Travin Dural and the LSU Underclassmen

LSU wide receiver Travin Dural announced Tuesday that he would come back for his redshirt junior year.

Dural’s announcement has the rest of the Tiger fans wondering if this will have any impact on the rest of the LSU draft eligible players.

LSU fans have every reason to worry. In the last two seasons, 16 underclassmen have left LSU to play in the NFL. Although many of those players have been successful, it has left LSU searching for replacements and veteran leadership.

This season, Les Miles and company look to bring back key players such as Kwon Alexander, Jalen Collins, Danielle Hunter, Jerald Hawkins, Vadal Alexander, and Jalen Mills. If they can retain those players, LSU could be looking at a College Football Playoff appearance in 2015.

Of those six players, four were defensive starters on the top defense in the SEC. With LSU returning and continuously developing players like Jamal Adams and Kendall Beckwith, they could very easily repeat as the SEC’s top defense and be in contention for the nation’s top defense. Collins and Mills would be returning to a stacked secondary that would be adding a 5-star corner in Kevin Toliver. A linebacker corps containing K. Alexander, Beckwith and former 5-star LB Clifton Garrett would be tough for any one to run through. The sky’s the limit for the 2015 LSU defense if Miles can convince Alexander, Collins, Mills and Hunter to stay.

La’El Collins could have been the 17th underclassmen to leave LSU from 2012-2013, but he decided to come back for his senior season, much to the delight of the LSU faithful. Collins became a fan favorite for returning and he helped paved the way for the LSU running backs this season. His performance led to many accolades, including being named a second team All-American and first team All-SEC. V. Alexander and Hawkins have the chance to do what Collins did and better themselves by returning for another season.

Collins was likely to be drafted after his junior season, but his return has all but guaranteed him a first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. If they return, Hawkins could prove to scouts that he can play left tackle, which would make him much more valuable. Alexander would possibly move down from guard and play tackle. LSU is already losing Collins and starting center Elliot Porter to graduation. Losing two more to the draft would create a daunting task for Les Miles to practically start over on the offensive line.

Many LSU players and fans will point out that if the Tigers were able to prevent previous underclassmen from leaving, they would have won a national championship in 2013, and they have a good argument. A defense featuring Eric Reid, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery would have meshed well with an offense featuring Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Jeremy Hill.

LSU underclassmen have the chance to stop the “what ifs” and forgo the NFL draft for another year of Saturday nights in Death Valley.

*Section Phot0 (above) credit to  Stacy Revere, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Derick E. Hingle, USA Today Sports