LSU defensive lineman Neil Farrell has decided to opt out of the 2020 football season because of health concerns with coronavirus, a source confirmed with The Advocate.
The news was first reported by Sports Illustrated. Farrell, whose family was affected by the virus, is the first LSU player to decide to sit out the football season. He plans to return to the team next season.
Farrell later announced his decision on Twitter. He said the virus has hit his family hard and that his grandmother is currently battling COVID-19 in the hospital.
"Due to that, I opted out of the season and will return next season for final year," Farrell wrote. "I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers from LSU and my supporters... But my journey at LSU isn't finished yet."
The 6-foot-4, 319-pound senior was expected to compete for a starting position on a defensive line deep with talent. Farrell led the defensive line with 46 tackles in 2019, adding seven tackles for loss and three sacks.
The news comes as several top players in college football are deciding to sit out the 2020 season because of health concerns.
Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, a third-team All-American in 2019 and a projected first-round draft pick, opted out of the season Tuesday, joining Illinois running back Ra'Von Bonner, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and Washington State wide receiver Kassidy Woods.
LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's father, Jimmy, said Wednesday that Chase is "locked in" on playing in the SEC's 10-game, league-only season and is not focused on opting out this year.
It is uncertain whether Farrell's decision will influence other players on the team. Multiple players have contracted the virus, and senior linebacker Travez Moore shared his experience on Twitter Tuesday morning, saying he lost 27 pounds because of COVID-19.
"Bro coronavirus is real," wrote Moore, who recorded three tackles, a half tackle for loss and half a sack in 2019. "stay y'all ass in the house."
The Southeastern Conference announced in mid-July that players could sit out the 2020 season and still keep their scholarships — a motion that was recommended by the league's athletic directors and approved unanimously approved by the league's presidents and chancellors.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on July 29 that no football players had yet informed him they are sitting out this season because of health concerns.
Since the team's initial virus outbreak in June, which sources told The Advocate included five-to-six confirmed cases with players, Orgeron has said the team has been in more control through its safety protocols.
Orgeron told the rotary club "I think we have two guys right now" that have tested positive for the virus.
LSU has not publicly released their coronavirus case numbers, as other large college athletic programs have done.
"We feel that we've done very well," Orgeron said then. "When we're practicing, we're practicing with masks on. The coaching staff masks in the office. I really think we've handled it about as well as anybody in the country."
LSU is scheduled to begin preseason camp on Aug. 17, which kicks off a 40-day practice period that leads up to the SEC's regular season starting on Sept. 26.
LSU will play its usual six-game West Division opponents, plus its scheduled East Division opponents (Florida and South Carolina). The SEC announced Friday that LSU will host Missouri and travel to Vanderbilt to complete the 10-game season.
It is expected the dates of previously scheduled games will be somewhat shuffled to accommodate the changes across the league.
If there is indeed a season, LSU's Bo Pelini lost a versatile player in his first year back as defensive coordinator. Farrell played defensive end in former coordinator Dave Aranda's 3-4 scheme, and he may have shifted inside to tackle in Pelini's four-man front.
Orgeron told the rotary club that LSU is "four deep" on the defensive line. The unit is thought to be one team's strengths, with returning defensive tackles Tyler Shelvin, Siaki "Apu" Ika and Glen Logan, who also played defensive end in 2019.
Orgeron said he expects true freshmen Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory and Eric Taylor — each top 30 defensive tackle recruits in 2020, according to 247Sports — to compete for playing time.
"We're very athletic up front," Orgeron said.
Former TE Pettigrew signs with McNeese: In Lake Charles, former LSU tight end Jamal Pettigrew has signed to play at McNeese State, coach Frank Wilson announced on Saturday.
Pettigrew, a 6-foot-7, 254-pounder from New Orleans, graduated from LSU on Friday with a degree in Sports Administration. He will be immediately eligible and will have at least one season to play for the Cowboys.
Pettigrew, a St. Augustine High graduate, played in 28 games at LSU, missing the 2018 season with a knee injury. He had two career catches for 17 yards.
He was a four-star prospect out of St. Aug and was rated the No. 243 overall prospect in the nation by 247Sports.