BATON ROUGE, La. — Christian LaCouture is now all-in on returning to LSU for a second senior season. The defensive tackle announced Thursday that he will be back with the program, taking a redshirt for 2016 rather than declaring for next spring’s NFL Draft.
“I’m excited to be a leader for this football team,” LaCouture said. “I’ll do anything Coach O asks me to do. It’s been a long road, but I’m excited for this opportunity.”
LaCouture missed the season after tearing his ACL in August camp, and was expected to enter the draft, even participating in this year’s senior day festivities. It was a difficult overall year for LaCouture, whose family was affected by Baton Rouge’s record August flood just a couple days after suffering his knee injury.
“A lot of stuff kind of hit the fan, as we say,” LaCouture said. “I really thought I was going to leave. But listening to Coach O and the kind of leader he is, I was really ecstatic and my family was as well. Hearing his vision for this program was something amazing that I really want to be a part of and I was really excited for that.”
Orgeron was effusive in his praise for LaCouture’s decision.
“Some guys will go above and beyond for the school and the guys in the room,” Orgeron said. “Guys who will be tremendous leaders down the road and maybe future coaches. Christian had to do a chance to do something special and we’re very excited to have Christian LaCouture back in our program next year.”
LaCouture practiced for the first time since August on Thursday as LSU opened practice for the Citrus Bowl. He will not play in that game, but is able to practice with the team leading up to it.
Orgeron admitted it was not easy to convince LaCouture to come back into the fold for next year. But a steady daily diet of persuasion from defensive line coach Pete Jenkins eventually turned the tied for the lineman.
“It wasn’t easy, to be honest. He was going (pro),” Orgeron said. “Pete Jenkins had a lot to do with it. (Luckily) it’s not like recruiting where you have limited access. We got to see him every day. We kept on coming. And once I became head coach, he started listening.
“I think going home and explaining to his parents our plan for him, they were all-in. What a great set of parents. It was best for us, but in the end I think Christian thinks it is best for him. It can better his draft choice next year.”
As bad as 2016 was for him, LaCouture is extremely enthusiastic for 2017.
“I just wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “I’m really excited.”
Though his return will help the team immensely — LaCouture can play tackle or end — there is also a personal benefit for his future as he can demonstrate his skills in a 3-4 under coordinator Dave Aranda for the first time.
“I really think I was doing well (in the 3-4) in camp but had a season-ending injury,” he said. “But things happen for a reason. I can show more exposure for myself, and be a team leader, and help these guys any way I can.”
LaCouture had 35 tackles as a junior in 2015. His return will be particularly important if junior lineman Davon Godchaux declares for the draft — or make LSU’s defensive line even deeper if Godchaux stays.