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LSU linebacker Devin White takes a selfie with fans on Victory Hill before the Rice game on Saturday, November 17, 2018, outside Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

LATEST: LSU linebacker Devin White announces he will leave for NFL draft


ORIGINAL STORY

Underclassmen across college football have until 11:59 p.m. Monday to declare for the NFL draft. By then, LSU will know exactly what its star linebacker has decided to do.

As of Sunday afternoon, Devin White had not yet announced whether he will return to play for the Tigers in his senior year or if he will leave early to become what experts predict will be a first-round selection in the NFL draft.

On one side, White's professional stock couldn't be much higher.

The two-time All-American became the first linebacker in LSU history to win the Dick Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker, and he was the first player in Southeastern Conference history to be the league's defensive player of the week four times in one season.

And there's the life-changing money: First-round draftees earned at least $10 million salaries and signing bonuses that were at least $5 million in the 2018 NFL draft, according to Forbes.

But leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, White told reporters that his decision wouldn't revolve around salary — that he's "not one of those guys" who plays for money.

“I want to be the best,” White said. “I genuinely mean that when I say I want to be the best. I look at the guys who came before me — Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Brian Urlacher — I look at those guys and say I want to be better than them. I want my name mentioned with them. I want to be above them. I try to get a step closer to that goal every day.”

If White left for the NFL, he'd become the 35th underclassmen to leave LSU before his eligibility expired — a list that includes starting cornerback Greedy Williams, a Thorpe Award finalist who is expected to be a top-10 pick, and nose tackle Ed Alexander this season.

On the other hand, White's return would solidify LSU's position as one of the premier defenses in the nation and increase the program's chances of being a legitimate College Football Playoff contender in 2019.

Four LSU defensive players have already declared they are returning for their senior seasons:

  • Nose tackle Breiden Fehoko, who played in eight games, recorded three tackles for loss and 1½ sacks before suffering a season-ending arm injury.
  • Outside linebacker Michael Divinity, who tied for the team lead with 10½ tackles for loss and five sacks.
  • Defensive end Rashard Lawrence, who was named Defensive MVP in LSU's Fiesta Bowl victory over Central Florida and tied for the team lead with 10½ tackles for loss.
  • Cornerback Kristian Fulton, who started in 10 games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against Arkansas and earned an 89.3 overall grade for the 2018 season by Pro Football Focus College — just two points shy of Washington corner Byron Murphy, who had the top overall coverage grade of the year.

So far, it's the fewest underclassmen to leave LSU early for the NFL draft since 2015, when offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins and cornerback Rashard Robinson were both selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft.

LSU returned six players for the 2016 season who were draft eligible, including star cornerback Tre'Davious White, who was eventually selected No. 27 overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2017.

The Tigers went 8-4 in the 2016 season, during which Les Miles was fired.

But the football program is in better position this offseason than it has been in several seasons.

The Tigers finished the season No. 6 in the final AP Poll, their highest final ranking since finishing national runner-up in 2011.

Winning LSU’s first national championship since 2007 has been an offseason mantra among players, and it appears to be the driving force for returning players.

Earlier last week, when Divinity declared his return on Twitter, he wrote that it was “time to start getting ready to win” the title.


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