made a decision and had not looked at the grade sent to him by the NFL College Advisory Committee.
“I wanted no distractions,” said Beckwith, who had 2.5 sacks in the bowl game.
Hawkins seems to be the most likely of any of the underclassmen to skip his senior season, and several on the staff expect it to happen, The Advocate reported last week. And then there’s junior cornerback Tre’Davious White, projected as high as a late first-round selection.
“I think they’re bright guys,” Cameron said of Pocic and Hawkins specifically. “I think they’ll talk to La’el (Collins). They’ll talk to a guy like Vadal (Alexander) and even a guy like Trai Turner and get both sides of it.”
Junior defensive linemen Lewis Neal and Christian LaCouture are the final two players of at least six who requested draft grades. It’s unclear if receiver Travin Dural requested a grade.
Dural is recovering from hamstring surgery, and he won’t be fully healthy until about five months, he said. LaCouture fractured his forearm in the bowl game, and his recovery time is uncertain. The NFL combine is Feb. 23-29.
It’s unclear how Steele’s departure will affect the decisions of those draft-eligible junior defensive players.
LSU’s search for Steele’s replacement will likely coincide with Miles and the staff’s re-recruiting efforts — just like it did last season when John Chavis left for A&M. Steele and Chavis, close friends, both left for SEC West rivals after the Tigers’ bowl game — Chavis on Jan. 1, 2015 and Steele on Wednesday.
Dean Dingman, LSU’s director of football operations, and Miles began to compile a list of candidates to replace Chavis in late December, according to court records filed in LSU’s on-going lawsuit with Chavis. They first met with one of the candidates on Jan. 3 — just two days after Chavis left for A&M.
The Steele search is likely to follow a similar timeline of events and include similar names to the Chavis search. It ended the day before the recruiting dead period ended. This year’s dead period ends Jan. 13. Jan. 14 begins the open contact period, a three-week stretch during which LSU met or contacted 12 candidates for Chavis’ replacement, and at least nine of them appear to still be viable candidates this time around. They include Oklahoma coordinator Mike Stoops, Wisconsin coordinator Dave Aranda, Georgia Tech’s Ted Roof, Penn State’s Bob Shoop, Louisville’s Todd Grantham, Clemson coordinator Bent Venables, 49ers inside linebackers coach Clancy Pendergast, Arkansas coordinator Rob Smith and Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison.
Cameron’s contract is another matter. He just completed his third season, and his three-year deal terminates at the end of March. Cameron is set to earn $1.5 million in the final year of this contract.
His deal was not renewed when Miles made an attempt earlier this year, two sources said, but the head man says he has no plans of making staff changes. Alleva said about a three weeks ago he expects to discuss Cameron’s future with Miles at some point.
All smiles Tuesday, Cameron brushed aside a question about his contract.
“Let’s enjoy tonight,” he said.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.