A day after LSU's football players returned to campus for offseason training, the Tigers program experienced its third player entering the NCAA transfer portal this offseason.
LSU outside linebacker Ray Thornton entered the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday, a source confirmed with The Advocate. The news was first reported by AL.com.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior played in nine games last season and recorded five total tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. Thornton was primarily used near the line of scrimmage in LSU's pass-rush packages, and he was tied with two other players for fourth-most sacks on the team.
Thornton is the most recent player to enter the NCAA transfer portal, joining former star tight end Arik Gilbert, who, after nearly a month away from the team, officially announced Jan. 2 that he intended to transfer.
Running back Chris Curry, who wore LSU's honorary No. 18 jersey last season, entered the transfer portal days after the Tigers finished their season with a 53-48 win over Ole Miss in the season finale.
Former defensive tackle Siaki "Apu" Ika, who entered the transfer portal during the season, announced in the offseason that he'd transferred to Baylor, rejoining former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
If Thornton indeed leaves LSU, he will be the seventh player to depart the team. Aside from Gilbert, the other five players — linebacker Jabril Cox, punter Zach Von Rosenberg, wide receiver Racey McMath, fullback Tory Carter, safety JaCoby Stevens — all are leaving to enter the NFL draft.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron has been mostly successful in his campaign to re-recruit players for the 2021 season. The entire starting defensive line has announced that they will be coming back, and on the offensive line, all but starting left tackle Dare Rosenthal have announced that they will be returning.
Orgeron needed those victories in the face of a major roster management problem.
LSU had 69 available scholarship players in its final two games of the 2020 season, much fewer players than the NCAA's 85-scholarship limit allows. The Tigers entered the offseason with 15 seniors and 13 other draft-eligible players who could graduate, transfer or depart for the NFL draft.
So far, Orgeron has retained 10 of those players and lost five. LSU remains particularly deep on the defensive line and in the secondary. Without Cox returning at linebacker, the Tigers will seek improvement from its veterans and will likely give opportunities to incoming players.
Damone Clark and Micah Baskerville will be the most tenured linebackers on the roster. Both are entering their senior seasons and alternated as starters next to Cox in 2020. Navonteque Strong, the nation's top junior college linebacker, according to 247Sports, is also expected to push for a starting job.
“I think we can be one of the top defenses in the conference," Orgeron said Tuesday. "At least a top 20 defense, which should be a big improvement from last year. I don’t want to put too much on ‘em. But you know, with our defensive line, these guys know that they have some positives and they have some strengths.”