It seems the looming specter of the deadline for underclassmen declaring was enough for a change of heart from LSU running back Jeremy Hill.
As promised a day prior, Hill took to his Twitter account and announced that he would forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL draft:
All underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to decide whether or not to leave school early. Hill becomes the latest in what is already a record-setting number of early entrants for May's draft, though his decision may come as a surprise to many in Baton Rouge.
Sources close to the LSU program told Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today that Hill previously informed school officials he planned on staying for his junior season. He was expected to announce the decision at a Monday press conference.
However, it seems Hill feels he has proven all he can at the collegiate level—and some would say rightfully so. He was named second-team All-SEC as a sophomore this past season, rushing for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also had a coming-out party on the New Year's Day stage, carrying the ball 28 times for 216 yards and two scores in the Tigers' 21-14 victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
Despite the breakout season, Hill was at one point so committed to staying that he was even recruiting teammates to stick around. Ross Dellenger of The Advocate reported last week that Hill was trying to coax offensive linemen La’el Collins and Trai Turner into staying in Baton Rouge.
Neither Collins nor Turner has officially made an announcement on his future, but Hill coming out early likely isn't a good sign for Les Miles. LSU has already lost receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson as early NFL draft entrants, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger exhausted his eligibility.
Hill's departure could mean a widespread rebuilding year for Miles, who has won at least 10 games each of the past four seasons. The Tigers finished ranked 14th in both the Associated Press Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll in 2013.
While losing Hill, a powerful 6'2" running back who could anchor an SEC offense, will sting, Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted there's already an elite talent waiting in the wings:
So much for Jeremy Hill staying. Hello Leonard Fournette....— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) January 13, 2014
Leonard Fournette is the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2014, per 247Sports' composite rankings. A running back with just about every possible skill one could desire for a prep star, Fournette has the build and the moxie to step in right away as a true freshman if Miles wants to go that direction. If not, Terrence Magee, who finished second on the team with 626 yards, will likely take over the top spot.
As for Hill's draft prospects, they don't come without questions. He has been arrested twice since 2011, pleading to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile in 2012 and being involved in a bar fight in March of last year. LSU suspended Hill for one game after the latest arrest.
On the field, NFL draft expert Mike Detillier told Guilbeau that Hill could be drafted in the second or third round. He will be competing with Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Auburn's Tre Mason and Baylor's Lache Seastrunk as the top back in the 2014 class.
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