RICHMOND, Texas — Left tackle Jerald Hawkins is the most likely of LSU’s draft-eligible underclassmen to leave early for the pros, and many on the coaching staff expect him to skip his senior season, two sources close to the staff told The Advocate.
Hawkins has not announced a decision, and the situation is fluid.
On Saturday at a Texas Bowl event, Hawkins declined to reveal a decision. The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder said he received his draft evaluation from the NFL College Advisory Committee but has not seen the evaluation grade, he said.
Hawkins, a fourth-year player who redshirted, had to be encouraged to return last season. LSU moved him from right tackle to left tackle this season. He’s slotted as the 12th-best offensive tackle in the 2017 draft, according to CBSSports.com, but the site does not list him in the 2016 rankings.
Matt Miller, a draft analyst for Bleacher Report, said Hawkins “looks the part” and has surprised him “how good he’s been this year.” He projected that Hawkins could go as high as the late first round, but others, like CBSSports’ Rob Rang, haven’t seen enough video of Hawkins to project anything.
Hawkins is one of a handful of draft-eligible LSU players mulling decisions to enter the draft. Hawkins, center Ethan Pocic, linebacker Kendell Beckwith, cornerback Tre’Davious White and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture submitted requests for draft evaluations.
White, Beckwith and Dural are the highest-rated players, with projections in the second to third round. Dural recently recovered from hamstring surgery that includes a rehabilitation of five months, he said. The NFL combine is Feb. 23-29.
Underclassmen must declare by Jan. 18. The Tigers have had 23 players leave early for the draft in the past four years. That’s believed to be most of any school.
White, like Hawkins, declined to reveal his decision Saturday and said he had not received his evaluation grade.
“I focus on the team right now, and my individual announcement will come later,” he said.
LSU won a seven-event rodeo contest against Texas Tech on Saturday at the George Ranch Historical Park, about an hour southwest of Houston.
The Tigers used mostly walk-ons and reserve players during the competition, which included moving hay bales and chasing calves into a pen. Coach Les Miles said reserve linebacker Devin Voorhies, a Mississippian and frequent horse rider, was the MVP for the Tigers.
“Guy who came through was Devin Voorhies. I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want you going out there and slinging a rope on some cow and have it drag you,’ ” Miles said. “He says, ‘Listen, coach, I’ve done this every day I’m around at the house. Trust me when I tell you this will be old hat.’ Sure enough, he waited his turn and wrapped that line right around that calf.”
Others weren’t so successful.
“Some guys were way out of their element,” linebacker Deion Jones said. “I enjoyed it.”
LSU players got a taste of the NFL on Saturday — and saw some stars, too.
The Tigers practiced in the Houston Texans’ facility, an air-supported dome that sits next to NRG Stadium. While LSU players walked into the facility for practice, the Texans were loading their buses for their game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville.
“I saw Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt,” receiver Malachi Dupre said. “It’s a little motivation.”
‘Everybody is eligible’
LSU suffered no “academic casualty” this semester and “everybody is eligible” for the Tigers’ game against Texas Tech, Miles said.