BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU offensive tackle La'El Collins reversed the trend which has been prevalent around the Tigers' football program the past two seasons by announcing Tuesday that he will return to school for his senior year.
"I wasn't able to max out my potential," Collins said. "There are a lot of things I can improve on. There is a lot of potential for growth. This is the best decision for me."
Recently several Tigers have felt opting to turn pro was the best decision for them.
Six members of the 2013 LSU football team declared for the NFL draft — wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, guard Trai Turner, running back Jeremy Hill and defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson. Turner and Hill had two years of eligibility remaining, while the others had one.
A year ago, LSU took a major hit when ten underclassmen gave up the remainder of their college eligibility to enter the NFL draft. That number does not include Tyrann Mathieu, who had been suspended from the team prior to the start of the 2012 campaign.
Collins has been a starter for two seasons. He made honorable mention All-SEC in 2012 as a left guard. Collins was shifted to left tackle for the past season. He has started 25 games in his LSU career.
"You shouldn't give the NFL a deal," LSU coach Les Miles said. "You want guaranteed money. The best position to go in is the first round. It's a self thing. I can improve my stock by coming back. There is not any question that La'El can be a very early draft pick at left tackle next year."
With Collins staying in school, the Tigers will have four returning starters on the offensive line. The other returnees are left guard Vadal Alexander, center Elliott Porter and right tackle Jerald Hawkins. There are only two other returning offensive starters — tight end Dillon Gordon and fullback Connor Neighbors.
"No doubt, the offensive line is going to be the strength of the team," Collins said. "Last year was our first year playing together as a whole. We can get better. The game is won in the trenches. I enjoy being around these guys. They are great teammates. Why wouldn't I want to come back?"
The players who left early last year had mixed success in the NFL this season. Four players ended up being starters — linebacker Barkevious Mingo with Cleveland, defensive tackle Bennie Logan with Philadelphia and safeties Eric Reid with San Francisco and Mathieu with Arizona.
Three of the 11 players were not drafted — running Michael Ford, who made the Chicago Bears as a free agent, offensive tackle Chris Faulk and punter Brad Wing. Defensive end Sam Montgomery was drafted and then cut during the season by the Houston Texans.
Kevin Minter was a reserve linebacker with Arizona, while running back Spencer Ware and Tharold Simon had their seasons cut short by injuries. Miles enjoys the fact that NFL teams are taking his players early.
"We always count on the guys who show up in (football) room to play big," Miles said. "The young guys are not expected to be young guys. They are expected to play big. We are doing a great job in recruiting. We are recruiting quality players. Thank goodness the NFL is here."